The Desert Diamond Casino West Valley reopened June 5 — cautiously.
Like a wise gambler, Desert Diamond didn’t rush to go “all in” without regard for risks. Instead, the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise casino said it is carefully guarding its employees as well as patrons.
Years in the making, the casino opened Feb. 19, only to close a month later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve used the closure time to thoroughly clean and prepare our facilities to welcome back our guests,” said Rudy Prieto, CEO of the TOGE. “These extraordinary precautions have been undertaken to provide everyone a safe, friendly environment to return to for fun and excitement.”
While the casino reopens with “extensive new safety precautions,” including temperature checks and masks required by guests (who can remove them to eat, drink and smoke) and employees, officials warned COVID-19 is on the rise.
The same day the casino reopened, Banner Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel held a press conference.
“Arizona’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are rapidly increasing,” Bessel said.
She said about half of the state’s 1,200 COVID-19 patients were at Banner Health facilities.
“Most concerning is the steep incline of COVID-19 patients on ventilators,” Bessel said.
“If these trends continue, Banner will soon need to exercise its surge plan to increase ICU capacity.”
Abrazo did not respond to a request regarding its capacity by press time.
At a June 4 press conference, Gov. Doug Ducey stressed an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases was expected after he lifted the stay-home order and other restrictions.
Though Ducey insisted “we don’t have a trend” of increased cases, he added, “The virus is widespread.”
“We are prepared in Arizona,’’ Ducey said.
“We are not in a crisis situation.’’
(Ducey’s statewide curfew after recent looting ended June 8.)
He added that if hospitals reach capacity, “We have available field hospital capacity.”
Data released daily by the Arizona Department of Health Services showed state hospitals had filled about 80% of available in-patient and intensive care unit beds.
The West Valley View asked county health representatives for Maricopa County hospital bed capacity.
Ron Coleman, a Maricopa County Department of Public Health spokesman, said “that information is not reported to Maricopa County.”
Asked how the county knows if it is near hospital capacity, Coleman said, “Maricopa County views the information reported to the state.
“In addition, we are in frequent communication with health care facilities to understand their capacity and would work with (Arizona Department of Health Services) to implement surge plans if need exceeded current capacity,” Coleman added.
Marcy Flanagan, the county’s director of Public Health, echoed Ducey’s statements about an expected increase after the stay-home order ended. “We have to balance allowing people to work and put food on the table,” Flanagan said.
“We are starting to see some indicators the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing,” Flanagan told reporters June 5.
“The last four days we’ve seen the highest number of (new) cases, averaging 500 cases per day.”
On June 6, the county reported another 1,032 new COVID-19 positive cases, then 526 new cases June 7.
According to county data released June 9, 1,773 were hospitalized due to COVID-19, an increase of 65% in two weeks.
“We are seeing higher numbers of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and fewer ICU beds available,” Flanagan said.
As of June 8, 470 Maricopa County residents died from the coronavirus disease.
Of those deaths, 152 came in April, with more than twice that many since.
“All of these indicators together tell us there’s an increased spread in the community,” Flanagan said.
“If you can avoid going out, do so,” she added.
As Ducey cautioned: “The virus is not going away.”