Local News

Clatsop County health providers bracing for Omicron surge

Clatsop County held an online press conference about COVID trends and testing. The County is bracing for an Omicron surge.

By Joanne Rideout

[Scroll down to listen, script below]

Judy Geiger is vice president of patient care services at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria.

Judy Geiger: “We’ve seen an uptick in COVID but it’s staying right around the four to five patient range with positive COVID patients. We are doing a fair amount of preparation for this current surge that we believe we will start seeing the affects of in the very near future.

She said the hospital is poised to halt surgeries as necessary, and turn an area of the hospital into a COVID ward as they did previously during the Delta variant phase of the pandemic.

Jason Plamondon is Chief Nursing Officer at Providence Seaside Hospital. He said the hospital has more COVID patients than last month but so far it’s manageable. He said residents have gotten the message not to come to the ER for testing.

Jason Plamondon: “Our outpatient clinic and our drive through COVID testing have been very successful. Big numbers there which means those people aren’t ending up in the emergency room.”

Geiger said the advance of Omicron is impacting hospital staff:

Judy Geiger: “What feels different about this surge from previous ones is we’re truly seeing more caregivers out sick as well and that impacts our ability to care for patients.”

She said the COVID crunch elsewhere in the state is making it difficult to move patients to facilities when they need more care:

Judy Geiger: “Every day it becomes more and more difficult to transfer patients to Portland. Our emergency room calls every hospital that has a higher level of care, between Seattle and all of Oregon. Just seeing if we can transfer patients. We I think almost always have at least one patient that really should go to a higher level of care. Because they need to go to a cath lab for a heart procedure or they have some other issue going on that they would really benefit from being in a larger facility with more resources. And we’re unable to transfer them.”

Interim County Health Director Margo Lalich said the department has seen an increase in people getting vaccinated, particularly boosters.

Lalich said the health department will soon be receiving a supply of at home tests. But the tests will be used in the health care community to monitor and control the spread of covid there.

Margo Lalich: “And they will be used and prioritized for staffing and continuity of our operations. And of course some of our highest priority are EMS, first responders, high risk congregate living situations – as well as our caregivers.”

She said that while tests are not widely available for purchase, the county is testing primarily symptomatic people. Patients need to realistic about what to expect.

Margo Lalich: “People want testing and they would like results now. But some tests are sent out and we aren’t all providing results in the same manner, based upon our capacity, our work flows. And so at the county testing sites we are able to give both PCR and antigen test results onsite at that time. But that’s not necessarily the case with both types of testing at the hospital. And so that’s something for the public to understand as well – you may get tested but you may not get your results right away.”

Margo Lalich: “You know, testing in information. But what’s more important is what one does with that information. And so if you know that you’ve already been exposed to someone who’s already positive, and you develop symptoms, it’s likely at this point in time that you also have COVID. So just stay home. And that’s what we do or we’re supposed to do when we’re sick, with many other illnesses, not just COVID.”