State requests federal resources to help hospitals amid COVID-19 patient surges

Hospitals under stress due to increasing admissions and occupancy rates, officials say.

Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah and Gov. Jay Inslee requested federal resources to support Washington hospitals, according to a Department of Health (DOH) press release on Sept. 22.

The request is for medical staff and other resources desperately needed by hospitals that are drowning amid the Delta variant surge. On Sept. 14, the seven-day average of daily hospital admissions for COVID-19 was 165 while the highest it reached last winter was 120 daily admissions, according to DOH data.

“The unprecedented increase in hospital admissions and occupancy rates has created extreme stress on hospitals, long term care facilities, and health care workers,” Shah’s request said. “The rise in COVID-19 admissions, coupled with severe staffing shortages, is pushing our system to the brink.

Washington, like most states, has been inundated with people hospitalized with COVID-19. Washington’s neighbor to the east gives an idea of what could happen to the state’s healthcare system.

Due to the large number of COVID-19 patients, and a lack of resources, Idaho recently instituted statewide crisis standards of care.

This means hospitals will give lifesaving treatment and resources such as ventilators to people deemed most likely to survive, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. This rationing of treatment and resources applies to all patients, not just those with COVID-19.

Washington has taken other steps to address this crisis, including recruiting retirees, volunteers and students to help hospital surges and administer vaccinations, according to the release.

Prior to this request, the state requested 1,200 clinical and nonclinical staff through FEMA, according to the release.

The concern is that this stress on the system could last for the foreseeable future and get worse before it gets better, Shah said.

As of Sept. 7, there were over 1,600 people hospitalized in Washington just from COVID-19, and 269 of those patients were on ventilators, according to the DOH. There have been 7,315 deaths due to COVID-19 in Washington, according to the DOH.

University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation projects deaths from COVID-19 in Washington to rise even under their best case scenario. Their current projection suggests another 1,000 people in Washington could die from COVID-19 by the end of December.

Getting vaccinated is still the best way to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19, according to current data. The King County Department of Health found that in the last 30 days unvaccinated people are over 40 times more likely to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated people.