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Pierce County health officials warn of rising COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 cases are rising across Pierce County and Washington, and healthcare workers fear a potential shortage of materials.

TACOMA, Wash. — Pierce County is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases being reported.

Data from the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department show a 14-day case rate of 379.6 per 100,000 people, with a hospitalization rate of 8.3 per 100,000.

A total of 419 COVID-19 cases and one new death were confirmed Monday.

The numbers have doctors and health officials across the county and state worried they might not have the tools they need to treat the people caught up in the latest wave of cases.

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“We can't go back to a situation where we don’t have enough ventilators or equipment for people who are critically ill,” warned Dr. John Vassal, a physician executive for Quality, Safety and Equity at Comagine Health. “Unfortunately, we are concerned that we could find ourselves in that situation again.”

Yet, the problem is bigger than Pierce County. Washington state as a whole is seeing more than 3,000 people a day being hospitalized because of the virus. More than 20% of Washington’s hospital beds have patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

Having a need that large also strains the staff who have to attend to those in need.

“We need staff to attend to the patient in that bed, and staff are being stretched thin,” said Vassal. “It’s very stressful on the staff who may not be particularly trained or prepared to deal with that level of illness.”

But after 17 months, it may be too much for healthcare workers to continue to keep up with COVID.

“People are tired of it," said Vassal. "Certainly, the health care workers are fatigued and overrun and exhausted with this."