Bed Surge

Health care workers at Fort Belvoir, Va., shifted operations to handle more COVID-19 cases in this photo from late March. A recent surge in cases of the coronavirus in Arizona is starting to pressure the bed capacity of some hospitals in the state, but experts say the facilities have managed to adapt so far.

PHOENIX — Arizona hospitals are begging Arizonans: Get vaccinated, wear a mask and physically distance so hospitals won’t be overrun by the “ominous” trend of new COVID-19 cases driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.

“It is clear Arizona is experiencing another major surge in pandemic-related hospitalizations. Hospitals are once again at, nearing or over capacity,” the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association said in a statement Monday.

“We understand that after a year and a half people are tired of the virus, but the virus is not tired of us. It will continue to replicate until we all do our part.”

The hospital trade group, which represents the interests of hospitals and health care facilities across the state, urged Arizonans to get vaccinated and follow Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on masking. The CDC has called on Americans to wear masks in public places — even for people who are vaccinated — to stem the surge of Delta infections. The new variant, which now makes up the majority of cases, has proven adept at infecting even vaccinated people, although they are at significantly lower risks of developing a serious infection that requires hospitalization.

The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association said that COVID-19 cases aren’t as high now as they were in December and January, when Arizona was hardest hit by novel coronavirus infections, “the trend is ominous” right now. While there are “available” beds in the hospital system, the reality is that many of those beds don’t have the staff needed to actually put patients in them, or they are in specialty hospitals or facilities that treat targeted groups of people or those with specific health conditions.

The surge isn’t the first to threaten to overwhelm hospitals since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 — but health care providers “would like to make this their last.”

“It doesn’t have to happen this way if we all do our part,” the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. “We know vaccines work. We know wearing a mask and physically distancing works for those who haven’t or are unable to get the vaccine — and it works to further stop the spread even in those who have been vaccinated.”

Arizona reported 2,632 cases on Monday, and there have been nearly 989,000 since the pandemic began. About 48% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services; another roughly 7% have received one vaccine shot but not the second. Public health experts expect Arizona to cross the 1-million-case threshold this week.

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Jim Small is a reporter for the Arizona Mirror, a non-profit independent Arizona news organization.

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