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Former Arizona health director: State could need new stay-at-home order

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

PHOENIX — The former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services said Monday the state could need a new stay-at-home order if coronavirus trends he calls “disturbing” continue.

“If the trends continue, I think we’re on a railroad track to field hospitals and/or another stay-at-home order,” Will Humble told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad.

Arizona has seen a rise in COVID-19 case totals and hospitalizations recently, trends Humble considers alarming.

The state reported Monday that 79% of inpatient beds and 77% of ICU beds were filled, leaving 1,506 inpatient beds and 363 ICU beds open.

Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Banner Health’s chief medical officer, said Friday its hospital system was reaching capacity for ICU beds and was wary of having to dip into surge capacity.

Humble, who served in the position from 2009 to 2015, said he’s been concerned by rising trends since May 26.

That accounts for a reporting lag and other factors associated with the end of Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order on May 15.

“We’ve got some disturbing trends that have really been happening since about May 26,” Humble said. “Later on, we started to see all of the behavior that happened over the Memorial Day weekend being reflected in the cases you’re seeing today for that lag time.”

The state reported totals of 27,678 coronavirus cases and 1,047 deaths on Monday morning.

Humble’s concerns were echoed Friday by Marcy Flanagan, Maricopa County’s public health executive health director.

Flanagan said there are signs that community spread of COVID-19 in metro Phoenix is growing beyond what was expected because of the state’s reopening plan.

“We’re seeing some bad trends not only in cases but some trends in hospitalization capacity that look to me to be alarm bells,” Humble said.

Humble said there are decisions that can be made soon to help push Arizona trends back in the right direction.

First, he advised the state to test more and work on infection control at nursing homes and other senior living communities.

He also recommended allowing local leaders to implement policies, something they can’t do under Ducey’s current executive order.

Ducey said Thursday during a press conference he believes his office and public health officials have chosen the best course of action in handling the coronavirus outbreak.

“I think [our course of action] depends on what kind of policy decisions are made in the next 10 days,” Humble said.

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