Clallam County reports 82nd COVID death

Statewide, hospitals nearing crisis, officials say

A 70-year-old, unvaccinated, Clallam County woman has died of COVID-19, marking the second death in a week from the virus and the 82nd death in the county since the pandemic began, officials said.

Clallam County has seen 80 new cases of the virus bumping the total to 7,028 cases on Friday from 6,948 on Thursday.

The case rate is now at 1,491 per 100,000 with eight people in the hospital and five in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Jefferson County also has had a spike in its cases of COVID-19, with a total case count of 1,700, up 28 cases from 1,672, it was reported Friday. Twenty people have died of the virus in Jefferson County.

The county health department updated its case rate on Friday to 795 per 100,000 cases, up 379 cases in the last two weeks.

Two people are in Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend with COVID-19.

“One patient has been in the hospital for several months and will likely continue to need long-term medical care,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties on Friday.

Berry also noted that the other hospitalization was an unvaccinated individual.

On Thursday, hospital leaders, doctors and public health officials said that a spike of COVID-19 hospitalizations is pushing health care systems in Washington state closer than they’ve ever been to a crisis point.

Two state medical and physician associations — the Washington State Medical Association and Washington’s American College of Emergency Medicine — called on Gov. Jay Inslee and state Health Secretary Dr. Umair A. Shah to declare a statewide crisis, in hopes of opening up emergency resources for hospitals.

So far, King County and western Washington have experienced the brunt of the omicron spike, but the rest of the state isn’t far behind, state health officials said in a Thursday news briefing.

At University of Washington Medicine’s four campuses — three in Seattle and one in Renton — COVID-19 hospitalizations are higher than they’ve been at any other point in the pandemic, according to Dr. John Lynch, medical director of Harborview Medical Center’s infection control program.

There are early signs that these new infections are causing less severe illness, especially in vaccinated people, Dr. Francis Riedo, medical director for infection control and prevention at Evergreen Health in Kirkland, said during a separate briefing with hospital leaders.

However, Riedo called it a numbers game.

“A small percentage of a million people is a huge number, still,” he said.

As of Thursday, King County was averaging about 31 COVID-19 hospitalizations per day, a 76 percent increase in the past week.

Lynch urged Washingtonians not to visit hospital emergency rooms for COVID-19 tests or mild virus treatment, as health care systems are quickly reaching the point at which they can’t handle many more patients.

Factors further challenging hospitals include rising worker infection rates — forcing workers into quarantine — delayed care, obstacles discharging patients who no longer need hospital care, and limited testing access statewide.

“We are entering, I think, the most challenging phase of this pandemic, period,” Lynch said.

Unvaccinated people continue to suffer the worst symptoms, with a chance of dying 15 times higher than those who are vaccinated, state health leaders said Thursday.

Important to note, Lynch said, is that vaccinated Washingtonians are still becoming infected, though at a “much lower proportion.”

Those who have received booster shots are the most protected from both infection and hospitalization, he added. The U.S. said this week that everyone 12 and older should get a COVID-19 booster as soon as they’re eligible.

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