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Local and national COVID update for August 19, 2021

Washington state sets a new record for hospitalizations as cases continue to surge.

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[KIRKLAND, Wash.] – (MTN) Washington state set a new hospitalization record as COVID cases continue to grow. The Delta variant represents 98% of all cases in Washington state. The CDC released a study that examines breakthrough cases and hospitalizations from May to July, that provides a better understanding of vaccine effectiveness.

The Washington State Department of Health has released the latest COVID data through August 18, 2021.


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Washington State Update for August 19, 2021

Washington state continues to set new records as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. Through August 11, the 14 day rolling average Washington is recording 437.9 COVID cases per 100K. This breaks the record high that was set yesterday. New cases continue to grow exponentially, doubling every 7 to 10 days. The number of people seeking COVID tests has increased 20% to 50% in the last month throughout King County.

Washington State Newly Diagnosed COVID Cases per 100K During the Prior Two Weeks Through August 11, 2021

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 Medicine, the positivity rate for the last 30 days is 11.71%, and over the previous 7 days, 12.92%. We continue to see widespread transmission in the state, with a slight decrease in the 7-day average.

The 7-day moving average for COVID-related deaths has increased to 7 per day. It is important to note that fatalities are a trailing indicator that usually increases two to four weeks after hospitalizations begin growing.

Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich, the highest-paid public employee in the state of Washington, says he will follow the state’s COVID vaccine requirement. He had previously said he would not get a vaccine due to personal reasons, even after WSU announced they would require vaccines. When asked about having to get vaccinated his only statement was, “It is what it is.”

On Pac-12 media day. Rolovich said, “I’m not against vaccinations, and I wholeheartedly support those who choose to be vaccinated, including our players, staff, and coaches… I think we all know this virus is deadly, and these vaccines are free. I urge everyone to consider being vaccinated. I do.”

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Last month, King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin mentioned the N95 Project as a trusted source for N95 masks. A check on the website showed that a 50 count box of United States manufactured N95 masks are available for $40.00. We recommend wearing N95 masks indoors as they provide the best protection against COVID when properly fitted.

No promotional consideration has been given, or requested from the n95 project or any manufacturer of masks

Vaccination

The most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) included the study, New COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations Among Adults, by Vaccination Status – New York, May 3 – July 25, 2021. The study looked at COVID cases and hospitalizations among the entire population of the metro New York City area, approximately 13.9 million people.

From May 3 to July 25, Delta went from 2% of COVID cases to 80%, and New York City dropped mask mandates and occupancy restrictions.

CDC MMWR for August 18, 2021, Vaccine Effectiveness in New York City from May 3 to July 25, 2021

The small dashed line on the top of both charts represents overall vaccine effectiveness in preventing new COVID cases and preventing hospitalizations. The dash-dot line represents how many people have been vaccinated. The dashed line represents the total number of infections and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated. The solid line represents the total number of cases of infections and hospitalizations among the vaccinated, and the dotted line between them is the average between the two lines.

The study indicated that overall age-adjusted vaccine effectiveness dropped from 91.7% to 79.8% as the Delta variant became the dominant strain. In contrast, hospitalizations moved in a narrow range of 91.9% to 95.3%. The report states, “Currently authorized vaccines have high effectiveness against COVID-19 hospitalization, but effectiveness against new cases appears to have declined in recent months, coinciding with the Delta variant’s increase.”

The data showing an increase in breakthrough cases while showing little change in overall hospitalizations is mirroring data from hospital systems in Washington, and across the country. Another study that was in the New York Times indicated that 74% of breakthrough cases nationwide are among people 65 and older.

It is important to remember that no vaccine is 100% effective and there is strong evidence that COVID vaccinations lessen the severity among those who get an infection, and vaccinated individuals have dramatically lower mortality rates compared to the unvaccinated.

Appreciation goes to Dr. Katrine Wallace, P.hD of the University of Illinois, Chicago, for bringing this study to our attention.

Washington state is 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.

Almost two million Washingtonians who are vaccine eligible remain unvaccinated. 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.

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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

Washington state reached an all-time high for COVID hospitalizations, surpassing the December 2020 peak, with the Delta variant representing 98% of cases. The Washington Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer reported there were 1,240 hospitalized patients with COVID-19. This number does not align with the Washington State Department of Health data, and we have reached out to understand the difference in numbers.

On August 18, 85.7% of available acute care beds in Washington state have patients. The data indicated there were 1,285 acute care beds available statewide and 314 in King County. The West, Central, South Central, and East Regions were over 80% utilization. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there are 1,205 COVID patients in acute care, an increase of 31 since yesterday. 13.4% of all hospitalized acute care hospital patients are being treated for COVID. More than 20% of acute care patients in The West Region, which includes Pierce County, are hospitalized with COVID. This indicates that the hospitals in that region are under stress.

Washington State Hospital Acute Care Beds Occupied by Patients – August 18, 2021

Statewide ICUs were 85.5% occupied with 176 staffed beds available. King County has 56 ICU beds available. The number of COVID patients in the ICU dropped to 342 patients.

Washington State ICU Patients with COVID – August 18, 2021

Washington state continues to have 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.

The West Region, which includes Tacoma, is down to 11 available ICU beds and almost 2 out 5 ICU patients are fighting COVID. in the more rural North Central District, 45% all ICU patients are hospitalized with COVID.

With the epidemiological curve doubling every 7 to 10 days, our hospital system is in danger of being overrun.

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Back to School

Yesterday we reported on Governor Inslee’s directive requiring all employees and contractors working for private K–12 schools and public K–12 school districts, charter schools, and educational service districts to be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021. Due to the overwhelming amount of news yesterday, we cut the story short. The vaccine directive includes most of Washington state’s childcare workers.

The mandate includes employees, contractors, and volunteers working in licensed and licensed-exempt childcare centers and in early learning and youth development programs. Individuals that provide babysitting services to friends, neighbors, or direct family members from the same household are exempt.

Employees must provide proof of vaccination by showing their vaccine card, certificate of COVID-19 vaccination, or Washington State Immunization Information System printout. Individuals cannot use attestation as proof of immunization, and daycare providers cannot opt-out.

Individuals who have a medical condition, have been recently infected with COVID, and are under recommendation not to get a vaccination for 90 days, or who have a genuine and deeply held religious exemption can apply with the state. State officials said anyone applying for an exemption will be rigorously vetted and personal and philosophical reasons are not allowed.

FACT CHECK: In 1905, the United States Supreme Court decided that the states have the power to mandate vaccinations (Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905)). Last week, Trump appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett, denied an appeal from students at Indiana University to block the school’s vaccine mandate. Because the Supreme Court was not in session, enabling Justice Comey Barrett to render a decision independently. A three-judge federal appeals court panel, including two judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, previously sided with Indiana University to require vaccinations.

To comply, employees need to have their second mRNA vaccination dose or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by October 4, 2021. 

Kirkland-Bellevue-Woodinville

We will be featuring area businesses that require vaccinations for their customers and require their staff to be vaccinated. The Lounge at DeLille Cellars is a place where you can enjoy wine by the glass and bottle with hand-crafted fare from Executive Chef Michael C. Toni. Located in Woodinville, they offer light bites for sharing to salads, sandwiches, entrees, such as steak frites and fresh pasta made daily.

No promotional consideration is given. If you have a business that requires proof of vaccination and you’re located on the eastside, send an email to tips@malcontentment.com. We’ll feature a new business here every day.

National Round-Up

Johns Hopkins University reported over 137,980 new cases and 1,145 deaths. This is the second day in a row where COVID deaths in the United States broke 1,000. Nationwide, 11.35% of COVID tests are coming back positive. Nationwide, 77% of all ICU beds are occupied and almost 1 out of 3 people in the ICU are battling COVID.

Burnout among nurses is reaching a crisis in the United States. Now dealing with the fourth wave (or fifth wave in Washington state) in the last 18 months, the trauma, stress, long hours, and under-appreciation is shrinking the nursing corps, and that is even before vaccination mandates started in hospital systems across the United States. In an interview with ICU nurse Cassandra Alexander, she quipped, “Why stay in a hard, dangerous, seemingly thankless job?”

Toyota, the largest car company in the world, is having to cut 40 percent of its global production, shutting down plants in its home nation of Japan. The production reduction is happening due to the global semiconductor shortage and parts suppliers closing in Malaysia due to a severe COVID outbreak in the archipelago. For US customers who want a Heche en Nippon product, the slowdown impacts the RAV4, Corolla, Camry, and Lexus ES.

As a disclaimer, we try to pick from more neutral sources so we’re not exactly fans of Vanity Fair. However, the differences from the on-the-air message versus what goes on behind the cameras at Fox News are worth highlighting. While hosts like Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson rail against vaccination and masks, mandates, vaccine cards, and mask wear, their employer has a different take.

In a Tuesday memo updating staff on COVID-19 procedures, Fox News Media chief executive Suzanne Scott said that the company has “asked all employees—whether on-site as part of our essential workforce or working remotely—to upload their vaccination status” into an internal database. “All employees must enter their status no later than today, August 17th, by close of business,” Scott wrote.

Scott added that while masks remain optional for vaccinated employees, the company is “requiring employees to wear a mask in small, confined spaces with limited opportunities for social distancing and where there are multiple employees, including control rooms.”

Arkansas

Hope that Arkansas had hit its peak fourth wave peak is fading as cases and hospitalizations started to climb again. Of Arkansas’ 262 school districts, 118 have issued mask mandates and another 87 have banned them. The state did cross a critical milestone, with 51% of the eligible population vaccinated against COVID.

Hawaii

On Oahu, where Honolulu is located, Straub Hospital is overcapacity in its ICU as the state deals with its worst surge of COVID cases ever. Dr. Johnathan Paladino reported the ICU was at 125% capacity and is currently at stage five of its seven-stage disaster plan. Patient triage is now being performed in a tent. Earlier in the week, the Queens Health System had also run out of ICU capacity. The disaster plan, based on military battlefield triage will hopefully not get to stage six or seven. At stage six care would be rationed, with the most critically sick could find care delayed. Stage seven is so-called “black tag triage,” where the sickest patients, regardless of having COVID or not, would be moved to comfort care.

Missouri

Missouri state representative Sara Walsh, another outspoken critic of vaccination and masks, reported that her husband has died of COVID. Steve Walsh died early this morning after the couple becomes infected in July. Neither were vaccinated, and the state representative said she didn’t get vaccinated because of concerns about friends’ negative reactions to the vaccine and said she didn’t feel she needed it as she’d been healthy since the pandemic began. Walsh is running for U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler’s 4th District congressional seat in the 2022 election.

Mississippi

Yesterday we reported that Alabama had run out of ICU beds, and Mississippi has been adding additional capacity in tents over the last two weeks. Mississippi set a record for the most case, the most patients hospitalized, the most patients in ICU, and the most patients on ventilators. Even with the expanded capacity, the state is down to 11 ICU beds.

Oregon

Governor Kate Brown announced that educators in the Pacific Northwest state who teach K-12, have until October 18 to receive a vaccination or face termination. “We will need confirmation from a qualified medical care provider on any medical exemption. And, we will be reviewing that each religious exemption that is requested is based on bonified beliefs,” said PPS Chief Human Resources Officer Sharon Reese. The mandate comes one day after Washington state issued a similar directive. Oregon has one of the fastest-growing rates of COVID in the United States, with many rural hospitals overwhelmed.

Texas

While Texas Governor Greg Abbott battles COVID in isolation at the governor’s mansion, he continues to battle mask mandates in Texas school districts. The town of Paris, Texas found a loophole in the Governor’s executive order, and modified the school dress code, making masks required.

“The Texas Governor does not have the authority to usurp the Board of Trustees’ exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district,” Paris ISD said in a release posted on its website. “Nothing in the Governor’s Executive Order 38 states he has suspended Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, and therefore the Board has elected to amend its dress code consistent with its statutory authority.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is taking the San Antonio Independent School District to court after the district mandated all staff be vaccinated for COVID-19. The School District is claiming they have the right to mandate vaccinations under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rules, while AG Paxton says it violates state law. We wrote yesterday how the Supreme Court has addressed challenges on vaccination mandates at a state level since 1905, and it is likely Texas will not prevail in its challenge.

Georgia

Parents in Cobb County, Georgia are pulling their children out of school, just three weeks after the 2021-2022 school year started. Last week the entire fifth-grade class at East Side Elementary was sent home because of a spike of COVID cases in the school. Parents had to select either remote or in-person learning during the spring, while masks and social distancing requirements were in place. The district voted not to require masks, going against federal guidelines. The situation has gotten tense with parents on both sides of the argument squaring off. Georgia’s PICUs are 75% to 90% full, with a growing number of pediatric COVID patients.

Wisconsin

Republican State Senator Andre Jacques, one of Wisconsin’s most conservative lawmakers and an outspoken critic of mask and vaccine mandates, is in the hospital with COVID. Jacques, who is married and has six children, reported on Monday night that several of his family members are also sick. On Wednesday no one would comment on his condition beyond he has pneumonia, is very tired, but in good spirits. Since his positive test, his legislative office said it “has been following all protocols.” 

Minnesota

The number of children in childcare becoming infected with COVID is growing, with 120 new cases among the unvaccinated a week. The increase started at the height of summer camp season in the last week of July, said Dr. Beth Thielen, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at M Health Fairview. “That was really before things even started to spiral in Minnesota.”

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Misinformation

You may have seen a claim that 45,000 people have died within 3 days of receiving the COVID vaccine based on information in the VAERS database. This misinformation is often touted with, “look it up for yourselves,” and has been shared widely on social media.

The VAERS database is a self-reporting tool, that anyone can complete online. It is true you can download the data and do analysis. The data is raw, has not been reviewed or verified, and relies upon the honesty of the people reporting. That would require in part, 45,000 reporting in three days that a relative had died from the vaccine. It is a significant leap to then assume that you had 100% reporting and it was 100% accurate.

It is true that there have been limited adverse actions from the COVID vaccine and three documented fatalities during the initial release of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All vaccines come with some degree of risk, and the 28 documented hospitalizations related to blood clots are among 14 million people who have received the vaccine in the United States (full disclosure, that includes your author). It is important to note that the CDC and NIH suspended the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six reported incidents for two weeks. During the pause, they created additional guidance on how to identify a potential rare reaction and a proper treatment plan.

But wait, there’s more. The VAERS database only has 6,000 self-reported fatality reports from December 2020 to July 2021. In early May there were 4,700. So where did the 45,000 number come from?

The organization America’s Front Line Doctors is behind the numbers and the lawsuit. But there is a huge problem with the claim, even if you want to cling to it as fact. The lawsuit states that an unnamed person (Jane Doe) who is a computer program calculated her estimate of deaths happening within 3 days of vaccination by examining the VAERS data and comparing it against medical claims. The lawsuit goes on to say, “The number of deaths occurring with (sic) 3 days of injection with the Vaccines exceeds those reported by VAERS by a factor of at least 5.”

There in the lies the problem. We don’t know when the data was pulled, but we do know the number of reports had to be under 6000. No explanation was given on the factor of five. Even if there was any veracity to the claim, the number in the lawsuit should be between 25,000 to 30,000. The other critical point is the data in VAERS is unverified data.

Americas Frontline Doctors were behind a July 27, 2020, viral video touting a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax as a treatment for COVID. The claims were untrue, created a shortage of hydroxychloroquine, and left states like Oaklahoma looking to sell back the drug they bought last year under the advice of then-President Trump when he retweeted their video.

The three leaders of Americas Frontline Doctors are Dr. Stella Immanuel of Houston, Dr. Dan Erickson, and Dr. Simone Gold.

Dr. Simone Gold is the founder of the organization, she was a major advocate of hydroxychloroquine in 2020. Dr. Gold participated in the Capitol Insurrection that happened on January 6, 2021, in Washington D.C. and was arrested by federal officials after videos and pictures emerged of her within the Capitol.

On April 22, 2020, Dr. Dan Erickson made a claim that COVID had a mortality rate of 0.03% based on testing within their private clinic. According to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, COVID mortality is 1.7% in the United States. Erickson appeared in the “documentary” Plandemic, and was also an advocate of hydroxychloroquine.

Dr. Immanuel has a well-documented history of making false medical claims throughout her career. This includes claiming that endometriosis, infertility, miscarriages, and sexually transmitted diseases are caused by “spirit spouses” (aka demons), and space alien DNA in humans. Dr Immanuel was warned by the Texas State Medical Board in August of 2020 about her practice and claims. She continues to run her private practice in Houston.

The report that 45,000 people died from the COVID vaccines is false, even if you take the lawsuit at face value.

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