COVID testing

Testing for the coronavirus at Providence Seaside Hospital.

The Oregon National Guard arrived last Friday to provide assistance to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria and Providence Seaside Hospital, which have seen more coronavirus patients during the surge of the delta variant.

The increase in virus cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks has caused stress to the region’s health care network.

“We welcomed 13 Oregon National Guard service members on Friday and provided an orientation to the hospital,” Providence spokesman Mike Antrim said. “They began working as extra nonclinical hands as access monitor/temp screeners, transporters, and environmental services support. They will be helping for four weeks.”

The hospital remains busy in inpatient units. “We have not had to activate our surge plan at this time and as of today we have three COVID inpatients,” he said.

In August, Gov. Kate Brown announced the deployment of up to 1,500 National Guard personnel to support health care workers across the state.

Columbia Memorial will place the National Guard in environmental services, the emergency department, security, materials and food services, according to Nancee Long, the hospital’s director of communications.

Some of the National Guard will also be used at Clatsop County’s virus testing site at Camp Rilea, Long said.

The arrival of the National Guard at Seaside’s hospital is “just part of the rollout that’s been initiated in phases — support went to the areas most in need first,” Antrim said.

The surge of virus cases continues to take a toll on health care workers, said Mary Romanaggi, an emergency department nurse in Seaside.

“As far as the atmosphere at the hospital with all of the caregivers, we are spent,” she said.

People with symptoms of COVID-19 come daily to the emergency department. “Not every patient that we see with COVID symptoms gets admitted, but it is every day, all day, that we care for this population, and yes, most are unvaccinated,” Romanaggi said. “We’re tired and short-staffed. I would welcome the National Guard.”

Since the pandemic began, the county has reported 1,946 positive virus cases, with 24 deaths.

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