Current virus surge, upcoming holidays worry Phoenix hospital system

PHOENIX - With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise again and the holiday season approaching, the head of one of Phoenix's biggest hospital systems renewed pleas Wednesday for the unvaccinated to get inoculated.

Dr. Michael White, of Valleywise Health, said the majority of their patients hospitalized with severe symptoms are unvaccinated. Valleywise is currently caring for more than 40 COVID-19 patients, up from 20 three weeks earlier.

In a media briefing, White urged the use of masks if families with mixed vaccination status plan to congregate for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

“If you’re going to be in an indoor area without folks that you live with, it is time to continue to wear a mask even if you’re vaccinated at this particular point — just with the amount of spread we’re seeing within the community," White said.

The surge in cases is also overlapping with a “pent-up demand” for routine procedures that require hospital stays. That double whammy is taking a toll on staff, most of whom are now vaccinated.

“Our staff is continually getting beaten up here by the number of folks that we’re seeing around us and putting increased strain within the system,” White said.

The state Department of Health Services reported 2,315 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, a high not seen since mid-February. Hospitalizations have been above 2,000 for the last eight days, the figure inching upward every day but one.

The dashboard also recorded 3,459 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 16 more deaths. This brings the state's pandemic totals to 1,223,892 cases and 21,752 deaths.

Johns Hopkins University data indicates Arizona's rolling seven-day case average was about 3,564 on Tuesday, up from about 3,001 on Nov. 1. The rolling seven-day death average fell from 50.8 to 35.7 in that same time period.

Over 3.8 million state residents are fully vaccinated, which is roughly 53% of the population.

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