Washington was the first state to be hit hard by SARS-CoV-2, suffering a couple dozen deaths and hundreds of infections before most states even had a single case.
But the latest data shows the state is “flattening the curve” — the rate of infection is slowing, hospitalizations are dropping and the number of deaths per day has already peaked and begun to drop, officials say.
The virus has been battled so successfully that a huge Army field hospital built by hundreds of troops inside a Seattle convention center last week will be dismantled — having never treated a single patient. The mobile hospital will be sent to another state that is still seeing a daily increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said.
“Our community mitigation measures, combined with the amazing work of our hospitals and health care providers throughout the region, as well as our procurement of various hospital supplies, lends us to believe that at this point, our hospitals should have enough capacity to support a surge in patients,” the Democrat said in a statement. “We requested this resource before our physical distancing strategies were fully implemented and we had considerable concerns that our hospitals would be overloaded with COVID-19 cases.”
But Inslee also delivered a warning. “Don’t let this decision give you the impression that we are out of the woods. We have to keep our guard up and continue to stay home unless conducting essential activities to keep everyone healthy. We have to keep our guard up,” Inslee said. “We haven’t beat this virus yet, and until we do, it has the potential to spread rapidly if we don’t continue the measures we’ve put in place.”
State officials had planned to send only patients suffering with COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, to the mobile Army hospital in an effort to free up beds in civilian hospitals. “But civilian hospitals in the Seattle area have canceled so many elective procedures that bed space is no longer an urgent problem,” National Public Radio reported.
The Army hospital was built quickly by nearly 300 soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., and a base near Tacoma, Wash., inside CenturyLink Field Event Center, home to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. The facility held 250 beds, a laboratory, X-ray machines, surgery facilities and an intensive care unit.
“These soldiers uprooted their lives to help Washingtonians when we needed them most,” Inslee said. “Since then, it’s become apparent that other states need them more than we do. It’s only right that we release this capability, so those states have the tools necessary to help end this nation-wide fight that we are all battling together.”
The decision came just a few days after Washington state officials returned more than 400 ventilators to the federal government, which they also didn’t need. President Trump has repeatedly said that state governors are overstimating their need for ventliators, but the mainstream media has ridiculed him for the stance.
“Understanding that our hospitals in our region have capacity, including ICU beds and ventilators, we are making the right decision to allow other cities to have these resources and capacity. While Seattle fought hard for these resources, it’s clear other communities are in desperate need of this high-quality medical facility and personnel,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.