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Arizona hospitals avoided ICU shortage by ramping up capacity

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PHOENIX (3 TV/CBS 5) - April 8 was the day Arizona hospitals would have run out of ICU beds, if they had not taken drastic action to increase their capacity, according to a data analysis by CBS 5 Investigates.

The numbers came from the Arizona Department of Health Services and were released on Wednesday, as part of its new COVID-19 Data Dashboard, which includes information on how many hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators were used over the past month, as well as how many were available.

When it comes to ICU beds, the numbers paint a harrowing picture, where disaster was avoided thanks to what hospital officials refer to as "surge capacity."

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On March 26, which was the day Governor Doug Ducey ordered hospitals to increase their bed space by 50% over the next month, Arizona hospitals had a total of 1,199 available ICU beds. Patients were using 741 of them on that date. The number of beds being used and available increased by 250 over the next two days, with hospitals keeping up with the new demand.

The number of beds being used wavered just above and just below 1,000 until April 8. On that date, the number of beds being used jumped to 1,438. At the same time, the number of available beds also increased to 2,015.

Had the number of beds available stayed at the same level as it was on March 26, Arizona hospitals would have run out of room in their ICUs on April 8.

"Today we have 1,668, plus 485 additional beds available as needed," said Ducey during a news conference Wednesday.

Neither Ducey or Department of Health Services Director, Dr. Cara Christ mentioned the bullet the state had dodged two weeks before, but it likely was their work and the executive order that set the stage for the hospitals' ability to absorb such a large increase in ICU patients.

"This is good news and it shows we're prepared in Arizona," said Ducey, as he pointed to the state's increased hospital capacity.

Morgan Loew's hard-hitting investigations can be seen weekdays on CBS 5 News at 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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