'It's going to crush the system:' Hundreds of Arizona health care workers demand COVID-19 mitigation policy

Arizona recorded its second-highest COVID-19 case count on Saturday at 16,504. 

More than 1,000 healthcare workers from across the state signed an open letter urging proactive COVID-19 mitigation measures, including enforcing mask mandates in classrooms and expanding testing sites.

 "It's going to crush the system, and so we are trying to figure out how to re-empower our healthcare workforce and thinking about an open letter. Our whole entire community needs to be able to speak up and be heard," said Dr. Bradley Dreifuss.

The letter signed by over 1,000 people was addressed to Governor Doug Ducey, the Arizona Department of Health Services Interim Director, members of the state legislature, Arizona's mayors, as well as several others.

The letter emphasizes the urgent need for proactive measures and warns that without imminent action, Arizona will face the collapse of its healthcare system. 

Dreifuss, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson says, "we are seeing our hospitals in worse and worse condition and having more and more preventable deaths, not just from patients with COVID."

The letter put together by doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers is begging state officials to mandate masks for K-12 grades as well as all indoor public places. It also wants to increase COVID testing, provide free at-home test kits, implement vaccine requirements for entry into some public establishments, reintroduce mass vaccine sites, as well as other demands.

Last year, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in Arizona, just ahead of cancer and heart disease. Within the last week, they say the state has had the fewest number of available hospital beds since the start of the pandemic, and the shortage of staff has forced the CDC to change its guidelines once again saying if you are a healthcare worker and test positive for COVID, but feel fine, you can still work.

Dr. Frank LoVecchio, an emergency room doctor at Valleywise Health, says, "And in just the last 48 hours or so, that's changed to say ‘Hey if you test positive for COVID-19 and you feel ok, please come to work and wear your N95 mask.’"

FOX 10 reached out to the governor's office for comment. They told us they have received the letter and will continue working with the AZDHS and other health officials to address this need going forward.

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