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PeaceHealth St. John cancels elective outpatient procedures due to COVID-19 patient increase

PeaceHealth St. John COVID-19 unit

PeaceHealth St. John nurse Tammy Patterson paces a hallway inside the hospital's COVID-19 unit in March. 

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise PeaceHealth St. John announced Thursday it is cancelling elective outpatient procedures for next week, and the Cowlitz County health department is asking residents to consider risks of gathering in-person.

“The jump in COVID-19 patients is creating a strain on our ability to provide care,” said Cherelle Montanye, St. John chief administrative officer, in a statement.

The Longview hospital Thursday had 56 COVID-19 patients, which accounted for half the total census, said Randy Querin, PeaceHealth spokesperson. As of Friday, St. John had 49 virus inpatients.

Cowlitz County weekly COVID-19 cases 11 times higher than early July

Patients affected by the latest change will be contacted by their specialist office to reschedule their procedure. St. John will continue urgent or emergent procedures.

The hospital last week canceled scheduled procedures that would result in an overnight hospital stay to reserve beds for patients requiring hospitalization.

St. John had COVID-19 patients in isolated areas on four separate floors as of Friday, Querin said. Prior to early August, the hospital’s COVID-19 unit was limited to part of the fourth floor.

The tent set up outside the hospital’s emergency department earlier this week will be ready for use as an overflow waiting room Saturday if needed, after staff finished installing floors, electricity and an HVAC Friday, Querin said.

Cowlitz County Friday recorded 111 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 8,375 confirmed and 951 probable cases. The county has recorded 119 COVID-19 deaths.

As of Wednesday, 50.8% of Cowlitz County residents had initiated vaccination and 45.8% were fully vaccinated. Statewide, 60.1% of people initiated vaccination and 54.6% were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

“Our community continues to have one of the highest unvaccinated rates in the state of Washington, and we are seeing the undeniable results,” Montanye said. “The OHSU and UW COVID-19 forecast models, which have been very accurate thus far, continue to show that we are not at the peak yet of this current surge.”

PeaceHealth expects COVID patient numbers to peak at St. John and Southwest in Vancouver around Sept. 4 before plateauing and then slowly decreasing.

As of Tuesday, about 18% of the 257 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at the 10 PeaceHealth hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska were fully vaccinated, according to the organization.

Cowlitz County Health and Human Services Friday urged residents to consider risks of holding in-person gatherings and events.

“Any gathering is risky at this time,” the department states in a Facebook post. “Given the high level of virus activity in the community, it is possible someone infected with COVID-19 will attend.”

The health department posted tips for gathering responsibly, including hosting all events outdoors, reminding people to stay home if they are sick or were exposed to someone with COVID-19, wearing masks if its crowded, asking guests to be vaccinated, frequent cleaning and distancing.

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