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Health experts uncertain if Arizona is headed to public health crisis amid COVID-19 surge

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TUCSON (KVOA) – According to Arizona Crisis Standards of Care Plan, healthcare decisions are made when the system can’t provide all of the care that’s needed.

For example, running out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

The big question is are we heading towards a public health crisis? As of right now, the answer is unknown.

As COVID-19 numbers increase, so do the number of beds at hospitals. You can basically say there is no more room at the inn.

“They are not making life or death decisions, per se, like they would be in a crisis standards of care,” Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association said. “But, they are making decisions that are very different.”

Hospitals have been working under what they call “contingency standards of care.”

“Clinicians have no choice but to make a difficult decision who has access to a number of beds available,” said Dr. Joe Gerald, University of Arizona College of Public Health professor. “Many more patients are being shunned and cared for.”

“We have not graduated to what is called ‘crisis standards of care’ or with a life-threatening condition is withheld care,” Humble added.

Which is good news. But with case numbers rising, a crisis tactic could be needed.

“Make no mistake, our ICUs and hospitals are literally full,” Gerald said. “To get into a hospital or admitted to an ICU, you have to be sicker than someone else who is waiting for a similar bed.”

So are we on the way to crisis standards of care like Southern California?

“Whether we see that here or not is yet to be seen,” Humble said. “We probably will not know for another week from now.”

Health experts say the physical space at hospitals might be Arizona’s saving grace.

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