WENATCHEE — Central Washington Hospital was pushed to its absolute limit Thursday morning after experiencing a surge of hospitalizations — not related to COVID-19 — that filled all its acute care beds.
During this critical moment, capacity hit 98% with beds available only in pediatrics, the labor delivery unit, and the mother baby unit, according to Andrew Canning, spokesperson for Confluence Health.
Acute care beds include beds in the intensive care and progressive care units.
Due to the surge, seven people had to wait to be admitted into the hospital’s emergency department, Canning said in an email.
Canning also said that medical facilities in the state and North Central Washington region are also close to full, partially due to COVID-19, but largely because of other chronic medical conditions requiring attention like cancer, heart disease, stroke and infections other than COVID-19.
The region has very little to no surge capacity for patients either with COVID-19 or non-COVID-19 medical conditions, Canning said in an email.
As of May 27, about 70% of staffed acute care beds were being occupied by patients in North Central Washington, according to data from the state Department of Health. Around 84% of acute care beds across the state were occupied by patients.
Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties together make up one of eight Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Regions, according to the state Department of Health.
According to the “Healthy Washington” COVID-19 reopening plan, the state would begin to rollback phases if the statewide ICU capacity ever reached 90%. Around 83% of ICU beds were filled as of May 27, according to data from the state Department of Health.
In North Central Washingont, about 89% of ICU beds were occupied, according to DOH data.
“We are on a good, downward path, but we are not quite out of the woods yet,” Canning said in an email.
Canning also said that Central Washington Hospital continues to see severe cases of COVID-19, and more than 97% of these severe COVID-19 hospital admissions coming from unvaccinated individuals.
There are a couple rare patients with severe immunodeficiency like those undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplant recipients that have been admitted into the hospital for severe COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated, according to Canning.
The Chelan-Douglas Health District is asking that the community be cautious with celebrations going into the Memorial Day weekend to give local health providers a break, according to a health district press release.
OLYMPIA — The state Department of Ecology is warning of a possible drought for all of Eastern Washington.
“There are growing concerns for farmers and ranchers in Eastern Washington,” the department said in a drought advisory issued Thursday.
Recent months have had little rainfall.
March through April was the fourth driest early spring period in Washington state since 1895, according to the Department of Ecology.
No precipitation was recorded in the Tri-Cities in April, and March had just 0.12 inch recorded.
May is not looking much better with 0.19 inch so far, well below normal precipitation for May of 0.73 inch, according to the National Weather Service.
Jeff Marti, Ecology’s water resources planner, said there are reports of crop stress and reduced yields. He’s heard anecdotal accounts of problems from wheat farmers and hay producers.
However, Tri-Cities area residents and farmers who use Kennewick Irrigation District water appear to be in good shape, at least for now.
KID depends on snowpack in the Eastern Cascades and up-river reservoirs to fill the Yakima River.
As of May 7 the U.S. Bureau Reclamation was reporting that the water supply for the Yakima Basin, the source of KID water, should be adequate to meet all senior and junior water rights this irrigation season.
That’s despite March and April precipitation at the Yakima Project’s reservoirs at only 40% of average.
“The basin snowpack is holding up well and remains above normal in spite of the low precipitation and the reservoirs have near normal storage,” said Chuck Garner, Yakima Project River Operations supervisor for the Bureau of Reclamation, earlier this month.
However, in the Walla Walla and Snake watersheds, early snowmelt is leaving less than average levels as April temperatures were higher than normal in much of the state, according to the Department of Ecology.
The outlook for the wildfire season is mixed.
The wildfire outlook already is rated as “moderate” for the greater Tri-Cities area, which is earlier than usual, said Chief Mike Harris of Franklin County Fire District 3.
But the dry spring has limited the fuel available to feed wildfires.
Annual grasses such as cheatgrass are not as tall and thick as they would be in a wetter spring, Harris said.
That could reduce the intensity of wildfires, he said.
EAST WENATCHEE — Learning mixed with a little bit of fun will be part of an expanded Eastmont Summer Program in 2021.
The Eastmont School District summer school program, typically for K-4 students, is now being expanded to K-12 students and specifically targeting those students who may have fallen behind academically due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that as we try to provide the best instruction to our students — even though we’ve been back full time for a couple weeks — we realize the learning gap is not something we will be able to remediate if we wait until September when the kids return to school,” said Mayra Navarro-Gomez, Eastmont summer school coordinator.
More than anything, she said, the school district wanted to make sure it extended the learning opportunity for the students so long as parents are comfortable with that.
Navarro-Gomez said they tried first to invite those students with known gaps. Then, the summer school opened up to other students. Normal summer school attendance is 100 students. Currently 350 students are registered and it is still growing.
“We did target the population we knew was most at risk and then brought in additional students,” Navarro-Gomez said.
Spencer Taylor, Eastmont’s director of elementary education, said this summer is critical for those students who have fallen behind. He is hopeful everyone follows through and attends every day.
He believes the school district did the best it could teaching remotely and hybrid every other day.
“We did the best job we could but there was no way we could match what our students could learn normally, especially those students a little behind struggling, specifically in reading. This is going to give them some great skills to set them up for success the next school year,” Taylor said.
Summer school is another way for students to earn the credits needed to graduate, said Matt Charlton, assistant superintendent of secondary education. He said they try to intervene early in a student’s high school career — usually in the ninth and 10th grade levels — to keep kids on track.
“We did see some students struggle with the remote learning and hybrid instruction we were offering. Now that we are back in a full time capacity, those students have made progress, but in some cases they did not earn all the credits they should have. This is a way they can make up that progress,” Charlton said. “We have expanded the summer program to make up for the learning loss particularly in groups of our most affected students.”
A key component of the summer program is not just academic enrichment, Navarro-Gomez said, but also the social-emotional wellbeing of students, especially considering the past year dealing with the impacts of the pandemic.
“There is an extension of learning but also opportunities for social-emotional support. We’re not necessarily focusing only on literacy, mathematics and credit retrieval. We’re also taking some time to invest in student’s social-emotional well-being,” she said.
Charlton said it was important to have social-emotional learning and activities — just having the kids together doing some fun activities — particularly the elementary school and middle school level students.
“We’ve really put an emphasis this spring on classroom community and social-emotional learning. We’re going to continue that into the summer,” Taylor said. “We want the kids — not just to learn — but to have fun. We want them to connect with other kids their age. We want to help the mental health side of it as well. Having consistent routines with people you enjoy is really important.”
The summer school program will bring on board 60 teachers along with more than 20 classified support staff and five administrators. Elementary students will be spread out between Lee, Cascade, Kenroy, Grant and Rock Island elementary schools. Middle school students will attend Sterling Intermediate School, junior high students will attend Eastmont Junior High and high school students will attend Eastmont High School.
Summer school runs from June 21 to July 22.