Spiking COVID cases raise concerns for WA hospital capacities


Cases in Clark County started to rise in mid-September

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — As cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, health officials in Oregon and Washington are scrambling to care for an increasing number of patients. Local hospitals and state officials are making plans to increase capacity for COVID-19 cases if needed.

Overall, the hospital capacity for those cases is still good, but if the current trends continue, projections for the coming months are not optimistic. In Clark County, the average number of daily new cases hovered at 26 until mid-September. Since then, it’s more than doubled. Now, the county is averaging 62 new cases a day.

“It continues to go up. It’s the highest rate we’ve ever seen,” said Clark County Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager.

The number of COVID-19 cases in local hospitals has also gone up. PeaceHealth in Vancouver currently has 16 COVID-19 beds, and 12 of them are occupied. At Legacy Salmon Creek there are another dozen coronavirus patients.

Both hospitals say they have plenty of capacity and can overflow COVID-19 patients into intensive care units if necessary.

“We have a number of contingency plans to set up COVID areas within the hospital and we are up-staffing and increasing the number of nurses we have,” said one hospital official.

State health officials have been working closely with hospitals to meet the growing need to care for those who get seriously ill during the pandemic.

“Our hospitals have plans to increase capacity if possible. The state also has resources to set up mobile hospitals if necessary. We are not close to that, but have access if we need it,” said Krager.

Having enough contact tracers to isolate a growing number of outbreaks is another concern, so health officials are making plans for what to do if their resources get stretched thin.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

Fortunately, hospitalizations are not rising nearly as fast as the number of new cases. Doctors say new treatments and therapeutics are helping, but also say spikes in hospitalization usually don’t happen for a few weeks after a sharp rise in cases—that’s why they are watching those numbers closely now.

In Washington and Oregon, health data shows most people are catching the coronavirus from family members at home or at social gatherings of less than 10 people. They say masking up and social distancing continue to be our best defense against catching the virus.

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