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Cases of COVID-19 at Swedish First Hill have tripled since Halloween

Nurse Mackenzie Gray administers care to a patient in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Health officials with the state Department of Health and doctors from hospitals and medical centers across Washington joined together Wednesday to explain the impact of COVID-19 cases on the health care system. They emphasized the importance of acting now to reverse the trend of increasing cases statewide, hoping to flatten the curve once again before there’s more cases, more hospitalizations, and eventually more deaths.

Dr. Elizabeth Wako, Chief Operating Officer at Swedish First Hill, said cases there have tripled just since Halloween. This morning, she said 10 new COVID patients were admitted at the Swedish First Hill location in five hours.

Wako says people in Washington have been good about wearing masks in public and hand-washing, but social distancing is the biggest difficulty.

State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy showed a graph of future hospital admission projections in Washington. If current transmission rates persist, hospital admission will reach a record high, she said, up to more than 150 admissions per day. However, the trend can be reversed by December if the restrictions announced by Gov. Inslee on Nov. 16 are as successful as the restrictions in March.

Gov. Inslee shared the graph on Twitter, echoing the importance of taking action now.

The safest option is to stay home

With Thanksgiving next week, health officials urged Washingtonians to stay home in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“The risk of acquiring COVID-19 increases with every activity we do,” Dr. Lofy said. “… If we all do our part, we can flatten this curve.”

The bigger the group, the higher the risk that at least one person has COVID-19, Lofy reported, with even an 18% chance at a 15-person Thanksgiving dinner, and as much as an 85% at a 200-person gathering, like a large religious service.

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“We know that we’re asking a lot of Washingtonians right now … especially in a time of year when we want to be with our family and friends,” said Lacy Fahrenbach, Deputy Secretary for COVID Response.

Fahrenbach said it’s important to recognize that there are two risks associated with large gatherings: the risk of illness for people at the gathering, and the secondary risk of further disease transmission in future activities those people take, whether it’s going to a church service, going in to work, or even a young person attending classes.

“We’re sharing this to help understand and show how we’re all interconnected,” Fahrenbach said. “Every single interaction matters. We must limit our gatherings and we must act right now.”

Even if we don’t like the restrictions, Dr. Andrea Carter, Chief Medical Officer at Samaritan Health Care in Moses Lake, said we need to understand that “our decisions can have greater implications for our community.”

KIRO Radio reporter Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.

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