‘Focus remains on hospitalizations,’ WA health secretary says amid slight uptick in omicron cases

Apr 20, 2022, 4:12 PM
Dept. of Health's Dr. Umair Shah addresses the media Saturday night to explain three cases of Omicron discovered in Washington state.

King County is in the midst of a slick uptick in COVID cases as Washington state’s department of health (DOH) reports that 90% of the state’s COVID caseload is attributable to the BA.2 omicron sub-variant.

Despite that rise, hospitalizations remain on the decline. King County reported a 32% decline seven-day average in hospitalization week over week as of last Friday. That metric is “the most important thing we’re monitoring,” as Washington state’s Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah put it in a news conference on Wednesday.

“The most important thing for us is the health care capacity … our focus remains on hospitalizations [which] remain flat, markedly less than what we were seeing at the peak of omicron. We are now nicely seeing hospitalizations continue to come down, which means that we have good capacity in our health care system,” the health secretary continued.

Europe’s omicron surge ‘totally different’ than what’s expected in Washington

“In fact, we’ve seen a decrease in deaths as well. … We have seen a slight uptick in cases overall, but no change in severe disease related to hospitalizations or deaths.”

Shah notes that the statistics on positivity rates are mitigated by the prevalence of at-home tests which are not consistently reported to the state.

Moving forward into the endemic stage of the COVID pandemic, the health department appears poised to evaluate COVID-linked hospitalizations as the most significant metric in sizing the severity of coronavirus surges: the sentiment was echoed among Department of Health officials Wednesday.

“Counting every case is neither useful nor realistic. It appears to be very mild, very few deaths,” Dr. Scott Lindquist, epidemiologist with DOH, added. “Compare it with influenza — we don’t count every flu case during flu season. Instead, we focus on variants, deaths, hospitalizations.”

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‘Focus remains on hospitalizations,’ WA health secretary says amid slight uptick in omicron cases