After watching the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths steadily increase, Sky Lakes Medical Center leaders worry more isolation-care space may be required, potentially jeopardizing other patient care.

“The medical center is right on the cusp of needing to convert inpatient-care areas into COVID-19 isolation care,” said Grant Niskanen, MD, a family practice physician and Sky Lakes Vice President for Medical Affairs. “If that happened, we would have fewer beds and less staff available for other patient care.”

“Staffing resources are finite. We can stretch them only so far,” he added.

The medical center expanded its COVID-19 care capacity last November in response to increased hospitalizations, then added a second isolation unit in early December to accommodate the number of inpatient cases. The hospital was able to consolidate care earlier this year as the number of local cases declined. COVID-19 cases have remained consistently low until recently.

“Now we’re seeing the numbers creep up again, and I suspect they’ll go up even more following the effects of spring break,” he said.

Niskanen also renewed his plea for people to be vaccinated against COVID-19. “The only way we’re going to beat this pandemic is to suppress the ability of the virus to reproduce, and the best way to do that is to be vaccinated.”

Besides reducing your own risk of getting COVID-19, other reasons to get a vaccine include protecting the healthcare system to help ensure that care will be available for those who need it, and protecting those around you, he said. “Getting your shots as soon as you can makes it less likely that you will spread COVID-19 to your loved ones.”

He also encouraged people to continue to wear masks in public, observe physical distancing guidelines, avoid large gatherings, and wash your hands often.

Even though Klamath County is currently at a reduced risk, “people are still getting sick and dying because of COVID-19,” Niskanen said. “The pandemic is not over.”