SPOKANE, Wash. — In a joint press conference with Spokane County health care providers on Friday morning, Providence's Chief Operating Officer (COO) said two hospitals are caring for their highest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began.
Spokane Regional Health District, CHAS Health, Kaiser Permanente, MultiCare and Providence came together on Friday morning to share the current status of health care staff and hospital staff during the fifth wave of COVID-19.
Dr. Francisco Velázquez, health officer for Spokane Regional Health District, said that this new COVID-19 surge driven by the delta variant is causing the highest rate of hospitalizations that Washington providers have seen. He added that they are closely following the situation across the boarder in North Idaho, which has activated crisis standards of care.
Velázquez said Spokane County is not yet at the point of making that same declaration, but the staff in hospitals around the county are feeling the stress from levels of staffing that cannot keep up with the high number of patients coming into their facilities.
The officials are asking the community to continue the efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and continue to wear masks, stay home if their sick and to get vaccinated as soon as possible. They say that over 95% of the COVID-19 patients in their hospitals are unvaccinated in addition the unvaccinated patients are more seriously sick and have a high chance of needing a ventilator.
As of Friday morning, 150 patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized at Sacred Heart and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane, Providence COO Peg Currie said during the press conference.
"It's not a record that we wanted to break but we have broken that," Currie said. "Many of these [patients] are in our ICUs, and everybody that is in the Sacred Heart and Holy Family ICU now on a ventilator is not vaccinated."
The age group that Providence is seeing the most in its hospitals is those who are 40 to 50 years old, Currie said, which is much younger than patients who were previously hospitalized.
Providers have already had to halt elective surgeries. Providence Sacred Heart and MultiCare started postponing elective surgeries in August as hospitalizations entered triple digits for the first time since the pandemic began.
"We know that you appreciate our nurses and doctors. You've called them superheroes, but they aren't feeling like superheroes right now, because they've seen so much death over this long period of time," Currie said.
'They can't get a full breath,' Currie says of COVID-19 patients
Currie also shared her experience of seeing COVID-19 patients in the hospital.
"For those patients not yet on a ventilator, they're gasping," Currie said. "They can't get a full breath. They have to sit up to breathe and lean forward. They're exhausted from trying to breathe. They can't sleep because they can't breathe. It is misery."
Dr. David O’Brien, MultiCare’s Chief Executive for the Inland Northwest region who was among the health care providers at the press conference, stressed the need for the public to have awareness for their part in community spread.
"Avoid superspreader events. Don't tip us over the edge," Dr. O’Brien said.
This comes after North Idaho health care facilities activated Crisis Standards of Care on Tuesday. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Crisis Standards of Care are guidelines that health care providers use to determine the best treatment for patients in a disaster or emergency.
On Thursday, Kootenai Health reported 109 COVID-19 hospitalizations, 37 critical care patients and 20 required ventilators.
Before this surge, Kootenai Health Chief Regional Operations Officer Jeremy Evans said the highest peak hospitalization count was 91.