Virus-related ER visits in Arizona up as more seek COVID-19 tests

Virus-related emergency room visits have set a pandemic record in Arizona, where hospitals are crowded and cases are up even though deaths from COVID-19 have tapered off a bit.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported Thursday on its daily dashboard there were 2,371 COVID-19-related ER visits Wednesday, up from 1,407 on Dec. 27. The previous peak of such emergency visits was 2,341 on Dec. 29, 2020.

Dr. Frank LoVecchio, a physician for the Valleywise hospital chain in Phoenix, attributed the jump in part to increased testing demand as more people arrive at emergency departments because they don't know where to get tested.

"Early one recent morning about half of the 40 people in line at one of the emergency departments where I work had just walked in to get a test," said LoVecchio.

Arizona COVID-19 testing: Where you can go and how to make an appointment

He said emergency room staffs prefer people get tests at sites dedicated to that purpose, like the dozens of drive-through sites set up by Embry Health around metro Phoenix, or pharmacies like CVS .

Sonora Quest Laboratories, a leading Arizona diagnostic lab, said Thursday it had processed nearly 30,000 COVID-19 diagnostic PCR tests on Tuesday, the most processed in one day since its began testing for the coronavirus on March 20, 2020.

Arizona on Thursday reported 10,679 additional confirmed cases and 16 more deaths.

The state's seven-day rolling average of new daily deaths dropped during the past two weeks, from 70.3 on Dec. 21 to 60.9 on Tuesday, while the rolling average of daily new cases more than doubled from 2,883.7 to 7,841.9 during the same period, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations inched upward for the fifth straight day, with virus patients occupying 2,556 inpatient beds statewide as of Wednesday, according to the health agency's dashboard.

The dashboard said only 91 beds in hospitals’ intensive care units, or 5% of licensed capacity, were available Wednesday. Availability may be be even more constricted because some hospitals have said that they lack staff to cover all of their beds.

In other developments:

— The University of Arizona announced Thursday it is shoring up its masking mandate, requiring at least a surgical grade mask be worn in indoor spaces where social distancing is not possible.

The university said on its websites that it no longer considers cloth masks to be adequate, although a cloth mask can be worn over a surgical mask to improve fit and increase protection.

— Arizona State University said Wednesday it was reinstituting a requirement that students and employees make daily self-health checks online or by phone because of the spread of the omicron variant.

Conducting the checks would help the university remain on track to conduct in-person classes during the spring semester, which begins Monday, ASU officials said in an email.

ASU spokesman Jerry Gonzalez said the university lifted the previous requirement last July "after continued low case counts and strong vaccine compliance with the university community. "

Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ:

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.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • 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.
  • Monitor your health daily

More COVID-19 news:


Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths increase in Arizona; experts say omicron behind latest surge

Arizona has the fourth-highest COVID-19 death rate among U.S. states, with 334 deaths per 100,000 of population, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Student absentee rates rise amid Arizona COVID-19 virus surge

Higher than normal student absentee rates were reported Jan. 5 in metro Phoenix, where many school districts resumed classes even as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged across Arizona.


COVID-19 vaccine booster shots in Arizona now available to anyone 12 or older

This update comes after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the COVID-19 booster shot for kids ages 12-15 earlier this week amid a surge of new cases fueled by the omicron variant.



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