Hospital Association: Largely Unvaccinated Patients Infected With Omicron Continue to Swamp State’s Hospitals

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Omicron has not yet loosened its grip on hospitals in Washington, with Pierce and King counties taking the brunt of the case surge so far.

That's according to hospital officials speaking at Thursday's Washington State Hospital Association briefing to offer an update of operations in their systems.

Hospitals are operating in a guaranteed-acceptance rotation protocol managed by the Western Medical Coordination Center, which was activated Wednesday to protect patients needing the highest level of acute care immediately.

Dr. Michael Myint is physician executive for population health with MultiCare Health System.

Myint told reporters, "... just to give you some numbers, our prior peak in the Puget Sound area of inpatient patients who were COVID positive was about 200, during the Delta peak prior to Omicron. Last week we had 400 inpatients, double that of our prior peak."

That represents 37 percent of its patient population, he added, with 13 of the patients on ventilators.

"We're not seeing as many patients on ventilators as we have during prior variant waves, but because of the high number of patients, you know, we're still seeing patients very, very ill with COVID," Myint said.

Statewide, WSHA CEO Cassie Sauer said, there were 2,333 confirmed COVID hospitalizations, 145 now on ventilators, compared with 135 the previous day. Washington hospitals are seeing 30-35 COVID deaths on average a day, compared with 10 to 15 just a few weeks ago.

"These are almost all unvaccinated and unboosted," she noted. "There's a lot about this pandemic that we could repair, but these deaths cannot be undone."

Myint noted the difference vaccines and boosters made in helping people avoid hospitalization and the worst outcomes.

From the end of December and early January, "20 of the 22 deaths were not vaccinated and none of those deaths were up to date with their vaccinations," he said.

"Overall we're seeing patients who are up to date with vaccinations only represent 1 percent of our hospitalizations. So being up to date actually is very preventative."

He also referred to recent data showing a new risk emerging for those under 18 of developing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes following a bout of COVID.

"Our pediatricians at our Mary Bridge hospital were noticing an increased rate and they first just observed this — but a recent MMWR (Morbity and Mortality Weekly Report) publication confirms that it does appear that children under the age of 18 are having higher rates of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes post COVID-19," Myint said.

While all hospitals are operating at above 100 percent capacity, Myint noted that MultiCare Auburn Medical Center hit 170 percent of its capacity serving patients in the peak of the Omicron wave.

Officials representing Western Washington facilities were hopeful of a downturn sooner than later in patient influx, with Myint noting their COVID patient population was now down to the mid-300s.

Statewide, "On the hopeful side, the number of new hospitalizations coming into our hospitals each day is down just a bit," Sauer said.

Eastern Washington sites were projected to turn a corner in about two-to-four weeks, following Western Washington trends.

"We may see a little bit longer of a tail than some of the other countries have seen with this," Myint said.. "And that's, you know, consistent with what the IHME and other modeling groups are seeing. So anticipate that there may be a longer tail with a little bit of ... ups and downs, as we go through this."