FILE — Inslee news conference

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference in March at the Capitol in Olympia.

(The Center Square) – Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee is asking the federal government to provide medical personnel to help understaffed hospitals during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Inslee sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, who is the COVID-19 coordinator for President Joe Biden.

The governor’s letter  – which he sent Friday and released to the public on Monday –  requested 1,200 clinical and non-clinical staff and asked that the Department of Defense provide medical personnel to assist at both hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“In Washington State, our hospitals are currently at or beyond capacity, and we need additional assistance at this time,” Inslee wrote. 

Officials with the Washington State Department of Health say there is no shortage of doctors but that hospitals desperately need nurses and respiratory therapists to oversee patients who are on ventilators.

While there were 1,673 coronavirus patients hospitalized last week, that number had fallen to 1,504 by Monday. Some 260 of those patients are on ventilators, seen as a last-ditch effort to save the lives of the most critically ill.

Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, said at a Monday news briefing that that number should be taken with a grain of salt because part of the reason hospitalizations are down is because deaths are up.

Hospital officials reported that 30 coronavirus patients died Sunday, although that number could increase once Department of Health officials verify all statistics from the weekend.

“That is a way we do not want to be creating hospital capacity,” Sauer said.

The 14-day rolling average for deaths in the state is above 40, numbers not seen since January.

To date, Washington has reported more than 560,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, plus what health officials consider another 68,000 “probable” cases, along with 7,271 deaths. Health officials say almost all new cases are due to the delta variant, which is much more contagious than the original coronavirus.

As of last week, 75% of residents age 12 and up had received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 68% were fully vaccinated.

“We’ve seen an increase in vaccination rates and it looks like case rates might be going down a tiny bit,” Sauer said. 

Washington previously received personnel support from the federal government in March 2020. More than 300 soldiers from the 627th Hospital Center at Fort Collins in Colorado deployed to Seattle, setting up a 250-bed field hospital in a downtown events center.