OMC at ‘high census’ because of hospitalizations elsewhere

Inability to transfer patients could affect facility in future

An inability to transfer severely ill people to hospitals in King and Pierce counties is beginning to put a strain on Olympic Medical Center.

Currently, two people are hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit with severe cases of COVID-19 in Clallam County, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

With the rise in infections and hospitalizations in King and Pierce counties, Berry is concerned about the hospital capacity locally.

“That rise has caused (King County and Pierce County) hospitals to be dangerously full, and that means we can’t transfer our patients out as easily, and that’s now starting to show up in our hospitalizations,” she said.

While there are only two COVID-19 patients, hospital beds are still taken up by other patients dealing with a variety of other issues, Berry said.

“I received a notification from (Olympic Medical Center) today that they’re seeing strains on their hospital capacity at this point,” Berry said. “They’re in a high-census state.”

While in a high-census state, it hasn’t affected the hospital severely as of Thursday, said Bobby Beeman, OMC spokesperson.

Berry urges residents to continue to follow COVID-19 prevention protocols and get vaccinated, so further hospitalizations can be limited.

Appointments are still available for COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics scheduled this weekend on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Several appointments are available for the Saturday Moderna clinic at the Chimacum School District Multi-Purpose Room and the Sunday Moderna clinic at Port Angeles High School, local health officers said.

“Now is the time to sign up,” said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer. “We’ll only do these mass vaccination events as long as there’s a demand to justify it.”

All Washington residents 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.

Vaccinations for COVID-19 are free for the recipient, and a second-dose appointment is made when a person receives their first shot.

Pfizer’s is the only vaccine approved right now for people 16 and older.

The Moderna and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and older, but Johnson & Johnson remains on a temporary pause as investigators examine a potential link between very rare incidents of blood clots.

On Thursday, Clallam County confirmed one new case for a total of 121 COVID-19 cases so far this month, about 10.2 percent of the 1,186 cases during the past year, according to county data.

Jefferson County reported no new cases on Thursday. It has confirmed 32 cases so far in April, about 8.47 percent of the 378 cases in the past year, according to county Public Health data.

This is the last weekend of county public health-run first-dose mass vaccination clinics, while officials start to shift to smaller first-come, first-served popup clinics, one of which is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the site of the former ice skating rink in Port Angeles, 121 W. Front St.

The state is in a fourth wave of infections that Locke doesn’t expect will slow down until mid- to late May. He urges people to get vaccinated as soon as possible, continue to wear face masks, avoid gatherings and practice social distancing.

Moving events outside from indoors also will help slow transmission, he said.

“If you’re unvaccinated, the risk is going up and up,” he said. “If people keep up their guard and avoid high-risk behaviors, it’s very possible the wave will peak in the middle to late part of May and then drop off by the third or fourth week of June.

“If people just ignore the threat, then a lot more are going to get infected, and it will all last longer.”

In addition to vaccination clinics, Clallam County Public Health has been delivering vaccines to home-bound residents. Clallam residents who can’t easily leave their homes and who want to be vaccinated are encouraged to call 360-417-2430.

The Port Angeles High School clinic Saturday is full, but appointments for the Sunday Pfizer clinic are still available at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register or by phone at 360-417-2430. The county will continue to operate the clinic for people due for their scheduled second-dose appointments, Berry said.

Jefferson County Public Health’s Moderna vaccination clinic this Saturday at the Chimacum School District Multi-Purpose Room has appointments available at bit.ly/jeffcovax or by calling 360-344-9791. The county will operate the clinic for scheduled second doses in May, Locke said.

The state has created a vaccination locator at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.

Appointments for Jefferson Healthcare’s clinics can be made at https://jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19- vaccine.

Forks Community Hospital has a Moderna vaccination clinic scheduled for April 30. More information can be found at www.ForksHospital.org.

Thirty-six COVID-19 cases were active as of Thursday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had 14 active cases.

Both counties are now in the state’s high-risk category with Clallam County having a case rate of 107 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Thursday, while Jefferson County has a case rate of 75.24 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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