COVID-19 hospitalizations are declining, a welcome sign for health care workers who have been fighting the virus for nearly a year.
Hospitals in Spokane have seen a slow but steady decline in hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients so far in 2021.
In early January there were more than 125 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane County. As of Monday, there were 57 patients being treated for COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals.
The trend holds for other hospitals in Washington.
“I think, in general, that’s been good for morale, but the challenge is there (are) patients coming to the hospital for other things that aren’t COVID. It’s been full and busy,” Dr. Patricia Kritek, a critical care physician at the University of Washington Medicine Medical Center in Seattle, said on Monday.
There is room at hospitals statewide for patients needing treatment and care for other conditions besides COVID-19, but some regions in the state are quite full.
In the East region, which includes Spokane County and eight other counties, 81% of staffed adult hospital beds are occupied. COVID-19 patients occupy 8% of those beds.
Statewide, hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients are back to levels seen in mid-October, according to preliminary data.
Hospital admissions for COVID-19 often are slower to track and show progress because patients who require additional oxygen for breathing or require a ventilator stay for a long time in intensive care units.
“What we’ve seen and learned is people in the ICU that require ventilators are in the ICU for a long amount of time, and they make slow, steady progress to being not on a ventilator,” Kritek said, noting that treatment has gotten better in the past year for these patients.
The long hospital stays can be hard for patients and their families, who also need to be cared for, Kritek said.
Not everyone makes it out of the hospital or intensive care units. Kritek said she’s treated both old and young COVID-19 patients in her unit who died.
“We have a vision of this being older folks with multiple co-morbidities,” Kritek said. “That’s true, but I’ve also taken care of people who are very young and have not survived their admission to the ICU.”
The United States marked a grim milestone on Monday: More than 500,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. In Washington, 4,857 residents have died from COVID-19.
While COVID-19 data statewide is showing promising signs, doctors and hospital officials asked residents to continue following public health guidance, even after they are vaccinated, to keep the virus from spreading.
Kritek said the best way for people to keep hospitalization admission rates declining is for people to continue to wear masks, distance and keep gatherings small.
“The best way to say ‘thank you’ to your health care workers is to not get COVID,” said Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington Hospital Association.
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