Gov. Inslee Orders National Guard to Help at Hospitals, Testing Sites Amid COVID-19 Surge

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OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced that members of the Washington National Guard will help staff hospitals and testing sites across the state, as the health care system strains beneath surging COVID-19 caseloads.

Guard members will be sent to hospitals in Everett, Spokane, Wenatchee and Yakima to help with nonmedical tasks in order to help relieve crowded situations in emergency rooms.

At the same time, other guard members will be sent to hospitals in Olympia, Richland, Tacoma and Seattle's Harborview Medical Center to set up testing locations outside the facilities. Federal testing sites are also being set up in King and Snohomish counties.

And, in an echo of the early months of the pandemic, Inslee ordered a four-week pause on nonemergency procedures at hospitals and encouraged retired health-care workers to consider helping out.

The governor is asking for help from anyone who can assist with vaccinations, testing, or work at hospitals or other facilities. Those interested can sign up at WAServ.org.

Additionally, the governor announced several 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.

The slew of emergency orders comes as COVID hospitalizations in Washington have hit a record for the entire pandemic, hospital officials said Thursday.

The past week saw an average of roughly 1,800 hospitalizations for the virus, topping the previous high of about 1,700 hospitalizations per week in mid-September.

As of Thursday, about 149 patients are on ventilators — a 16% increase over last week.

A big part of the strain on hospitals is due to problems discharging patients who no longer need acute care. To help long-term care facilities, Inslee announced state officials will help with staffing in places such as nursing homes.

Other staff will be sent to help work with patient transfers to care facilities, to perform tasks like transition planning, finding providers and expediting the processes to determine if someone is financial eligible for such beds.