Hospitals strained as COVID-19 cases grow

Tests, medicine in short supply

Staffing shortages are limiting Olympic Medical Center’s capacity and all North Olympic Peninsula hospitals are finding it difficult to transfer patients who need more intense care as COVID-19 case numbers surpass 1 million statewide.

At the same time, tests and medicine, including antiviral medication, are in short supply on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The state Department of Health reports had 1.04 million confirmed cases of the unique coronavirus in its most recent update. It attributed 10,196 deaths to it statewide.

Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles had hit critical capacity in its intensive care unit, lacking the staff to handle the influx of COVID-19 and regular ICU patients, a hospital spokesperson said Friday.

“OMC currently has zero capacity in the ICU due to staffing levels. All of the beds we are able to staff at the moment are occupied,” said Ryan Hueter, a hospital spokesperson.

Four of those in ICU had been hospitalized for COVID-19, he said. Nine others with COVID-19 are in the hospital but in general wards rather than in intensive care.

The total number of ICU beds and the number of people sick with other ailments in ICU were not available.

“Other hospitals are so full that we are having a hard time transferring patients who may need more care than we can provide,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

According to Hueter, 85 employees had been precluded from work due to exposure to COVID-19. Of those, 53 had tested positive for COVID-19 and were in quarantine.

“We are going to see a worsening strain on our ICUs in the coming days,” Berry said.

Jefferson Healthcare hospital had three patients in the hospital with COVID-19. At least two were in ICU, which on Friday had 19 total patients.

“We continue to see challenges with transferring patients out, especially to nursing facilities, which are also experiencing staffing issues, ” said Amy Yaley, Jefferson Healthcare spokesperson.

Case numbers continue to rise in both counties.

Clallam County’s confirmed reports on Friday were up 92, bringing its total from 7,798 to 7,890 since the pandemic began. The case rate was 2,134 per 100,000 population.

Jefferson County’s cases rose by 61 on Friday, bringing its total to 2,016 from 1,955. The case rate was 1,460 per 100,000.

Berry has said she expects the peak to be at the end of the month.

“It’s going to be really important for folks to limit contacts with people over the next two weeks as we reach this peak,” Berry said.

Testing, medication

President Joe Biden announced Friday that a federal website will go live on Wednesday to enable people to order a limited amount of take-home antigen tests. The website is at COVIDTests.gov.

Berry said this is a step in the right direction but worried that heavy demand might dry up supply for those who are sick or who know they have been exposed.

The North Olympic Library System — which oversees public libraries in Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks and Clallam Bay — is working with the Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services to distribute antigen tests on the West End.

The tests will be available at the Forks and Clallam Bay libraries at 171 S. Forks Ave and 16990 state Highway 112.

Meanwhile, two vaccination clinics are planned in Jefferson County on Saturday.

They are:

• 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Blue Herron Middle School, 3939 San Juan Ave., in Port Townsend.

Appointments can be made at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/appointment/en/reg/0019862590.

• 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Brinnon Community Center, 306144 US-101, Brinnon,

Appointments can be made at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/appointment/en/reg/2690591109.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at kpark@peninsuladaily news.com.

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