Arizona doctors group: COVID-19 ‘buckling’ health care system

The Arizona Medical Association on Jan. 14 pleaded with residents to get vaccinated and boosted and take other protective steps against the coronavirus, saying that the state’s health care system "is buckling under the weight" of the current surge of infections.

"Experts are forecasting the current surge has not yet peaked, and our healthcare system cannot take much more," the statewide physician group’s president, Dr. Miriam Anand, said in a statement. "Patients could inevitably be turned away, unable to find the care they so desperately need."

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily new known and confirmed coronavirus cases has quintupled in the past two weeks, rising from 2,953.6 on Dec. 29 to 16,099.3 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Experts believe the surge is linked to the omicron variant, which spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.

However, early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, and vaccination and a booster still offer strong protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death.

Nevertheless, the sheer number of new cases is taking its toll on hospitals.

The Arizona Medical Association said the large increase in COVID-19 cases "is placing a tremendous strain on our health care system," resulting in record numbers of visits to hospitals’ emergency departments.

With hospitals statewide full or nearly so, "due to limited capacity and staffing, hospitals are being forced in and out of crisis standards of care, meaning staff must make harrowing decisions about which patients they will be able to treat," the group’s statement said.

"As medical professionals invested in Arizonans’ health, we are pleading with the public to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, get boosted, and comply with the mitigation measures recommended by the CDC," the statement said, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arizona on Friday for the third straight day reported a pandemic-high number of additional confirmed and known COVID-19 cases — 20,257 — though results of many at-home COVID-19 tests aren’t reported.

MORE: Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers


In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

CDC: How coronavirus spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ

Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ:

More COVID-19 in Arizona news

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

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