PHOENIX - Governor Doug Ducey has signed an executive order banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees, but healthcare institutions are exempt from the rule.
The governor issued an executive order on Dec. 15, stating "No person shall be required by this state, or any city, town or county to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, but a health care institution licensed pursuant to A.R.S. Title 36, Chapter 4 may require the institution's employees to be vaccinated."
The order will not allow the state, counties or cities to implement requirements for their workers. It does, however, allow health care institutions to require vaccinations for their employees.
Ducey's order comes one day after he announced more resources for Arizona hospitals that are dealing with staffing shortages and bed capacity.
The entire order, titled "Enhanced Surveillance Advisory," mostly discusses increased monitoring of COVID-19 in nursing homes and a requirement for hospitals to continue providing sufficient staffing.
On Tuesday, 1,323,997 COVID-19 cases were reported in Arizona, along with 23,324 deaths.
The order also stated, "The continued spread of COVID-19 and the increase in cases during November 2021 resulted in space and staff constraints in Arizona's hospitals, with fewer than 8% of intensive care unit (ICU) reported available for several days in November and COVID patients accounting for approximately 40% of all ICU beds in the state."
On Dec. 14, Banner Health officials said their Arizona hospitals are being overwhelmed to a level not seen since the pandemic began - but it's not just because of COVID-19 patients.
Phoenix-based Banner Health is at its most overwhelmed since the pandemic began, leading the company’s officials to issue a warning Tuesday that its hospital system may have to eventually choose who can receive care.
Some of Banner’s hospitals in one of Arizona’s largest health care systems are operating above 100% capacity, said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the company’s chief clinical officer.
COVID-19 hospitalizations make up one-third of Banner’s hospital patients, but there is also an extremely high volume of patients who delayed preventative care or are in the late stages of an illness, she said.
The company has 18 hospitals in Arizona. As of Dec. 14, 10 of them were running above 100% of their ICU staffed bed capacity. Five of them were operating 100% above staffed in-patient bed capacity, according to spokesman Corey Schubert.
"We are more stretched now than we have been since the start of the pandemic," Bessel told reporters. "ICUs are where we are experiencing the most significant strain on our resources."
Banner has had to postpone medical procedures, new patient visits and non-urgent appointments because of the intensive care unit needs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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
More COVID-19 in Arizona news
- ASU holds first full in-person graduation ceremonies since the pandemic began
- Dignity, Valleywise, Honor healthcare systems postpone non-urgent surgeries amid COVID surge
- Arizona health officials confirm omicron variant in Maricopa, Yavapai counties
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