Hospitalizations across Washington nearing an 'all time high,' Inslee warns

Nurse Olivia Rocha prepares to take the temperature of coronavirus patient Betty Talton at University Hospital in June.

Nurse Olivia Rocha prepares to take the temperature of coronavirus patient Betty Talton at University Hospital in June.

Bob Owen /Staff file photo

Hospitalizations across Washington are nearing an all-time high right now as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the state, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

Inslee said nearly all counties across the state are experiencing high and rapidly increasing rates of the virus, with hospitalizations largely in the same area as they were at the beginning of the pandemic when the state first put into place its stay-at-币圈app都有哪些home order.

"We are in the midst of a raging pandemic that I have to report has been most impressive in how fast this is moving," Inslee said during a news conference Tuesday. "It is really quite stunning and certainly alarming to all of us who understand what the future could hold if we do not act aggressively against this pandemic."

Several hospitals have already indicated they are starting to plan to curtail elective surgeries and other "less-emergent problems," Inslee said.

"This is why we have deliberately established targeted restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the pandemic," Inslee said. "We are hopeful that they will work."

If things go forward as they are though, and hospitalizations continue to rise, things could get much worse in Washington.

"Unless something changes in the course of this pandemic, we will reach a situation where hospitals not only have to deny people care...but they will also have to move into a critical care situation where they simply cannot provide care for critically ill people whose life is threatened, and we'll have to move to some degree into a triage situation to see who can get that adequate care," Inslee said.

"And that will happen unless the trajectory of this disease is changed in some fashion. We cannot allow that to happen in our state."

If hospitalizations continue to go up, it could also present a number of other issues including staffing problems in hospitals, said Dr. Nathan Schlicher, president of the Washington State Medical Association.

"Even where we have the beds, we still need people working in them," he said. "Our staff is getting sick. We live among each of you and so we struggle with having people to care as well as a place to care for them."

He shared stories of people he knows who have had to delay certain medical procedures and are experiencing chronic symptoms from the coronavirus.

"When we talk about this," he said, "it's personal."

He also warned of how difficult it could be if people don't change their behaviors and the state continues on its current path.

"If we don't change the trajectory of this disease, we're going to be making choices that people are going to be uncomfortable with that will leave a permanent scar on those that have to make those hard decisions," he said.

Coronavirus cases have been rising across Washington since September. In recent weeks, transmission has accelerated and the state has continued to report record-breaking numbers of new daily cases. On Monday, the Washington State Department of Health reported a three-day cumulative total of more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases.

According to incomplete data from the Department of Health, the state reported a rate of 331 new cases per 100,000 people over the two weeks prior to Nov. 22. Nearly every county across the state is in what the state defines as a high-risk category, reporting more than 75 new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days.

According to the data, as of Monday, 6.4% of licensed beds in Washington were occupied by coronavirus patients, up significantly from about a month ago, when that number was below 3%.

Last week, Inslee put into place new coronavirus restrictions to slow the spread of the virus and prevent the state's hospitals from getting overwhelmed. The new restrictions included closing down indoor dining at restaurants and bars, shutting down gyms and capping occupancy at retail stores at 25%. He also banned indoor gatherings with people from outside one's household unless everyone quarantine for 14 day ahead of the gathering, or quarantines for seven days and gets a negative test less than 48 hours before.

The restrictions will be in effect for at least four weeks, through mid-December.

On Tuesday, Inslee said it's possible more restrictions will have to be put into place if things don't change.

"We are hopeful that that more targeted approach can bend that curve down, but if it does not, we will have no other option but to extend those restrictions to other parts of our economy, there will be no other option available to us," Inslee said.

"We cannot have people dying in the parking lots of our hospitals in the state of Washington. That will not be acceptable to us."

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