EVERETT — In August, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett admitted more than 300 COVID-19 patients, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jay Cook said Tuesday.
Roughly three-quarters were unvaccinated. Of the total, about 75 ended up in the intensive care unit — 96% of whom were unvaccinated.
Now staff at the Everett hospital are preparing crisis standards of care — protocols for choosing which patients get limited resources like beds or ventilators — in the event that beds continue to fill amid the coronavirus’ raging fifth wave.
“Most health care providers feel like this one could have been prevented if more people were vaccinated and followed the very simple, basic public health guidance we’ve been given for the last 18 months,” Cook said during a media briefing.
For the doctors and nurses who have been on the front lines for 18 months, the strain is palpable, he said.
“We have had staff leave — people are burned out,” Cook said. “It’s challenging as they see more and more folks come in who have not chosen to protect themselves, their families and, frankly, the caregivers who treat them by getting vaccinated.”
For months, public health experts have been pleading with eligible adults to get vaccinated and for everyone to wear a mask while indoors.
Now hospitalizations and cases are nearing record levels.
As of Tuesday, 96 people were sick with the virus in local hospitals — the highest the hospitalization count has been since winter, before vaccines arrived.
“Without the benefits of vaccination afforded to the community by the roughly half-million Snohomish County residents who have lent their arm to the effort, our currently stressed health care system would be completely overwhelmed,” Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said Tuesday.
The county’s latest two-week case rate showed 446 new infections per 100,000 people — up slightly from 444 per 100,000 last week. The highest tally recorded during the pandemic was 462 cases per 100,000 people, set in November.
And for the first time in month, COVID deaths are starting to climb in Snohomish County.
In July, the health district recorded 12 deaths from the virus.
In the first three weeks of August, 21 more Snohomish County residents died due to COVID.
However, the death rate hasn’t reached previous peaks from last winter, when between 20 and 40 people were dying from the virus each week.
That’s largely thanks to high vaccination rates among those most vulnerable to COVID, as well as improvements in hospital care, Spitters said.
“What we need is more people putting their guard up,” Spitters said. “There’s hundreds of thousands of people susceptible in the county and this virus has shown the capacity to find and infect them.”
Across Washington, the weekly number of shots administered increased 34% after Gov. Jay Inslee announced vaccine requirements for state employees, teachers and other school staff, White House Coronavirus Response coordinator Jeff Zients said during a new conference Tuesday.
“Bottom line, vaccination requirements work,” Zients said.
At Providence, Cook said, the choice to get vaccinated can be an emotional issue, and he understands some skepticism.
But 360 million doses have been administered nationwide; the Food and Drug Administration is giving full authorization to the Pfizer vaccine; and all of the shots have been endorsed by nearly all professional medical groups, Cook added.
“The vaccine is remarkably safe, and it’s remarkably effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death,” Cook said.
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In the opening months of the pandemic, the death rate for hospitalized COVID patients was about 20%. Now it’s about 10%.
Meanwhile, health experts across the country are asking people to stop taking Ivermectin, which is commonly used to de-worm pets and livestock, to treat COVID.
“Although it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of some parasitic worms, external parasites and skin conditions, evidence shows it is ineffective against treating the COVID-19 virus and the side effects can be potentially dangerous,” the Snohomish Health District said in a news release.
Side effects include skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, dizziness, seizures, confusion, a sudden drop in blood pressure and liver injury (hepatitis).