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Idaho’s medical crisis is ‘becoming our problem’ in Washington

Nurse Nick Brideau (L), from the ICU COVID unit, and Nurse Karen Hayes administer care to a patient who has just been transferred to the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

As Washington state’s mask mandate expands to include large outdoor gatherings, neighboring Idaho still has no mask requirement and a low vaccination rate.

That’s now causing concern for Washington.

Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer told the New York Times that Idaho’s refusal to issue a mask mandate despite its hospital system “melting down” is “ridiculous.”

“Their medical crisis is becoming our problem,” Gov. Jay Inslee warned.

State’s hospitals warn stroke, appendicitis patients seeing delayed care

While it’s common for hospitals near the border to care for patients from both states, Spokane hospitals tell the Times that they’re getting increasing calls from Idaho for help. Idaho hospitals are already operating under “crisis standards,” which means they’re having to ration care.

Only 50% of Idaho’s residents are fully vaccinated, as compared to 68% of Washington residents.

Staffing issues at Washington hospitals

Meanwhile, some hospitals across Washington have reported seeing a bump in staff vaccinations as the governor’s vaccine mandate deadline approaches.

Diane Blake, CEO of Cascade Medical Center in Leavenworth, said they were at 80% vaccination even before the mandate.

“We have seen some folks decide to get vaccinated. We’ve also had a few resignations. So we are still concerned about staffing as we head to October, but we are probably sitting better than some other rural facilities,” Blake said.

While there are some facilities in Washington at 80-90% staff vaccination, there are others at 30-40%, according to Taya Briley, vice president of the Washington State Hospital Association.

For now, the state is trying to fill staffing gaps with its emergency volunteer databank. But Briley is hopeful that President Joe Biden’s requirement for nationwide vaccination will stop people from quitting and leaving for other states.

For those who are not yet vaccinated and wanted to get the Pfizer vaccine, Monday was the last day to do so within the governor’s deadline of being fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. Fully vaccinated means that you’ve received the required number of doses — two for Pfizer and Moderna; one for Johnson & Johnson — and that it’s been two weeks since the second shot.

Find a location to get vaccinated here

There’s now concern among some hospital leaders that people may be waiting until the last minute.

“There are people, I think, that are waiting until later and are thinking that maybe they can use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said Dr. Christopher Baliga with Virginia Mason. “Just remember that’s in short supply in the state.”

KIRO Radio’s Heather Bosch and Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.

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