On Wednesday, October 5, there were 2,041 new cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, with 39 new deaths. Arizona’s COVID-19 death total of 20,000 amid the state’s third virus surge, is a heartbreaking reminder of COVID’s lethality. Under 60% of Arizonans have received one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 7% of hospital intensive care unit (ICU) beds remain available at this time and 27% of those beds are in use by COVID-19 patients.
The information comes courtesy of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) COVID-19 data dashboard.
Across Arizona the combination of most recent surge of the COVID-19 pandemic along with the national nursing shortage has caused issues for nearly every marginalized community, and Phoenix’s homeless population has not avoided the hit. The Albuquerque Journal reports that Circle the City, which provides healthcare services for the Valley’s homeless, needs at least 50 more nurses, physicians assistants, security guards and other support staff. From Circle the City Spokeswoman Marty Hames:
Not only are we dealing with this higher demand on behalf of our patients, we’re also dealing with a shortage of employees.
Arizona hospitals continue to deal with high demand, and as the tourist season looms, travel nurses are stepping into place. According to Fox10 Phoenix, hundreds of out-of-state nurses are taking temporary positions in Arizona as some hospitals offer double the amount of pre-pandemic pay. From StaffDNA Vice President of Strategic Solutions Imran Vithani:
Specifically in the State of Arizona, we’ve seen the volume of positions in the last year has increased 200% to 300%. We are seeing applications come through for Arizona-specific candidates that are looking for the Arizona-New Mexico area that want to experience that lifestyle and culture.
Masking in Schools
Arizona’s new COVID-19 senior adviser on public health emergency preparedness did not mince words when it came to the state’s pandemic politics — he doesn’t want to get involved. But Dr. Richard Carmona, appointed on August 26 by Governor Doug Ducey, came out strongly in support of children wearing masks in schools in an interview with the Arizona Republic.
It is very, very important that children should wear a mask in school, and with teachers’ and parents’ guidance, do social distancing as best as we can. … We don’t want to go back to distance learning for our children.
In a second shot against the governor’s highly controversial stance on masking in schools, the Biden administration ordered Governor Ducey to stop using the state’s federal pandemic funding on grants that can only be directed to schools without mask mandates. Governor Ducey created a grants program in August offering $7,000 in waivers to any parent who wanted to switch their child out of a school that required masks on campus and into a charter that would not require one, the Associated Press reports.
Opioid Crisis and COVID-19
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid deaths were on the rise in Arizona. Fentanyl availability has recently spiked, cut into less harmful drugs. According to AZCentral, the COVID-19 pandemic made the opioid problem worse. ADHS estimated the total end-of-year tally for opioid overdose deaths to be 2,300 for 2020, a 69% increase over 2019.
Banner Health is seeking to help with new messaging on their ambulances. A portion of the American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance fleet will feature display ads for the Arizona Opioid Assistance and Referral Hotline. From Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center:
We are incredibly proud to see these ambulances hitting area roadways with this new and very important messaging. If we help to save just one life with these new ambulance designs, then our work has been worth it