Thurston County Sees Uptick in COVID-19 Activity, Plans to Downgrade Virus Response

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Thurston County coronavirus activity continued its upward trend last week, but hospital capacity has been holding steady.

Public Health and Social Services added 631 COVID-19 cases the week of May 9-15. No new deaths have been confirmed since April 28.

An additional 132 cases were added on Monday. In all, PHSS has recorded 47,888 cases and 369 deaths from March 2020 to Sunday. Of that total, PHSS considers 46,585 cases as recovered or recovering, meaning 1,303 confirmed cases remained active as of Monday morning.

From May 2-8, PHSS reported 571 cases and no deaths. Weekly case counts have been steadily increasing since mid-April.

As of Sunday, the state Department of Health considers disease activity to be "high" in Thurston County. Three weeks ago, the DOH described activity as "substantial."

The county's case rate per 100,000 people reached 369.4 from April 24 to May 7, according to the state. This is up from a recent low rate of 67.4 from March 16-29.

The record high case rate was 3,108.6 from Jan. 2-15.

Health Officer Dimyana Abdelmalek noted the recent uptick in disease transmission during a Thurston County Medical Provider Summit on Monday. She said most of the virus activity has been driven by Omicron subvariants.

"The good news is our healthcare capacity is holding steady and we're not seeing a significant spike in hospitalizations," Abdelmalek said. "But we're watching closely."

Though the virus remains a challenge, she said vaccinations and other mitigation measures have significantly reduced the severity of the disease. As a result, she said PHSS plans to change its response to the virus.

"Moving forward, as we move from an emergency to incorporating COVID-19 into our other communicable disease control activities, we anticipate moving COVID-19 into alignment with other viral upper respiratory illnesses that we also track and support containment of," Abdelmalek said.

Outbreaks and hospitalizations

As of Sunday, PHSS has been investigating 15 ongoing outbreaks at congregate care settings. So far, there have been 201 such outbreaks — seven more than the previous week.

At school settings, PHSS reported four closures from April 18-24. No outbreaks were reported April 25 to May 1.

From April 18-24, one closure involving eight cases in a setting at the Tumwater School District.

Meanwhile, North Thurston Public Schools saw two closures involving 14 cases at school settings and one closure involving five cases at an extracurricular setting. However, three of the five cases overlapped with an ongoing outbreak.

PHSS confirmed nine hospitalizations over the past week. Since the start of the pandemic, the data show 2,306 Thurston County residents with COVID-19 have been hospitalized at some point in their illness.

About 75% of county residents who were hospitalized had a known underlying condition, according to a May 11 weekly report. However, it's possible some had an unknown underlying condition.

Among the 369 who died as of May 8, the report says 100% had a known underlying condition.

Hospitalizations started falling from record highs in mid-January only to start rebounding in early April.

There were about 5.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 people from May 1-7 in Thurston County, according to the latest state data. This is up from a recent low of 0.3 from April 1-7.

The current record high rate was 38.1 which was recorded from Jan. 9-15.

As of Sunday, about 86.9% of Intensive Care Unit beds over a seven-day period were occupied in the West region, which includes Thurston County and some of its neighbors. The data show 7.8% of ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients in the region as well.

Hospitals in the region were 88.4% full over a seven-day period, according to the data, while COVID-19 patients accounted for 4.7%.

Vaccinations and tests

Just 65.9% of all Thurston residents completed their primary series of vaccinations as of Saturday, and 72.6% had at least initiated their primary series, per state data.

This represented just a 0.1% increase for both metrics compared to the previous week.

Meanwhile, the data show 76.7% of Thurston County residents 5 and older have initiated vaccinations and 69.7% had completed their primary series.

As of May 9, 81.8% of the state population 5 and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.4% had completed their primary series.

The state percentages include aggregate data from the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs, both of which are not entirely reflected in the state's data dashboard.

In Thurston County, the state reports 58.9% of those 12 and older have received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Saturday. Across the state, about 58.6% of that population have gotten a booster — the same percent reported last week.

Thurston County PHSS continues to offer free vaccination events, including for booster shots, every week. Events are listed on their coronavirus vaccine information website.

Eligible residents can also find appointments at local providers such as pharmacies by visiting the state's Vaccine Locator website.

Those who have difficulty scheduling appointments online can call the Department of Health vaccine hotline at 888-856-5816 or the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services line at 360-867-2610. Information for Spanish speakers is available at these numbers as well.

About 11.9% of confirmed molecular and antigen tests returned a positive result in Thurston County from April 27 to May 3, according to DOH data. Over the same period, the state had an overall test positivity rate of 10.6%.

People can get PCR tested at pharmacies such as Rite Aid and Walgreens. Over-the- counter COVID-19 antigen tests are also available at pharmacies and on-order from the state Department of Health and federal government.

In the region

Pierce County has confirmed 190,464 total COVID-19 cases with 1,333 deaths as of May 10. Pierce County has a population of about 927,000.

Lewis County has had a total of 17,835 confirmed cases with 255 deaths as of Sunday per state data. Lewis County has a population of almost 83,000.

Grays Harbor County has seen a total of 16,659 cases with 198 deaths as of Sunday, according to state data. Grays Harbor County has a population of about 75,000.

Mason County has reported 11,755 confirmed cases with 141 deaths as of Monday. Mason County has a population of about 69,000.

In the nation, state and world

The state of Washington has confirmed over 1.53 million COVID-19 cases and 12,758 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to Sunday.

In the U.S., about 82.6 million COVID-19 cases had been reported as of Tuesday with over 999,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. population is about 330 million.

Globally, more than 524.2 million people had contracted the virus and over 6.2 million people had died of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, the data show.