King County hospitals issue plea to public during ‘worst situation yet’

KING COUNTY, Wash. — King County hospitals issued a plea to the public over the weekend, bearing a simple message: “We need your help.”

That came in the form of a full-page ad taken out in Sunday’s edition of the Seattle Times, detailing how “King County hospitals are in the worst situation yet in the pandemic,” and asking that people get vaccinated and/or boosted, upgrade to masks that offer a higher degree of protection, avoid large indoor gatherings, and save ER visits for emergencies.

This comes in the wake of UW Medicine postponing non-urgent procedures and surgeries in early January, followed by Gov. Jay Inslee doing the same for all of the state’s hospitals a week and a half later.

As the ad pointed out, daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by 700% in the county over the last month, and while cases have started to wane, King County hospitals remain “under tremendous strain.”

“The sheer number of patients means hospital acute care and ICUs across the state are very full. Hospitals are doing everything they can with critical staffing levels to provide care in the most challenging situation we’ve seen to date,” Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said in a press release.

Prior to the recent omicron-fueled surge in COVID cases, hospitals were already playing catch-up, as they grappled with clearing through backlogged surgeries, all while struggling through worker burnout and high staff turnover rates.

The ad was co-signed by a collection of local health care providers, including UW Medicine, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Virginian Mason, and Seattle Children’s among others.

According to the latest data from Seattle-King County Public Health, cases have continued to trend downward, having decreased by 38% over the 7-day period ending on Jan. 20. Hospitalizations have finally started to tick down as well, dipping by 10% over that same period. Even so, hospitalization rates remain higher than they were at any other point prior to January’s surge.