King County omicron surge ‘likely to get more difficult’ before situation improves

Jan 7, 2022, 3:51 PM | Updated: 3:52 pm
King County omicron...
A worker at a drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The omicron variant continues to stress health care systems across King County, with hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases continuing to rise.

New UW research illuminates possible path to omicron vaccines, treatments

As Seattle-King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin noted in a Friday briefing, “omicron is challenging us in new ways.”

“The speed of spread from omicron has been mind-boggling,” he said. “Our University of Washington colleagues estimate omicron is currently responsible for 90% of COVID-19 [cases] just a month after it was detected.”

As of this last week, King County has averaged over 3,300 cases a day, roughly four times what it saw during the November 2020 surge, and 12 times more than what it experienced in early December of 2021.

Hospitalizations have trended up as well, with a five-fold increase since mid-December. According to Duchin, on average, one person is being hospitalized for COVID-19 in King County every 45 minutes.

Between that surge, an increase in non-COVID-related hospitalizations, and staffing shortages, omicron is “stressing our hospitals now more than ever.” And while the variant generally produces more mild cases of COVID-19, it is “not necessarily milder on communities.”

“While it’s true that it’s uncomplicated for most people, it’s not a mild illness for many,” Duchin pointed out. “The potential for long COVID remains, and its impact on our community and our health care system’s ability to provide us with the care we need makes it equally if not more severe than past variants.”

Rise of omicron variant in Seattle prompts demand for testing, boosters

Based on trends in other countries, he predicts that this current surge could potentially peak sometime in mid-January, although it is also “likely to continue to impact us for many weeks” after that.

“Things are likely to get more difficult before they get better,” he warned. “Plan for large numbers of people being ill in a short time frame, and resulting absenteeism in workplaces and its effect on operations.”

You can watch the full briefing from Duchin here.

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King County omicron surge ‘likely to get more difficult’ before situation improves