Western Washington may be getting hit with new wave of COVID-19

Aug 11, 2023, 6:50 AM | Updated: 8:33 am


A technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Western Washington may be heading into a summer wave of COVID-19 cases.

People are testing less for COVID-19, but Pavitra Roychoudhury with UW Medicine is still finding evidence of it in her lab.

“When we look at wastewater data, we are seeing a rise in the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater,” Roychoudhury said.

Dr. Eric Chow, Chief of Communicable Diseases at Seattle King County Public Health, is seeing proof, as well.

“In terms of COVID-19 hospitalization we have seen about a 22% increase over the last 14 days,” he said.

There have been 2,581 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the nine months from November 2022 until August 2023, according to the King County Health Department.

COVID activity is still considered “low,” in the county. Chow said he’s watching to see if the upward trend he’s seeing in the labs translates to humans.

But he said COVID is unpredictable.

“One of the key things that we know about COVID is it throws us curveballs,” Chow said. That includes the original omicron variant that caused cases to spike in the winter of 2021.

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Nationwide COVID-19 cases are increasing as well.

“It is ticking up a little bit, but it’s not something that we need to raise any alarm bells over,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

It’s likely that infections are rising too, but the data is scant. Federal authorities ended the public health emergency in May, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many states no longer track the number of positive test results.

An emerging sub-variant of omicron is quickly becoming dominant in the U.S.: EG.5.

“The reason why this is increasing in proportion is probably because it’s more contagious than (Omicron) was previously,” Chow said. “But one of the big questions — that everyone has on their mind – is whether it’s also contributing to more serious disease. And we don’t know, just yet.”

He said the existing vaccine should offer some protection from the new strain.

A new COVID-19 booster is expected to be available in the fall before the winter months when respiratory viruses typically increase.

Last winter, hospitals were inundated with cases of COVID-19, flu, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in what healthcare workers called a tri-demic.

It’s unclear if we’ll face a similar situation this year, but doctors are recommending both COVID-19 and flu shots. If you’re 60 years or older, you can also be vaccinated against RSV.

The vaccine is not yet approved for pregnant women, but federal health officials are working to do just that because research shows it not only to protects mothers but their newborn babies.

Contributing: Bill Kaczaraba, MyNorthwest.com; The Associated Press

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Western Washington may be getting hit with new wave of COVID-19