Health department report: Hospitalizations increasing as COVID continues its rapid spread statewide

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday released the latest statewide situation report on COVID-19 transmission.

Report findings include:

  • COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly throughout the state. The best estimates of the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) were 1.48 in western Washington and 1.51 in eastern Washington as of November 8. The goal is a number well below one, which would mean COVID-19 transmission is declining.
  • Daily case counts have skyrocketed in both Eastern and Western Washington.The seven-day rolling average case count in eastern Washington was almost four times higher on Nov. 13 than Sept. 13. The acceleration is even more dramatic in Western Washington, where the seven-day rolling average case count increased from 202 cases on Sept. 12 to 488 cases on Oct. 3, then to 1,283 cases on Nov. 13.
  • If disease transmission continues at the same pace observed early this month, by early December the number of daily hospital admissions could be double current numbers. The number of hospital beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 has also risen sharply since Nov. 1, including ICU beds. If this trend does not reverse, hospitals will need to postpone even more non-urgent surgeries and will have reduced ability to care for patients both with and without COVID-19.
  • Cases are increasing across all age groups, including older people, who are more likely to become seriously ill, require hospitalization and stay in a hospital for longer. The largest increases are occurring in those ages 25 to 39 and 40 to 59, but rising trends in those over 60 are particularly concerning.
  • Growth in cases is widely distributed across the state, with the majority of counties seeing accelerating rates. The five largest counties (Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane) are experiencing steep increases and have some of the highest case rates per capita. Several medium-sized counties (Cowlitz, Franklin, Skagit, Thurston, Whatcom and Yakima) are seeing similar sharp increases. Benton, Kitsap and Walla Walla counties have had steep increases through November 5, then flat trends through November 13.
  • Even small counties are affected by the surge. Some (Adams, Asotin, Grant, Lewis, Stevens and Whitman) are experiencing steep increases and relatively high average case counts for their population size. Others (Chelan, Clallam, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Klickitat, Lincoln, Mason, Okanogan, Pacific and San Juan) have low overall case numbers but are still seeing increases.
  • The overall percentage of Washington state residents with active COVID-19 infection is higher than the peak in late March. A higher percentage today than mid-March with fewer severe outcomes is likely because the infected population is younger than in mid-March and advances in treatment have improved survival. However, because hospitalizations and deaths generally occur some time after initial infection, these rates will likely continue to increase over time.

“The situation is incredibly urgent and there is still time to turn the tide before our hospitals become overwhelmed,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “I know these are difficult and disappointing times for many, and I am so grateful for everyone who has made the decision to stay at home with their immediate household for Thanksgiving tomorrow. When added up collectively, each action we take to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 matters—changing an in-person gathering to a remote one, wearing a mask around people who don’t live with us, washing our hands more often and staying home if we think we might be getting sick.”

DOH partners with the Institute for Disease Modeling, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington and the Microsoft AI for Health program to develop these reports every other week. More COVID-19 data can be found on the DOH data dashboard and in the state’s risk assessment dashboard.

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