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Arizona is seeing among highest rates of COVID-19 hospitalization in the U.S.

Arizona continues to report a high number of COVID-19 cases. It’s now the only state in the U.S. where the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks every county at medium or high levels of COVID-19 transmission. And the state’s hospitals are noting upticks in demand.

The  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports the percentage of hospital beds in Arizona occupied by COVID-19 patients is now among the highest in the nation.  As of mid-October, COVID patients had accounted for less than 1% of ICU bed use statewide. COVID-19 patients now occupy about 8% of the state's ICU beds. Only five other states are reporting higher levels of COVID-19 hospital bed occupancy. 

Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer with Valleywise Health, told KJZZ News his hospital was already busy with  high numbers of influenza and RSV cases this fall. Now, more and more patients have been seeking treatment for COVID-19.

“We had been running down around 10-12 patients a day, and here over the last few days we’re upwards closer to about 30 patients a day that we’re having in the hospital with COVID-19,” White said.  

This COVID-19 surge has not reached the levels seen last fall and winter — Arizona reported 344 COVID-19 deaths during the last week of November 2021; this week, the state reported 42 COVID-19 deaths. Even so, White said the sudden increase in cases is putting a strain on hospital resources and contributing to long wait times in the emergency department.

“We’re seeing higher numbers of patients that are presenting that need acute care, which impacts the ability to be seen timely in emergency departments," White said. 

The  Arizona Department of Health Services reported 12,987 COVID-19 cases this week — more than twice as many as the state recorded during the first week of November. And the department reports 25% percent of COVID-19 tests reported to the state in the past week have turned up positive. The department also reported more than 2,000 flu cases in its most recent update, a tally 15 times higher than the five-season average. The latest count of RSV cases was a full 27 times higher than what's expected for this time of year. 

White said he has been wearing a face mask in public to avoid respiratory infections, and he encourages other Arizonans to do so as well. What's more important, he said, is for Arizonans to get up-to-date on COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccines. He said preventing virus transmission will help protect hospital resources. 

"We always want to take into account that, if you are symptomatic, you can spread these viruses very easily to others, and you may not be severely impacted by this, but certainly somebody that you may come into contact with could have more drastic complications," White said. 

Arizona coronavirus cases, deaths

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.