‘This pandemic is not slowing down’: State health leaders fear healthcare staffing crisis can’t keep up with hospitalizations

SPOKANE, Wash. — The pandemic is far from over. Hospitalizations continue to climb and vaccinations aren’t happening fast enough. Many hospitals are at a breaking point, with fewer people to take care of more patients.

“We are at 1,462 patients right now in our hospitals who have confirmed Covid cases, and that’s an all-time high for our state,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases.

More than 70-percent of Washingtonians are have gotten the shot, and the vaccination rate across the state is rising. Last week, the state saw a 21-percent increase. However, it’s not happening fast enough and is pushing hospitals to the edge.

“We’re talking about nurses and respiratory therapists and janitorial staff, really the lifeblood of our hospitals,” said Steve Mitchell, the director of Washington’s Medical Coordination Center.

While most people going into the hospital are unvaccinated, even people without COVID-19 are at risk because of how strained the healthcare system is. If someone needs urgent medical care, it’s taking longer.

Mitchell said recently a patient passed away at a smaller hospital after they couldn’t find an ICU bed. He said they tried for eight hours.

Masks are back indoors, and health leaders say vaccinations are more important than ever.

“This pandemic is not slowing down. Instead, if anything, it has sped up,” said Washington’s Secretary of Health. Umair A. Shah.

As the staffing shortage rages on, all healthcare workers have to get vaccinated in the upcoming months or could risk losing their job. Health leaders also say an outdoor mask mandate is possible. Oregon just passed an outdoor mandate. They say they’re talking with the governor now to implement more mandates if cases continue to climb.

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