Inslee orders National Guard support for hospitals in Wenatchee, other sites amid COVID surge

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OLYMPIA — With case rates of COVID-19 exploding in Washington and across the country, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday he will order National Guard support units to aid hospitals in Wenatchee, Everett, Yakima and Spokane.

Washington has seen 75 percent increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the first weeks of 2022, including 26 cases currently at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. Inslee said Guard units would be assigned to give non-medical assistance in emergency departments including that at CWH.

CWH and other medical centers have been inundated with new COVID-19 patients at the same time as seasonal flu infections and a scarcity of essential staff. Inslee’s order also requires hospitals to temporarily halt non-urgent medical procedures for four weeks, to ease the pressure on capacity for emergency patients.

Staff shortages have also affected long-term care facilities, where many intensive-care patients are taken once they’re discharged from hospital care.

Other Washington hospitals designated for Guard assistance are Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital in Yakima and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital in Spokane.

Maj. Gen Bret Daugherty, adjutant general of Washington’s Military Department, said hospitals can expect to see those teams in place by Jan. 24 at the latest, although details still must be coordinated with those medical centers.

The state Department of Health reports that the highly transmissible omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has led to a 43 percent increase in the number of “breakthrough cases” — COVID-19 infections occurring in fully-vaccinated patients.

Inslee is also calling on retired health care workers to return to the workforce temporarily, to help with testing, vaccinating, and carrying out other regular hospital duties. Retirees can sign up at WAServ.org.