WENATCHEE — Confluence Health will get National Guard help at its Emerson Street COVID-19 testing and vaccination site just before an expected surge of hospitalizations.

The arrival of the National Guard members will allow some nurses now doing testing and vaccinations to be available for patient care responsibilities.

Luke Davies, Chelan-Douglas Health administrator said Eastern Washington might begin to see hospitalizations start to increase this weekend and next week.

The National Guard team deployed to Central Washington Hospital will assist at the Confluence Health Emerson Street COVID-19 testing and vaccination site.

Registered nurses had been pulled away from their normal duties to work at the testing site, but now will be able to return other responsibilities, Laurie Bergman, Confluence Health care transitions vice president, said Friday.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he has asked the state National Guard to deploy 100 non-clinical personnel to hospitals across the state, including Central Washington Hospital.

The governor made the announcement as a response to the dramatic increase of COVID-19 hospital admissions. The state Department of Health recorded 1,701 COVID-19 hospital admissions across the state from Dec. 31 to Jan. 6, more than double the count about a month ago.

Washington is now the ninth state to deploy its National Guard to hospitals, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty said at the news conference. But the state doesn’t have many medical personnel available.

“Here in Washington we have a lot of combat units, we don’t have a lot of medical units,” he said. “And so we just don’t have a lot of medical capability to put out there.”

The governor also ordered a four-week pause on non-emergency procedures at hospitals and encouraged retired health care workers to help out.

Additionally, Inslee announced measures to help long-term care facilities like nursing homes — such as sending more staff — to make sure patients who are discharged from hospitals will have somewhere to go.

As of Friday, 19 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 at Central Washington Hospital. Four of the 19 patients are in the intensive care unit.

Hospital census is expected to sharply increase in the area soon as shown by the increase in hospitalizations in Western Washington, Davies said.

Eastern Washington’s hospitalization numbers lag behind the western side of the state by a week to 10 days, he said.

“In conversations with hospitals on the west side, initially, what they saw was they had low patient numbers and then within 48 hours, their patient numbers would quadruple,” Davies said. “We’re doing everything that we can do to prepare for this surge.”

Confluence Health has established a triage center at the Saddlerock Evangelical Presbyterian Church parking lot to help keep the emergency department open for non-COVID-19 emergencies.

Since opening Tuesday, the triage center has seen a low volume of patients, with many people looking for COVID-19 tests, Bergman said.

Traffic at the site may change soon as health officials expects everyone in the Wenatchee Valley to have been exposed to the omicron variant by the first week of February due to how infectious the new variant is, according to Davies.

Davies said the omicron variant is not as deadly as the delta variant, but the anticipated increase in the number of cases will likely stress the hospitals and critical infrastructure.

“We are taking extra precautions with our utilities, with our different municipalities, with our health care and schools to make sure that we can continue operations,” Davies said.

The Seattle Times contributed to this story.

Oscar Rodriguez: (509) 665-1179

rodriguez@wenatcheeworld.com

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