As the Omicron variant surges in Arizona, hospitals are struggling to maintain staffing levels and resources to treat the influx of patients. As of Wednesday, Jan. 12, the state reached a new record daily high of 18,783 new COVID-19 cases after rising for 11 consecutive days.
According to KTAR, Arizona is likely to see more record caseloads before the surge crests even as COVID inpatient levels rise to their highest point in 11 months. In better news, intensive care unit (ICU) bed use has remained below the December peak related to the Delta variant.
In response to surging cases in Arizona, the Associated Press reported Dignity Health’s new directive to Arizona staff members with the virus who feel well enough to return to work may request clearance from their managers. Infected workers will be required to wear extra-protective N95 masks and should be assigned to treat other COVID-19-positive patients.
We are doing everything we can to ensure our employees can safely return to work while protecting our patients and staff from the transmissibility of COVID-19
Marjorie Bessel MD, chief medical officer at Banner Health held a press conference on Tuesday to update the public on the system’s ongoing management of patients. At this time, nearly a third of Banner beds are occupied by COVID or suspected COVID patients. The hospital system also reported struggling with maintaining staffing levels during this surge as many workers are out sick with the virus.
Dr. Bessel recommended that individuals use well-fitted KN95 masks and remain home when ill. Additionally, she addressed levels of supplies and drugs used to treat COVID-19 in Banner hospitals. Sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody therapy used to treat COVID-19 is currently being distributed in limited supply by the federal government. It requires a referral by a doctor and not all eligible patients will receive the treatment. Banner also does not have Paxlovid, an oral antiviral pill, as it is currently only being distributed by 32 retail pharmacies in Arizona.
Hospitalizations are increasing for children who are too young to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the Associated Press reports. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Wallensky told AP that pediatric hospitalizations are at their highest historical rate in the pandemic. Only 16% of children ages 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.
Mayo Clinic fired 700 employees who elected not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including many in Arizona. The Clinic told AZFamily that employees were required to comply with its mandatory vaccination program by January 3 or face termination. It is unclear how many employees were terminated at its Arizona location.
Overall, we don’t plan to break the numbers down for each of our sites. While it’s clear we don’t want to lose a single team member, we anticipate the number in Arizona not in compliance with our vaccine policy will be less than 1 percent of employees.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer at Valleywise Health was asked how many patients Valleywise had seen with complications arising from the COVID-19 vaccine, and if those numbers were significant.
We have seen folks that have presented to the emergency department that have had potential adverse reactions from the vaccine. The number is very, very small and I cannot give you the exact number, but I will tell you that is not more than a handful of folks that have had to come and seek medical care as a result of potential complication from receiving the vaccine.
Dr. White also indicated the health system had no plans to follow behind Dignity Health and direct employees infected with COVID-19 who feel well enough to return to work.
At this point, I do not see that Valleywise moving in that direction. We’re been able to, you know, make changes, make modifications to what we’re able to do to be able to allow employees that are testing positive stay home for that isolation period.