Arizona reports 3,000 more cases; hospital patients getting younger and sicker, doctors say

Arizona on Wednesday reported 3,234 additional coronavirus cases and 10 more virus deaths as the state’s rolling averages for cases and deaths continued to climb during the current surge.

Updated pandemic totals were not immediately available because the Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard was down for maintenance. The dashboard on Tuesday reported 991,309 cases and 18,638 deaths.

Arizona’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases rose over the past two weeks from 2,495 new cases on Aug. 9 to 2,969 on Aug. 23 while the rolling average of daily deaths rose from 16.9 deaths to 24.4 during the same period. according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Hospitals seeing more COVID-19 patients

Valleywise Health officials say 47 patients are in their hospitals right now battling COVID-19. None of those people were fully vaccinated, and three of them had received the first dose of the vaccine.

In a press conference, Dr. Michael White with Valleywise Health talked about how the delta variant has led to a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.

A few months ago, he said the state was seeing hospitalizations in the single digits. Now, 47 people are hospitalized, with 15 fighting the virus in the ICU.

Many of those people are young too - the average age of those hospitalized is 49, but officials say they do have plenty of patients in their 20s and 30s. Recently, a couple of people in their 20s died of COVID, according to Valleywise.

"It's heartbreaking for our teams to have these younger people coming in and becoming so acutely ill. It's putting increased stress on them, it's wearing on all of us," said Dr. White.

Meanwhile, Banner Health officials say they are seeing a similar group of people being hospitalized, and doctors there believe the shift in hospitalized age groups is due to those over 65 being vaccinated for the most part.

"We believe this is directly related to vaccination rates of those in that age group, 65+ age vaccination rates are quite high, which is why we believe the demographics have now shifted down to a lower age group," said Marjorie Bessel, Chief Clinical Officer with Banner Health.

Dr. White said the hospital system is also short-staffed right now, and this continued influx of cases is putting a strain on hospital staff. He continued to emphasize the importance of getting the vaccine.

"It’s truly heartbreaking for our team to have these younger people that are becoming so acutely ill," said White. "It is putting increased stress on them, on all of us, and we need to continue sending the message that we have this tool available to us, take leverage of it, and be able to help us traverse through this wave and through future problems we may see through the pandemic."

None of those people hospitalized are pediatric patients, and White is hopeful that this surge in delta cases will drop by November.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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