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Arizona doctor warns age may not protect you from COVID-19

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 22:48:18-04

As Arizona intensive care units fill up with COVID-19 patients, doctors say they are seeing people as young as 29 dying from this virus.

Numbers released by the state reveal almost half of the COVID-19 cases reported over the last two weeks include those between the ages of 20-44.

"We can't predict who this will happen to," warned Dr. Matt Heinz with Tucson Medical Center.

If his name sounds familiar, Dr. Heinz served as an Arizona state representative almost a decade ago. He was also appointed to serve with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under former President Barack Obama.

Dr. Heinz says politics aside, he wants to share what doctors and nurses in Arizona are dealing with inside our hospitals. He says in 17 years of working with some of the sickest patients in Arizona, he has never seen anything like COVID-19.

"It is a viral pandemic. The last thing we want is to be political. There is no like, Democratic strokes or Republican heart attacks. The virus doesn't choose a party. That does not even make any sense," said Dr. Heinz.

He added that over the last two to three weeks, he along with his colleagues at hospitals throughout the state have seen a dramatic shift in the type of patient admitted into the hospital with COVID-19.

Heinz shared his thoughts on his social media page this week stating:

"Finished a week of night shifts earlier today and I think the most surprising thing for me (and perhaps the most concerning) was the dramatic shift in the ages of COVID-19 patients being admitted to the hospital. Over this past weekend, the ages of my most seriously ill COVID-19 patients (requiring supplemental oxygen and aggressive respiratory support — none were on ventilators thankfully) were 27, 45, 24 and 32 years. The 24-year-old had ZERO risk factors for the virus. Once again, PLEASE mask up when out in public and stay at home and socially distance consistently. We will get through this pandemic mess as long as we all work together to reduce the spread of this terrible infection. Thank you!"

Dr. Heinz tells ABC15 he hopes to send a message that your age may not protect you from getting hit hard with the worst symptoms of this virus.

He says what he and many healthcare professionals find disheartening is the idea that some people believe COVID-19 is a manufactured crisis designed to make hospitals more money, or for political gains.

"This is not about politics. People are dying in my hospital. People are dying in all of our hospitals across the state, across the country. These people, they don't see what we see in the hospital. They're not at the bed side like these ICU nurses and respiratory therapists for hours and hours and hours," said Dr. Heinz.

With no cure and no vaccine, Dr. Heinz stresses the only way to slow down the spread of COVID-19 is to follow the recommended guidelines of wearing masks and social distancing.

He hopes to see Arizonans take that seriously. "This isn't a hoax. We just don't want that to happen to anyone else," said Dr. Heinz.