[OLYMPIA, Wash.] – (MTN) The Washington State Department of Health reported that the rate of new COVID cases exploded to 541.9 per 100,000 residents on Monday. The same report showed that coronavirus-related hospitalizations increased 49 percent in a week, from 736 on Dec. 26 to 1,099 on Jan. 2.
Several factors impacted today’s report, which may not show the true impact of COVID in Washington. Most tests sites were closed on New Year’s Day across the state, and numerous Western Washington test locations were closed on Dec. 30, 31, and Jan. 2 due to weather, power issues at one location, and insufficient staff. The hospitalization data appeared incomplete to the Malcontent News research team and will likely be updated tomorrow with more data.
A staggering 26 counties have extreme transmission, with another eight experiencing high transmission. Pierce County has the highest case rate in Washington, 771.0 per 100,000 people.
In King County, 25 people on average are hospitalized a day with COVID, breaking the previous record set during the Delta wave in September. Through Dec. 30, hospitalizations are up 81 percent, and the new case rate of 685.1 has never been higher.
The IHME forecasts hospitalizations will peak in early February, and COVID-related deaths will peak in March.
It wasn’t all bad news in the report. The number of Washingtonians who have received booster shots increased significantly from last week. There is strong evidence from multiple studies and hospitalization data from Israel, Europe, and the United Kingdom, that a third booster dose provides robust protection from severe COVID.
In welcome news to many parents, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized booster shots for 12 to 15-year-olds today and shortened the waiting period for the age group from six months after the second dose to five.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated that the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was reconsidering new isolation and quarantine guidelines based on feedback. The CDC has faced withering criticism from healthcare providers and frontline workers for cutting quarantine time in half and relying on the honor system for those who are infected by asymptomatic.
Although Omicron has become the dominant strain in the United States, data out of Connecticut and Washington indicates it won’t squeeze Delta out. Complicating treatment and mitigation, ten percent of COVID cases continue to be Delta or so-called Delta Plus.
According to the New York Times, the United States recorded 1,003,043 new COVID cases on Monday, shattering all previous records. The 7 day moving average is approaching 500,000 new cases a day, which Malcontent News believes is a red line for United States hospitals.
There are now 102,479 people hospitalized with COVID, an increase of 41% from a week ago. Daily new hospital admissions now exceed all previous waves, except the first one, which peaked on Jan. 9, 2021. The United States will set a new all-time hospitalization record if the rate of increase remains unchanged during the coming week.
Testing resources in the United States are stretched to the breaking point, with laboratories processing a near-record number of tests daily. Monday night, the Georgia Department of Health tweeted they could not provide an updated COVID report because there is so much data.
University of Washington Medicine (UWM) officially takes over testing sites from King County on Tuesday. UWM announced that they would no longer provide prophylaxis COVID testing for work and travel, reserving resources only for people who are symptomatic or had close contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.
Speculation on how severe the Omicron variant is compared to Delta continues to run rampant. Disease acquired immunity, vaccinations, boosters, and demographic differences between nations have made reaching a concrete conclusion difficult. There is growing evidence that for the vaccinated, especially with boosters, the Omicron variant is mild to moderate for most.
For the unvaccinated, the data is less conclusive. In South Africa, hundreds have died in the last two weeks. While hospitalizations appear to have peaked, the number has remained almost unchanged for a week while the number of ICU patients and those requiring ventilators has grown. A study published by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency tracked 815 hospitalized Omicron patients with a median age of 45.5. The report found that 57 people had died in the group – seven percent. The ages of those who died ranged from 41 to 99.
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