Banner Health combats growing spike of COVID-19 cases in Arizona after stay-at-home order lifted

Banner Health warned of a major spike of COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks in Arizona as the state opened back up and eased social distancing guidelines.

Arizona’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are rapidly increasing and raising potential capacity concerns, the system said.

“As of June 4, there were 1,234 hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” the system said in a statement. “About 50% of those patients are hospitalized in Banner Health facilities.”

Banner officials said its ICUs have gotten very busy, and the system has been transferring patients and resources to avoid putting stress on one particular hospital. Banner Health operates 28 hospitals across six states, including several hospitals in Arizona. The health system's update comes as other hospital systems are eyeing a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases as states reopen their economies after months of stay-at-home orders.

“If these trends continue, Banner will soon need to exercise surge planning and flex up to 125% bed capacity,” the system warned.

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The number of Banner Health patients in Arizona on a ventilator has also increased over the past few weeks, from 41 on May 22 to nearly 120 on June 3.

The system also attributed the increase in COVID-19 cases to a relaxation of the state’s stay-at-home order, which expired May 15.

The cases started to spike two weeks after the end of the order, which is the likely incubation period for the virus.

Banner emphasized that the public needs to continue certain behaviors like wearing a mask in public and social distancing in order to ensure capacity isn’t overwhelmed.

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Hospitals not only have to worry about the prospects of a second surge of the virus in the fall but also a wave of pent-up demand for healthcare services put off due to the pandemic.

Banner Health, like all health systems, canceled or postponed elective procedures at the onset of the pandemic back in March. But health systems are taking small steps to resume elective procedures.

Banner Health has also taken steps to preserve its personal protective equipment (PPE), which has been in short supply across the healthcare industry throughout the pandemic. Banner was one of 15 healthcare systems to buy a minority stake in PPE domestic manufacturer Prestige Ameritech in the hopes of shoring up a supply chain that is traditionally reliant on overseas manufacturers.