More than 50 people are now hospitalized for COVID-19 at St. Michael Medical Center – Kitsap Sun

BREMERTON — More than half of all residents in Kitsap County are now fully vaccinated. But the milestone comes as the delta variant is hospitalizing more  peninsula residents, particularly those who’ve yet to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Health district board members, made up of the mayors and commissioners of Kitsap County, met Tuesday to discuss the prospect of implementing mandatory vaccinations for certain populations. No specific proposals were unveiled but the board planned to call an emergency meeting later this month to discuss options. Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson noted her decision months ago to require city employees to be vaccinated and worried about the prospect of increased cases as school around Kitsap County is back in session.

“I think the mandates, unfortunately, are necessary,” she said. “It’s almost unpatriotic not to get vaccinated right now.”

The month of August saw the most hospitalizations for COVID-19 of any month of the pandemic, “at a time when health care personnel are exhausted, demoralized, leaving the workforce and unavailable,” Kitsap’s public health doctor told the health district’s board Tuesday.

Dr. Gib Morrow said there were more than 50 people at St. Michael Medical Center with COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning. The hospital has a 24-bed COVID-19 unit and has had to convert other patient beds to a “negative airflow,” environment to keep the virus from spreading, he told the board. That also means that elective procedures and other health care are likely to be delayed at the hospital as the surge continues.

Morrow reviewed the records of eight patients who all died of COVID-19 in either July or August. All died after at least two weeks on ventilators. Ages ranged from 40s to 80s. “Virtually all were unvaccinated,” he said.

Those who do recover from COVID often have “prolonged” hospital stays of a month or longer, he said.

One of the younger patients who died had been infected with COVID-19 in 2020, Morrow said, and decided to skip vaccination. Another felt “seriously ill and considered seeking medical attention but went to get vaccinated instead.” Morrow told the board. “But unfortunately (they) died later that day.”

Health professionals are saying that people are “surprised, shocked, angry or resentful when they’re diagnosed with this infection,” Morrow said.

“They just didn’t think it could happen to them,” he said.

​​​​​​Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military and health care for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, [email protected] or on Twitter at @joshfarley.      

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