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Hospitals in Washington state at record capacity, doc says

COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center. (File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Gov. Inslee says hospitalizations are nearing an all-time high across Washington state.

“They all have surge plans in place,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer with the Washington State Department of Health.

Inslee said the first step would be to add bed capacity to existing hospitals, before the state would seek to build pop-up hospitals such as those we saw in March and April.

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“Our hospitals are at record capacity,” said Dr. Nathan Schlicher, President of the Washington State Medical Association, on Tuesday. “It’s heartbreaking to watch people die from this disease. It’s heartbreaking to see people not get the care they need because we don’t have the space.”

Hospitals say the bigger challenge is staffing. If staff can’t keep up, hospitals reach out to recently retired physicians, and then the state would ask for help from the military.

“There’s a terrible shortage of nurses in this country,” said Betsy Scott, RN and Vice President of SEIU 1199.

Scott said her daughter and son-in-law were recently diagnosed with COVID-19, prompting nightmares about the potential of seeing those she loved carted off to the hospital where there’s a shortage of staffing, patients are being treated in hallways, and loved ones aren’t allowed to visit.

Scott said, fortunately, they both recovered and returned to work within about a month.

The Everett Herald reports the number of people in hospitals across Snohomish County due to the virus has risen 400% in the past six weeks. Dr. Chris Spitters with the Snohomish County Health District said that if the trend continues, the county will surpass last spring’s highs for hospitalizations in the next week or two.

Spitters, Lofy, Schlicher, and Scott all pleaded with the public Tuesday to continue wearing masks both in public and around people who aren’t in your household, and to continue practicing social distancing measures.

“We’re all tired of it,” Schlicher said. “I’m tired of the fatigue of wearing a mask eight hours a day in the ER, but we can’t give up just because we’re tired.”

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Inslee noted that Washington ranked #1 in The New York Times’ survey of people who are acting the most safe during the pandemic.

“We’re doing the right thing in so many places, and we know if we keep doing this, we’re going to knock this pandemic down,” Inlsee said.

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