(AP) Some Arizona hospitals have begun activating surge plans to increase their capacity to treat coronavirus patients as confirmed cases rise and more people seek treatment.
Large hospitals activating plans to add capacity to treat COVID-19 patients included Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa and Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix, officials said.
The Arizona Department of Health Services on Saturday reported 3,591 additional confirmed cases, increasing the state's total to 70,051. There have been 1,579 known deaths, including 44 reported Saturday.
Saturday's increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases tied a record set Tuesday and was the sixth day over nine days in which the reported increase topped 3,000. Meanwhile, the number of positive or suspected COVID-19 patients seen in emergency rooms remained over 1,100 as of Friday.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Arizona became a coronavirus hot spot following Gov. Doug Ducey's lifting of stay-home orders last month. Health officials attribute the additional case counts to both community spread of the disease and to increased testing.
Hospital populations of COVID-19 patients have more than doubled since June 1, with over 2,500 hospitalized on Friday, including over 650 in intensive care beds.
Statewide, 87% of the adult ICU beds and 86% of all inpatient beds statewide were in use Friday, the Department of Health Services reported.
Ducey in recently weeks has acknowledged the surging cases increases and urged Arizonans to stay home and to wear masks. He also reversed himself and allowed local governments to impose face-covering mandates, which many have done across the state.
Dr. Marjorie Bessel of Banner Health said the Phoenix-based hospital system was using a contractor to bring in traveling nurses to help staff the additional capacity.
"Currently we have over 200 nurses who are very experienced," Bessel told the Arizona Republic. "They have ICU experience. They have PCU (Progressive Care Unit) experience. Some of them have even worked in New York." Even so, Bessel admits staff is stretched thin.
Some Arizona hospitals also have recently scaled back elective procedures to free up capacity for treating COVID-19 patients.