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Arizona hospitals: Get vaccinated and wear a mask so we don’t run out of space

By: - August 23, 2021 12:22 pm

A “prone team,” wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), prepares to turn a COVID-19 patient onto his stomach in a Stamford Hospital intensive care unit (ICU), on April 24, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Photo by John Moore | Getty Images

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
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.