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Harborview enters ‘calm before the storm’ as coronavirus ramps up in Washington

Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. (Harborview, Facebook)

While Washington’s coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate, most major hospitals in the state have yet to fully feel the strain. That being so, many like Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center— the premier trauma center on the West Coast — are battening down the hatches in preparation.

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“It’s still the beginning,” said Harborview trauma nurse Keenan Clinch. “We’re just preparing for that calm before the storm.”

Already, the hospital has had its Intensive Care Unit nurses go through training on how to care for coronavirus patients. That includes getting fitted for an N95 mask, going over safety procedures related to personal protective equipment, taking stock of supplies, and managing patient assignments.

In Harborview’s ICU, each patient has a nurse assigned to them. For coronavirus treatment, a nurse is also assigned to that nurse, “basically just watching and making sure they’re not making a mistake by exposing themselves to the virus.”

Through all that, the hospital’s medical staff has stepped up to volunteer for this training, picked up extra shifts, and done whatever it can to ensure Harborview is fully prepared to handle the outbreak should it continue to ramp up.

“People have come together,” Clinch described. “People are picking up more shifts. It’s seen as this time for all of us to rise up and do what we want to do in our job, which is care for people. The most selfless thing you could do is care for others and put yourself at risk.”

This comes as Washington state has enacted stringent measures to minimize contact among large crowds of people. That’s something largely viewed as the best way to “flatten the curve” and keep hospital capacity at a manageable level.

But if that edict isn’t followed, things could get far more difficult.

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“If these self isolation measures that Seattle and the state have put forth don’t work, we’re going to be filling up pretty much all the ICU beds,” Clinch noted. “Hopefully, this self isolation is going to help us in the long run, but honestly we don’t know — we’re preparing for the worst.”

That being so, he also pointed out that while concerns people have over this crisis are valid, they also need to be tempered.

“I would worry if people weren’t worried,” said Clinch. “We all really need to be vigilant, but you don’t need to go into a panic.”

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