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Graham, Gila And Coconino Counties Are Seeing Record Numbers Of COVID-19 Cases

Published: Monday, November 16, 2020 - 4:37pm
Updated: Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 11:39am
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As COVID-19 cases climb in Arizona, experts are warning the state could soon reach the level of spread seen over the summer. But Graham, Gila and Coconino counties have already surpassed summer peak levels. 

Graham County in southeastern Arizona is seeing far more COVID-19 cases than it's ever seen before. The sparsely populated county is now reporting the highest infection rate in the state — more than twice as many positive cases per 100,000 residents than Arizona as a whole. 

Roland Knox, CEO of Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford, Graham County’s only hospital, said his staff has prepared for months for the possibility of a surge.

“But even with your best preparedness, you can become overwhelmed by the number of patients that you do have," Knox said. "You have so many beds that you need to take care of, but then you have staff that are also out with COVID, or staff that are out on planned leave." 

In Coconino County new cases are being reported at record high numbers too. 

“Hospitals all across Northern Arizona counties are reporting a significant increase in COVID-19 admissions, and we’re also seeing nurse staffing quickly becoming a problem for most of our hospitals across the region,” said Kim Musselman, director of Coconino County Health and Human Services. “There’s still some capacity right now, but it is becoming alarming.”  

Musselman said the northern Arizona community of Page saw a 90% increase in cases in the last week while the town of Williams saw a 300% increase.

Arizona's Department of Health Services reports that calls to the Arizona Surge Line have recently increased. The Surge Line connects hospitals statewide to find available beds for COVID-19 patients. DHS director, Dr. Cara Christ said hospital transfers made through the Surge Line could be an "indicator of hospital capacity concerns." As of Sunday, the department reported intensive care unit beds in Arizona were at 88% capacity.

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