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Record number of COVID patients being treated in Washington hospitals

Elaine Thompson
The Associated Press file
Registered nurse Andraya Zelle treats a patient in the COVID intensive care unit at UW Medical Center-Montlake in Seattle in January.

More people than ever before are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Washington. That’s according to the Washington State Hospital Association.

Cassie Sauer, president of the association, said as of Thursday morning there were 1,240 people with coronavirus in state hospitals. The previous highest number was about 1,100 in December.

“Hospitals are still really, really full across the state,” Sauer said at a news conference. She was joined by doctors and hospital leaders from around the state, including Seattle Children’s and the rural Columbia County Health System in southeastern Washington.  

Dr. George Diaz works at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. He says 90 to 95 percent of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

“Despite our community having a reasonably high vaccination rate, the 30 percent of people out there that are unvaccinated are driving the development of variants,” Diaz said. “The other people that are coming to the hospital – they are the ones exposing our vulnerable patients to this disease as well.”

Hospitals are also seeing more people due the effects of recent heat waves, smoke from wildfires and injuries due to summer activities.

Sauer urged people to take special care to not get sick or injured.

“If you need hospital care, go to the hospital. You know, if you feel like you’re having chest pain or a stroke or you’ve had some sort of trauma, you should still go to the hospital. They will care for you. But they are really full,” she explained.

“We want people who don’t need hospital care to not come to the hospital. So ways you can not need hospital care: The number one way you can not need hospital care is to get your vaccination, your COVID vaccination."

Sauer said until the recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the state had been holding steady at about 300 to 350 people. The numbers began increasing in early July and have been doubling about every two weeks.

There has been a slight slowing in the COVID admissions recently, but Sauer said it's too early to say if that's a trend.

To keep beds available, hospitals statewide have been postponing surgeries such as heart valve replacements and tumor removals, Sauer said.

She added that hospitals have been working with the state to move other patients who can be discharged into places like long-term care facilities.

“We will have plenty of capacity if we can move patients out,” she said.

According to the latest COVID-19 modeling and surveillance situation report from the state Department of Health, the seven-day average of hospital admissions has tripled since July to 96. Younger Washingtonians — those in their 20s and 30s — are making up more and more hospitalizations, the report said.

The report noted infections are also “at their highest levels to date,” trends that are “likely to continue in the coming month due to the delta variant.”


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Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.