Most of Western Washington appears to be ‘close’ to omicron peak

Jan 19, 2022, 3:56 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2022, 7:05 am
omicron peak...
A mural in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

The Puget Sound region may finally be turning a corner in the omicron surge.

During the Washington State Department of Health’s weekly briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, the state’s chief science officer, said “there do seem to be some signs of a slowing of a growth in cases” in recent days.

“There is some hope that we may be at or close to the peak in Western Washington,” he said. “However, we are also seeing an acceleration in the growth of cases in some parts of Eastern Washington.”

Some parts of the Puget Sound are still struggling with that as well — Skagit County is seeing a new high in case rates, with cases having doubled since last week.

Washington health leaders ask mild COVID patients not to visit emergency rooms

Still, the state’s biggest counties appear to be reaching the omicron peak.

Hospitalizations tend to lag behind cases, so there will likely still be a couple of weeks of growth in hospitalizations before those numbers start to drop as well.

But as hospitals were already stretched to the max before the omicron surge, the health care crisis and worker shortage is still expected to continue at hospitals around the region for months.

What is not as clear is the trend for deaths.

“They had been on a steady decline over the past few months, but in recent weeks, there seems to be a bit of a leveling-off,” Kwan-Gett said. “We’re not sure if this is a harbinger of a rise in deaths, which we sometimes see.”

All of this means that people should still expect to keep up the COVID precautions amidst high case rates until the omicron surge fully comes down in the next couple of months.

That means that tests will likely still be hard to find. With so many people getting sick, it can be nearly impossible to find a PCR testing appointment. Many sites are only taking people who are symptomatic.

That leaves people with a recent exposure — or those who need a PCR test for travel, work, or who want to be on the safe side ahead of a gathering — wondering where to turn.

Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary of the state’s COVID response, had a plea for people to do their part to free up space at test sites.

“If you have access to an at-home test and you test positive, consider yourself positive — you don’t need to follow-up and get a PCR test,” she said. “You don’t need to go get a confirmatory PCR if you test positive on antigen. Taking that step will help all of us unclog our resources.”

Antigen tests are about to become more widely available, with the federal government opening up its portal this week to allow people to order free test kits online. The state is launching a similar portal in the coming days.

For PCR tests, the National Guard will be setting up test sites outside hospitals in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Richland; FEMA will also be establishing test sites in Snohomish and King counties.

Still, Fehrenbach said you may have a tough time finding PCR tests — so you might want to rearrange travel plans if you are going to a destination that requires a test, see if you can do an at-home test over video as an alternative, or else be prepared to pay out of pocket.

“If you are testing for travel, you may have to cover the cost of your test,” she said. “Insurers are not required to cover the cost of travel testing.”

Local News

New fencing keeps park users away from the cliff edge at the Gig Harbor viewpoint on the Outer Loop...
Graham Johnson, Theresa Robinson

Point Defiance outer loop closes to cars due to instability

Metro Parks Tacoma closed the outer loop of Five Mile Drive in Point Defiance Park in Tacoma on Thursday afternoon, days after announcing the change.
10 hours ago
SDOT Light Rail Ped...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Pedestrian struck, injured by Link light rail train in south Seattle

A pedestrian was struck and injured by a Link light rail train Wednesday afternoon in south Seattle.
1 day ago
(Photo courtesy of King County)...
Frank Sumrall

King County executive initiates plan to conserve and save the region’s wilderness

King County executive announced a plan to protect 65,000 acres of forests, farmland, and greenspace, raising property taxes in the process.
1 day ago
MyNorthwest Staff

Drought may impact most of Pacific Northwest this summer

Drought is expected to impact much of the Pacific Northwest this summer, impacting areas throughout eastern Washington, southern Oregon and southern Idaho.
1 day ago
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)...
Frank Sumrall

SPD report discovers 80% of 911 calls were for non-criminal events

After reviewing more than 1.2 million 911 calls from 2017 to 2019, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) found 79.7% of calls were for non-criminal events.
1 day ago
KIRO 7 News Staff

9-year-old boy shot by younger brother in Federal Way

A 9-year-old boy was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after being shot by his younger brother in Federal Way.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Most of Western Washington appears to be ‘close’ to omicron peak