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Grant County Health District, board issue plea to residents

by EMILY THORNTON
Assistant Managing Editor | August 13, 2021 1:05 AM

The Grant County Health District and Grant County Board of Health on Thursday issued an impassioned plea to residents about the delta variant and “recent COVID-19 surge.”

The message said the delta variant “has dramatically changed the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington state and in Grant County,” and the “pandemic remains a race between an increasingly infectious and changing virus and administering the vaccines, which offer high levels of protection against severe disease.” It also said the variant was more infectious and those infected had more of it in their respiratory system, which would lead to more infected particles being released.

Misty Aguilar, public information officer for the GCHD wrote in an email to the Herald it was “hard to know,” how many people were infected with the variant in the county, and “some samples get sent to a sequencing lab to find out what strain of the virus they have. And that takes some time.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker reported 348 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday in the county in the last seven days, which was a 108% increase.

The GCHD and board also urged residents to get vaccinated and everyone to mask indoors and in crowded situations outdoors, regardless of vaccination.

Beyond that, the district and board’s message included asking people to get screened for COVID-19 at all indoor and outdoor entertainment venues.

Additionally, the message said the health care system “we have all worked so hard to protect, is stretched and facing a possible collapse if the situation does not change rapidly.”

However, the CDC reported only four new hospital admissions for COVID-19 in the past seven days in Grant County, which was a 69% decrease. It also said the percentage of beds for COVID-19 patients was up less than 1% Tuesday, or 1.69% of all beds, and ICU beds had a 17% increase, or 32% of beds being used.

The Herald reported in December that Samaritan Hospital’s ICU had 12 beds.

Samaritan, along with other hospitals in the state, had surge plans in place should they become necessary. Though Samaritan is licensed to house 50 inpatients, the state at the start of the pandemic required the organization to create a contingency plan to house up to 200.

Samaritan had a plan to convert everything from office space and recovery areas in the operating rooms into bed space, should the surge plan be activated. Those plans would be activated if the hospital reached 44 beds filled overall or 29 filled with coronavirus cases, said Dr. Andrea Carter, chief medical officer at Samaritan, in an earlier interview.

But a surge in hospital beds won’t be sufficient without trained medical workers to staff them and the ICU requires more staffing than normal, said Julie Nishida, a registered nurse and house supervisor at the hospital, in an earlier interview.