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Former surgeon general calls Arizona’s coronavirus situation problematic

PHOENIX — The former U.S. Surgeon General said Monday that the surge of coronavirus cases coupled with depleting resources is problematic for Arizona.

“It’s going to get a lot worse,” Dr. Richard Carmona told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show. “We’re seeing a big surge in cases statewide and that’s really problematic.”

Carmona, who now works with a team at the University of Arizona to study coronavirus trends, said the numbers are way too high considering the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays have yet to take place.

Health officials are already bracing for surges in the weeks following those holidays from people gathering. In Arizona, the concern is magnified with snowbirds expected to start making their way to the state from colder parts of the country.

Carmona noted that during this time of year, it’s not uncommon for snowbirds to fill up a few ICU beds during the flu season because they tend to be older with chronic medical conditions, but adding the pandemic on top of that could spell trouble.

“We’re getting up to the level where our resources are being depleted to a very critical point,” Carmona said.

On Monday, Arizona health officials reported 2,659 new coronavirus cases and no additional deaths, bringing the documented totals to 302,324 infections and 6,464 fatalities. Virus cases in the state have been surging since the beginning of October and continue to approach record levels.

Arizona’s weekly percent positivity for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, an indicator of how much the virus is spreading in the community, has reached its highest level in four months.

The positivity rate was 12% for the 119,036 tests reported last week, the highest since it was 12% for the week starting July 19.

The numbers of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospital inpatients and ICU beds have more than doubled since the start of November, tallying 2,008 and 469 on Sunday, respectively.

Despite the rising cases, Carmona said staffing is the biggest issue to keep an eye on.

“The resource that is probably most important is personnel, and nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists are burning out because they’ve been doing this every day,” Carmona said.

For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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