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Washington medical groups raise alarm over hospital capacity as COVID on the rise

Across the nation, COVID-19 hospitalization has hit a record high. In Washington, the rapidly rising number of cases is creating serious challenges.

SEATTLE — Across the nation, COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit a record high. In Washington, the rapidly rising number of cases is creating serious challenges.

Cassie Sauer, the CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association is worried people have let their guard down.

"Right now we're in a place where we think we're seeing growth everywhere, and that's really challenging,” Sauer said.

Sauer points to the coronavirus numbers moving in the wrong direction. More than 9,000 people are hospitalized statewide.

Jayson Dick, the Associate Director of Labor Advocacy at the Washington State Nurses Association is concerned about the resources it will take to handle the growing number of cases.

"Hospital preparedness is more than having enough beds and ventilators. It's about having enough staff to take care of patients,” Dick said.

The Washington State Nurses Association, which represents over 17,000 nurses, is hearing the concerns from the frontlines.

"We have two hospitals that have already seen significant COVID-19 outbreaks,” he said.

As of Nov. 9, St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton had four patients and two employees who have tested positive for coronavirus in the 3 West Unit. St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma uncovered a total of 12 employees who have tested positive as a result of community spread.

Washington State Nurses Association says it has heard of hospitals struggling with PPE.

"We need the equipment. We need the staffing, and we need to be taken care of so that we can make sure that our patients are getting the best care possible,” Dick said.

Sauer is urging everyone to stay vigilant about this virus.

"The most important thing people can do to support their healthcare workers is not get sick. Do not make your healthcare workers put themselves at risk taking care of you because you want to have a football party,” Sauer said.

On Thursday, KING 5 checked with a several hospitals in western Washington that said they have an adequate amount of PPE and staffing.

For example, UW Medicine reported having 54 COVID-19 patients across four of its hospitals. Early on during the pandemic, UW Medicine would have more than a hundred COVID-19 patients at one time.

But based on the number of cases now, Washington State Hospital Association says it is concerned about what the rise in COVID-19 cases will mean for hospitals in the coming weeks, especially if groups gather for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"I am petrified about two weeks from Thanksgiving. I mean, truly, about what that could look like," Sauer said.