Double trouble: Arizona hospital officials dealing with COVID-19 and RSV surges

While hospitals and ICUs are still filling up with COVID-19 patients across the Valley, hospital officials say they are also seeing a surge in a different virus.

"RSV hospitalization and emergency rooms visits have increased over the past three weeks, with a significant increase over the last four days," said Banner Health's Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Marjorie Bessel.

Nearly 400 Arizonans were diagnosed with RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) during the last week of August, which is unusual for the summer months.

"We are certainly seeing an increase in patients testing positive with RSV," said Valleywise Health's Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Michael White. "Unfortunately, it shares the same symptoms as COVID-19."

Currently, about half of the people in the ICU are sick with COVID-19.

"We are caring for 522 ICU patients. As an example, our peak occupancy during the 2020 surge was 484," said Dr. Bessel.

While the vast majority of very sick COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, hospitals are seeing more breakthrough cases.

"We have seen the rate be very, very small. Less than 1%," said Dr. White.

The average age of a child hospitalized with COVID-19 is eight years old.

Vaccine effectiveness may be waning for some

Researchers with Arizona State University say based on early studies, the effectiveness of the vaccine in those who got it early on may be waning, and current vaccines are not as strong against the delta variant.

"Vaccines reduced the likelihood of getting infected – roughly 10 to 1. It looks like the delta variant is 5 to 1. Fivefold less," said Dr. Joshua LaBaer with ASU's Biodesign Institute.

Health experts say, however, current COVID-19 vaccines are still very effective in preventing death and severe symptoms.

The state's vaccination rate is around 56%.

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