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Arizona hospitals remain busy as COVID-19 and flu cases rise

Arizona’s hospitals continue to see high volumes of patients with respiratory viruses amid a severe season for RSV, influenza and COVID-19. 

Dr. Jeremy Goodman is chief medical officer at Banner University Medical Center, Phoenix. He told KJZZ News, after an  unseasonably early surge, RSV cases finally  appear to be slowing down in Arizona.

"We're hopeful we've hit the peak of RSV and we should be on the tail-end of that," Goodman said. 

But flu infections are still soaring. The state health department is  reporting flu caseloads more than 10 times higher than what’s typical for this time of year.

“We're definitely seeing an increase of patients coming in with flu," Goodman said. "Then over the last month, we’ve been seeing an increase in COVID cases."

The  Arizona Department of Health Services this week reported nearly 16,000 new COVID-19 cases and 71 COVID-19 deaths. The state  continues to see high rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports more than 8% of the state's inpatient beds are now occupied by COVID-19 patients, compared to about 6% nationwide. 

Goodman said his hospital has increased staffing in response to the surge in respiratory viruses. But he said patients can expect long wait times in emergency departments for the time being.

"It's going to be busy, all hands on-deck, and we're absolutely prepared for that," Goodman said. "But what we really need for people to do is to stay as healthy as they can." 

Goodman encourages Arizonans to get up-to-date with flu shots and COVID-19 boosters.

“We need to remain open to take care of everyone who needs us, beyond just those with respiratory illnesses, and so anything that our community can do to keep themselves healthy, I think that’s going to be the key to getting us through this winter,” Goodman said. 

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