PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Medical officers at eight Arizona hospital networks have asked Dr. Cara Christ to take “swift action … to prevent Arizona hospitals from reaching crisis level of care, avoid preventable deaths from COVID and keep children in school.”
Representatives from Banner Health, Dignity Health, Health Choice Arizona, Honor Health, Mayo Clinic, Tucson Medical Center, Valleywise Health, and Yavapai Regional Medical Center sent a letter to the head of the Arizona Department of Health Services Tuesday. Their request came just hours after ADHS announced more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases statewide. Although ADHS attributed that exceptionally high number to a lag in reporting over the Thanksgiving weekend, Arizona has seen what amounts to a section surge of COVID-19 in the past several weeks. Like the first surge over the summer, it’s putting a strain on hospitals.
As of Wednesday morning, Arizona’s ICUs were at 90% capacity, and inpatient beds were at 87%. If the numbers keep going up, which is what medical experts believe will happen during the holidays, hospitals could be forced to make some tough choices about who receives care.
The hospitals’ letter cites “rapidly rising case counts and increasing hospitalizations” and “evidence suggesting more rapid transmission is occurring.” The concern is not just for beds and resources, but also for hospital staff. Frontline workers cannot help anyone if they get sick themselves.
According to charts included in the letter, Arizona will exceed its ICU capacity by mid-December. It also cites a forecast model by Arizona State University that "shows we will far exceed July peak hospitalizations numbers by mid-December," which is only a couple of weeks away.
The letter asks for five specific actions that will hopefully head off a potential health care disaster. The doctors would like to see them implemented by the weekend and remain in place for a month.
- Stop indoor dining
- Prohibit gatherings of more than 25 people, including support and enforcement for local ordinances, reassessment of approved permits, and posting restrictions in an easy-to-find location on municipality websites
- Stop group athletic activities, including club sports.
- Create a COVID-19 roadmap of execution and enforcement that includes reopenings and closings
- 10 p.m. curfew
The Tucson City Council is a step ahead of the state, having unanimously approved a curfew Tuesday.
The medical officers said the action they outlined will work in conjunction with individuals’ mitigation actions that have proved effective – wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and staying home when not feeling well.
The doctors say they are aware of the “near-term hardships” of implementing their suggestions, but believe that with a vaccine coming shortly, “there is a clear benefit that will come from avoiding illness and its long-term effects.” They say that if fewer people get sick, the state economy will rebound faster and “we can collectively return to a more normal lifestyle.” They believe mandates from the governor’s office and ADHS “will create a sense of urgency” and will encourage more people to “follow the rules without an elaborate enforcement mechanism.”
“Please help us, as the healthcare leaders of your state, to bridge this gap until the vaccine can be widely available to the public,” the eight doctors said. “This has been a long road for us all, but there is hope on the horizon.”
The organizations that signed the letter represent the majority of health care providers in Arizona.
Gov. Doug Ducey and Christ are scheduled to host a media briefing at the State Public Health Laboratory later this afternoon. Arizona's Family will stream it live on Facebook, online and in the free azfamily.com News app.