The new coronavirus pandemic could leave Arizona short 13,000 hospital beds for sick patients, a top health official said Wednesday.
The state’s modeling has shown if there’s a big wave of illness here — what state officials emphasize is a worst-case scenario — it would hit in mid- to late April, with a high rate of hospitalizations in May, Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona Department of Health Services director, told reporters during a news briefing with Gov. Doug Ducey.
“We must continue to increase our bed capacity. With a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, we expect it to be above and beyond our current capacity of beds,” she said. “When we look at the modeling and the number of cases based on the trajectory, we anticipate that we could need an additional 13,000 hospital beds and additional 1,500 ICU (intensive care unit beds).”
Those numbers are in addition to the existing 16,000 licensed inpatient hospital beds and 1,500 ICU beds across Arizona, she said.
“We believe the peak of our illnesses will start mid- to late April, with peak hospitalizations in May,” she said. “That is what we are trying to get ahead of.”
Arizona is working with the private sector and the Army Corps of Engineers to identify alternate sites like closed hospitals and large venues that could be used to house patients.
New York City has converted its Jacob J. Javits conference center into a makeshift hospital for patients sick with COVID-19, which is caused by the new coronavirus. Arizona is looking at similar possibilities, said Gen. Mick McGuire, director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.
The state has asked the federal government for resources to open three “field hospitals,” which are large tents with hospital beds in them — two in Phoenix and one in Tucson.
“Arizona is still in the opening stages of its COVID-19 outbreak and the number of cases within the state will increase significantly,” Christ said. “As our testing capacity continues to increase, we will find more cases.”
She said more than 6,600 Arizonans have been tested for the new coronavirus and a majority of the tests have come back negative, and 4.6% have been positive. As of Wednesday afternoon, Arizona had reported 401 presumptive positive and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six known deaths from the illness.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 this week surpassed 800. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center as of Wednesday listed 466,955 cases worldwide, including 21,162 deaths.
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