CASA GRANDE — The largest health system in Arizona has announced it will add about 1,000 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists to its workforce to help with the coronavirus pandemic.

Banner Health will add 980 workers, about twice the number added during a busy flu season, because more care is needed for patients with COVID-19, said Naomi Cramer, chief human resources officer.

The nurses and respiratory therapists are traveling health care workers who will take assignments across the country for four weeks, with extensions available for up to 12 weeks, Cramer said. Normally travel assignments are around 13 weeks.

This comes as the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,910 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, which is up from the previous two days. That brings the state’s total to 138,523. There were also 91 new deaths reported, bringing the total to 2,583.

In Pinal County, there were 177 new cases reported Friday, with three deaths. The county’s totals now stand at 6,420 and 96, respectively.

The San Tan Valley/Queen Creek area is still being hit the hardest in Pinal, with 64 new cases reported Friday in its three ZIP codes for a total of 1,691. Casa Grande went up 30 for a total of 1,330; Maricopa went up 28 for a total of 792; and Apache Junction went up 28 for a total of 531.

In Arizona as a whole, hospitalizations went up 12 to 3,466, ending a two-day streak of that troubling statistic going down. In a press conference Thursday, Dr. Cara Christ of ADHS said the state hasn’t needed to use surge capacity beds in hospitals, but they remain ready should the need arise.

Chief Nursing Officer Phyllis Doulaveris said the nurse-to-patient ratio in the ICU ranges from one-to-one to one-to-two, but COVID-19 patients are almost always at a one-to-one ratio.

The traveling nurses have a two-day orientation before they start doing shift work, which includes clinical simulation and nurse shadowing, Doulaveris said.

“They are stepping in where they are needed. By and large, the vast majority are caring for COVID patients,” she said. “They are seasoned and experienced with COVID, so we are using most of them in the COVID units.”

Banner Health has also given about 700 employees more job responsibility and has asked ADHS to send additional nurses, officials said.

The Arizona Department of Health announced Wednesday that it has hired about 600 nurses to work in state hospitals cost-free for up to six weeks, but hospitals must apply to that program.

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