/ Modified nov 24, 2020 3:22 p.m.

Banner forecast to exceed hospital capacity next week

Officials are urging Arizonans to adjust Thanksgiving plans.

Banner University Medicine hospital emergency sign A sign outside the east entrance to Banner University Medicine directing visitors and patients to the emergency room.
AC Swedbergh/AZPM

The state's largest health network is making a final plea for Arizonans to adjust Thanksgiving plans to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Banner Health is on track to exceed its hospital bed capacity by Dec. 4—a week after Thanksgiving—unless the public follows necessary measures to clamp down on the virus, said Banner chief clinical officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel at a press conference Tuesday.

"Our forecast tool paints a very dark winter for us ahead, so I ask all of you to think about the mitigation that you can do to help us reduce this forecasting," she said.

Banner hospitals currently have plenty of ventilators and personal protective equipment, but face a shortage of staff after nine grueling months of the pandemic, Bessel said. The system has hired 1,000 out-of-state workers and is recruiting 900 more.

The practice of hiring out of state labor during the winter is common, but nothing like this year. That's because the virus is surging across most of the country. "In a normal winter of surge, there might be 14,000 positions posted to secure external labor. Last week there were 20,000 positions posted," she said.

Last week, Banner reinstated visitor restrictions in preparation for the surge of cases. There were 728 patients positive for Covid-19 at Banner locations as of Tuesday morning. At least 130 were on a ventilator.

The coronavirus pandemic in Arizona continues to surge. More than 4,600 confirmed cases were reported statewide Tuesday, with over 300 of those in Pima County.

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