‘A surge may be an understatement’ in Clark County


'It's like turning the Titanic around'

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — “I mean, a surge may be an understatement. I’m calling it an exponential growth or as I’ve been quoted as using, the explosion.”

That’s what Clark County Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said during a briefing late Tuesday afternoon. Melnick said COVID-19 is spreading at an exponentially rapid pace and everyone — everyone — needs to follow safety guidelines or the results could be catastrophic for hospitals.

Last week more than 1100 cases were reported in Clark County alone. Data shows that this week, across the US, more people are hospitalized with coronavirus than at any other point since the pandemic began.

Clark County Medical Officer Dr. Alan Melnick at a coronavirus press conference, March 17, 2020 (KOIN)

“Once you get to this point, you know, of huge numbers it’s really hard to turn it around. Not that we can’t. I think if we all behave ourselves for the next 3 weeks we could turn it around,” he said. “Once you get to the point where you’re overwhelming your hospitals and your healthcare workers, it’s like turning the Titanic around.”

Washington reached a record number of hospitalization this week. There is still room in Clark County hospitals but the numbers aren’t where they need to be.

“You want less than 10% of inpatients to be there for COVID-19,” Melnick said. “We’re at like 11.5%.”

The problem is, said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, when there were just a few hot spots across the US, health care workers could travel and volunteer to work in different states. But now that the virus is so widespread the fear is that a shortage of nurses and other health care professionals is looming.

“During the measles outbreak we were able to get help from the outside. If things get really bad around here and everybody’s in the same boat there isn’t going to be help on the outside,” Melnick said. “We could end up seeing alternate standards of care just because there’s not enough resources to go around, so that is a concern.”

Asked what happens if they actually do run out of doctors and nurses, Melnick said the hope is that they don’t. And that’s why he went public again to plead with people to stay in your home for Thanksgiving.

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