As the number of COVID-19 patients rises in hospitals in northern and central Arizona, health officials in northern Arizona say they are able to handle the situation for now, but that could change quickly.
At the time of publication, Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) is treating 34 COVID-19 patients with 12 pending cases and hospital capacity, including around 60% intensive care capacity. Verde Valley Medical Center (VVMC) reports 22 COVID-19 patients, whose capacity is also at 60%.
According to Ron Haase, Chief Administrative Officer of the VVMC, the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the hospital to date was 21. In a press conference on Wednesday November 18, he said, “We are very concerned. We have been doing this for a while and are ready for what may come, at least as much as we can. "
In Flagstaff, Chief Medical Officer Derek Feuquay said FMC is currently seeing more cases during its second surge than it was in late June. The first increase was in March and April. "We still have patients from the Navajo and Hopi Nation, but we definitely have more in Flagstaff than ever before."
"It was very clear that the surge was coming back," said Josh Tinkle, chief administrative officer. "We are taking appropriate steps to tighten visitor restrictions again for the safety of patients and staff."
Health officials in both Flagstaff and the Verde Valley say the number of people who tested positive between the ages of 20 and 40 has increased sharply. You will also see positive tests in children. However, mainly older patients are still in the intensive care unit. "Obesity and diabetes seem to be a huge contributor to those who are hospitalized," Feuquay said.
Flo Spyrow, CEO and president of Healthcare in Northern Arizona, says the medical community remains concerned about Coconino and Yavapai counties and the impact on the communities.
"The biggest challenge here and across the country is finding the staff to care for these patients," Tinkle said, noting that nurses are leaving and 20,000 care requests have been made in the US. "Everyone is looking for carers. We're fine, but if we see peaks of up to 50-60% positivity rate that we see in other states, that would be a challenge for us."
The press conference followed news that 905 employees at Mayo Clinic in the Midwest had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Most of the exposure is said to have taken place in the community, not at work.
"I'm more concerned about our staff than a significant increase in patients," said Spyrow. “The first time (there was an increase) the incidence rates that our staff lived at were very low. These incidence rates are increasing. We are now concerned about staffing levels and the ability to care for patients in critical areas. "
However, recent vaccine announcements from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca offer hope as the first doses may be available this month. John Mougin, FMC's chief quality officer, calls the news "very, very encouraging" with effectiveness rates of up to 90% or better. He says health leaders across the state are currently reviewing safety data and details of possible side effects.
"The vaccine will be phased out," Mougin said, noting that medical and key personnel, as well as those at high risk, will receive the vaccine first. “Up to 30 million patients may be vaccinated by the end of January. This could change the landscape around COVID for the whole country. "
The big unknown is what will happen during the holiday season. Health care officials urge people to avoid gatherings – especially large ones -, eat outside, sterilize touch-sensitive areas, get tested, pay special attention to the elderly, continue to mask and wash hands and stay home, If you are sick.
"With the trajectory we're on now, December and January would be the high point," Tinkle said. “We ask the community to keep social distance, wash hands, wear masks. This will help us more than anything. If everyone distances themselves socially, we can possibly extend this (climax) further. If we are unsuccessful, if there is a massive surge like elsewhere, staffing will be a major challenge for every hospital across the country. "FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN