COVID-19 hospitalizations in Washington nearing record highs

Health officials Tuesday warned of dire consequences to the state’s health care system as COVID-19 hospitalizations approach all-time highs. 

Reaching record levels not seen since the start of the pandemic, hospitalization trends in the state are on pace to pass 80 new COVID-19 patients a day in the coming weeks. 

“Our hospitals are at record capacity,” said Dr. Nathaniel Schlicher, president of the Washington State Medical Association. “Even where we have the beds, we still need people working them. Our staff is getting sick. We live among each of you so we struggle with having people to care as well as a place to care for them.”

LIVE MAP: COVID-19 in Washington

Unlike early in the pandemic, when Washington state was one of just a few states dealing with overwhelming cases, now the entire country is plagued, making it harder to pull resources from elsewhere. 

“Individual states could look to other states for help or the federal government early in the pandemic, but now that this has swept across the whole country, that reserve capacity no longer exists,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. 

Asked about the possibility of field hospitals, Inslee said hospitals would first work to add bed capacity. Schlicher said hospitals are already cutting down on other procedures to make room for increasing COVID-19 cases. 

Inslee said that unless people work diligently to decrease transmission, the state could get to a situation with catastrophic loss in medical care. 

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Meanwhile, healthcare workers say they are still hearing from people who deny the coronavirus is real or a real threat to life, even as they plea with the public to stay home and avoid gatherings before hospitals become overwhelmed.

“I can’t understand that and I just hope that people care enough about their loved ones that they will want to have the biggest Thanksgiving celebration in human history next Thanksgiving, which you can’t do if your relatives aren’t alive,” Inslee said.