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EXCLUSIVE: Inside YRMC COVID-19 unit as nurses experience winter surge

News 11's Cody Lee gets exclusive access where dozens of patients are being treated for COVID-19

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - As Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) experiences a winter surge, we’re getting a first-hand look inside one of the hospital’s COVID-19 units.

It’s not easy walking into the COVID unit. Seeing so many faces both hard-working nurses and patients suffering from this highly contagious illness. It doesn't look like things will get better anytime soon. 

More than one year after the COVID-19 vaccine first became available to patients, locals are still falling ill. Hospitals, Like YRMC, are starting to feel the surge.

This particular floor was once shuttered but now fully operating following an uptick in cases back in August. There are currently over 50 patients in this unit.

“There are other patients in other units including the ICU,” Amber Sharpensteen has been working with COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic.

She tells me each nurse treats at least five patients, but sometimes their workload can be even higher.

“Well right now because our unit has expanded we have three nursing stations, this is a nursing station. We have nurses and PCAs charting and checking on patients,” Sharpensteen said.

Most of the patients here are experiencing symptoms that aren’t as severe as those in the COVID intensive care unit.

It's all based on their oxygen levels.

“We have quite a few levels of ways that we can deliver oxygen before they require ICU. We try everything. The last thing we want to do is have to put someone on a ventilator,” Sharpensteen explained.

Sharpensteen says this surge is different from the increase in cases we saw last year.

This time around, nurses are treating more younger patients.

“For me, that's probably been one huge thing is that we've seen a lot younger population of people that are getting really sick and dying. Sometimes they're getting they're coming in sicker. It seems like where they normally would come in because they're short of breath. They might be requiring a little bit of oxygen. This time they're coming in, and they're requiring a lot more oxygen right when they get here,”

Another difference, each patient is allowed one visitor, whereas before no visitors were allowed.

The hospital says they don’t want their patients feeling alone, so, with extra safety precautions in place, loved ones can visit for up to an hour a day.

PART TWO OF EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Nurses bearing another wave of COVID hospitalizations at YRMC

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Cody Lee

Cody Lee joined 13 On Your Side and KYMA News 11 in March 2020, but he’s no stranger to Arizona. He grew up in the Phoenix area and enjoys everything Arizona has to offer.

You can contact Cody at

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