Island Hospital hosts COVID community briefing

With school starting and flu season right around the corner, Island Hospital hosted a community briefing on Sept. 9.

“It’s crucial that our community have the most recent facts. We have been severely affected by the pandemic, and we’re seeing the strongest surge ever,” Chief Executive Officer Charles Hall, MSN, MBA Hall said in a press release prior to the event. “Our goal is to help educate community members so that we can all stay healthy and prevent spreading the virus.”

The briefing, attended by more than 100 people, covered COVID statistics throughout Skagit County, common questions regarding COVID-19 vaccines and testing, as well as what steps to take to keep moving forward through the pandemic.

Hall was one of the panelists during the briefing. He said that COVID cases have been quickly on the rise, with 182 new cases testing positive at Island Hospital since August, he said. He added that, generally, throughout the pandemic, there are four or five COVID patients admitted at Island Hospital and the average length of stay is three-seven days. The Delta Variant is causing illness in more patients quicker than the original strain.

Hall referenced research done by the Washington State Department of Health that showed that 92.7% of new cases during this time are unvaccinated people, with unvaccinated hospitalizations at 91.4% and deaths are 92.4% of unvaccinated patients.

A few staff members weighed in on their opinion on the vaccine.

“I’ve had a lot of people who during their last breaths are begging us for the vaccine, but by then it is too late and they are not going to go home or get better. Watching someone struggle to breathe and suffocate is probably one of the worst ways I can see someone die,” one staff member said.

The same staff member went on to add that she has lost two friends that she went to high school with to COVID who were unvaccinated.

She went on to add that while many people are concerned about the vaccine not being fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, many people don’t hesitate to use things that are also not FDA approved, such as tattoo ink.

“Vaccinations save lives. It helps us prevent illnesses, hospitalization, and death,” Hall said.

He emphasized that while vaccinations aren’t the only solution, it is a cornerstone to winning the battle against the pandemic.

Last week, Hall said they tested 1,000 individuals seeking care but vaccinated only 100.

Dr. Jason Hogge urged people to recognize how science has evolved since COVID started and how much has happened with our ability to treat and test the virus since it happened.

Hogge added that he wanted to thank the nursing staff on the medical floors, respiratory therapists, and food service workers, as they, “Put themselves in the line of fire.”

Hogge said the hospital has been putting in a lot of effort to make sure it is safe and clean enough for people to be seen there. He urged people not to shy away from coming to the hospital for non-COVID-related needs due to being scared of contracting the virus.

Hogge emphasized protecting yourself and your health as an important way to make sure you don’t get too sick with COVID.

“It’s really easy to get caught up in the pandemic and forget to take care of your underlying health as well,” he said. “So don’t forget to take care of any chronic health conditions as we go through this. That will help to keep you out of the hospital while we take care of patients with COVID.”

Hogge said he can sometimes see the fear in his patients’ eyes he wants the community to know it is okay to take a mental health break.

“It’s okay to turn the media off, to turn your social feeds off. Get out and make contact with your family, go for a walk,” he said. “It’s been a year and a half, I don’t imagine this going away anytime soon, so just a reminder that there are other great things going on in the world that you can talk about too.”

Hogge said that it is easy to forget that COVID is a virus, meaning that it can mutate rapidly creating different kinds of variants. He said there are 10 different variants in Washington so far.

“Flu season is here, it’s coming into play. COVID is on the rise. Now it is your shot. It is your time to help. Please help us promote the vaccine,” Hall said.