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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Delta Variant Drives Dramatic Spike In Cases, Further Exhausting Hospital Capacity Across The State

OLYMPIA – COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are accelerating across the state of Washington, demonstrating the delta variant’s potential to unravel our hard-fought progress toward recovery. Unvaccinated people are being hit hardest, and public health officials continue to urge everyone who has not gotten fully vaccinated to do so immediately.

Now is also the time to redouble efforts around the key behaviors that keep the virus from spreading. All people should:

  • Wear a mask, watch distance, wash hands often, carry hand sanitizer, and enable WA Notify on phones
  • Keep gatherings small and outside whenever possible, and avoid any large outdoor gatherings like concerts, fairs or festivals
  • Stay home if sick or exposed to COVID-19, and get tested if they have symptoms

“We are extremely concerned by this increased spike in cases, driven by the delta variant, spreading like wildfire amongst men, women, and children,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “Vaccination is the best tool we have in this pandemic, but we also recommend that individuals mask indoors, and avoid large, crowded settings vaccinated or not. We need to use all the tools we have to reduce the ongoing spread of this virus in our community and to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Case rates are rising across all age groups because of widespread disease transmission. Within the last 30 days, the majority of counties have seen substantial increases:

  • Only seven counties (Kittitas, Okanogan, Ferry, Klickitat, Walla Walla, Jefferson, Garfield, Grays Harbor) have seen cases increase less than 100% .
  • Twelve counties (Adams, Thurston, Snohomish, Benton, Skamania, Whatcom, Skagit, Kitsap, Yakima, Cowlitz, Mason, Grant) have seen cases increase between 100-299%.
  • Ten counties (Clallam, Stevens, Asotin, Whitman, Franklin, Spokane, King, Clark, Lewis, Pierce) have seen cases increase between 300-599%.
  • Six counties (Pend Oreille, Douglas, Lincoln, Pacific, Chelan, Island) have seen cases increase more than 600%.
  • Columbia, San Juan and Wahkiakum counties have among the fewest cases.

Prevalence is approaching levels last seen in the winter 2020 surge, which means a lot of people are currently infected and may be spreading the virus. As of July 30, one in 172 WA residents was estimated to have an active COVID-19 infection.

Hospitals and health care facilities are under immense and increasing strain:

  • Expected increases in summer hospital occupancy coupled with a sharp increase in non-COVID-19 patients who are arriving at hospitals sicker and staying longer
  • Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities are experiencing staffing challenges that decrease the number of available beds.
  • COVID-19 related hospital admissions reached November 2020 levels as of August 8 based on data reported by hospitals. COVID-19 admission rates are increasing in all 18+ age groups.
  • COVID-19 related hospital occupancy and ICU occupancy are skyrocketing, and many regional hospitals are at or near full capacity. This rapid increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is further limiting hospital capacity.
  • As of late July, about 95% of COVID-19 cases who were hospitalized since February were not fully vaccinated.
  • Health care facilities report an increasing numbers of workers who have tested positive for COVID-19. This will further impact hospital staffing challenges.

The state is now seeing daily case counts in the 3,000 range for the first time since the winter surge. DOH is also reporting 24 new deaths today, which is a significant increase from weeks past.

“Vaccination progress is continuing, but not fast enough,” said Secretary Shah. “If you are unvaccinated and continue to have questions, we encourage you to speak to a trusted healthcare provider.”

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