Health care workers in Arizona urge social distancing, masks as cases break records

Arizona is one of 35 states seeing new COVID-19 cases. Over 4,500 people have been hospitalized and ICU beds are nearing capacity. Two 30-year-olds speak to “Nightline” about being hospitalized.
7:19 | 07/01/20

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Transcript for Health care workers in Arizona urge social distancing, masks as cases break records
Honestly, I was an idiot, straight up. I know when I'm wrong. I didn't take this virus seriously. I didn't take my own health seriously. Reporter: Jimmy flores has a warning for everyone. Don't be like him. The once-healthy 30 year old from Scottsdale, Arizona is now at home with covid-19. I got 103-degree fever. I started developing loss of sense of taste and smell E. Reporter: He suspects he contracted it after a busy night out at a bar. There was action that could have been better, like sharing drinks and whatnot. There was a really high risk of getting covid there. Reporter: And as now he sees the number of cases explode he's urge being vigilant. I was looking at my friends on Facebook, still partying, still doing all this other stuff. Reporter: 35 states across the country are seeing an upward trend in covid-19 cases. We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day, I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. Reporter: Arizona is one of eight states to hit record levels this week. Republican governor Doug Ducey attributes it to more testing, but many think it's due to Arizona's reopening last month. We knew as time went on the numbers would increase. I don't know if we knew they would increase this fast. This is a dangerous virus, and we need to slow it down and contain it. Reporter: Yesterday, Doocy announced closures for 30 days. Today's executive order will pause the operation of bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks and tubing. Reporter: It comes as the number of people hospitalized in the state surpasses 4700. Icu beds at nearly 90% capacity. Has Arizona lost control of the epidemic? I think Arizona's on the brink of losing control of the epidemic. Reporter: The concern of not only the infrastructure crumbling but the health care workers themselves. How close are health care workers to a breaking point? I would say a lot of them are at that point or past. Myself and others are leaving the hospital at times in tears. Reporter: The crisis in Arizona is evident here at banner university medical center, where icu beds are filling up fast. Patients are dying. There are patients begging me not to put them on the breathing machine, because they know they might never talk to their families again. It's really difficult. Reporter: Dr. Jennifer o'hay has worked there for 22 years. In the beginning we were watching and learning from new York. Then all of a sudden things just exploded here. I would say that compared to March and April, I'm taking care of at least twice as many patients now as I was then. Now, what we're seeing is a lot of our younger population getting sick. 20, 30, 40-year-old patients, they're on ventilators, ecmo. Reporter: The upcoming weekend has many at this hospital worried that there will be an additional surge. We have another increase like we did after memorial day, we going to become overwhelmed at the hospital level. Reporter: As the numbers rise, health care professionals stress that the spread of covid-19 can be mitigated by wearing a mask. At yesterday's press conference, governor Ducey encouraged residents to do so. I want to remind arizonans to please wear a mask. Reporter: But he fell short of issuing a state-wide mandate. Do you think that decisions made by Arizona lawmakers cost lives? I absolutely think our leadership here in Arizona cost lives. If people were masking weeks ago we could have prevented this. I thought as soon as the summer hit everything was going to be fine. Reporter: Some like Jessica o'neill are living proof of how insidious the spread of covid-19 is even when you take precautions. Honestly, until you are sitting here, not being able to see your family, not being able to breathe, being so uncomfortable, you can't truly understand the pours of this virus. Reporter: O'neill says she was being careful, wearing a mask, and still the 30-year-old single mother contracted the virus, she thinks from a single trip to the gym. After the gym I did not feel well at all. I was telling my daughter if I don't feel well in the morning I was going to go straight to the er. And then the coughing started. Reporter: With multiple preexisting medical conditions she headed to banner university medical center. I've seen people young, old, it's everybody, it's not picking and choosing. It's serious. I don't know how to stress that enough. Reporter: Banner health became so overwhelmed with patients like o'neill they called for reenforcements, nurses like Bridget Harrigan answered. Today was really busy. We transferring in and out patients all day. We're just growing by the second, really. Reporter: We first met her a week ago. Today is my first day on the floor on my own. It's exciting, but it is a little bit scary. To be putting me in the covid unit for the full time. I was meant to go help on the front lines in some way. Reporter: She just traveled to Phoenix from queens, new York, where she spent a month working in the icu at elmhurst hospital. When I got there, it was like a disaster zone. It was how you do disaster nursing and triage and everything. Reporter: She told us last week she was preparing for Arizona to hit crisis levels. It's not New York but it has every capability of getting Reporter: Now her concerns are becoming a reality. How intense is the environment inside here right now? The staff here, the nurses, the doctors, everyone, I can tell they're nervous to be thinking, okay, nothing I can't handle, I just came from new York. I dealt with that, but I can see the nurses around me who haven't dealt with that, who look terrified, honestly, and very stressed out. Reporter: Dr. Brad Dreyfus feels if they don't get a handle on the virus quickly, the health care workers themselves will have to decide how to ration We're the ones holding hands at the bedside. It's devastating. Reporter: He says if arizonans want to help get it under control, there's one thing they can do now, mask up. If you care about America being a world leader, mask up. This is not a partisan issue. Do it for your community.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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