Doctors may ‘have to ration’ ICU beds as case rates hit highest total in pandemic

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Local health officials are urging the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine more than ever as hospitals continue filling up and case rates climb to the highest total in the entire pandemic.

According to Dr. Amy Person with the Benton Franklin Health District, one in three patients that are hospitalized are there for COVID-related illness.

“Benton Franklin counties saw a total of 6,575 cases compared to July when case count was 2,171,” Dr. Person said. “We saw over a threefold increase in cases and unfortunately we have also seen an increase in deaths as well.”

Dr. Person said that in July there was an average of 38 hospitalizations per day in the Tri-Cities. In August, they were up to 90. Over the past three weeks, there have consistently been over 100 hospitalizations daily.

“August saw the highest case totals throughout the pandemic,” Dr. Person said.

BFHD reported 10 deaths in July, 23 in August, and 19 so far this month.

Dr. Phani Kantamneni, the ICU Medical Director for Kadlec, said over the past few weeks, the ICU “is filled up anywhere from 60% to 100% with COVID patients depending on the day.”

“This morning we have 65% of the ICU beds that are COVID-19 patients and everyone is intubated on a mechanical ventilator,” Dr. Kantamneni said. “The hospital is at surge and surgical cases are being canceled on a daily basis and we’re looking at very carefully on how we ration the ICU beds at this point.”

He added that there are rumors circulating that “reactions to vaccines are causing admissions” but that is untrue.

“We have not seen a single case admitted to the medical ICU secondary to reaction from any of the vaccines available,” Dr. Kantamneni said.

Health leaders are encouraging people who are able to get the vaccine before it’s too late.

“If you are not vaccinated you are much more likely to be hospitalized, to require ICU care, and unfortunately to potentially even die,” Dr. Person said.

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