Suffering in this community from COVID-19 is real, and hospitals across this county are on the verge of a crisis, Island Hospital CEO Charles Hall said at a community briefing last week.
“We see it every day,” he said during the virtual meeting held to address island residents. “We’ve seen the struggle of the family. We’ve seen the struggle of the individual coming in, chest discomfort in the lungs, difficult breathing, asking us after they’ve been diagnosed with COVID, ‘Can I have the vaccine now?,’ and unfortunately it’s too late.”
The number of COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb locally, straining hospital resources and compelling health officials to again urge residents to get vaccinated.
Prior to August, Island Hospital diagnosed 25-30 positive cases per month. In August, the hospital diagnosed 182, Hall said. The hospital admitted up to five COVID-19 patients per month prior to July. In July and August, that number was 17 and 18, Hall said. Many of those patients were treated in intensive care, and some were placed on ventilators.
Prior to August, there were no deaths at Island Hospital. Then there were four in August and one in September.
Countywide, Island Hospital, Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon and PeaceHealth United General Medical Center in Sedro-Woolley are struggling to meet the demand, Hall said.
“We are on the verge of crisis standards of care, where the demand is greater than our resources are able to handle. This is true for almost every hospital in the state of Washington.
“Our emergency departments are full. There are long wait times. It’s hard to be admitted to the hospital. And when you’re really sick and when it’s beyond our hospital’s scope of services, the transfer times are even longer.”
Twelve of Island Hospital’s 43 beds were occupied Sept. 8 by patients being treated for COVID-19, Hall said.
Late last week, Skagit Valley Hospital’s beds were 99% occupied forcing the hospital to cancel some elective surgeries and move some procedures to outpatient facilities. United General Medical Center was at 94% occupancy, and COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization were being sent to PeaceHealth’s St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham.
Skagit Valley Hospital and PeaceHealth United General Medical Center diverted ambulances to other hospitals eight times in August.
The statewide surge compelled Skagit County Public Health to limit its testing and vaccination services at the county fairgrounds to individuals who live, work or go to school in Skagit County.
“This change is due to high demand and supply chain issues with testing supplies,” Public Health reported. “Testing will be limited to individuals 5 and older who are actively exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or who have had a known COVID-19 exposure. Limiting to these two groups will allow us to ensure access to testing for disease mitigation purposes.”
Who is getting sick? According to Hall: “92.7 percent of new cases during this period of time were unvaccinated. Hospitalizations, 94.1%. Deaths, 92.4%. Vaccination saves lives. It helps us prevent illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccination is not the only solution, but it is the cornerstone on how we’re going to win this battle.”
Statistics since start of the pandemic
- Skagit County as of Monday, 7,001 people infected, 92 deaths, 488 hospitalizations
- Statewide: 534,016 infected, 6,918 deaths, 33,521 hospitalizations. The statewide vaccination rate is 65.4%.
- Nationwide: 40.8 million infected, 656,318 deaths. The vaccination rate is 63%
- Globally: 22.3 million infected, 4.6 million deaths.
— This story includes reporting from the Skagit Valley Herald. Data sources: Skagit Public Health, Washington Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization.