COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona are improving, but doctors urge caution as Arizona is still in the thick of the latest coronavirus surge.
According to the state's coronavirus dashboard, there are 3,654 COVID-19 inpatients at Arizona hospitals. That is down from a January 11 peak which exceeded 5,000, but still higher than at any point during last summer's surge.
"In an average shift instead of seeing 12 or 13 or 14 patients, maybe I'm seeing 11 or 12 patients," said Dr. Matthew Heinz, a hospital physician in Tucson. "It's not a massive shift."
Heinz is also a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
"The hospitals are still, ok maybe they're not filled to beyond capacity and the most crisis of modes, but we're still flirting with capacity," he said.
The apparent peak in hospitalization numbers was also noticed by Dr. Joe Gerald with the University of Arizona. Gerald, one of the most blunt analysts of Arizona's COVID crisis, wrote in his latest weekly COVID-19 modeling report:
This week saw another meaningful decline in Covid-19 cases which now clearly represents a sustained, real decrease in viral transmission. This decline is accompanied by reductions in hospital and ICU occupancy. Reductions in mortality should quickly follow. While this reprieve is welcomed, the absolute level of SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission remains exceptionally high.
Dr. Heinz is also concerned about emerging mutations and variants of the coronavirus.
"We don't know...what the mortality associated with it is," Dr. Heinz said.
In this current COVID-19 surge, Arizona is reporting more weekly coronavirus deaths than at any point last summer. The deadliest week of the pandemic, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard, is January 3rd. That week, 914 people died from COVID-19 in Arizona.
Dr. Heinz told ABC15 even if hospital numbers are ticking down, it's all relative to how busy they've been.
"There's still multiple COVID units in all of our hospitals...there's still ICUs filled with COVID patients on ventilators," he said.