Hospitals brace for holidays: ‘We need to outsmart this virus’


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The holidays are just around the corner and health officials are urging people to follow safety guidelines to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases.

Noah McManus is a clinical nurse educator in the emergency department at Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. He says hospitals have been trying to keep up with climbing COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

“The hospital’s at a capacity now that we’re usually not at until the peak of the flu season which is in late January, February some years,” McManus told KOIN 6 News on Tuesday.

Another record-shattering 1,122 confirmed/presumed cases of COVID-19 were reported last week by the Oregon Health Authority. The positivity rate for those tested jumped sharply to 11.9% and OHA said it was the third straight week the daily case counts have set a record high for Oregon.

The surge in cases means longer wait times to be seen by doctors in many hospitals across the state.

“Patients where you might have had to wait an hour or two to get into the emergency department before COVID at some emergency departments you might have to wait five, six hours; you might have to wait much longer than that,” McManus said. “Almost every emergency department in town is seeing people in the hallways.”

Health authorities have blamed small social gatherings for the record-setting daily case totals. A portion of the cases reported last week were traced to several Halloween events, including a party attended by more than 100 people.

And with Thanksgiving just over a week away, officials are asking people to adjust their plans. McManus said healthcare workers will “have to get creative” to handle a possible spike in cases. In Canada, where the country celebrated its Thanksgiving last month, positive COVID-19 cases jumped by about 37,600 two weeks after the holiday, according to a CBS report citing data from Johns Hopkins University.

As for his own holiday plans, McManus said his mom won’t be at the Thanksgiving table in person this year.

“We’ll set her a place at the table and I think put a laptop there and see if we can video chat her or at least during dessert for the pecan pie,” he said.

McManus hopes that when people consider their holiday plans, they’ll also consider the doctors and nurses on the frontlines and the patients they’re caring for.

“I think the true heroes are the ICU nurses on the wards that are taking care of these patients day in and day out for weeks at a time, being there for the patients when family and visitors can’t be,” he said. “This affects all ages, all races, all political affiliations. It doesn’t care who you are — it’s a virus, it just wants to infect you and replicate and infect somebody else. That’s the sole purpose. We need to outsmart this virus.”

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