State hospitalizations spike but remain low on Peninsula

By Rachel La Corte | The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee has said that restrictions on business may be expanded if the growth of cases doesn’t slow because hospitalizations in the state are nearing rates seen early in the pandemic due to a continued surge in new coronavirus cases.

Hospitalizations remain low on the North Olympic Peninsula although cases are rising.

There are renewed concerns about people traveling to visit family during the pandemic, and health officials have pleaded with people to stay home and celebrate only with those within their immediate family.

A 30-second commercial started running statewide Monday in which the ad cuts between scenarios of people celebrating football games or at social gatherings to them in the hospital on a ventilator.

“It is very clear that our small individual actions will tell the tale,” Inslee said at a news conference Tuesday.

The latest incomplete data shows that the state is on track to reach a seven-day daily rolling average of 71 new hospitalizations. At its height, the daily rolling average was 78 in early April. As of this week, officials said there were more than 800 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Washington.

Governors have been told that they can expect a first batch of the coronavirus vaccine by mid-December; Inslee noted it won’t be available to a majority of people until sometime next year, and he and other officials said people can’t get complacent.

“Just because a vaccine is on the horizon, it doesn’t mean that we can ignore all the public health measures today,” said Dr. Nathan Schlicher, president of the Washington State Medical Association. “We don’t want to see you in the ER.”

One in every 471 people in Washington tested positive in the past week, according to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project. As of Tuesday, the state has had more than 151,000 known cases and 2,690 deaths.

The state also broke its previous daily record for COVID-19 cases Tuesday with 3,482 and 35 additional deaths. The previous record was less than 2,600 cases in one day, reported Nov. 17.

State health officer Kathy Lofy said she was very concerned about hospital capacity and said if the trajectory continues, non-urgent surgeries or procedures may have to be delayed.

Inslee said that by December “unless something changes, we very well could be in a situation with catastrophic loss of medical care in the state of Washington.”

The increase in cases led Inslee to impose new restrictions on businesses last week, including the closure of fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers and movie theaters and the requirement that restaurants and bars be limited to to-go service and outdoor dining.

Inslee pointed to a graph showing a steep rise in the infection rate over the past month.

“We cannot tolerate that straight up curve for much longer,” Inslee said, saying that he hopes the recent targeted restrictions can “bend that curve down.”

“But if it does not, we will have no other option but to extend those restrictions to other parts of our economy,” he said. “There will be no other option available to us.”

The U.S. has recorded more than 12.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 259,000 deaths.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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