Havasu Regional Medical Center is implementing its surge plans to open up additional ICU beds as covid-19 cases continue to rise and hospital capacity diminishes throughout the city, state and country.
New numbers released on Thursday, which reflect data for the week of Nov. 22, show Mohave County is still classified in moderate transmission according to the Arizona Department of Public Health’s business dashboard, but it is quickly trending towards the widespread designation with two of the three metrics used already well above the threshold for widespread transmission.
The business dashboard shows 302 cases in the county per 100,000 population as of Nov. 22, a 16.8% positivity rate, and 8.9% of hospital visits for covid-like illness.
The state’s business dashboard is updated once a week to reflect the numbers from two weeks prior. Based on more current data from Mohave County Department of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those numbers are expected to continue to climb for at least the next couple weeks.
Currently, the only metric that is keeping Mohave County in the moderate transmission category on the business dashboard is hospital visits for covid-like illness, which on Nov. 22 was 1.1% below the widespread threshold of 10%. Mohave County is a little lower than the statewide average of 9.4% on the business dashboard.
But hospital like illnesses will likely continue to rise in the coming weeks as increasing case counts have filled up local hospitals, according to new data on hospital capacity released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday.
According to analysis of the data by NPR, 17% of inpatient beds in the county are currently occupied by covid patients, based on a seven day average of the numbers. That tracks with the 17% to 25% figures Health Director Denise Burley reported to the Board of Supervisors on Monday, which she said was based on responses from three of the four hospitals.
Havasu Regional Medical Center spokesperson Corey Santoriello said they are averaging 45 covid patients per day – including inpatient beds and ICU beds.
DHHS data did not include the number of beds occupied by covid patients at Valley View Medical Center, but HRMC reported 10%, WARMC was at 24%, and KRMC was at 17%.
Those numbers are a little better than much of the surrounding counties, other than La Paz County at 12% of beds occupied by covid patients. Yuma County is currently at 44%, Coconino is at 24%, San Bernardino, CA is at 35%, and Clark, NV is at 29%.
In all, 64% of inpatient beds in Mohave County are full based on a seven-day average. Havasu Regional Medical Center still has some space available with just 43% of beds occupied.
Santoriello said HRMC monitor’s its capacity closely, and regularly reports their numbers to the state. As part of the Arizona Surge Line, he said HRMC is able to receive patients from, and send patients to, other facilities as needed.
“Beds and overflow capacity do fluctuate on a daily basis, and when there is a need we do utilize the Surge Line to transfer patients to facilities with availability,” he said.
According to DHHS, Valley View Medical Center is at 36% of its inpatient bed capacity. But Western Arizona Regional Medical Center is near capacity at 94% full and Kingman Regional Medical Center is also filling up with 82% of inpatient beds in use.
While there are still inpatient beds available, intensive care units throughout the county are filling up and 100% of the 14 ICU beds at HRMC are already full according to New York Times analysis of the DHHS data. Although Havasu’s hospital has 14 permanent ICU beds, Santoriello said HRMC has implemented its surge plans to temporarily increase its ICU capacity.
“We have been able to provide ICU level care on other units,” he said.
Meanwhile, 11 of the 14 ICU beds in Kingman are filled and 21 of 27 ICU beds are occupied in Bullhead City, according to DHHS. Surrounding communities also appear to be strapped for ICU space with two of the three ICU beds in Parker filled, 24 of 42 ICU beds full in Yuma, 34 of 36 full in Flagstaff, 522 of 601 in Las Vegas, and 584 of 910 in Phoenix.
The New York Times reported that more than a third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are critically short of ICU beds with less than 20% available and that 10% of the United States population live in areas with ICU beds completely full or less than 5% of beds available.
All four hospitals in Mohave County have previously said that they have plans in place to expand the number of inpatient beds and ICU beds as needed. But during the first coronavirus wave over the summer hospital CEOs said staffing levels and available nurses were more of a limiting factor than available space.
Havasu physician Khamranie Persaud said she doesn’t have direct knowledge about hospital capacity or operations at HRMC but she has had an increasing number of covid patients whom she has sent to the hospital emergency room who are being sent back home rather than admitted.
“They are really sick – they can’t really go anywhere else – so they are going home and waiting it out,” Persaud said. “All I can say is over the last week I have had patients with covid symptoms who are positive and getting progressively worse who are going in and out of the emergency room a few times because they are not getting any better, but they are not getting admitted. That are just being sent back home.”
Even as covid cases continue to rise, Santoriello said residents should not hesitate to seek essential or emergency care for other health concerns, if needed.
“While our team is all-in on the fight against covid-19, we know patients need us for a whole lot more,” Santoriello said. “Individuals should not delay essential and especially emergency care for any concerns they have. Our emergency room is always open and ready to serve our community. Our surge plan allows us to allocate resources and HRMC is taking many steps to keep patients safe so they can continue to get appropriate treatment.”
Covid case count
Mohave County’s 302 cases per 100,000 as of Nov. 22 is more than three times the 100-case threshold for widespread transmission, but it is still below the Arizona average of 396. The county crossed the widespread threshold for that metric on Oct. 25, and continued to increase each week for the next month.
With a two-week delay to updates on the business dashboard, it seems likely Mohave County’s cases per population will continue to rise as official numbers from the last two weeks are tallied. The Mohave County Health Department reported a then-record 553 new cases during the week of Nov. 21 – eclipsing the previous high of 457 set in early July – but that record has since been broken with 604 cases reported during Thanksgiving week and another 1,091 reported last week.
Mohave County has reported more than 400 new covid cases in the last two days alone, including 181 cases and two deaths reported on Wednesday. The Health Department reported 31 of those cases, and one of the deaths, were in Lake Havasu City. The Kingman area reported 101 new covid cases, Bullhead City had 43 new cases, and there were six additional cases reported in the North Country area.
The county has reported a total of 7,807 positive covid cases since the start of the pandemic with 261 deaths and 5,424 people who have recovered.
Bullhead City has had the most positive cases with 2,162, followed closely by Havasu at 2,149 cases to date. Kingman has had a total of 1,667 covid cases.
Mohave County’s percent of covid tests returned positive also continued to rise through the Nov. 22 numbers released on Thursday and has been above the widespread transmission threshold of 10% since the week of Oct. 25.
The county’s 16.8% of positive tests reported for Nov. 22 is a 4.2% increase from Mohave County’s numbers from Nov. 15 reported last week, and it lifts Mohave County above the state average of 14.6%.
Inpatient Bed Use
HRMC — 43%
KRMC — 82%
VVMC — 36%
WARMC — 94%
Mohave County — 64%
Inpatient Beds with Covid Patients
HRMC — 10%
KRMC — 17%
VVMC — No data
WARMC — 24%
Mohave County — 17%
La Paz — 12%
Yuma — 44%
Coconino — 24%
Yavapai — 38%
Maricopa — 23%
Clark, NV — 29%
San Bernardino, CA — 35%
Lake Havasu City — 100% (14 of 14)
Bullhead City — 78% (21 of 27)
Kingman — 74% (11 of 14)
Parker — 66% (2 of 3)
Yuma — 57% (24 of 42)
Flagstaff — 94% (34 of 36)
Las Vegas — 87% (522 of 601)
Phoenix — 64% (584 of 910)
Data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and compiled by NPR and the New York Times
HRMC = Havasu Regional Medical Center
KRMC = Kingman Regional Medical Center
VVMC = Valley View Medical Center
WARMC = Western Arizona Regional Medical Center