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Regional News

Covid surge slows in W. WA, not yet east of the Cascades

Kootenai Health
Nagel, Andrea
/

Western Washington hospital officials wonder if they'll be asked to take more patients from across the mountains.

Hospital officials in Washington say it appears the omicron surge is slowing in western Washington. but not yet east of the mountains.

Taya Briley from the state hospital association says about 2,200 Covid-positive Washingtonians are receiving care in hospitals, down from a pandemic-high 2,300 last week.

“Meanwhile, in the past week, we’ve seen a 38% increase in Covid hospitalizations in Chelan County, a 31% increase in Yakima County, a 23% increase in Spokane County,” she said.

She says the number of people hospitalized for Covid in Spokane has increased from about 80 two weeks ago to 168 as of Tuesday morning.

Briley and western Washington hospital leaders on a hospital association media call Tuesday say they’re worried how that trend will trickle down to their facilities. Briley says many facilities west of the mountains report they’re at up to 150% of their normal patient loads. They wonder if they’ll be asked to make room for more patients from eastern Washington and northern Idaho as overwhelmed hospitals look for space for their most seriously ill patients.

On Monday, three southern Idaho health districts again invoked a crisis standards of care designation because of the spread of the virus there. That means Covid patients may be prioritized for scarce resources. So far, the Panhandle Health District has avoided returning to a crisis standards designation, a status it worked under between September 6 and December 20, 2021.

Jeannie Eyler, the chief nursing officer at Pullman Regional Medical Center, says her facility works closely with hospitals in Moscow and Lewiston and should learn quickly how the crisis designation in southern Idaho will affect them.

Washington hospital officials say pressure on the system is easing because of at least two recent developments. They credit the state for sending 100 National Guard members to perform non-clinical duties in four Washington hospitals, including Spokane’s Sacred Heart. And they say state and federal supplies of rapid, in-home tests have helped to reduce the number of people going to hospital emergency rooms for Covid testing.