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Arizona's COVID-19 plateau continues to strain hospitals

Arizona has now been averaging more than 2,000 COVID-19 infections per day for three months. The long plateau of the state’s third wave continues to strain hospitals. 

Arizona's hospital emergency departments continue to be busier than they’ve been for much of the pandemic, according to  state health department data. And the state's hospital ICU beds have been more than 90% full since mid-August.

26% of the state's ICU beds are being used for COVID-19 patients. In previous waves of the pandemic, COVID-19 patients occupied as many as 66% of the state's ICU beds. But Valleywise Health chief clinical officer Dr. Michael White said, as Arizona's third wave drags on, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients continue to make an outsized impact on hospital operations.

“We have not really seen any relief around that," White told reporters Wednesday. “COVID-19 is still very prevalent in Maricopa County and certainly in our admissions here to Valleywise Health. We remain on this relatively stable plateau of a consistent number of cases requiring hospitalization.” 

White said he expects hospitals to remain crowded throughout the winter months. He’s urging unvaccinated Arizonans to get immunized ahead of the holiday season.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.