COVID-19 hospitalizations down in Washington, but deaths on the rise


After an alarming increase in coronavirus cases this summer – resulting in new masking and vaccination requirements – hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are declining statewide, hospital officials said on Monday.

This week, hospitals counted 1,504 COVID-19 patients statewide, up from 1,673 last week, Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said at a press briefing Monday.

“Washingtonians are really taking this very seriously,” she said. “We have seen an increase in immunization rates, the governor’s order on masking (and) county actions like vaccine checks that is happening in a number of counties.”

She added: “And it looks like the case rates could go down a bit.”

There is a caveat, however, said Sauer: Another reason hospitalizations are decreasing is that death rates are increasing. While data on the state’s deaths is incomplete over the past two weeks, 30 people in Washington have died from the virus in the past 24 hours, Sauer said.

“It’s one way we don’t want to create hospital capacity,” she said.

About 260 people remain on ventilators in the state, a “treatment of last resort” for those who are sickest, Sauer said.

In an attempt to prevent the state’s COVID-19 patients from becoming sicker, many hospitals had started ordering monoclonal antibody treatments directly from manufacturers. However, because manufacturers were suddenly “inundated with orders,” Sauer said the federal government was reverting to its previous distribution system, where a state receives an allocation of monoclonal antibodies and then distributes them among its communities.

“There could be about a week or two of an interval, or a blip, in the way the monoclonal antibodies are distributed, so people may have a hard time finding them over the next two weeks,” said Sauer.

The federal government has approved the use of monoclonal antibodies subcutaneously – through an injection rather than an infusion – which means places other than hospitals, such as pharmacies or clinics, can offer the treatment.

Hospitals near the Oregon and Idaho borders also continue to have capacity issues, hospital officials said Monday. In eastern Washington, Dr Dan Getz, chief medical officer at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital, said hospitalizations related to COVID-19 remained at an all time high.

While hospitals in Spokane have yet to meet ‘crisis care standards’ – which means hospitals have yet to deny life-saving treatment to one patient in order to give it to another – Getz a stated that he “always feels like we are in crisis.” “

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “We really need the help of the community to get vaccinated and wear masks. … I don’t know if we can continue to treat more and more patients in our community.

At Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, Dr. Steve Mitchell, medical director of the emergency department, said many larger resource hospitals are still overwhelmed. Two weeks ago, intensive care units were about 90.5% full, with COVID-19 patients accounting for around 34.7%, according to the most recent updated data from the state Department of Health .

Requests for transfers to large hospitals, however, are seeing a slight decrease, said Mitchell, who is also the medical director of the Washington Medical Coordination Center, a center in Harborview that balances the placement of COVID-19 patients requiring hospital care. treble throughout the region.

Over the past week, the WMCC counted 77 transfer requests, mostly from small rural hospitals in central and eastern Washington. The peak was around 140 requests per week in mid-August, Mitchell said.

“We think it’s improving slightly, but it’s still a big challenge,” especially for communities east of the Cascade Mountains, he said.

As hospitals begin to see hospital admissions for the virus among adults decline, pediatric facilities are noticing a similar trend, said Dr Danielle Zerr of Seattle Children’s.

At the height of the hospital, there were 10 to 13 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at one point, up from around six to seven now, Zerr said. But hospital staff are still seeing a high number of patients with respiratory viral illnesses and mental health issues, she added.

About half of COVID-19 admissions at Seattle Children’s are in children old enough to be vaccinated, or over 12, she said.

Fortunately, she noted, Pfizer said on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children aged 5 to 11 and that it will seek US clearance for this age group soon – marking a key step towards the start of vaccinations for the youngest.

Meanwhile, Sauer said, there is a “ton of concern” about the upcoming flu season and its overlap with the continued rise in viral infections.

While the fall and winter season will likely be unpredictable, she urged Washingtonians to get their flu shots now.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Mitchell added: “When you combine (the unpredictability of the virus) with the reopening of schools and the flu season, which we all think is going to be a lot worse than last year … we are very, very worried. . “

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