Washington Hospitals 'More Than Maxed Out' As Holidays Approach

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OLYMPIA, WA — Hospitals across Washington are straining to the breaking point and, officials warn, could be overwhelmed if the holiday season results in another wave of new COVID-19 infections.

At a news briefing Thursday, the Washington State Hospital Association leaders described Washington's hospitals as "more strained than ever" with many at or above 120 percent patient capacity. Surgeries and elective procedures remain canceled at most medical centers and, with the recent, rapid spread of the omicron variant, hospital leaders say they're worried even more will need to be sacrificed to care for COVID-19 patients.

"We are not sure we can take care of everyone," said WSHA Executive Vice President Tara Briley.

Early reports suggest the omicron variant infections — which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, account for more than 75 percent of America's newest COVID-19 cases — are less severe than previous strains. However, omicron is also more transmissible, resulting in more overall infections.

"Honestly, our heads are spinning a little bit about how rapidly it is spreading," Briley said.

(Image: Washington State Department of Health)
(Image: Washington State Department of Health)

And with more infections, there will be more patients.

"Even if most people don't get really sick, there are a lot of people who are getting infected with omicron and some portion will need hospitalization," Briley said.

If the spread continues at its current rate, experts expect Washington will hit its highest case counts ever by the end of December— an alarming possibility which has health leaders begging Washingtonians to play it safe this holiday.

After nearly two years of pandemic living, their advice is familiar:

  • Practice safe social distancing, keeping at least six feet between yourself and people from outside your household.

  • Wear a mask in public or around people from outside your household. It may even be necessary to wear two masks or layer up protection, Briley said.

  • Seek out COVID-19 vaccination or booster shots if you are eligible for either.

    • COVID-19 vaccination has been approved for all Washingtonians 5 and older.

    • Patients are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot if it has been six months or more since they received their second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or two months since they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you show symptoms.

  • Stay home if you feel sick.

This article originally appeared on the Lakewood-JBLM Patch

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