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Snohomish County COVID hospitalizations up 400%, nearing patient capacity

There are 80 confirmed or suspected COVID cases in Snohomish County hospitals, 11 of those patients are on ventilators.

EVERETT, Wash. — Snohomish County may be heading into a dire situation as hospital beds are filling up with COVID-19 patients.

This week, there are 80 COVID or suspected COVID patients being treated in Snohomish County hospitals, and 11 of those patients are on ventilators, according to the Snohomish Health District.

“If we don’t bend that curve down, we will exceed hospital capacity,” said Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters.

In six weeks alone, there’s been a 400% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Snohomish County, Spitters said.

“Locally in March, we peaked at about 120 hospitalized, just 40 more than where we are at now and we are on pace to surpass that within the next week or two,” he said.

The county has run into a new concern for hospital capacity that was not an issue in March.

“As opposed to seven or eight months ago with the first spike in hospitalizations, there were other hospitals in the region to help absorb the acute care capacity that was compromised by that spike. That’s not the case today.”

Hospitals everywhere are dealing with the surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Hospitals are filling up at rapid paces and they are running out of staff to care, not just for COVID patients but for everything else,” Spitters said.

While the need for hospital staff is greater than ever, outbreaks in medical facilities are becoming a reality.

Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett is dealing with an outbreak.

In October, six caregivers tested positive for the virus. Two of those cases were confirmed to be contracted outside of the facility.

In November, 20 caregivers have tested positive.

“The sources of exposure are not determined, and some may be due to community exposure,” the hospital said in a statement to KING 5.

Snohomish County health officials said Providence and other healthcare facilities have good control measures in place to protect staff but the skyrocketing case counts make outbreaks like this one inevitable.

“With this much transmission occurring in the community, whether you’re a long-term care facility, a hospital, a school or workplace, the chances of COVID walking in the door are now 10 times higher than they were when our rates were down, when we fell below 25 [cases per 100,000],” Spitters said. “At these levels of transmission in the community, we should expect more of this in the near future until we really turn things around.”

As hospitals are nearing capacity, the Snohomish County Department of Emergency management has sites identified for a field hospital if it is needed, but there is concern over funding.

“Many of the federal assets that were available in the spring are now deployed elsewhere throughout the country, as the whole country is seeing this massive uptick in COVID cases,” said Snohomish County Director of Emergency Management Jason Biermann.

“The number of resources available are far fewer than they were in the spring. That is a reminder to everyone, those measures that keep that curve flattened and keep us out of the place where we have to request those things is where we absolutely want to be, because there’s not a guarantee that federal resources will be available,” he said.