State models predict that Arizona has more than a month before it reaches peak illnesses and hospitalizations from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Department of Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Yet Arizona currently does not have the hospital bed capacity to handle a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations. State health officials anticipate that Arizona could need an additional 13,000 hospital beds and 1,500 intensive care unit (ICU) beds. That's on top of the current capacity of 16,000 beds and 1,500 ICU beds.
The state currently is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to identify potential options to increase bed capacity, including preexisting hospital sites with the addition of extra beds, and large venues that can accommodate many beds for recovering patients. The state has also requested mobile field hospitals from the federal government, including two for Phoenix and one for Tucson.
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Arizona currently has 401 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, with six recorded deaths from COVID-19. That number certainly will climb significantly as Arizona increases its testing capacity, Christ said.
About 6,600 Arizonans have been tested for coronavirus, with most of those tests going through commercial labs. About 95 percent of those tests have been negative. Due to a nationwide shortage in tests, the state is only recommending people who are symptomatic to receive testing. She added that health care workers, utility workers, and people with severe symptoms should be prioritized for testing.
"Not everybody needs to be tested," Christ said. "Those that are symptomatic that have a mild course of illness, stay at home."
Christ emphasized that hospitals are still facing critical shortages of personal protective equipment, like N95 masks, which are essential to protecting health care workers from the coronavirus.