SEATTLE — In its latest swipe at the local health care system, the COVID-19 pandemic drove hospitalizations up more than 700% in King County alone over the last month, according to the health department.
The daily hospitalization rate went from just eight people a day before the omicron variant surge to 70 people a day. The wave of new patients hit as hospitals backed up amidst staff shortages and a growing subset of patients no longer needing hospital care but having nowhere else to go.
“The sheer number of patients means hospital acute care and ICUs across the state are very full. Hospitals are doing everything they can with critical staffing levels to provide care in the most challenging situation we’ve seen to date,” Washington State Hospital Association President and Chief Executive Officer Cassie Sauer said.
While there is apparently some relief on the horizon with case rates and hospitalizations dropping in recent days, the strain on health care facilities continues as they currently deal with the highest number of COVID patients ever.
Additionally, according to Public Health—Seattle & King County’s (PHSKC) dashboard, the number of COVID-19 deaths has seen a dramatic rise since the start of the month. As of Monday, the previous two weeks saw an 80% increase in deaths compared to the two weeks prior.
The steep rise in cases and hospitalizations prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to recently order health facilities to delay all non-emergent care, something virtually all health facilities were already doing.
On Sunday, PHSKC and a number of partners issued a call-to-action titled “We Need You Help,” an urgent plea for the public to do everything they can to not become another COVID patient.
The urgent plea said King County residents can make a difference by getting vaccinated, avoiding crowded areas, getting their booster dose, upgrading their mask to an N95, KN95 or KF94, saving the emergency room for emergencies only and not COVID testing and not delaying routine visits to their doctor.
“Our entire staff works hard to support our community. Now we need our community to support us. By helping to reduce the spread of COVID, our community is not only protecting their own families, but they are protecting our healthcare workforce and ensuring we will have enough staff to continue to provide much-needed services,” said Renee Jensen, CEO of Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, in a statement.
The new vaccination rate for King County has dwindled in recent weeks, with the majority of doses being given either third or booster doses.
Roughly 78% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus, which equates to about 1.77 million residents. More than 917,000 of those residents have also received their booster dose.