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Surge in COVID-19 Cases Taxes Arizona Health-Care Workers


Friday, July 3, 2020   

Phoenix, AZ - As the number of COVID-19 cases set daily records, Arizona's health-care workers are being pushed to the limit to handle the influx of new patients. As of Thursday, new COVID-19 patients had filled 86-percent of Arizona hospital beds, and almost 90-percent of the available space in intensive-care units. Vice President Mike Pence, here this week to confer with state leaders, announced the federal government plans to send 500 additional health-care workers. Robin Schaeffer with the Arizona Nurses Association says the extra help is much-needed.

"You know, we had a bunch of nurses that went to New York during their crisis, in their high point. We need the same thing done here in Arizona. I don't know how he's gonna get them - but I'm happy if he does."

Schaeffer says almost all the state's available doctors, nurses and other health-care staffers are working right now. She says a refurbished, 250-bed overflow hospital could be opened in Phoenix, but at the moment, there aren't enough workers to staff it.

Despite the heavy workload, Schaeffer says most nurses and other health workers are able to handle the patient load - although some have jobs that are harder than others.

"In the intensive-care units, we have a lot of younger nurses that are working there, age 45 and under. Most of them are just struggling with the reality of the severity of this virus, and how sick the patients are in the intensive-care unit."

Schaeffer says nurses across the state are united in asking Arizonans to help them "flatten the curve" on coronavirus cases.

"The nurses are huge proponents of what we call the 'Triangle for Success' - and that includes wearing your mask when you're out; the usual social distancing; and of course, hand washing is really important."

Earlier this week, state officials ordered hospitals to use "crisis care standards" in evaluating new patients - a form of triage that ranks admissions based on how likely they are to recover. Schaeffer says most hospitals aren't there yet, but could be forced to make those decisions if case numbers continue to climb.

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