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Hospitalizations increase locally, statewide as fourth wave sets in

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane hospitals are back at February levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 76 people currently being treated for the virus in the county.

The number of patients in local hospitals has doubled in less than two weeks, and there has been an uptick in younger people hospitalized with the virus.

And while local hospitals are not canceling elective procedures yet to make room for COVID-19 patients, hospital officials are asking the public to continue wearing masks, physically distance and get vaccinated to help slow down the accelerating count of cases and hospitalizations statewide.

As of Monday morning, there were more than 600 people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, according to Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association. That’s 200 more hospitalizations compared to three weeks ago.

“That’s a really high number and higher than we’ve seen for months,” Sauer told reporters Monday. “There’s a sharp increase in young adults in their 30s or 40s; these are largely people who think that their age will protect them.”

COVID-19 has hospitalized people of all ages, and following a targeted vaccination campaign for residents 65 and older in Washington, hospitalizations in these age groups have dropped. Adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s are being hospitalized at higher rates for the virus now than previously, however.

In the last month in Spokane County, 43% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in local hospitals were in their 50s and 60s, and while younger adults might experience fewer symptoms than older adults who get the virus, 40 people in their 20s, 30s and 40s were hospitalized with the virus in the last month .

Age breakdown of people hospitalized in Spokane County from COVID-19.  (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
Age breakdown of people hospitalized in Spokane County from COVID-19. (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

Dr. Chris Baliga, infectious disease physician with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, said variants are affecting the numbers.

“The dominant variant in the country is B.1.1.7 which is more contagious and more likely to make you ill, and that’s the single-most important thing driving case numbers now,” Baliga told reporters Monday. The variant is often called the United Kingdom variant. “We’re lucky we’ve seen the decrease in hospitalizations of the older populations and that likely has to do with the fact that their vaccine rates are higher which shows the impact the vaccines can have.”

Hospital officials emphasized how important getting a vaccine is to combating the virus and preventing hospitalizations.

“Our ticket out of this pandemic and lockdowns and so forth is getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Josh Griggs, chief quality officer at Skagit Regional Health.

He added that while COVID-19 can lead to severe outcomes, including death, that even surviving COVID can come with consequences.

“I see a lot of focus on just the death, but there’s a lot more that this disease can do to you than death,” Griggs said.

Local numbers

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 116 new COVID-19 cases Monday and two more deaths.

There have been 604 deaths of county residents due to COVID-19.

There are 76 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Spokane.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Spokane County through April 26, 2021.  (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Spokane County through April 26, 2021. (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 76 new cases on Monday and no additional deaths.

There are 40 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.