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Arizona hotspot for COVID-19 as health officials warn of hospital tensions

Arizona reported 9,909 new cases of COVID-19 and 297 new deaths on Thursday, the highest amount in a day so far, although the state health department noted that most were due to “the process of matching death certificates.” .

According to Arizona, the worst cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to 91-divoc.com, tracking COVID-19. The state currently has the highest seven-day average COVID-1

9 infection per capita in any region in the world, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

According to the COVID Tracking Program, Arizona also leads the country in terms of hospitalization. 4,920 hospitalizations were reported on Thursday, the highest number for the fourth day in a row.

Staff problems

According to the Arizona Department of Health, 7% of intensive care beds have been available since Wednesday.

Banner Health cares for approximately half of all COVID-19 patients in Arizona, officials said. The situation in the state is “undeniable,” Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the hospital’s chief clinical officer, told a news briefing on Wednesday.

“Hospitals in Arizona are very thin at the moment, despite a significant amount of preparation and work to increase capacity,” Bessel said.

Banner Health canceled elective surgeries at all of its hospitals in Arizona on Jan. 1. His employment in Arizona is over 100% of the permitted bed capacity, Bessel said Wednesday, although staff is the system’s biggest concern.

“We believe we can make beds,” she said. “It’s the qualified staff, this expert nurse, this wonderful doctor, this incredibly diligent respiratory therapist, these are the people who are really thin at the moment. And there just aren’t that many of them all over the country because they’re located in every a State shall endeavor to meet the requirements of each community. “

Bessel expects that hospitalizations will only worsen in the coming weeks due to “the effect of arranging Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.”

Waiting time is another concern, as hospitals may need to keep patients in emergency rooms, as there are no intensive care units or inpatient beds available.

“The wait can be from a few hours to 24 to 48 hours in the emergency room until we can move someone from the emergency room to a hospital bed,” said Dr. Michael White, chief clinical director of Valleywise Health in Maricopa County. press briefing on wednesday.

Calls for mitigation and implementation

As Arizona has become “the hottest hot spot for COVID,” Bessel urges residents to “shrink their circle” only to those in their household, wear a mask with people outside their circle, and “stop attending unmasked gatherings, even if you feel well. “

“It is very likely that one of these gatherings will have the virus and spread it to you,” she said, noting that tracking contracts is not helpful because COVID-19 “is so uncontrolled in our country.”

“We need each of you to do your part so that hospitals remain open and accessible to all who need health care,” she added.

The health official also called for strengthened mitigation measures, such as a state mask mandate, curfew and suspension of indoor meals, and the implementation of existing measures.

The state has not issued a mask mandate, although several cities and counties have issued one. Calls for disregard for mask orders have not been published in Tucson, Flagstaff or the 12 largest cities in the Phoenix area, according to a recent investigation by the Republic of Arizona.

Governor Doug Ducey also called on local authorities to impose measures.

“There are steps on the ground, and if many of these leaders who turn around and demand further action actually impose and have responsibility for the steps that are already in place, we can further reduce the spread of this and save lives,” Ducey said. last month at a press briefing.

In a Jan. 3 report received by ABC News, the White House Coronavirus Working Group said the number of Arizona holidays raised “significant concerns” about the spread of COVID-19 in the community and recommended “a combination of aggressive mitigation with additional restrictions and significant acceleration of vaccinations. “

The Republican governor has not tightened restrictions despite his calls to do so.

“Faced with strict mitigation measures and countries that have little or no mitigation measures, everyone is experiencing the same thing,” Ducy CJ spokesman JJ Karamargin told the Associated Press this week. “The mitigation measures introduced by Arizona early on – they remain in place. We urge all Arizonaans to follow suit.”

Focus on vaccinations

The state gives priority to vaccination to combat the pandemic.

“The vaccine will save millions of lives ahead, and that’s our focus today,” Ducy said last month.

As of Thursday, more than 113.00 people, including nurses and nurses, had been vaccinated in Arizona, according to the state health department.

The goal is to vaccinate about 3.5 million people, officials said.

Staff is a problem at vaccination sites, Bessel said. Banner Health operates three vaccination sites in the state, requiring hundreds of staff and volunteers each day. Bessel herself has been reassigned several times to vaccinate Banner Health at the Arizona State Fair to administer vaccines, an ABC News spokesman said.

“We are stretching as much as possible because we really believe in it [the] the vaccine is the way out of the pandemic, “she said.

Volunteers trained by the Arizona National Guard began administering the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday and supporting vaccination sites in Arizona, officials said. These include retired medical professionals and people with medical experience.

“When people saw us here, they wanted to get active and volunteer, which is exactly what we need,” said U.S. Army Colonel Tom Lipper, the state surgeon at the Arizona National Guard, to the KNXV affiliate. of Phoenix ABC. “We were contacted by a group of volunteers who said they wanted to help protect their country and their communities and what they could do to help.”

For now, it is “crucial” that people continue to have a social distance, White said.

“Although the vaccine is beginning to spread in our community, it will be months before we can reduce our restrictions,” he said. “If we don’t continue to do this, there is a danger of overwhelming our clinical wards and hospitals.”

Josh Margolin, Brian Hartman and Eric Strauss of ABC News contributed to this report.

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