Hospitals across the region are canceling elective surgeries and procedures in response to the growing number of people infected by the new coronavirus.

Seattle Children’s hospital, which halted elective surgeries Thursday night at its Seattle and Bellevue campuses and will stop doing procedures on Monday, made the move to preserve the protective gear needed for helping virus-stricken patients and for urgent and necessary surgeries.

“We are taking this action to preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and to maintain social distancing standards, which minimizes potential exposures for patients and workforce members,” said Sonja Hanson, a hospital spokesperson.

On Thursday, UW Medicine told employees it would begin postponing elective procedures, also beginning Monday.

The decision to not perform elective work comes as Puget Sound-area hospitals are preparing to handle an influx of people who have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that began late last year in China and has been ripping through Western Washington in recent weeks.

Short-staffed and undersupplied: Coronavirus crisis strains Seattle area’s capacity to deliver care

The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) could release guidelines for hospitals regarding elective surgeries and procedures as early as Monday, said Tim Pfarr, a WSHA spokesperson.

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On Friday, Swedish Hospital also paused elective surgeries and procedures at its First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard, Issaquah and Edmonds locations. The temporary end to elective surgeries for both inpatient and outpatient surgeries for non-life threatening care was done to ensure the hospital has the capacity to deal with patients with acute medical issues.

“This action is directly related to our efforts to effectively respond to COVID-19 care and prevention,” the hospital said in a statement.

The VA Puget Sound Health Care System on Friday morning canceled elective surgeries beginning Monday and through April 15, for cases in which a delay would not negatively impact a patient’s outcome.

“We are also proactively contacting patients to offer them the options to convert clinic appointments to virtual ones,” said Tami Begasse, a spokesperson for the federal agency for veterans.

“We are constantly evaluating options to ensure we are in the best position to manage the needs of the Veterans we are caring for during this public health crisis,” Begasse said in an email.

Following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, which treated the nation’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, said it would also cease elective surgeries beginning Monday.

Staff reporter Evan Bush contributed to this story.

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