State sounds alarm over latest rise in COVID cases with hospitals strained to their limit

Aug 4, 2021, 8:52 AM | Updated: 9:59 am
hospitals, washington state...
Nurses at Harborview Medical Center. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The increasing prevalence of the delta variant continues to drive COVID-19 cases in Washington upward, with health officials now sounding the alarm over crowded hospitals and the need for more people to get vaccinated.

COVID cases have quadrupled in King County thanks to delta variant

The Washington State Department of Health laid out the latest numbers in a Wednesday news release, noting that positivity percentages in Washington have now climbed to 5.5%, up from 2% last month. With the “highly contagious” delta variant now comprising 76% of sequenced cases, officials are urging people to get vaccinated.

“Higher vaccination rates across the state are needed to protect our communities,” said Dr. Umair Shah, state secretary of health. “If there was ever a time to get vaccinated, it is now in the race against this variant.”

The DOH also reiterated that while “no vaccines are 100% effective, it is proven COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection against variants, prevent severe illness and hospitalization, and lower your risk of death.” An estimated 94% of all COVID cases, deaths, and hospitalizations among Washingtonians ages 12 and up are believed to have occurred among those who have not been fully vaccinated.

Health officials worried about a fifth wave in COVID cases

The most recent data from the state estimates that just over 57% of Washington’s total population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 52% have been fully vaccinated. Among those ages 16 and up, 69% have initiated the vaccination process; 63% have been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, hospitals have been strained to their limit amid the state’s rapid uptick in transmission, with Washington averaging 1,500 new COVID cases over the last four days. That marks the highest levels since the so-called “fourth wave” Washington experienced this last spring. In total, an estimated 600 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, up 20% from last week.

Between that, increased demand from a summer spike in trauma patients, and “staffing challenges,” leaders at local hospitals warn that resources are being stretched thin, especially with cold and flu season on the horizon.

“Right now it’s pretty universal that every hospital is quite full,” Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said earlier this week.

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State sounds alarm over latest rise in COVID cases with hospitals strained to their limit