Local hospital and county officials talked about the situation at Providence Regional Medical Center as COVID-19 case numbers remain high in the county.
A total of 2,042 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the county from Aug. 22 to 28, the most recent week with data counted.
That represents a very small increase of the two-week daily case rate to 446 cases per 100,000 residents.
“That's the second highest two-week rolling case rate we’ve ever had, almost the highest ever,” said Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters during an Aug. 31 press briefing.
The increase from the previous week was only 2 cases per 100,000 residents.
“I hope that is the top, but I don’t think it would be safe to bet on that or that it is safe to let your guard down. What we need is more people putting their guard up,” said Spitters.
Other COVID-19 indicators are also approaching all-time highs for the county.
“Approximately 15,000 tests were done last week, with about 12 to 15 percent being positive,” said Spitters.
“That’s the highest positivity rate we’ve seen since April 2020,” he said.
About 96 residents were in local hospital being treated for COVID-19 and nine of those required ventilators.
“Without the benefits of vaccination by the roughly half million residents who have lent their arm to the movement, our health system would be completely overwhelmed,” said Spitters.
In the month of August Providence Regional Medical Center admitted more than 300 patients with a diagnosis of COVID-19, according to James Cook, chief medical director at the Everett hospital.
Of those, about 75 percent were unvaccinated.
In the intensive care unit, 76 patients were admitted with COVID and about 96 percent of those were unvaccinated.
“I think that illustrates very clearly the point Dr. Spitters was making about the vaccine being very important in preventing infection and more importantly preventing severe infection,” said Cook.
Many workers have had to deal with additional stress knowing that, unlike previous waves, the current COVID-19 wave could have been better handled.
“Most healthcare providers feel like this one could have been prevented or much decreased if more people were vaccinated or follow the very simple public health guidelines we’ve been given for the past few months,” said Cook.
The hospital has seen staff leave, either from burnout or other reasons.
“It is challenging as they see more and more folks come in who have chosen not to protect themselves, their families and, frankly, the caregivers who treat them, by being vaccinated,” he said.
Cook said vaccines and prevention measures are important so that the hospital does not reach a crisis point where they have to limit care.
“Along with other hospitals in the state of Washington, Providence Everett is preparing procedures for so called ‘crisis-standards of care,’” he said.
Those standards are put into place when a resource such as hospital beds, staffing or medicine becomes scarce enough that they are not able to properly care for any additional patients.
“In essence, you have to figure out a way to help the patient when you have nothing left to give,” said Cook.
“This is something that is very complicated. It has a large ethical and moral dimension,” he said.
The hospital hopes to never have to use those standards, he said.
“We always want to hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” said Cook.
Vaccines and proper following of prevention measures are the best way to turn COVID-19 case numbers back down, said Spitters.
“We need much more complete vaccination coverage, plus other prevention measures,” he said.
“I want to plead with the 200,000 eligible and yet still unvaccinated to go get your vaccination series started as soon as possible, if not today,” he said.
Locally, Spitters also mentioned the 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Arlington and encouraged testing for those involved.
“All participants and attendees should still consider seeking testing, and if you are contacted by public health, please return calls that same day, if not immediately,” he said. “Remember that cooperating with public health is good for your neighbors and required by Washington state law."