SPOKANE, Wash. — As coronavirus cases surge across Washington state, health officials are reporting an uptick in hospitalizations.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a tweet on Wednesday that hospitalizations in the state due to suspected COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last 25 days.
Providence hospitals in Spokane County are seeing their "highest volumes" of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began, Sacred Heart Chief Operating Officer Susan Stacey said. She said there are 90 coronavirus patients hospitalized at Sacred Heart and Holy Family Hospitals as of Wednesday morning.
MultiCare hospitals in Spokane County are caring for 33 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday morning, less than 20% of the company's total hospital capacity, according to Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Dr. David O'Brien.
Seventy-nine Spokane County residents were hospitalized as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data from the Spokane Regional Health District. That number does not include patients from other areas who are hospitalized in Spokane County.
O'Brien and Stacey were unable to provide exact percentages for hospital capacity on Thursday, saying hospital capacity changes daily and remains "fluid."
“We still have capacity to take care of our community and our patients that require care for medical problems other than COVID," O'Brien said.
Stacey echoed that sentiment, saying that Providence Hospitals "are not full" at this time.
Despite the ability to care for patients now, medical professionals in Spokane County are preparing for difficulties that could lie ahead.
"We are going to be challenged in these next several days because of the spikes that occurred weeks ago," Stacey said during the media briefing.
SRHD reported 514 new cases on Monday, a record high daily case count. November has also totaled more reported COVID-19 cases in Spokane County than October and September combined.
It's imperative that Spokane County residents continue to do their part in flattening the COVID-19 curve to avoid overwhelming local hospitals, medical professionals said. That's why they are continuing to stress that people need to avoid social gatherings with those outside of their household, wear masks in public and keep their distance from others.
It is a possibility that Spokane County hospitals could near capacity in the next several weeks, Stacey said. Dr. Frank Velazquez, who serves as interim health officer in Spokane County, said health officials are already working on contingency plans should this happen and preparing for institutional transfers between hospitals.
Transfers have already happened during the pandemic, Velasquez added. Providence hospitals in particular have taken patients from North Idaho and Kootenai Health has taken them from eastern Washington, according to Stacey.
Staffing is another concern for medical professionals, as nurses and doctors may become sick with COVID-19 or need to quarantine after exposure to the virus.
“We can have physical beds, but if we don’t have to staff to take care of the patients, then a physical bed doesn’t do you much good," O'Brien said.
The ability of local hospitals to bring in traveling or temporary staff members has also become "severely limited" as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the nation.