Hospitals activate surge plans as Arizona case count climbs

Some Arizona hospitals have begun activating surge plans to increase their capacity to treat coronavirus patients as confirmed cases rise and more people seek treatment.

Large hospitals activating plans to add capacity to treat COVID-19 patients included Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa and Valleywise Health Medical Center in Phoenix, officials said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services on Saturday reported 3,591 additional confirmed cases, increasing the state’s total to 70,051. There have been 1,579 known deaths, including 44 reported Saturday.

A hospital spokesperson for Banner Health tells FOX 10 the plan includes using unoccupied patient care areas on the Mesa campus, as well as some areas within Cardon Children's Hospital for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

The hospital also says one floor at Cardon Children's Hospital will be converted into an adult ICU to increase capacity.

Banner Health says other Banner Hospitals have also activated surge plans.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,428 new cases of coronavirus on June 26 and 45 additional deaths.

On June 25, Governor Doug Ducey said Arizona hospitals are expected to hit surge capacity soon.

"Not going to sugarcoat this... we expect our numbers to be worse next week and the week after... this is Arizona's time of challenge," Ducey said.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Arizona became a coronavirus hot spot following Gov. Doug Ducey’s lifting of stay-home orders last month. Health officials attribute the additional case counts to both community spread of the disease and to increased testing.

Hospital populations of COVID-19 patients have more than doubled since June 1, with over 2,500 hospitalized on Friday, including over 650 in intensive care beds.

Statewide, 87% of the adult ICU beds and 86% of all inpatient beds statewide were in use Friday, the Department of Health Services reported.

Ducey in recently weeks has acknowledged the surging cases increases and urged Arizonans to stay home and to wear masks. He also reversed himself and allowed local governments to impose face-covering mandates, which many have done across the state.

Some Arizona hospitals also have recently scaled back elective procedures to free up capacity for treating COVID-19 patients.

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.
  • 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.

MAP: Worldwide interactive Coronavirus case data

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

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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

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

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.