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Hospitalization rates rising in Washington as COVID vaccination effort lags

Jodie Prescott, a nurse, works in the trauma surgery ICU at Harborview Medical Center on Nov. 26, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Washington’s vaccine providers say supply is not keeping up with demand, which means younger people will continue to come down with COVID-19 at higher rates. A local doctor says there have been more young people with severe symptoms that lead to hospitalization, in part due to a rise of variants.

“It’s a younger population,” said Dr. Tim Dellit with University of Washington Medicine. “The average age was in their 40s. We’re seeing young people with severe disease.”

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Dr. Dellit said hospitalization and COVID-19 rates in King County are climbing, and that the UW’s COVID hospitalization rates have doubled in the past month.

“We’re seeing this increase in cases in our community, increased hospitalization, and increase in these variants, some of which do seem to be more easily transmitted from one person to another, some of which have been associated with more severe disease,” Dellit said.

“What’s concerning is that more recently now, 70% of those that we sequence are variants of concern — predominantly either the California variant, the U.K. variant — but it’s only 30% that are actually that original wild type strain,” Dellit added.

Hospitalization rates are also going up statewide, and so are visits to the emergency rooms for COVID-like symptoms, with men more likely than women to be making those visits.

“This is before you actually have a COVID diagnosis but it’s folks who have the symptoms of COVID. And those numbers are also going up — looks like it’s going up more rapidly among men,” said Cassie Sauer, the Washington Hospital Association CEO.

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Sauer says there are 70 more patients hospitalized for COVID this week compared to last week. She says patient numbers had been holding steady at 350 statewide for a month, but it is now at about 420.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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