“Many of these people won’t make it,” official warns as COVID hospitalizations in Washington continue to rise

While recent state data is still preliminary, early reports show COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide are on the rise after Labor Day weekend, pushing hospital heads to continue their advocacy so that residents mask themselves, be vaccinated and be wary of mass gatherings.

During a press briefing Tuesday morning, Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said that after the weekend, hospital officials counted 1,674 Washingtonians hospitalized with the virus, a 7% increase over last week. “Even more shocking,” she said, 251 of those patients are on ventilators, which is a 34% increase from last week.

“To be clear, a lot of these people won’t make it,” Sauer said. Patients are “almost exclusively” unvaccinated or immunocompromised people, she said.

Julie Petersen, CEO of Kittitas Valley Healthcare, told the press conference that her hospital in Ellensburg was full. While the hospital is not yet short of beds or supplies, Petersen said it is classified as full because its staffing shortage has recently worsened, exacerbated by the spike in delta variant cases.

She is particularly concerned about the thousands of people who visited the area this past weekend for the Ellensburg Rodeo and Parade, the Kittitas County Fair and the High Country Log Show in Roslyn. A county further afield, the Gorge Amphitheater also hosted a Dave Matthews Band concert this weekend, she said.

“I don’t think there has been a lot of masking, and our vaccination rate is around 50%,” Petersen said. More patients are expected during the week, she said.

Due to the large gatherings, Petersen added that the Kittitas County Public Health Department will issue a statement on Tuesday encouraging anyone who attended these events to get tested for the virus this week.

About 20 new deaths were also reported statewide over the past week, Sauer said, adding that the data was still preliminary due to a delay in reporting over the holiday weekend. At the end of August, the state had a seven-day hospitalization rate of about 17.7 admissions per 100,000, compared to about 2.8 in late June and early July, according to the ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard. of State Health.

There are some signs, however, that help may be on the way for the short-staffed hospitals.

Sauer noted a new push to expand the emergency federal government approval for monoclonal antibody therapy for mild to moderate COVID-19, which would be administered subcutaneously rather than by infusion. The treatment would open up the possibility of a series of four injections, which is “easier to do and allows more treatment centers to do it,” she said.

Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in the lab that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The safety and efficacy of the treatment “continue to be evaluated for the treatment of COVID-19,” the FDA said.

The treatment is the same as that received by then-President Donald Trump after testing positive for coronavirus last fall. In addition to a dose of remdesivir, an antiviral drug, Trump’s doctors gave him an eight-gram dose of two monoclonal antibodies through an intravenous tube. The experimental treatment required FDA approval at the time.

Now, the Washington Hospital Association is urging the state to expand the types of providers who could administer monoclonal antibody therapy – potentially including pharmacies, clinics, outpatient surgery centers, and outpatient care facilities – to take some pressure from hospital emergency rooms.

“We would like this treatment to happen elsewhere because the hospitals are so full,” she said. “We would also like to keep COVID patients who do not need to be hospitalized out of the hospital so that they do not potentially spread COVID throughout the hospital.”

In last week’s briefing, Sauer and other hospital officials also mentioned the struggle to get patients out who no longer need hospitalization. Nursing homes, assisted living centers and other care facilities are also understaffed, and were largely unable to accommodate patients.

On Tuesday, however, Sauer said the hospital association was “very pleased” with the state’s efforts to remove patients from hospitals, including those receiving Medicaid. She added that there needs to be “continuing work” on the matter, including the potential opening of alternative care sites and the use of coronavirus-positive nursing home units.

About 10% of hospital beds statewide are occupied by people who have no medical needs, she said.

“We need this capacity for people who have acute care needs,” Sauer said.

Pregnant patients with COVID-19 also continue to worry doctors as more data emerges on the risk of infection for pregnancies, said Dr Linda O’Neal Eckert, obstetrics specialist at Harborview Medical Center.

She mentioned a particular study published in August that examined more than 800,000 pregnant patients from nearly 500 hospitals across the country, comparing coronavirus-positive patients to coronavirus-negative patients.

“I see risks to pregnant women that I have never seen with any other event during pregnancy,” Eckert said, adding that the study reported a 15% increase in the risk of death in female patients. pregnant with COVID-19. The study also showed a 14% increase in the risk of being intubated and a 22% increase in the risk of early labor.

In eastern Washington and in rural communities, hospitalizations remain on the rise, hospital officials also noted. As of Tuesday morning, around 305 patients in the Spokane metro area are hospitalized with COVID-19, Peg Currie, director of operations for Providence Health Care, said at the press conference.

“Health care is not an unlimited resource,” said Currie.

Providence has stopped elective surgeries, including surgeries for children, because the health system is unable to staff them or does not have appropriate outpatient beds.

Statewide, some elective procedures continue to be canceled, including colostomy reversals and other “very serious care that people need,” Sauer added.

Across the border from Washington, Currie said, Kootenai Health – a healthcare system in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – has declared crisis care standards. The hospital is 50% filled with coronavirus-positive patients, mostly those between the ages of 40 and 50, she said.

The trend of increasing hospitalizations means more and more local officials will require proof of vaccination for non-essential public gatherings, Sauer said.

In King County, Executive Dow Constantine announced Tuesday that Public Health – Seattle & King County is working to develop a vaccine verification policy for certain non-essential indoor business activities and other locations. Further details on the policy are not yet clear, but Constantine said in a statement Tuesday that it would go into effect in October.

Clallam and Jefferson counties have already adopted some form of vaccine verification policy.

“We are at a critical moment in the pandemic,” Constantine said in the statement. “In a county where more than 4 out of 5 eligible residents have taken advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID, vaccine verification is the best way for businesses and gatherings to stay open, vibrant and at full capacity. “

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