Arizona Has Fewer Than 200 ICU Beds Available

medical workers in protective suit places hand on patient in ICE bed

By Jessica Swarner

June 25, 2020

Arizona continues to move closer to crisis as COVID-19 spreads at record levels.

Despite Gov. Doug Ducey’s reassurances that Arizona has the capacity to handle the current COVID-19 resurgence, healthcare professionals are expressing concerns over what they’re seeing. 

The state health department reported this week that 88% of ICU beds are in use, leaving fewer than 200 available. 

Throughout April, generally less than 70% of ICU beds were in use. The percentage of beds filled began creeping up throughout May, hitting 80% for the first time June 11. 

The number of regular inpatient hospital beds in use has also been increasing. As of Thursday, 85% were full, leaving 1,132 open. 

University of Arizona President Robert Robbins said hospitals filling up is one of the reasons he’s unsure if the campus will reopen in the fall.

“If I had to say today would we would reopen, no, because … the ICUs are full,” he said. “We cannot have a situation where we’re bringing students back to campus, asking our faculty and staff to come back to campus when we’re in truly an exponential growth of the number of cases here.”

Arizona Now a Hot Spot

Arizona has seen an explosion in COVID-19 cases since Ducey allowed the state’s stay-at-home order to expire May 15. 

The state reported its highest-ever daily increase Tuesday, with over 3,500 new cases. In total, Arizona has seen 63,030 cases as of Thursday. 

On Wednesday, the state reported its highest daily increase in deaths at 79. However, state officials said the number was abnormally high due to death-certificate matching, which is when older COVID-19 deaths are identified and added into the state’s data. 

So far, the state has seen a total of 1,490 COVID-19 deaths. 

More Patients, More Problems

Arizona’s availability of beds isn’t the only resource being stressed. Hospitals have begun calling in workers from other cities and states to help keep things moving. 

“We are on unstable ground,” Melody Nungaray-Ortiz, an intensive care nurse from Banner University Medical Center, told ABC 15.

“We are getting really close to the point where we are going to have unsafe ratios and patient care is going to suffer,” she said.

The explosion in cases is also hindering contact tracing efforts, which experts say is important to helping curb the disease’s spread. 

“With so many people getting tested, labs are taking longer to track and report all of the results back to public health,” Marcy Flanagan, Maricopa County’s public health executive director, said at a briefing Wednesday. “Public health can’t reach out to people until we know they are positive from the lab results.”

Signs of Testing Improvements

Some Arizonans have reported having to wait over a week to get their test results back — if they can even find a way to get tested.

But recent news signals testing should soon be improving in the state.

Ducey announced Wednesday that Sonora Quest Laboratories will be receiving an additional testing machine to help speed up processing. 

The governor’s office also said the state health department provided Sonora Quest with over 10,000 collection kits over the weekend to help with demand. 

While testing in Arizona has improved – diagnostic testing has increased by more than 250% from April to June – the state still ranks 41st for its efforts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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