Ducey orders increase in hospital beds to combat COVID-19

Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Thursday that aims to increase the number of available hospital beds in the state by 50% in the next month weeks, including by requiring children’s hospitals treat patients up to the age of 21, in the face of a massive shortfall to fight the COVID-19 illness. 

The executive order comes a day after Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said the state will need to double its ICU beds from the current 1,500 to 3,000; increase its non-ICU hospital beds from 16,000 to 29,000; and more than triple the number of ventilators from roughly 1,400 to at least 4,500.

“Arizona is working day and night to ensure our hospitals are prepared while implementing measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible,” Ducey said in a press release. 

The goal is for hospitals to increase their bed capacity by 25% by April 10 and by 50% by April 24. Christ said in a press conference Wednesday that the department expects infections to peak by mid-April and hospitalizations to peak by mid-May. 

The order implements processes for providers to re-route non-critical patients to other providers and orders hospitals to begin plans to optimize staffing levels.  

Hospitals also must begin to report the number of medical-surgical and ICU beds to ADHS. 

Pediatric hospitals must begin admitting patients up to the age of 21 and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System will cover costs for people under Medicaid. 

The order will remain in effect for 180 days. 

In a press conference Wednesday, Ducey and other leaders said that the state is currently looking to build three field hospitals, one in Tucson and two in Phoenix, to deal with the likely influx of patients related to COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. 

As of March 26, there are 508 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona with 8 deaths. 

How you can tell if you might have been impacted

Symptoms of coronavirus resemble that of the flu. So, if you’re experiencing coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, you should consider getting checked out. Call your primary care physician or visit an urgent care center or emergency room — but call the health care provider before you go so they can be prepared for your arrival. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is taking COVID-19 calls: 1-844-542-8201

How COVID-19 spreads

  • Through the air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it

How to prevent spreading COVID-19

  • Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Don’t use your hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean surfaces frequently, including counter tops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
  • Contain: If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better. Once symptoms are gone experts recommend staying home an additional 72 hours.