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Local and national COVID update for August 17, 2021

New cases continue to grow statewide forcing University Washington Medicine to delay some elective procedures.

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[KIRKLAND, Wash.] – (MTN) The Washington State Department of Health has released the latest COVID data through August 16, 2021. COVID cases continue to rise through the state, and more hospital systems are curtailing or delaying elective procedures and closing their doors to visitors.

Washington State Update for August 17, 2021

Through August 9, the 14 day rolling average in Washington is recording 396.1 COVID cases per 100K people, almost 16X higher than the target of 25 per 100K. This represents the highest rate of new infections since January 18, 2021, and is based on data from July 27 to August 9. New cases continue to grow exponentially, with little indication that the state is nearing a peak.

Washington State Newly Diagnosed COVID Cases per 100K During the Prior Two Weeks Through August 9, 2021

The number of people seeking COVID tests has increased dramatically since July 17 and is reaching April 2021 levels. 

The rate of hospitalized COVID patients has grown to 9.4 per 100K residents, on a 7 day rolling average through August 10. Using the incomplete data through August 16, the rate jumps to 11.4, the highest ever recorded.

The Washington State Department of Health reports a data backlog for test positivity, with the published number 14 days old. According to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, the positivity rate for the last 30 days is 10.6% and over the previous 7 days 13.55%. Both of these numbers would indicate widespread community transmission and significant under testing of the population.

So far, COVID deaths remain very low, but fatalities are a trailing indicator that usually starts to increase two to four weeks after hospitalizations begin growing. This trend is starting in Florida, where the state is recording over 150 deaths a day.

Vaccination

As of August 16, 71.5% of all Washingtonians 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. Vaccination rates are growing again statewide. Vaccine hesitancy is slowly declining, and concern over the Delta variant is motivating Washingtonians to take action.

Vaccination rates remain low among the youngest people. For residents 65 and over, 83.8% are partially or fully vaccinated, while 52.9% of 18 to 34-year-olds are. People under 65 now make up the majority of hospitalized patients.

Washington state has started providing COVID vaccine booster shots for moderately and severely immunocompromised residents. People who received an mRNA vaccine are eligible for the booster. People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine do not require a booster at this time.

The group Find a COVID Shot WA can assist anyone who needs help making an appointment. The group of 75 volunteers has been operating since the beginning of 2021 and offers support in 20 languages.

The Washington State Department of Health tweeted today about fake vaccination exemption forms circulation in the state. A person seeking an exemption does not need to complete a form from the Department of Health, and the form does not provide you with an automatic exemption.

The Biden Administration is widely expected to announce the recommendation to receive a vaccination booster shot eight months after the final dose of an mRNA vaccine. The guidance does not extend to those who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccination.

King County, Washington is over 80% vaccinated, and Washington state is over 70%. The highest rates of positivity are in areas with low vaccination rates statewide. The FDA is expected to provide full approval to the Pfizer vaccine next month.

COVID vaccines are free for anyone over 12 years old, and no appointment is necessary at most locations. Lyft and Hopelink provide free transportation, and KinderCare, the Learning Care Group, and the YMCA offer free childcare during vaccination appointments or recuperation.

For information on getting a vaccination in King County, you can visit the King County Department of Public Health website.

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Hospital Status

Hospital capacity remains tight, but the impact from a growing list of hospital systems canceling elective procedures is helping. In today’s data, it does appear that new COVID patients are quickly filling up the extra space.

On August 16, 82.8% of available acute care beds in Washington state have patients. The data indicated there were 1,560 acute care beds available statewide and 353 in King County. The West, Central, South Central, and East Regions were over 80% utilization. There are 1,092 COVID patients in acute care, 12.1% of all hospitalized patients.

Washington State Hospital Acute Care Beds Occupied by Patients – August 16, 2021

Statewide ICUs were 81.9% occupied with 222 staffed beds available. This is an improvement from Friday when 179 beds were remaining. King County has 79 ICU beds available. Unfortunately, the number of COVID patients in the ICU jumped significantly from yesterday. Almost 1 in 4 ICU patients have COVID – 289 people. Total hospitalizations are at January 2021 levels, and the epidemiologic curve indicates the state will set new historic highs next week.

Washington State ICU Patients with COVID – August 16, 2021

Benton, Cowlitz, Lewis, and Thurston Hospitals are at record levels, and many counties are at near-record levels. King County remains manageable, but the epidemiological curve shows that the county could be at January 2021 levels next week.

Yesterday, University Washington Medicine and Harborview Medical Center announced they would be delaying some elective procedures and evaluating the situation on a case-by-case basis through September 19, 2021. The medical system joins a growing list of hospital systems redirecting resources to deal with the Fifth Wave hitting Washington state.

Washington state faces a critical shortage of blood, with a less than 24 hour supply for five out of eight blood types. The situation has deteriorated since August 3. There will be a blood drive in Kirkland on August 30 and 31. We will publish additional details when they become available.

Back to School

The Washington State Department of Health released new guidelines for K-12 student-athletes and extra-curricular activities. Masks are not required for student-athletes in low and moderate contact sports, regardless of vaccination status. For high contact sports, masks are not required unless the student-athlete is unvaccinated. They will still be able to play but are required to have a negative COVID test. Masks must be worn in weight rooms, traveling by bus or public transit to events, and when not actively practicing and playing. Basketball, wrestling, water polo are considered high contact sports. Cheerleaders fall under the same category as high contact sports.

The vaccination rate among Washingtonians age 12 to 17 remains low. Currently, 46.2% of children ages 12 to 15 and 52.9% of 16 to 17-year-olds have received at least one dose. 

Kirkland-Bellevue-Woodinville

There has been some confusion among parents in the Lake Washington School District about the availability of virtual instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. The website indicates initial enrollment ended on June 30. Due to renewed interest in remote learning, parents can sign up on the waitlist. Some people are reporting success in getting their children into virtual learning.

In breaking news, the Lake Washington School District announced tonight they will not be doing daily health screenings for students with are attending in-person classes.

National Round-Up

Johns Hopkins University reported over 210,000 new cases and 686 deaths. Nationwide, 11.56% of COVID tests are coming back positive. There was some good news with Georgia, Florida, and Texas in the number two, three, and four slots for vaccinations, only behind California.

The TSA has extended the mask mandate for passengers of planes, trains, and buses until January 18, 2022. The mandate was set to expire on September 14, but faced with the surge in cases the Biden Administration determined it was in the best interest of the nation to make the extension. The FAA has reported a record number of “air rage” cases in 2021. So far there have been 3,889 incidents of unruly passengers, 74% of those cases over mask requirements.

Over the weekend, a maskless man was filmed lording over an elderly woman for wearing a mask on a New York City subway. The man, identified on social media and research news site Heavy as Ryan Bartels, 27. The incident is full of endless irony including occurring on the Q Train, and the man chanting, “1776” over and over again while wearing a shirt with a British Union Jack flag on it. Bartels was later spotted at an anti-vaccine rally and photographed making white power hand gestures.

Several states ravaged by the most recent wave may have hit their peaks, declining case numbers in hard-hit Missouri and Arkansas. However, many states are setting new records for infections and hospitalizations. Florida, Louisana, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Oregon set records for daily new COVID cases over the weekend.

Rural hospitals in Oregon are overwhelmed with patients, and the state has redeployed 1500 members of the National Guard to provide additional support.

In Kansas, hospitals are struggling with an explosion of new cases over the last six weeks while being severely short-staffed. Since the winter wave, hospitals in the flyover state have lost 30% of their employees due to burnout, attrition, and healthcare professionals joining the ranks of traveling doctors and nurses.

Stormont Vail Health in Topeka is turning down requests to take patients suffering from strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and cancer. One hospital in Abeline, Kansas, had to fly a patient to Wisconsin. 

Texas has requested five mobile morgues from FEMA and refrigerator trucks in anticipation of existing facilities becoming overwhelmed. Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) tested positive for COVID this morning. He has been put into quarantine, is reported to be asymptomatic, and receiving Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment.

The governor also revealed he had received a COVID booster shoot, raising questions about his overall health. Abbott uses a wheelchair after a freak accident, where an oak tree fell on him while jogging when he was 26.

Yesterday, the governor attended a Republican fundraiser in Collin County, described as “standing room only.” The governor tweeted pictures of him addressing a maskless crowd, shoulder-to-shoulder indoors. All attendees have reportedly been notified of their exposure.

A maskless Abbott made a statement from Austin early this evening and is being widely derided tonight on social media.

The Texas governor has barred schools and communities from issuing mask mandates and prevented districts from providing mandatory reporting of exposure to COVID in the classroom. Several school systems have implemented mask and notification rules going against the direction of the state.

Mississippi has set up a second field hospital as officials continue to try and stave off a collapse of the state’s hospital system. Samaritan’s Purse is providing the second field hospital. The US Department of Health And Human Services has sent a team of three-dozen doctors, nurses, and specialists to help man the mobile hospital in a parking garage. Mississippi has seen a record number of pediatric COVID patients, with 18 in the hospital, five in the ICU, and four on ventilators.

Florida is now logging 29,000 new COVID cases a day, and they continue to grow exponentially. In Hillsborough County Public Schools, 5,599 students and 316 teachers are in quarantine, crippling the district. The school board is holding an emergency meeting to consider what action it should take, including mandating masks.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order barring schools from issuing mask mandates, arguing it should be a parental choice. Broward County has already gone against the executive order, and Miami-Dade County is expected to also. The US Department of Education announced that if Governor DeSantis cuts the pay of school officials in districts passing mask mandates, they will cover the pay gap.

Georgia crossed a grim milestone, recording its one-millionth confirmed COVID case. The state is seeing near-record hospitalizations and, like its neighbors, is struggling to find facilities for patients.

Chicago has joined New Orleans in passing an indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status. Also, from Chicago, a pharmacist has been arrested for selling COVID vaccination cards on eBay. Tangtang Zhao, 34. appeared in federal court earlier today and faces up to 10 years in prison for selling 125 cards on eBay.

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