Arizona Hospitals Told to Activate Emergency Plans

Ralph Ellis

June 10, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

With the number of COVID-19 cases growing in Arizona, the state Department of Health Services (ADHS) has asked hospitals to "fully activate" their emergency plans to deal with coronavirus patients as the state deals with a sudden surge of new cases.

ADHS Director Cara Christ urged the hospitals to reduce or suspend elective surgeries to ensure enough hospital beds are available, make sure sufficient staff can be called in, implement "surge" beds to increase capacity, identify additional ICU beds, and re-evaluate admission criteria so some patients could go to alternate care facilities, according to a letter she sent to the hospitals.

Hospitals should review the state's crisis plan for standards of care so they can "make determinations for moving your facility from conventional care to contingency care and prepare for crisis care," Christ said.

"Your facilities and staff are on the front line of this response and your continued ability to care for your patients in a safe manner is critical in Arizona's success in overcoming COVID-19," she wrote.

Arizona currently has more than 27,000 confirmed cases and more than 1000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

AZ Central reported that the number of new coronavirus cases has grown rapidly during the past week, with a record 1579 positive cases reported last Friday, 530 last Thursday, 973 last Wednesday, and 1127 new cases reported June 2.

"There is definitely a rise in infections and it is totally expected after the stay-at-home order was lifted," University of Arizona virologist Felicia Goodrum, PhD, wrote in an email, AZ Central reported. "We have hit the highest number of reported cases on a single day ever, so seems like a spike to me."

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's stay-at-home executive order expired May 15. Then people gathered in large numbers over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. At a recent news conference, Ducey said the increasing number of cases can be explained by increased testing.

Marjorie Bessel, MD, chief clinical officer for Banner Health, Arizona's largest health system, said the hospital system was planning to ease restrictions on visitors but decided not to because of the growing number of coronavirus cases.

Bessel also said the Banner system was nearing 100% of its usual intensive care unit capacity, according to AZ Central.

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