This State's Severe Coronavirus Cases Are Up 400 Percent Since Reopening

Hospitals have been ordered to execute "emergency plans" as they rapidly near capacity.

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Since it began reopening on May 15, Arizona has seen a rapid and concerning return of the coronavirus. As of June 10, the number of coronavirus cases has increased by 115 percent since the state ended stay-at-home orders, Forbes reports. But perhaps most alarming is the fact that the number of patients on ventilators has gone up an alarming 400 percent since reopening began in mid-May, according to Banner Health, Arizona's largest medical network.

In response to the pressure this is putting on hospital ICUs, which are quickly nearing capacity, Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ, MD, issued a letter urging hospitals to "fully activate" emergency plans, AZ Central reports. Christ told hospitals to prepare for crisis care and to suspend elective surgeries if they start running short of beds. As of Wednesday evening, 83 percent of hospital beds in the state were occupied.

William Hanage, MD, an epidemiology professor at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told AZ Central the situation in Arizona was "alarming." "The only sort of crumb of comfort that I can find is that I think, in general, it's sort of easier to social distance in Arizona than it is in some places," he said.

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While that might be true in theory, some state officials remain concerned by the level at which social distancing practices have fallen by the wayside.

"Three weeks ago, the stay-at-home order was lifted and since then, if you look at the streets of Arizona, people are conducting themselves as business-as-usual at times," Ann-Marie Alameddin, the president of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, told NBC News. "They are not taking the precautions that we are, being socially distanced, wearing masks, making sure they are staying at home when they are sick."

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said last week that the state is "not in a crisis situation," attributing Arizona's spike in new cases to increased testing. As the numbers continued to rise in the days since, however, not everyone agreed with his assessment—including former Arizona health chief Will Humble, who told Reuters that the state may have to return to lockdown.

"He's going to have to either A) implement a field hospital plan, B) do another stay-at-home order, or C) both," Humble said. And for more regional COVID news, check out These 6 States Never Went into Lockdown. Here's How They're Doing.

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