Arizona tells Pence it needs additional 500 health care workers as COVID-19 cases soar

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey told Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday that the state needed an additional 500 health care workers as the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to set records there.

“We did hear in the briefing today of the need for personnel,” Pence said at a news conference following his meeting with Ducey.

“We’ve already responded with 62 medical personnel arrived this week in Tucson, but the governor conveyed to us an additional request of another 500 personnel and I’ve instructed the acting secretary of homeland security to move out immediately on providing the additional nurses and doctors and technical personnel.”

Pence said the federal government would be “moving out on that very quickly.”

On the day of Pence’s visit to the state, Arizona reported a record number of new cases in a single day (4,878) as well as a new record for deaths from COVID-19 in a 24-hour period (88).

While Arizona has, like other states across the country, increased testing in recent weeks, the percentage of positive results from those tests has been especially worrisome. On Wednesday, the state said that 28.3 percent of residents tested over the past 24 hours were positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, the highest percent of any state in the nation.

Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Pence noted that “more than 50 percent” of those who tested positive for COVID-19 in Maricopa County are under the age of 35. A week ago, President Trump attended an indoor “Students for Trump” rally in Phoenix that was attended by an estimated 3,000 people, few of whom wore face masks.

Traveling with Pence in Arizona, Dr. Deborah Birx was adamant about the need for citizens to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Wearing a mask will change the spread of this virus,” Birx, a top official on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said.

Arizona has reimplemented social distancing measures, such as shuttering bars, in recent days as the number of cases has spiked.

As of Wednesday, 85 percent of the state’s inpatient hospital beds were in use, and 89 percent of its ICU beds were occupied.

“We’re encouraged to hear that hospital capacity remains manageable,” Pence said during the press conference, but noted that he had spoken to Ducey about two additional facilities being readied by the Army Corps of Engineers “in very short order if the need should arise.”

Last week, Pence hailed the “truly remarkable progress” the country had made against COVID-19.

“This moment in the coronavirus pandemic is different than what we saw two months ago,” Pence said during a briefing of the Coronavirus Task Force. “We slowed the spread, we flattened the curve, we saved lives. In the midst of that, we exponentially scaled testing capacity.”

At the same time, Pence acknowledged the rise in COVID-19 cases across the Sun Belt, including in Arizona. Over the last 14 days, the number of cases of the disease have risen nationwide by 82 percent.


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