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More than 90% of hospital workers statewide got vaccinated

Dr. Ben Arthurs dons personal protective equipment as he listens to a patient report from a resident physician in the ICU on Sep 17, 2021, at MultiCare Deaconess Hospital in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

About 94% of hospital staff are fully vaccinated in Washington, according to updated survey data from a majority of members from the Washington State Hospital Association.

“We lost about 2% of staff, and the remaining staff sought and received exemptions and have been accommodated or are in the process of getting vaccinated now,” Cassie Sauer, CEO of the association, told reporters on Monday.

About 2,000 health care workers left hospitals due to the mandate, although this figure may be closer to 3,000 once all hospitals report their numbers, Sauer said. Vaccination rates are higher in urban areas than in rural areas, she added, noting that some services may be constrained depending on the community.

Hospitals could take their own approach when it came to exemptions and accommodations to the vaccine mandate.

Sauer said that some hospitals are not allowing unvaccinated caregivers to work at all, while other hospitals are allowing them to work in nonpatient roles, or continue doing their jobs with adequate personal protective equipment.

At the University of Washington Medical Center, for example, all people providing direct care are fully vaccinated, Dr. Seth Cohen, medical director for infection prevention, told reporters Monday.

At Providence hospitals in Spokane and Stevens counties, the compliance rate for the vaccine mandate was 99.3%, meaning that the vast majority of caregivers were either vaccinated or received an exemption. Those who did not receive an exemption or get vaccinated have been placed on leave, but Providence operations have not been impacted by this.

Unvaccinated caregivers at Providence are still working in patient-facing roles but are required to wear a fit-tested N95 respirator, said hospital spokeswoman Ariana Lake.

At local Multicare hospitals, where about 98% of employees are vaccinated, all exempted employees will follow enhanced masking procedures and social distancing guidelines..

Here’s a look at local numbers

The Spokane Regional Health District did not report new figures due to its dashboard having technical difficulties.

There are 88 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 203 new COVID-19 cases and adjusted their death data.

There have been 660 deaths due to COVID-19 in Panhandle residents. There are still more than 1,300 backlogged cases at the district.

There are 102 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.