‘The perfect storm’: Providence worries lack of staff, high COVID cases will push them back over the edge

SPOKANE, Wash. – Coronavirus cases are spiking across the country and in the Inland Northwest.

In Spokane County, 718 people reported testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.  This is the second-highest number of positive cases in one day during the pandemic, and it isn’t because of a backlog.

The Spokane Regional Health District said the high number is because of testing sites being closed over the holiday weekend. People had to wait until Monday to get tested.

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With more people testing positive, Providence is worried about what’s to come. The number of people needing help in hospitals has remained steady for the last few weeks, but Chief Medical Officer Dan Getz expects it to increase soon because of holiday gatherings and Omicron.

On Tuesday, 78 people with COVID-19 are being treated in Spokane County hospitals. That’s an increase from previous weeks, where it saw an average of 60 people needing care.

These numbers aren’t quite as high as when delta was at its peak, however, it’s still a cause for concern. Getz said staffing is still an issue in their hospital as well as others across the state and country.

“This is what we worry about being the perfect storm. If we see a high number of hospitalizations with COVID and we see lots of staff members having to call off due to COVID exposure, developing COVID, you just can’t deliver care to everybody,” Getz said.

While Omicron is not as deadly as Delta, it is more contagious. Getz said it’s worrisome for places with lower vaccination rates like Eastern Washington.

“I think any area we have lower uptake of the vaccine is going to deal with a larger degree of hospitalizations,” he said.

Getz added that North Idaho hospitalizations can be an indicator of what could be coming for Spokane, too.

Over the last day, Panhandle Health said 19 people went to the hospital for COVID care. There were 61 people hospitalized on Monday; on Tuesday, 80 people are getting care.

He asks people to continue taking precautions so they can keep hospitalization levels at a rate they can handle.

“When you look at how contagious Omicron is, unfortunately, people are going to get a shot at getting this thing. That’s why it’s so important for people to get vaccinated and protect themselves as much as they can, not just people with medical conditions, but that includes people who have minimal risk factors,” he said.

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