Arizona doctor explains ICU bed usage rise as COVID-19 numbers surge

An Arizona doctor said on Nov. 11 that the state is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to the number of patients in ICU beds, but COVID-19 patients aren't the only ones spiking bed usage.

As of Wednesday, the state has a 10% positivity rate, meaning out of those who get tested for COVID-19, 10% of them test positive. Emergency medical doctor, Dr. Frank LoVecchio, says the desired number is less than 5%.

"It’s a little unfortunate we’re not quite at the number where we were," LoVecchio said.

Within his workday Wednesday, LoVecchio says he had nearly 20 patients come into the emergency room with COVID-19.

"They were sicker than they typically were in July and August and the reason for that because the patients are getting much smarter. They know their oxygen levels, they're eating and drinking OK and their diabetes is OK. So we see patients that are much more educated, and we are too. We have a better understanding on who to send home and who to admit to the hospital," he explained.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, hospitals are at around 86% for ICU bed usage -- 67% are taken up by non-COVID-19 patients.

LoVecchio says the reason for the uptick in non-COVID-19 ICU beds is because general surgery and elective surgeries have resumed. When the state reopened, he said hospitals also saw more trauma patients.

"Trauma patients, many times, end up in the intensive care unit so those being occupied by COVID aren’t as large as they were in the summer, but remember in the winter in Arizona, we are always full. Our ICU beds are always bursting at the seams because our winter visitors," LoVecchio said.

While it’s uncertain if Arizona will have the usual number of winter visitors as previous years because of the pandemic, doctor LoVecchio suggests winter visitors quarantine for a while to keep the spread of coronavirus down.

"You may say, 'Get them tested, get them tested before Thanksgiving.' Remember, a negative test means you’re right about four out of five times. So it means one out of five times someone that you think is negative is actually positive, so you have to be aware of that," he said.

For more information on the pandemic in Arizona, click here.