Health officials worried about a fifth wave in COVID cases, delta variant
With the delta variant moving in, health officials warn COVID cases are sharply increasing in Washington state. Hospitals are preparing for another winter like last year.
“We’re seeing the onset of additional cases where what I would call the fifth wave,” said Washington State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist. “The majority of those are the Delta variant.”
Lindquist said COVID-19 hospitalizations are also increasing.
He says the Delta variant spreads faster than other variants, and is especially taking hold in areas of the state with low vaccination rates.
“I am concerned about this Delta variant,” Lindquist said. “We are seeing this represent 58%, at the last look, of all our variants that are in this state.”
With people putting off routine care during the pandemic and now discovering serious conditions, hospitals across the state have been running at high capacity.
Lindquist says they’re preparing for even higher hospital surges.
“In Washington state, our hospitals run pretty tight to max throughout the year,” Lindquist said. “We went though a terrible winter last winter and we were able to make it happen.”
He says they’ll get creative with transferring patients and setting up surge wards, and handle it the same as they did last winter.
So far, doctors aren’t seeing a much higher rate of hospitalizations for the Delta variant, but Lindquist expects this may change.
He says even if you’re vaccinated, it may be best to wear a mask, depending on where you live.
“In a county where they’re seeing an increase and a presence of the Delta variant, it makes sense,” Lindquist said, adding that it’s also a good idea to wear a mask if you’re in areas with low vaccination rates.
King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin recommends that everyone — vaccinated or not — wear a mask in indoor, public spaces.
Duchin cited a recent report from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which found that if universal masking were to be implemented in Washington next week, it would prevent between 540 to 880 deaths in the state by Nov. 1.
KIRO Radio’s Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.