Hospitals on alert amid worries over another surge in COVID-19 cases

As COVID-19 cases in Arizona continue to increase, the state's health officials are now on high alert, as Arizona approaches what appears to be another surge.

At the height of the state's last COVID-19 surge in mid-July, nearly 400 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized daily. This time around, hospitals and healthcare workers are better prepared, and are sending more COVID patients home to recover instead of admitting them.

Doctors say they now know more about the coronavirus, and experience has shown that not all patients with low oxygen levels need to be admitted to the hospital.

Typically, oxygen levels below 90 would be considered alarming, but certain COVID-19 patients with low oxygen levels have been able to recover on their own at home.

"If you would’ve told me a year ago that there's a disease, and someone comes in and their oxygen is 88% and we’re sending them home, I would’ve told you I don’t believe you," said Dr. Frank Lovecchio, an emergency physician with Valleywise Health. "Now, we almost do that routinely in relatively young and healthy people."

Dr. Lovecchio says many COVID-19 patients recover well from home, as long as they continue to see their doctor and receive oxygen.

Although health care workers are experiencing covid exhaustion, they are better prepared.

"The hospital has purchased N100 for us," said Dr. Lovecchio. "N100 are, like, a more powerful mask that stops anything from getting in."

Hospitals are bracing for beds to fill up with flu patients by December, and the arrival of snowbirds could bring a new wave of COVID-19.

"Where do we get a lot of winter visitors from? The places where there is an epidemic right now. People in the Midwest are getting hit hard with COVID-19."

During the last flu season, more than 36,000 Arizonans tested positive for the flu, with peak flu hospitalizations in January. Health officials continue to stress the importance of wearing a mask, regular handwashing, and social distancing.

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COVID-19 symptoms

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

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)