PHOENIX — Cases of coronavirus in Arizona are expected to peak in mid-April and hospitalizations will be highest in mid-May, according to state health officials.
JUST IN: for the first time we’re hearing what to expect in Arizona. Peak COVID-19 cases hitting in mid April and hospitalizations peaking in May. This is big. This is the first time we’re hearing this. #abc15 #COVIDー19 #COVID2019 #coronavirus— Nicole Grigg (@NicoleSGrigg) March 25, 2020
In a press conference Wednesday, Arizona Department of Health Services director Dr. Cara Christ said hospital capacities need to rapidly increase and that we have not yet seen the peak of the virus in either cases or fatalities.
A letter from ADHS to hospital partners stated that, "Arizona is still in the opening stages of its COVID-19 outbreak and the number of cases within the state will increase significantly." Read the full letter here.
Dr. Christ said hospitals should be activating their emergency plans and triage procedures so they can clear beds to handle a mass event, which experts predict is inevitable. “We expect to be above and beyond our current capacity of beds,” she said.
Dr. Christ also said that some models project that Arizona could need 16,000 more hospital beds and 1,500 more ICU beds -- more than double what is currently available.
When asked about the possibility of a broader shut down, Christ said their agencies are keeping an eye on models to help make decisions on next steps.
"We don't want to shut down too early because you could then have to do it again, and again and again, so we're watching all the potential modeling," Christ said.
Dr. Christ backtracked in a series of tweets late Wednesday afternoon, saying she shared "worst case projections" based on "national & international models" from "China, United Kingdom and Harvard." She added, "there is a lot that we have put into place to mitigate the spread."
Some perspective about the #COVID19 projections: our numbers are based on worst case projections from the beginning of the outbreak based on data from Wuhan. While we plan for the worst, there is already a lot that we have put into place to mitigate the spread. 1/9 https://t.co/6szWAdrFvF— Dr. Cara Christ (@drcarachrist) March 25, 2020
“We have more patients than can be handled in the near future. And we have too little resources to address it,” said ASU Law Professor James Hodge, who is a health crisis expert.
Hodge also contributed to the Arizona Crisis Standards of Care Plan, which was activated Wednesday. “We train for this. This is not a plan that has sat dusty on the shelves,” said Hodge.
The plan is a call to action. Essentially, it is the state telling hospitals to take inventory, gear up, and get ready for battle.
“The test is about to begin,” said Hodge. “Get ready for the influx of a lot of additional patients with COVID-19 because it’s coming to Phoenix, it’s coming to Tucson and other areas.”
Gov. Doug Ducey, meanwhile, said the state is expanding testing, gathering supplies and equipment for health care professionals, and expanding hospital capacity to handle more patients.
Ducey said he wants to protect individuals from foreclosure and getting kicked out onto the street, and is reviewing an increase to unemployment packages now that the stimulus package has been passed.
In addition, Arizona has also received federal approval to implement changes to help ensure access to healthcare for kids and vulnerable adults. The state is taking measures to expand access to care, especially in rural areas to free up doctors for other needed medical services.
Ducey also issued an executive order to expand telemedicine coverage for Arizonans in an effort to help people continue social distancing while still getting the critical care and services they need.
"We have work in front of us, and that's what we're focusing on today," Ducey said.
And, in partnership with Arizona Schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, Ducey started Arizona Enrichment Centers. The program, scheduled to start next week, is designed to offer child care for first responders, critical care healthcare workers and essential public workers.