The case count in Arizona shows no sign of abating as Arizona recorded almost 25,000 new cases of COVID-19 on January 15, setting a record. Hospitals and healthcare advocacy groups warn that the overburdened healthcare system is strapped for staff and resources as hospitalizations continue. On Wednesday, January 19, the state reported 20,497 new cases and 21 new deaths. The state total of deaths related to COVID-19 is now 25,416.
These numbers come courtesy of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) COVID-19 data dashboard.
There may be something to look forward to in the future, according to Fox10. Arizona Public Health Association executive director Will Humble told the news outlet that Arizona may be approaching herd immunity and a beginning of the end of the public health emergency.
Basically, omicron is finding every single previously uninfected person, and it’s infecting them… It’s gonna get to a place in the next few weeks where the virus is just not going to be able to find a new host because so many people have gotten vaccinated or boosted. The people that previously didn’t get infected, they’re gonna get infected, they’re getting infected right now.
ADHS requested paramedics to assist five hospitals in the Phoenix metro area from the federal government last week. The hospitals include Banner New River, Valleywise, Arizona General Laveen, Abrazo Central Campus and Scottsdale Osborn. Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer at Valleywise Health, told AZFamily that he doesn’t think the state has reached peak hospitalizations even yet:
We’re going to continue to see this impact probably for the next four to six weeks in Arizona all around us.
A group of 15 members from the U.S. Air Force medical augmentation team began a 30-day deployment at Yuma Regional Medical Center two weeks ago, according to U.S. News. The team includes a doctor, a physician’s assistant, five nurses and other technicians.
The Arizona Medical Association (ArMA) is taking action on behalf of Arizona physicians to directly appeal to the public regarding vaccination. According to ABC15, ArMA warned that the state’s healthcare system is “buckling under the weight” of the Omicron wave.
KJZZ reported that healthcare workers are reporting a level of strain higher than at any time before during the public health emergency. Due to the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, more staff are needing to call out sick due to infection. This effects every level of the healthcare system, and patients who require care for non-COVID-19 health concerns. From Dr. Bradley Dreyfus:
Patients waiting in the waiting rooms, sleeping outside, sleeping outside the doors… Sometimes we’ve had events where people are having cardiac arrest and dying in the waiting room.
Emergency rooms are also seeing an influx of drug overdoses, adding to the crunch at busy hospitals. According to AZFamily, the emergence of fentanyl cut into illegal drugs is behind many of the overdoses.
To combat the worker shortages, Banner Health and Tucson Medical Center (TMC) will allow employees to work even if they test positive for COVID-19, KOLD Tucson reports. From Banner:
We will allow asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic COVID-positive team members to safely return to work if they feel they are well enough to do so. Team members who return under these guidelines will be required to wear N95/KN95 masks for 10 days after a positive test.
Kingman Regional Health Center announced on January 14 that it would require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 following the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court maintaining the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) requirement. Employees must be fully vaccinated or obtain an exemption by February 28 in order to comply with the mandate.
Northern Arizona Healthcare announced that it would open two new mobile testing sites for COVID-19 in Verde Valley this week. Verde News reports that members of the public will be able to drive up without an appointment for free testing.
The health system also partnered with Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy to distribute N95 masks to the community. According to a press release from Northern Arizona Healthcare, volunteers distributed 5,000 masks that NAH donated at the Downtown Flagstaff Library.
Gallup Indian Medical Center, the main hospital that serves the Navajo Nation, has been consistently overwhelmed throughout the Omicron surge. According to the Wall Street Journal, the hospital has so many patients that they are turning many away, asking them to return later.
LISTEN: Kaiser Health News’ podcast American Diagnosis addresses the myriad ways in which citizens of the Navajo Nation lack access to electricity, water and other infrastructure and how those social determinants of health contributed to making the Navajo vulnerable to the pandemic.