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Arizona emergency room doctor says her hospital operating in ‘crisis mode’

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Like many hospitals across Arizona, the one where Krista Walker works as an emergency physician has been packed with COVID-19 patients over the last few weeks.

“This week we’ve had a lot of them,” said Walker, who asked not to disclose where she works.

“In fact, Monday night we were pretty overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Tuesday night, my facility had to go on divert, meaning that we had no beds in the hospital.”

As a result, ambulances were having to take patients to other hospitals. Walker said they’ve also been using the Arizona surge line to transfer COVID-19 patients to other facilities whenever they fill up.

It’s not the first time her hospital has had to temporarily divert patients elsewhere. It’s also not the only Arizona hospital that’s done this since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Clearly we’re not the only facility that’s had to do that,” she said. “It’s been throughout the Valley and throughout the state. That’s why we’re in this crisis mode now.”

Walker said patients of all ages are coming in with COVID-19 symptoms, which range from mild symptoms like dry cough and body aches to more severe symptoms like trouble breathing and respiratory distress.

She has seen patients as young as under 2 months old and as old as 90 years old. Even though most patients with complications from the coronavirus are older people, she has seen younger patients die, including a man in his early 30’s who came in with acute respiratory failure.

“He was a young man who was just starting his family,” she said. “It’s frustrating to me to see young people die and then people not realize that when they’re not wearing a mask, they’re contributing to that.”

Walker said wearing a mask is one of the best ways to stop the spread of the coronavirus. She expressed frustration with Gov. Doug Ducey for not mandating face masks. The governor has left it up to mayors to institute mandatory mask policies.

“I can’t tell you how many people I was admitting who said, ‘But the governor said I didn’t have to wear a mask,’” she said.

Even now, she said some people waiting in the emergency room don’t wear their masks properly.

“It’s a pretty basic thing to do,” she said. “And when you wear your mask, cover your nose. Wearing it on your chin doesn’t count.”

She also encouraged people to social distance, wash their hands frequently and be considerate of others.

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