Banner Health leader warns about COVID trends in Valley hospitals

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Posted at 4:15 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 20:13:52-04

PHOENIX — The state's largest hospital system is seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, and leaders are worried about the implications of recent trends, pushing the importance of vaccinations and masking.

Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the chief medical officer at Banner Health, held a virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon in response to the spread of the delta variant and low vaccination rates.

She said, for now, Banner is offering all services to patients. But that could change if current trends continue.

"At this time we have adequate room both in our ICUs, and our hospitals and with our ventilators to care for anyone who needs COVID care as well as any non-COVID care," she said. "If the COVID surges continue along this exponential increase, we run the risk of having to delay, reduce, stop elective surgeries so that we can respond to COVID patients."

Dr. Bessel said since the start of July, COVID hospitalizations have increased by 95% and ventilator usage is up by 300%.

"We are not yet at this time close to the peak that we experienced both in July and January, the two previous largest surges that we saw here. However, the slope of what we're starting to experience looks very similar to the exponential growth that we experienced during those large surges."

Dr. Bessel stressed one major difference --the only tool that can prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed: vaccines. About 46% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.

"That is our way through this pandemic," said Dr. Bessel.

Dr. Bessel also said 5% of hospital admissions in the past month have been pediatric patients.

When it comes to heading back to school--she said all students 12 and older should get vaccinated and everyone should follow CDC guidelines to wear masks indoors.

"The biggest concern is that somebody that you love or know may get sick or die from what is now preventable illness," said Dr. Bessel.

Dr. Bessel echoed national data that shows 97% of COVID hospitalizations and 99% of COVID deaths are among those not vaccinated.

Due to rising COVID Cases, visitation limits have been placed in Banner hospitals in Maricopa, Gila and Pinal Counties. Only one visitor is allowed per patient.