‘This pandemic rages on’: Delta variant has state’s hospitals filled to record levels

Aug 25, 2021, 9:23 AM | Updated: 11:11 am
ambulances, hospitals, crisis standards of care...
The COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center. (File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Washington state health officials continue to express concerns over a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, as hospitals statewide have now filled to record levels.

Delta variant now makes up 98% of state’s COVID cases

“This pandemic rages on,” State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said during a Wednesday briefing.

Over the last month, COVID cases and hospitalizations have risen to their highest levels since the start of the pandemic in Washington. And while preliminary data indicates that cases may be starting to flatten, hospitalizations have “not shown any signs of slowing,” cautioned state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist.

Of those hospitalized for COVID-19 in recent weeks, 95% are unvaccinated. That’s been driven by the prevalence of the delta variant, which now makes up nearly all new COVID cases in Washington.

“This pandemic is not slowing down,” Dr. Shah said. “In just a couple of months, delta variant has ravaged our state, particularly those who are unvaccinated.”

That’s also led to cascading issues at hospitals throughout Washington, with ICU beds filling up while staffing shortages persist. As Harborview Medical Center Emergency Department Director Dr. Steve Mitchell described, health care facilities “are stretched and stressed in ways we’ve never asked them to be stressed before.”

“This means many patients are waiting in emergency departments before getting a bed, especially in regional hospitals,” he clarified.

Washington hospitals strained to their limit by rise in COVID cases

Mitchell described several instances where facilities have been unable to find available ICU beds for patients in need. That includes a woman on the Washington coast who needed to be put on a ventilator for severe COVID illness, but teams couldn’t find an available bed for her anywhere in the state. She was eventually transferred to an Idaho hospital for long-term treatment.

Another woman who arrived at a small critical access facility in Eastern Washington with a “dire prognosis” passed away after staff were unable to find an available bed following an eight-hour search.

The overarching message pushed by health officials Wednesday was a simple one:

“Wear your mask and get vaccinated,” Dr. Shah said. “We need people to follow precautions to right the ship.”

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‘This pandemic rages on’: Delta variant has state’s hospitals filled to record levels