On Wednesday, August 18, Arizona reported 2,402 new cases of COVID-19, 37 new deaths and that 54.5% of Arizonans are now vaccinated. Across the state, 23% of intensive care unit beds are in use by COVID-19 patients and 10% of ICU beds remain available.
This information comes from the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 data dashboard.
Children and Schools
Arizona made national news once again for its prohibition of mask and vaccine mandates in schools, this time for the subsequent lawsuits regarding the prohibitive laws. Education groups including the Arizona School Board Association and the Arizona Education Association filed a lawsuit against the state over the ban on mask mandates. According to the Washington Post, this follows a lawsuit in Florida where parents are challenging an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis preventing school districts from requiring masks.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected a request from Indiana University students looking to stop the school’s vaccine requirement, marking the very first time a case about vaccine requirements would reach SCOTUS.
Dr. Joseph Nania, an infectious disease specialist, spoke with ABC15 about his concern regarding the number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Despite not providing exact numbers, Dr. Nania stressed that the numbers were distressingly high and the cases were often severe:
It is very concerning because I think throughout the pandemic, the message has been, children don’t get as sick from this as adults and that it’s not as crucial to protect them from this as older adults. But I think the reverse may be true now.
Furthermore, Banner Health chief clinical officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said in a press conference last week that the Banner system admitted 71 COVID-19 pediatric patients in July, which was twice as many as in June. This trajectory suggests a sharp exponential curve and a surge may be on the way, AZCentral reports.
The numbers do not transfer across state lines however, in New Mexico for example, the number of children infected by the COVID-19 virus remain fairly low. Children made up only 20% of new cases, with a total of 717 pediatric cases in the state according to the Carlsbad Current Argus.
City of Tucson employees will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, 12News reports. Mayor Romero tweeted the announcement last Friday, including that employees will be required to submit proof of at least one dose of vaccination by August 24. The mayor encouraged private employers to impose similar requirements for businesses.
In response, Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order on Monday morning that threatens criminal charges against cities that violate the state law passed in June prohibiting local governments from imposing vaccine mandates, 12News reports. From the governor’s executive order:
Any county, city, town or political subdivision official that implements a vaccine mandate contrary to the authorities outlined in this order, is in violation of A.R.S. 36-114 and 36-184 and such actions are punishable by a class 3 misdemeanor and subject to legal action by individuals for violation of their rights under Arizona law.
Mayor Romero held her ground and replied that the order and the law were “legally meaningless”.
Governor Ducey is playing a deadly game of one-upmanship that will lead to preventable hospitalizations and deaths.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors will be discussing another possible mandate for county health officials next Monday. In previous meetings, the board has failed to approve mandates for all county employees, KVOA reports.
Dignity Health announced last Thursday that it would require vaccines for employees. According to KTAR, the provider said that all staff must be fully vaccinated by November 1. From the Dignity press release:
As health care providers, we have a responsibility to help end this pandemic and protect our patients, our colleagues and those in our communities. Requiring vaccination for our teams is critical to maintaining a safe care environment.
Valleywise also announced that it would join Dignity Health, HonorHealth, Banner Health and Phoenix Children’s Hospital in requiring all 4,000 employees become vaccinated, AZFamily reports.
Health Care Worker Shortage
In a press conference, Valleywise Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael White said that Valleywise has struggled with a significant shortage in nurses and healthcare workers, stating that there could be a time in the near future when Valleywise will need to search outside of Arizona and the Southwest to bring staff in to assist in care for COVID-19 patients.
As you increase the number of COVID positive patients, it decreases those available resources and then you have to look, as we’re seeing in other parts of the country where you may even have to transfer people in great distances to be able to care for them. We haven’t had to come to that, but that’s certainly something that could happen if the numbers increase.
Last Thursday, the Mohave County Health Department reported over 200 new COVID-19 cases. In response, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will assist in the deployment of 12 nurses to Kingman Regional Medical Center, according to ABC15.