Hospital officials in Arizona are preparing for another possible COVID-19 surge, as new variants come into play.

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Hospital leaders in Arizona are preparing in case of another COVID-19 surge, as concerns grow over more-contagious versions of the virus. Researchers say the have not seen evidence of the easily transmissible strains in our state, but some believe it's only a matter of time.

Dr. Joshua LaBaer, Executive Director of the ASU Biodesign Institute, said Wednesday that researchers are looking for signs of the U.K. variant is in Arizona. "The COVID-19 test that ASU does, the saliva test, I believe is the only test in the state that would reflect at least the B117, the U.K. variant," said LaBaer. "We have not seen an outbreak of that pattern yet although we continue monitoring it."

LaBaer suggested public health leaders could be doing more to keep an eye out for mutations.

"We definitely need much more sequencing because the other variants things like the South African variant and the Brazilian variant, you really need to do sequencing to see those," said LaBaer. "Frankly, throughout the U.S., we're not doing enough of that sequencing."

Concerns about virus mutations have many healthcare leaders feeling uneasy even as they report a slow-moving decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Clinical Officer for Banner Health, said Wednesday the hospital network is looking back at medical interventions that worked for COVID-19 patients. Dr. Michael White, Chief Clinical Officer for Valleywise Health, said his team is reevaluating facilities in case of another surge.

"To make sure that in the future if we were to ever see something like this again we are prepared to have the negative airflow rooms," said White.

As hospital leaders are trying to anticipate another surge, Dr. LaBaer said his team is working on new models that may help predict the future of the pandemic.

Dr. Bessel suggested the U.K. variant may already be in Arizona. "The virus travels fairly quickly across the entire world," said Bessel. "Even though we may not have a confirmed case of it, it's very plausible that is already here."


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