ARIZONA NEWS

Pima County reports hospitals at capacity amid coronavirus surge

Dec 9, 2020, 4:50 PM | Updated: Dec 10, 2020, 12:14 pm

PHOENIX – The Pima County Health Department issued a health advisory on Wednesday as hospitals in the county reached capacity as coronavirus cases continue to surge.

“This trend has proven to be highly impactful on the availability of hospital bed capacity and that impact is expected to surpass critical levels should the high rate of community-wide spread occurring in Pima County not be addressed,” the health advisory said.

It’s the first Arizona county to report reaching capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the county backtracked somewhat, clarifying its use of “at capacity.”

“We should have given more thought to the fact that saying ‘at capacity’ could be interpreted by the media and the public that hospitals are full and no longer taking patients. That’s not true and not what we intended it to mean,” the county said as part of a 10-tweet thread.

The intention was to call attention to a health advisory that said “the county’s hospitals are having to use the state surge line and implement their own surge plans to deal with the volume of patients.”

On Wednesday, the Pima County Health Department confirmed to KTAR News 92.3 FM that the hospitals are postponing elective surgeries and are starting to implement surge plans.

The advisory indicates that the spread of coronavirus is high and recommends people to wear a mask and stay at home.

Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said during a health update Wednesday that facilities were seeing the highest number of COVID-19  patients ever in the Tucson-area hospitals, which account for the majority of where the counties hospital and ICU beds are located.

The Arizona Department of Health Services created a surge line at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to ensure that hospitals who were at or near capacity would be able to transfer patients to facilities who had capacity.

Last month, Pima County implemented a voluntary curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to discourage people from going to parties, bars and other social settings to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Tucson City Council took similar action last week and implemented a three-week citywide curfew during the same time.

On Wednesday, Arizona health officials reported 4,444 new coronavirus cases with 108 additional deaths, bringing the state’s documented totals to 382,601 COVID-19 infections and 7,081 fatalities.

In Pima County, 721 new cases were reported and 16 new deaths.

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Pima County reports hospitals at capacity amid coronavirus surge