Banner Health hospitals, ICUs are filling up in Phoenix area

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2020, file photo, vehicles line up at patrons wait for COVID-19 tests at a drive-thru testing center in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — Arizona began 2021 by reporting over 10,000 additional known COVID-19 cases as the state’s death toll from the coronavirus passed 9,000 and the surge kept hospitals nearly full.

The additional 10,060 additional cases with 151 deaths reported Friday increased the state’s totals since the pandemic started to 530,267 cases and 9,015 deaths, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Pinal County reported 488 new cases with five additional deaths. That brings the county total to 28,137 positive cases and 372 deaths.

The state passed the milestone of 9,000 deaths just 10 days after it reported reaching 8,000 deaths.

According to the dashboard, 4,501 COVID-19 patients occupied hospital beds as of Friday, short of the pandemic-high of 4,564 set Wednesday.

With COVID-19 patients occupying 61% of intensive care beds statewide and hospitals reporting only 7% of all inpatient beds not in use, the Department of Health Services urged people to be vigilant.

“#MaskUpAZ and physically distance around anyone who isn’t a member of your household,” the department said on Twitter.

The state’s seven-day rolling average of daily new COVID-19 cases declined from about 6,787 on Dec. 17 to about 5,698 on Thursday as the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths rose from 74.4 to 81.4, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project.

Arizona’s hospital occupancy has surged during December, and Phoenix-based Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital chain, said Wednesday that it had suspended elective surgeries to free up capacity for treating COVID-19 patients.

Also this week, some Banner hospitals were among those resorting to turning away patients being transported by ambulance or being transferred from other hospitals, while still accepting walk-in patients needing emergency care.

Health care leaders in the state have said hospitals may soon have to resort to triage protocols to make tough decisions to prioritize care among patients, essentially deciding who first gets access to limited resources.

Arizona had the nation’s fourth-highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week, behind California, Tennessee and Rhode Island. The diagnosis rate is calculated by dividing a state’s population by the number of new cases.

Arizona’s mass vaccination program, like those of other states, has been slow to administer many of the doses received early on, and Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday ordered the Department of Health Services to establish a statewide distribution system. The state previously relied on county health departments to manage the program in their own areas.

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