SPOKANE, Wash. — The latest predictions from health experts paint a grim picture of the coronavirus pandemic's progression in Spokane County and other areas of the Northwest.
Researchers with PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia projected on Wednesday, Dec. 2 that COVID-19 cases in Portland, Seattle and Spokane, and surrounding areas, would double over the next month.
In the past month, the Spokane Regional Health District has reported four days where coronavirus cases spiked above 400. On Sunday, Dec. 6, the health district reported 421 COVID-19 cases.
Based on PolicyLab's projections, Spokane County could soon see some days with spikes of 800 to 1,000 new COVID-19 cases reported.
About 10-20% of those who contract COVID-19 require hospitalization, and 15-20% of those patients could require stays in the intensive care unit and the use of ventilators, said PolicyLab Director Dr. David Rubin during an interview with KREM.
If there are 500 cases of coronavirus reported in Spokane County, it's possible that at least 50 to 75 of those people may ultimately require hospitalization, Dr. Rubin added. If there are 1,000 new cases, 100 to 150 of those people may require hospitalization.
"So when you double, that also means that you're doubling the number of daily [hospital] admissions, the number of people requiring intensive care, and eventually if that piece is sustained and it continues to grow, you overwhelm your hospitals," Dr. Rubin explained.
PolicyLab’s weekly models are set to detect the rate of growth for COVID-19 cases, and the forecasts are then altered based on weather, the amount of social distancing, the test positivity rate – which is climbing in Spokane County – and some other demographic characteristics, Dr. Rubin said.
The percentage of positivity over the last week in Spokane County was sitting at more than 16 percent as of Thursday, Dec. 3, according to the Washington State Department of Health's online dashboard. The rate of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks was 778.5 in Spokane County, the third-highest in Washington state.
It's also possible that PolicyLab has been "underpredicting" in the last few weeks, Dr. Rubin said, adding that the risk of pressure on local hospitals is "tremendous."
Beth Hegde, a spokesperson for Providence Health Care, reiterated on Monday that Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane are seeing "very high patient consensus" for those with and without a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 2, the hospitals began delaying some elective surgeries, especially those that require a hospital stay, to keep critical care beds available. The hospitals will review each surgery and patient need on a case-by-case basis and work with patients to reschedule procedures, Providence officials said in a previous statement.
Hegde told KREM's Whitney Ward on Monday that "bed capacity is low" and hospitals in Spokane are experiencing staffing shortages.
"We are concerned with the potential fall out of Thanksgiving gatherings. If we see an impact from the holiday gatherings, it will come soon," Hegde said in part.
Hegde urged Spokane County residents to stay home, wear masks, wash their hands and avoid gathering with those outside of their household.
"We anticipate a very challenging winter and every person who follows these guidelines can help our health care facilities not become overwhelmed. Everyone has a role to play," she added.