COVID cases hit new peak,
stretching hospitals thin
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — COVID-19 infections are happening more than ever seen before during the pandemic. The transmission rate now hangs at a high level, which rattles health officials.
Snohomish County saw 2,022 new infection cases from Sept. 9 to 15.
The 14-day average infection rate lately is 469 cases per 100,000 residents. The rate hasn’t been this high since winter 2020.
The amount of COVID-19 circulating means that in a crowd of 100 people, there’s a 75 percent chance someone is carrying COVID, Dr. Chris Spitters, the county’s health officer, warned. In a group of 10 people, there’s a 1-in-12 chance somebody’s infected, he said last week.
COVID cases are stealing space at hospitals, hospital authorities said last week.
Surgeries are being canceled and people with difficult conditions are having to wait, said Taya Briley, executive vice president of the state’s hospital association, during a Sept. 13 media briefing. “These are people (who need surgery) unnecessarily suffering because our hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients,” she said.
State hospital association leaders emphasized that despite high caseloads, Washington state is not at the brink of implementing drastic “crisis standards of care,” where hospitals may deny treatment to one patient to ration and save resources for another patient who has better survival odds. Idaho’s hospitals statewide recently went to this crisis-care standard. Hospitals in Washington are “doing everything we can to avoid that,” Briley said Sept. 13.
In Snohomish County, COVID patients were taking 106 of the county’s hospital beds as of Tuesday, Sept. 14, which is about 1 out of every 10 beds available. As for ICUs, COVID-19 patients are taking a little over 30 percent of the county’s available ICU critical-care beds, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from Sept. 15 shows. There were 19 people with COVID currently on ventilators as of Sept. 14, Spitters said.
Between Sept. 7 to 14, 36 county residents were newly hospitalized with COVID-19.
Providence Regional Medical Center Everett set up satellite ICUs with 18 beds to counterbalance demand, Providence leaders wrote in an opinion essay printed by the Herald.
Spitters said while it’s good the case rate has plateaued after rapid increases during August and early September, “the bad news is we’ve leveled off at an extremely high transmission level.”
The delta variant, a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that today is the state’s dominant strain, is factoring in. Hospital leaders last week gave open concerns that flu season and cold weather later this fall will complicate the situation unless hospitalizations from COVID cases get back down.
Washington hospitals were able to manage case loads before delta spread, Briley of the hospital association said.
People who have chosen to go unvaccinated continue to represent the bulk of hospitalizations.
Locally, new vaccinations are crawling at an incremental pace. Five to six thousand adults are initiating vaccination each week, Spitters said last week.
A little under 75 percent of Snohomish County adults today are fully vaccinated.
State employee vaccination mandate update
Gov. Jay Inslee set an Oct. 18 deadline for state workers to be vaccinated, and expanded it to all school employees.
The deadline to get the first dose of Moderna’s vaccine was Sept. 6 or first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was Sept. 13. Both require a second shot a few weeks later. The last chance to be considered fully vaccinated by the Oct. 18 deadline by getting the one-time Johnson & Johnson vaccine is Oct. 4. Panelists at the hospital association briefing noted the state has fewer stocks of this vaccine.
The state mandate includes all K-12 employees. School districts “are empowered (and required)” to terminate employees who do not get a vaccine and cannot obtain a medical or religious exemption, state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction spokeswoman Katy Payne said by email.
Earlier this month, the Biden Administration set a sweeping new mandate that all private companies with 100 or more employees either require vaccinations or test for COVID-19 weekly. All federal employees and contractors must become vaccinated under Biden’s mandate.
To get tested
Feel ill? The health district conducts free COVID-19 testing in Everett at 3715 Oakes Ave. and at the Ash Way Park & Ride in south Everett. An appointment is required. To get an appointment, go to www.snohd.org/testing
Big outdoor gatherings require masks
The state now requires everybody mask up at outdoor events with over 500 spectators. This includes high school football games.
Spitters said people should wear a mask in crowds of any size, and
suggested people delay in-person events.
Calling all Snohomians
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