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Health District official: ‘There’s so much burnout’


One in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19. As vaccination rates stagnate and cases continue to occur, that number is going to rise.

This morning, 254 new cases of the virus have been reported in Washoe County, and the test positivity rate sits at 22%. The number of cases per 100,000 people has risen from 354 at the beginning of August to 1,621.

Officials with the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) are pleading with people to get vaccinated. They’re also asking people to show up for testing appointments they have booked. The wait to get tested is two to three days, but the number of people not showing up for those appointments continues to grow. 

In the past three days, 400 people have failed to show up for their testing appointments without calling to cancel them.

Hospitals are filling up, too, much like they did during the surge last fall. 

Now, however, staffing has become a bigger concern, said WCHD’s Kevin Dick. He said emergency rooms are being particularly impacted and stressed that people who do not need immediate emergency care should go to their doctor or an urgent care facility.  

“We have members of our community…resisting doing the simple thing that they could do to help us get out of this, which is to get vaccinated.”

“The hospitals and our ambulance and EMS providers…are impacted with staffing, and they’re impacted with the delays that they then encounter when they’re taking patients to the hospital that need emergency care,” he said. “[This is] because of all of the people that are at the hospital, at the emergency departments—and some of those people showing up at the emergency departments really don’t need to be there, and could be getting cared for through an urgent care or through their personal health care provider, their physician.”

Those opposed to vaccinations cite breakthrough cases — those contracting COVID-19 even though they are vaccinated — as proof that they don’t work. Dick said this is patently false.

“We are seeing breakthrough cases that are needing to be hospitalized—but they are far, far fewer than the number of non-vaccinated people that require hospitalization,” he said. “The Delta variant is a severe variant of COVID-19. 

“People are getting sicker, and I guess what we’re seeing, overall, is the breakthrough cases that are hospitalized,” he added. “More of them are in our elderly population that are having those more severe cases.”

Dick said an increase in pediatric cases in the last few months mirrors the increase being seen in the general population. He again said the unvaccinated are to blame.

“It feels just like last October, November, as we were climbing to the peak of our surge … I think the staffing for hospitals [is] maybe even worse now than it was then. There’s so much burnout,” Dick said.

He said burnout is a reality at the WCHD too.

“This has just been relentless, and we’re overwhelmed here,” Dick said. “We can’t keep up with the disease investigations and the contact tracing… There have been people leaving healthcare, and it’s just very, very difficult to maintain the staffing to try to keep up with what’s going on.

“We have members of our community pointing at us and blaming us for what’s going on and saying that’s not even true and resisting doing the simple thing that they could do to help us get out of this, which is to get vaccinated,” he added. 

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.