Only 88 intensive care unit beds are currently available for use and 39% of ICU beds are currently in use by COVID-19 patients. Only 6% of all hospital inpatient beds remain available — 31% are in use by COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, Arizona reported 3,249 new cases of COVID-19 and 81 new deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 56% of the state is fully vaccinated and 66% have received at least one dose.
This information comes from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) COVID-19 data dashboard.
Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief medical officer for Banner Health, Arizona’s largest hospital network, announced in a press conference on Tuesday that the health system is operating over capacity at several locations and is postponing surgery that requires inpatient care following the procedure and is not medically expedient.
Banner’s predictive modeling tools show no signs of letting up. We expect that volumes will continue to increase throughout December and into the beginning of next year before peaking around the middle of January. Our current forecast does not account for the Omicron variant.
According to the Arizona Capitol Times, Bessel also noted the importance of staffing and the critical impact of nursing and other healthcare worker shortages. In order to provide necessary medical care, beds must be staffed in order to have any value to patients. The shortage is related to decisions by staff to take early retirement, move to positions that do not require interacting directly with patients or to quit the profession entirely.
Dignity Health, Valleywise Health and HonorHealth all confirmed to Fox 10 Phoenix that they have been making day-to-day decisions to postpone non-urgent surgery because of bed shortages. Hospitals are expecting the same capacity concerns that they were a year ago. From Valleywise CMO Dr. Michael White:
The demand is exceeding the capacity right now. We’re seeing our normal everyday health care needs and the additional COVID strain on top of that.
Dignity Health told KTAR that it wasn’t releasing specific numbers related to hospital capacity and postponed elective surgeries because the specific numbers related to the situation were too fluid. From the Dignity Health statement:
We understand how difficult this pandemic has been for everyone, and we urge the community to continue to practice behaviors known to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and to receive COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. These simple actions are effective in minimizing an increased surge in our state.
Arizona’s pandemic czar and former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona, took to KTAR to plead with the unvaccinated to do their part to lessen hospital overflow by getting vaccinated. According to Carmona, nearly 80% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated. Furthermore, he warned that shipping patients to surrounding states for care would be nearly impossible:
States around us where we normally which could shift patients back and forth, some of them have already gone into crisis mode, meaning they are not going to take anybody from outside. And here in our state we’re unable to help them by taking patients.
Six cases of the Omicron variant were identified in Maricopa County on Monday, AZCentral reports. No serious illness has been reported among the six who tested positive, although five of the six were fully vaccinated. The cases occurred in three clusters with no relation to one another, indicating that spread is much broader throughout the county. From Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, Maricopa County’s medical director for disease control:
That’s why we really want people to know that if they do have COVID symptoms, first of all they need to get tested and isolate, and second of all they should assume that it could be the Omicron variant.
Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told KGUN9 that pregnant women frequently experience complications from COVID-19 that put both mother and child at risk. These complications frequently affect the unvaccinated, so Dr. Garcia and his wife, who is also an OB/GYN, suggest vaccination for pregnant women.
Sandra Olvera, a nurse practitioner at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Phoenix told KTAR that many people have delayed scheduled cancer screenings out of fear of contracting COVID-19 since the pandemic began. A study by ScienceDirect found that cancer screenings for Hispanic women dropped 84% in 2020 and 98% for American Indian/Alaska Native women compared to the last five years.