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Health care workers face unemployment as coronavirus surges

In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical face shield prior to the start of her shift in a triage tent outside the hospital's emergency department.
Ted S. Warren
/
The Associated Press
In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical face shield prior to the start of her shift in a triage tent outside the hospital's emergency department.

As coronavirus cases surge throughout the state, people in the health care and social assistance sectors are losing jobs.

The state Employment Security Department reported last week that new jobless claims from workers in hospitals, child day-care services and other health-care services rose during the week ending Dec. 5. The ESD reported 1,860 initial unemployment claims from those workers, up from 1,273 the week before.

Shinae Kim is a nurse in a unit that provides treatments for patients with autoimmune diseases at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She said the hospital is monitoring coronavirus projections and might use her unit as an overflow ICU area if needed.

Kim said she’s not sure how that would impact her job.

“We are concerned about what’s going to happen to us, what is going to happen to our patients who some do need continued treatment,” Kim said.

Kim said it’s unclear when that change could happen or if she and her colleagues could face furloughs.

UW Medicine, which operates Harborview, did not respond to a request for comment about whether furloughs are planned. UW Medicine furloughed more than 5,000 workers in May, citing financial challenges caused by COVID-19, including lost revenue due to the cancellation of elective and non-emergency procedures.

New jobless claims increased across the board by about 10 percent from the prior week, according to the ESD report. Most industry sectors also saw an increase in new claims last week. The largest increases were seen in construction, which the ESD notes is typical this time of year, and in the health care and social assistance sector.