Flu & Respiratory Viruses Compounding WA’s Hospital Woes

OLYMPIA, WA — Washington’s COVID-19 case counts and COVID-related hospitalizations have been stuck in a…

OLYMPIA, WA — Washington’s COVID-19 case counts and COVID-related hospitalizations have been stuck in a high plateau for several weeks, but now state health leaders say the normal influx of fall respiratory illness patients is driving hospital occupancy rates back up, complicating staff shortage concerns.

Last week, the Washington State Hospital Association expressed concerns that, while COVID-19 case counts were not increasing, they had become stagnant, plateauing at about 1,007 Washingtonians were hospitalized with COVID-19 each day of the week.

“One thing we don’t know about a plateau, is whether the cases are going to go up or down from here,” said WSHA Executive Vice President Taya Briley. “We need your help to do everything we can to get those cases to go down.”

Unfortunately, not only has that plateau remained high and strong, hospitals are also starting to see a new crop of patients suffering from the flu or other respiratory illnesses — largely offsetting what slight gains the state has made containing COVID.

(Washington State Department of Health)

To keep flu cases minimal, the health department is urging residents to seek out the flu vaccine.

Another concern: rising case counts in younger patients, particularly among children in northeastern Washington. According to The Seattle Times, children 4-10 had a seven-day infection rate of 224.37 cases per 100,000 kids in late October, 22 percent higher than the general population.

School district precautions and the recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine for patients 5-11 could help drive that infection rate down, but health leaders continue to urge Washingtonians to use caution — especially as the holiday season approaches.

To stay safe during the holidays, Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah is recommending that Washingtonians:

  • Get vaccinated, if they have not already.
  • Gather outdoors as much as possible.
  • Wear masks indoors and keep windows open.
  • Stay home if you are sick or showing COVID-19 symptoms.

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