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'Nurses Are Exhausted And Getting Angry': How COVID-19 Is — Again — Affecting Arizona Nurses

The state Department of Health Services reported 1,970 new cases of COVID-19 and 6 deaths attributable to the virus Aug. 11. This brings the total number of deaths in Arizona caused by COVID-19 to 18,406.

The department also reported the administration of more than 10,500 new vaccine doses, bringing the state’s vaccination rate up to 53.6%.

This latest spike in COVID-19 cases is a result of the more contagious delta strain of the virus, and it's having an impact on children not previously seen.

Banner Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said their hospitals have seen 71 children admitted with COVID-19 in July — double the previous month. And while most of those cases did not require admission to the intensive care unit, Bessel said it’s still alarming.

→  Banner Health Short More Than 1,000 Nurses; Concerns Mount As COVID-19 Cases Soar

“This does not mean that the virus cannot have a serious impact on children. We are seeing it already in other states like Louisiana, Florida and Texas where pediatric volumes have sharply risen due to COVID and an unseasonable spike in respiratory illnesses amongst children," Bessel said.

This as schools across Arizona reopen with a state law preventing them from enforcing any kind of mandatory masking or vaccination protocols. The potential for this spike to grow further also has Bessel concerned.

When asked at an Aug. 11 press conference if Banner could re-impose limits of service, she said not yet:

"At this time we are managing taking care of those who have COVID as well as those who have non-COVID," Bessel said. "We would like to continue to do that for as long as possible and, hopefully, throughout this surge."

Despite the stresses the surge is placing on hospitals, Bessel says Banner has been planning to deal with staffing challenges, as hospitals are typically prepared for this time of the year, with or without the pandemic:

"We experience a surge due to respiratory pathogens like influenza. And we always augment our staff during those difficult winter months. So this planning is not different from prior years. But the magnitude of what we're likely going to need due to the COVID surge, of course, is significant and concerning at this time," Bessel said.

Bessel said Banner does have more than 1,000 bedside vacancies right now for registered nurses.

And Banner isn’t the only hospital system facing a nursing shortage.

To learn more about how Arizona nurses are faring, The Show spoke with Dawna Cato, chief executive officer of the Arizona Nurses Association; she has also been a nurse for more than two decades.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.