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Banner Health sees 95% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, 300% increase in ventilator usage

Arizona hospitals experience delta surge among unvaccinated, some changing visitation policies

PHOENIX — Arizona hospitals are feeling an eerie sense of coronavirus déjà vu to previous surges seen last year. 

Except for this time, there is a new highly contagious variant of the virus labeled the delta strain, and vaccines have proven effective against it so far. 

The problem is Arizona is still far from achieving the lofty goal of herd immunity needed to end the pandemic with low vaccination rates. 

Behind the walls of Arizona hospitals with Banner Health

Since July 1, Arizona's largest employer and public health provider have seen COVID-19 hospitalizations increase by 95% with ventilator usage increasing by 300%, mostly among unvaccinated patients. 

“The slope of what we're starting to experience looks very, very similar to the exponential growth that we experienced during those two very large surges,” said Banner Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Majorie Bessel. 

Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator usage are in the 20- to 60-year age group. 

Pediatric cases currently account for 5% of all COVID hospital admissions.

Dr. Bessel noted that some pediatric patients have signs of RSV (human respiratory syncytial virus) which is unusual for the summer season. 

“I am going to continue to advocate for what the CDC has as guidelines out there for all of us to stay as safe as possible,” said Dr. Bessel. “So it is CDC guidance that children that are in school should be masking up.” 

RELATED: 'I thought I would help kids all over the country get their COVID-19 vaccine': 9-year-old Phoenix boy wants to lead by example in ending the pandemic

Valleywise also sees an increase

Valleywise officials are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients. There are currently 24 positive patients including five ICU at Valleywise Health Medical Center. 

Out of the 27 ventilators in use across the system, six COVID-positive patients require ventilator support.

As of now, Valleywise has not changed visitation policies.

Dignity Health won't specify case numbers

Dignity Health tells 12 News it is not publicly releasing specific numbers regarding capacity and COVID-19 patients because the matter remains very fluid. 

“The safety of our visitors, patients, employees, and physicians remains our highest priority,” said a hospital spokesperson. 

Dignity Health hospitals are continuously adjusting and will continue to adjust visitation guidelines as appropriate in response to the current state of the pandemic within each of our communities. 

Beginning Wednesday, hospitals will implement visitor restrictions that will allow one adult visit per non-COVID-19 patient each day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

RELATED: Several Arizona cities to reinstate mask mandates as COVID-19 cases rise

Honor Health cases rising

HonorHealth has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases as the cases continue to rise in our community. 

“The vast majority of our COVID-19 hospitalized patients are unvaccinated,” said an Honor Health spokesperson. “We continue to encourage those in the community who are not fully vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.” 

Visitor information, which was last updated on Monday, July 26 in response to the recent rise in cases, can be found at honorhealth.com/visitorrestrictions.

The COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

The delta variant is fueling the spread of this virus in the United States. 

Roughly 97% of COVID hospitalizations and 99% of deaths are individuals who are unvaccinated.

While Arizona Department of Public Health Director Dr. Cara Christ said the majority of vulnerable Arizonans are vaccinated, vaccinations among those still hesitant are still critical. 

“Now is the time if people aren’t fully vaccinated to go get fully vaccinated because it does have a high efficacy at preventing hospitalizations and death,” said Christ. 

RELATED: More than 110M COVID vaccines sent to 60 countries, US says

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