Please continue to be vigilant in reducing the risk of exposing others to COVID 19 virus

 
 
Dear Editor,
 
As Gov. Jay Inslee and state officials determine the details of re-opening businesses, we would like to stress the importance of following the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” edict, which is still in effect through May 31.
 
As Americans and residents of North Central Washington ourselves, we are fully sympathetic to all the lives affected by the pandemic and the measures that have been taken to slow its spread. This has been an extraordinarily challenging time in our country’s recent history, and the economic effects are felt even more acutely in rural areas such as Okanogan County.
 
However, we all continue to bear responsibility for flattening the curve. We need to continue observing public health guidelines for social distancing, hand washing and mask-wearing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is predicting a possible second wave of the coronavirus this coming winter. Looking to history, the second wave of the Spanish flu of 1918 was the deadliest – a majority of the total estimated 50 million deaths occurred during that time. This was after people had begun resuming their normal activities outside the home.
 
As Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee recently proved, a lot of people out there are infected and unaware. Those who are asymptomatic can still spread COVID-19 to others who may not be so lucky. We don’t have enough tests in our hospitals and clinics to determine whether every person has COVID-19, so we must proceed as though it’s everywhere. Temporarily restricting where we can go outside the home may not be 100 percent effective, but it does help minimize exposure and it’s one of the only tools we have at this point to fight the virus.
 
Along with the lack of testing kits, there’s a significant shortage of patient beds, ventilators, and other personal protective equipment (PPE). If Gov. Inslee decides to end the stay home order sooner than later, the number of cases would rise. The number of people needing hospitalization would rise, possibly beyond the number of beds we have and certainly beyond the number of ventilators. North Valley Hospital will not admit any COVID-19 patients in order to protect nursing home residents. Although all health care partners are in full agreement with this decision, it does further reduce the number of beds in Okanogan County for COVID patients.
 
Furthermore, without enough PPE to manage the surge of patients, more health care workers would become sick themselves. For a rural area where it’s already difficult to recruit enough nurses and providers, this could be catastrophic to our communities.
 
Our hospitals are as prepared as they can be for a potential surge, but we are fully supportive of preventive measures to ensure the health of our residents before they’re sick enough to need life-saving intervention.
 
Regardless of the state’s decisions, we urge everyone to please continue to be vigilant in reducing the risk of exposing others to this virus. Livelihoods are important, but so is saving lives.
 
J. Scott Graham, CEO
Three Rivers Hospital and North Valley Hospital
 
Alan Fisher, CEO
Mid-Valley Hospital and Clinics
 
Jean Pfeifer, Board Chair
North Valley Hospital
 
Mike Pruett, Board Chair
Three Rivers Hospital
 
Dr. James Wallace, Chief of Staff
Three Rivers Hospital

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