Arizona Officials Tell Hospitals to 'Fully Activate' Emergency Plans as Coronavirus Cases Spike

The Arizona Department of Health Services is asking hospitals to "fully activate" their facility emergency plans amid a spike in coronavirus cases that came after the state began to reopen last month. After Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order expired on May 15, the state has seen a 110 percent increase in COVID-19 cases, more than doubling to 27,678, as of Monday, according to KPNX.

In a June 6 letter from the ADHS director Dr. Cara Christ, hospitals are asked to prepare surge beds, cross-training staff, and possibly reducing or suspending elective surgeries to "ensure adequate bed capacity for both COVID and non-COVID admissions." Hospitals are also tasked with identifying additional ICU and inpatient beds to meet the 50 percent additional bed increase and determine if they will move their facilities from conventional care to contingency care in preparation for possible crisis care.

Christ told ABC15 that the letter was sent after learning her department's staff had reported incorrect hospitalization numbers since April on the Arizona Department of Health Services coronavirus dashboard in error. This was due to staff members' confusion about the hospitals' licensed bed capacity and surge capacity, she told the outlet.

"What you’re really starting to see now is a realistic assessment and check-up of, are we really ready for an upsurge of COVID-related cases," ASU Law Professor James Hodge told the news station. Hodge is a contributor to Arizona's Crisis Standards of Care plan. "We’re going to do the best we can with the resources, beds, and personnel that we have - against the backdrop of an infusion of new cases."

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Jessica Rigler, Assistant Director of Arizona's Department of Health Services, told the station that because people from more rural parts of the state have been transported to central and southern Arizona for a "higher level of care," hospitals in that area will be seeing the pressure more than outside of a pandemic.

Joe Gerald, program director for public health policy and management at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health, told KPNX that the state’s case trajectory will also test hospitals' preparedness for a second wave. "If we continue for the next several weeks like we have the past few, it’s very possible that we’ll run out of capacity in our hospitals and ICUs sometime in early July," Gerald said. "Since mid- to late April, Arizonans have kind of developed quarantine fatigue and have been out and about more."