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Fueled by delta variant, 500,000 coronavirus cases now tallied in Washington state

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Robert Queen, right, a Division Pharmacy Manager at Albertsons, right, and Stephen Smith, an Albertsons pharmacist, center, as Byrum prepares COVID-19 vaccines during Inslee's tour at a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Spokane Arena on Friday, April 9, 2021, at the Spokane Arena in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Daniel Wu Seattle Times

The number of coronavirus cases in Washington state has surpassed 500,000, with a new surge in cases fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant.

The state Department of Health confirmed the grim milestone Wednesday afternoon, more than a year and a half after the first case in the country was confirmed in Washington. State health officials reported 3,095 new confirmed cases Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 500,434.

The DOH also reported 17 new deaths and 147 new hospitalizations Wednesday. With the update, accurate as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, 6,204 people in Washington have died of COVID-19 and 28,072 people have been hospitalized.

Wednesday’s update was the second highest single-day increase in cases reported in the state since January. More than 5,000 new cases were reported Aug 2.

Officials have attributed the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations to the delta variant. As of last week, the delta variant made up 76% of sequenced cases in Washington. More than 94% of all cases, deaths and hospitalizations for those 12 and older have been linked to individuals who were not fully vaccinated.

Now, just more than a month after the state lifted most restrictions and Washingtonians celebrated a long-awaited reopening, familiar fears have returned.

Health care leaders are sounding the alarms as intensive care units and emergency rooms are filling up statewide. Mask-wearing recommendations are back – including a new indoor mandate in Snohomish County – along with new vaccination requirements.

An increasing number of restaurants and bars in Seattle are now requiring proof of vaccination and Gov. Jay Inslee announced a sweeping mandate this week requiring most state employees and health care workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

Since vaccinations became available late last year, the state and health care providers have administered about 8.2 million doses and 53.3% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, according to the most recent state data. Providers are currently giving an average of about 10,382 vaccine shots per day.