This State Is "Going to Get Worse" as Hospitals Reach Capacity, Doctor Says
While COVID cases surge, experts worry as states start to run out of hospital beds again.
Coronavirus case numbers need to be kept low in states so they don't overwhelm hospital systems, which is the scary scene that was painted in New York during the beginning of the pandemic. There were not enough hospital beds, workers, or protective equipment to adequately care for the large number of people who were infected at once, and that resulted in many deaths. Unfortunately, as coronavirus numbers spike again in states across the country—with some reaching the same numbers New York had at their peak—it's a scene doctors are worried we could see again. As one doctor in Arizona warned, the situation in the state is "only going to get worse" as hospitals have started to reach capacity.
"I'm trying not to be an alarmist. I'm an emergency physician–we're prepped for this," Murtaza Akhter, MD, an emergency physician in Arizona told CNN on July 8. "But we can't just build beds overnight. We can't just hire staff overnight. And like I said, our numbers are only increasing. It's only going to get worse and that's the scary part."
As coronavirus case numbers for the state surpassed 100,000 this week, Arizona only had 10 percent of ICU beds available on July 6, according to the state health department—the same day it reached its highest daily death toll of 117. Akhter told CNN that so many patients are coming in for emergency medical care that he's already having to make hard decisions over resources. In fact, Arizona recently released a Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) that outlines scoring patients to see who will get COVID-19 care when they're admitted to a hospital. This guideline allows scarce resources to be preserved for patients considered more likely to survive, while those not deemed fit may be denied life-saving healthcare.
"Historically, our use of crisis care standards in the United States has been limited to terrorist attacks, mass shootings, battlegrounds, and aviation accidents," Christine Severance, MD, a Phoenix-based family physician, wrote in a petition to have CSC enacted by the state. "What pains us most is that this was avoidable."
And while some states have paused reopening or even reverted back to lockdowns—Arizona itself has again closed bars, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks—Akhter says he is still seeing people carelessly disregard coronavirus precautions while he's busy treating masses of coronavirus patients into the emergency room, a juxtaposition he says has him "losing hope."
"I'm going through shifts making some very tough decisions and then I'm driving home and seeing people who are clearly not distancing, having their Fourth of July celebrations, being in big congregate settings, and it feels like what I'm doing is futile," Akhter said. "I don't know what more people need to hear." And for more states in danger, These Are the 2 Surprising States Where COVID Cases Are Skyrocketing.