Arizona hospital official: Avoid New Year’s gatherings

PHOENIX – The pandemic continues to strain hospitals statewide so Arizonans should avoid large New Year's gatherings even if masked and fully vaccinated, a top official of the state's largest health care system said Tuesday. “I know this is difficult," said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer of Phoenix-based Banner Health. “We've been in this pandemic for two years."

Bessell told journalists during a news briefing that crowded Banner hospitals continue to postpone some non-emergency surgeries and that their clinical workers are exhausted, with many having to forego their own holiday gatherings to care for patients.

“We remain very busy," Bessell said. “We continue to see a lot of patients come into our emergency departments. Our ICUs are very full at this time.”

She said people should get vaccinations and booster shots, wear masks in indoor public settings and get tested and stay home if feeling sick. “Right now we must do everything possible to mitigate omicron,” Bessell said, referring to the fast-spreading virus variant.

Some Banner hospitals are at over 100% of capacity but the surge of hospitalizations is not expected to peak until mid-January, Bessell said.

The state's coronavirus dashboard reported Tuesday that COVID-19-related hospitalizations inched upward early this week, with 2,344 virus patients occupying inpatient beds statewide as of Monday.

The dashboard also reported 1,976 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases, a fraction of the over 7,600 reported Monday following reporting delays over the holiday weekend.

Arizona on Tuesday also reported 162 virus deaths as the state's pandemic totals increased to 1,364,669 cases and 24,144 deaths.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, Arizona's seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths both rose over the past two weeks.

The rolling average of daily new cases rose from 3,57.7 on Dec. 12 to 3,387.3 on Sunday while the rolling average deaths rose from 64.4 to 77.3 during the same period.

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