Healthcare systems creaking under COVID-19 caseload

Routine procedures have been canceled

Skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 cases on the North Olympic Peninsula are straining healthcare systems, according to the region’s public heath officer.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, briefed Clallam County commissioners on Tuesday.

“We are unfortunately experiencing continued rapid rises in COVID-19 infections in our community, similar to what we are seeing to the rest of the state and the nation,” Berry said.

“We are also seeing a significant strain on our healthcare system and anticipate that it will continue to worsen.”

Hospitals in both counties have canceled routine procedures, such as a colonoscopy, and are prioritizing emergency procedures so as to free surgical staff to staff the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Two more deaths were reported on the Peninsula on Tuesday.

Clallam County reported another death from the virus, bringing its total deaths to 83. The victim was an unvaccinated person in her 90s with underlying health conditions.

Jefferson County also reported a death from COVID-19, bringing its total reported deaths from the virus to 21. The victim was an unvaccinated man in his 80s. No information was available as to whether he had underlying health issues that contributed to his death.

Clallam County reported an additional 121 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing its total to 7,745 from 7,624 with a case rate of 2,164 per 100,000.

Thirteen people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, five in the ICU at Olympic Medical Center with a sixth patient transferred to an ICU in a Kitsap County hospital for more intensive care.

Jefferson County saw an increase in its cases as well, up 19 from Monday, bringing its total to 1,844 from 1,825. The county will update its case rate on Friday.

At least six Jefferson County residents are hospitalized with COVID-19. Five are at Jefferson Healthcare hospital while one has been transferred to a hospital in King County for more intensive care.

“One of the big challenges that we are seeing is that the hospital system cannot take care of even the same number of patients it could this time last year because we have lost so many healthcare workers due to the burnout of having had to manage wave after wave of infection,” Berry said.

Berry also said that the hospital system, despite the best efforts of the providers to stay ahead of this wave, was not built to handle the caseload.

Shortages, delays

As counties reach peak COVID-19 numbers, there will be shortages of beds, testing and staff as well as longer waits to receive care — and potentially the temporary closing of primary and specialty clinics to respond to the growing number of cases.

“If you need health care in the coming weeks, we anticipate that there will be a delay in accessing that health care,” Berry said.

Berry emphasized that this delay has nothing to do with the doctors, nurses and staff themselves who are working hard to get patients the care they need; there’s just not enough of them to do it expediently, she said.

“In the next couple of weeks, we anticipate moving into even more critical shortages, so we may be pulling staff from the primary care setting into the hospital,” Berry said.

“So some clinics may actually close because the people who normally work in the clinics now work in the hospital,” she added.

“That is very likely to happen in the next two weeks,” Berry said.

The distribution of tests, treatments and antiviral drugs will be prioritized to health care workers, those who are symptomatic or who have been exposed to COVID-19.

“We have heard from the governor and the federal government that they plan to increase testing allocations to our area, but we have not received those yet,” Berry said.

“We do have plans to distribute those tests as quickly as possible as soon as we do receive them, but we do still anticipate that there will be a shortfall.”

Distribution of testing will depend on the size of the supply the region receives and will likely be done through county departments of health and other critical access points, especially for those in the more rural parts of the counties.

“If we can get enough, one thing we are looking at is partnering with local libraries for distribution to the public, but we don’t know how many we’re going to get yet,” Berry said.

Treatments also are in short supply.

“We don’t have many therapeutics right now, there is a significant shortage of the treatments for COVID-19 nationally, and even then they are prioritized to different states depending on how bad their COVID outbreaks are,” Berry said.

Washington state was allocated only 1,000 doses. Berry attributed that to the state’s ability to manage the COVID-19 pandemic well but noted that it also places the state at the bottom of the aid distribution list.

“The best thing that you can do to prevent severe outcomes from COVID-19 is get vaccinated,” Berry said.


Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]

More in News

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Port Angeles Police Detective Trevor Dropp, left, and Sgt. Kevin Miller keep watch at The Gateway in downtown Port Angeles after a suspicious package was found at the Port Angeles Farmers Market on Saturday morning. The market was evacuated and the 200 block of North Lincoln Street was barricaded until a Washington State Patrol bomb squad arrived from Bremerton early Saturday afternoon.
Suspicous package found to be no threat

Farmers market in Port Angeles closed until bomb squad could arrive

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Freia Palmer of Port Angeles and Tom Cox of Port Townsend dance to the music of Olympic Express Big Band during Wednesday night's kickoff show in the Concerts on the Pier music series at Port Angeles City Pier. The free summer music series, hosted by the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts and sponsored by Erika Ralston Word Windemere Real Estate, D.A. Davidson & Co., Elwha River Casino, Washington State Department of Commerce and the Peninsula Daily News, continues at 6 p.m. next Wednesday with the classic rock of Sweet Justice.
Free outdoor concerts set throughout summer

Outdoor summer concerts are back in full swing in Port Angeles, Sequim… Continue reading

Forestry, no shooting area before counties

Government meetings in Clallam, Jefferson counties

Health officer: Wear masks indoors

Covid tranmission remains high on Peninsula

Paul Dunn/Peninsula Daily News
In an effort to clean up its site due in part to illegal dumping, Midway Metals, at 258010 U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles, shut down in April 2021 over environmental concerns and an unsightly appearance that prompted Clallam County officials to call it an eyesore.
Criminal action sought for Midway Metals

Sheriff requests charge for illegal dumping

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
A crew applies a sponsorship logo on the riding surface of a new pump track at Erickson Playfied in Port Angeles on Friday in preparation for the grand opening on Wednesday.
Port Angeles’ pump track opens next week

Track measures 14,442 square feet

Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News

The tug Red Bluff moves the Western Flyer out of the Port Townsend Boat Haven on Thursday and was towed to Seattle for the installation of an engine and other components.
Western Flyer sails again

Boat made famous by John Steinbeck has been under restoration in Port Townsend

Cmdr. Joan Snaith, outgoing commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, left, and incoming officer Cmdr. Brent Schmadeke stand on the tarmac after Thursday’s unconventional change of command ceremony that took place during a helicopter flyby at the base. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
A change in change-of-command ceremony

Former commanding officer promoted to captain

OMC says it’s ready for Fourth

Emergency department to be fully staffed, it announces

Most Read