Covid updates for today: Don't go to the hospital if you're in Washington state
Updated news about the coronavirus pandemic in Seattle and Washington state.
According to data from King County and Washington state departments of health, as of Friday, January 14, 2021:
- +5,224 new cases since Wednesday in King County. That's +64% over the last seven days.
- +59 new hospitalizations since Wednesday in King County. That's a 90% increase over the past seven days.
- 74% of King County residents are fully vaccinated.
- 10,196 Covid-19 related deaths across Washington state; 1% death rate since the beginning of the pandemic.
One million cases
Washington state has officially passed one million Covid-19 cases, logged over the span of the pandemic.
One percent of those people died from the disease, totaling 10,000 deaths.
At a national level, in total, the death toll from Covid in the United States is 840,000 people.
Officials urge the public to keep wearing high quality masks like N95, quarantine at the first sign of symptoms, and that people who test positive should report it to their doctor or local health district.
—Paige Browning, KUOW
Seattle schools remote due to staffing shortages because of Covid
Four Seattle schools have now taken classes online for the time being, and two more were closed Thursday due to staffing shortages during the omicron surge.
Franklin High School, South Shore PK-8 School and Aki Kurose Middle School have joined Lowell Elementary School in making the switch to online classes as Covid infection, quarantine or just caution thins the ranks of staff and students.
Meanwhile, Lincoln and Cleveland High Schools were closed outright today because of a lack of staff.
At Lincoln, district officials cited last minute staff sick leave as the closure reason. It was, district sources say, a sick-out, in protest of the district’s handling of omicron.
The district is unable to go entirely remote without that recommendation from public health officials.
Under Governor Inslee’s mandate, it can only close or move remote individual schools due to Covid or staffing shortages.
A student walkout is planned for Friday - they’re calling on the district to provide N95 masks for all, mental health supports for students and transparency about the district’s closure decisions.
—Andy Hurst, KUOW
Don’t go the ER unless you have life-threatening symptoms
Hospital officials say the healthcare system is overwhelmed, both in urban and rural areas.
Christina Wagar is with Newport Hospital, about 40 miles north of Spokane. She says it’s not just the public getting sick.
“We have a lot of sick employees," Wagar said. "We have a lot of people who are burned out. I think the term is emotional exhaustion… we, from lab to environmental services to our front desk to our nurses, are very tired and here we go with another peak.”
In the past week, Washington averaged 226 new hospitalizations per day.
This, as the state reached a new milestone: one million Covid cases over the span of the pandemic. Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated and boosted.
And switch to medical grade masks.
Non-vaccinated people are up to 6 times more likely to get infected.
—Ruby de Luna, KUOW
Inslee deploying 100 National Guard to help hospitals, orders pause on non-emergency procedures
Following the lead of Oregon and other states, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he will deploy 100 members of the National Guard to assist hospitals struggling to respond to a spike in Covid-19 patients due to the highly-contagious omicron variant.
He’s also ordering a month-long pause in non-urgent hospital surgeries and procedures. Inslee had previously said that both steps were under consideration.
Currently, more than 200 people a day are being admitted to Washington hospitals due to Covid-19. That’s up from an average of under 70 just a month ago, according to the state’s data dashboard.
“With already full facilities, the 75% increase in Covid hospitalizations has led hospital leaders and physicians to declare they are in a crisis,” Inslee’s office said in a background memo shared with reporters.
On Thursday, University of Washington Medicine said its hospitals reported they were treating 188 Covid-19 patients — a record high.
In addition to helping hospitals manage an influx of patients, the National Guard members will also set up new Covid-19 test sites outside hospitals in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Richland to help meet intense demand for testing. The additional testing capacity follows recent announcements that FEMA is standing up testing sites in King and Snohomish Counties.
This week, Washington surpassed one million probable and confirmed Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. On average, the state is logging more than 13,000 new cases a day, about four times the number during the peak of the delta-driven wave last fall.
While the omicron variant is now leading to an increase in hospitalizations, so far it has not produced a corresponding spike in deaths, according to state data.
The 100 National Guard personnel assigned to hospitals will help with non-clinical tasks. Specifically, the governor’s office said they’ll be deployed to emergency departments to assist in managing the influx of patients and help “alleviate the crowded and chaotic situation.”
Read more here.
—Austin Jenkins, Northwest News Network
'The worst' it's been: Covid hospitalizations reach all-time high in Washington state
Since the highly-infectious omicron variant was discovered in Washington state last month, health officials have warned that a surge in cases could cause hospitals to become severely overwhelmed.
Health care workers say that moment is now here.
“This is the worst situation hospitals in Washington state have been in compared to any prior point during the pandemic,” said Taya Briley, vice president and general counsel for the Washington State Hospital Association during a press conference Thursday morning.
Thursday afternoon, Governor Jay Inslee announced that he would deploy 100 National Guard members to assist four of the state's hospitals and has ordered a pause on non-urgent procedures.
Briley said that Covid hospitalizations, which are currently at a weekly average of about 1,800, have now exceeded a previously recorded high of approximately 1,700 per week in September 2021. An average of 149 Covid patients currently need ventilators — that's up 16% from last week's average of 129 patients, she added.
Briley also cited a 65% increase in Covid-19 cases and an average of 226 new hospitalizations per day over the past week. She said the majority of those hospitalizations have been among patients who aren't vaccinated, have only received a single shot, or haven't gotten a booster.
An average of roughly 13,000 new Covid cases per day have emerged in the past week, according to the latest data published by the state Department of Health. The latest data also projects that daily case counts are on trend to increase to nearly 15,000 per day by the end of this week.
Read more here.
—Liz Brazile, KUOW
Previous Covid blog posts live here.