State hospital leaders sound off as delta variant, and frustration, spreads

Aug 2, 2021, 1:47 PM | Updated: 4:07 pm
Ravi Olson, 12, receives a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Maureen Stevens at Harborview Medical Center on May 13, 2021 in Seattle, Washington.(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The delta variant of COVID-19 has prompted hospitals in Washington state to do something they haven’t done in weeks.

“We are very disappointed to be back with you,” said Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer as she began a briefing about COVID on Monday.

COVID cases have quadrupled in King County thanks to delta variant

Several weeks ago, hospital leaders stopped holding regular COVID briefings as the threat appeared to decline. But Dr. John Lynch with Harborview Medical Center says that was before the delta variant took hold.

“It is now the vast majority of all infections in the United States and in Washington state,” he said.

This strain, Sauer stresses, is different.

“It appears to be very contagious and making people very sick,” she said.

Although there are breakthrough cases — people who test positive for COVID after getting the vaccine — Lynch says the delta variant is taking the biggest toll on the unvaccinated.

“Here at Harborview, we have two people with COVID who are not vaccinated who are on heart-lung bypass machines,” Lynch said.

Dr. Nathaniel Schlicher with the Washington State Medical Association expressed frustration that people are getting sick with COVID when research shows that wearing a mask and getting vaccinated can help keep you from catching the virus. That’s a sentiment echoed by many in the medical community.

“I think we’re all struggling to mount, again, the resolve to climb this hill once more,” Schlicher said as he addressed concerns about vaccine safety.

“We’re now at a point where over 4 billion doses — B, with a billion — doses of vaccine have been administered in the world, and 346 million in the United States,” he said. “I think we’ve now done arguably the largest study in human history to prove that it (the COVID vaccine) is safe.”

And the concern that once prompted lockdowns in Washington state is, again, rearing its head.

“Right now it’s pretty universal that every hospital is quite full,” Sauer said.

Sauer says hospitals are now taking on another wave of COVID at the same time that the number of trauma patients typically rises during the summer months, plus there’s been a spike in gun violence in Western Washington.

Medical leaders in Washington support mandatory vaccinations for health care workers

This is all, Schlicher notes, as we face down the upcoming cold and flu season, which are both viruses that can also be hindered by wearing a mask.

“Pick your reason. Wear the mask. Let’s try to have a little space this winter left in our hospitals,” he said.

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State hospital leaders sound off as delta variant, and frustration, spreads