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COVID-19 hospitalizations still rising statewide, locally as health officials urge caution over holiday weekend

The surge of COVID-19 cases in Washington might be slowing down, and state health officials hope this means a plateau is in sight.

Hospitalizations, however, are not projected to ease, and while the state is not at a “crisis” point yet, hospitals continue to be stretched incredibly thin.

“I have seen the preliminary data, and it does not look good,” Dr. Scott Lindquist, acting state science officer at the Department of Health, told reporters Thursday. “Our best hope is that we have a downturn in cases.”

As of Wednesday there were 1,565 patients being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals statewide, a record high.

In the Inland Northwest, across four Spokane hospitals and Kootenai Health, 314 patients are hospitalized with the virus.

But the next two weeks of hospitalizations, Lindquist said, do not look promising.

On that note, health officials encouraged residents to take precautions over the long Labor Day weekend and not to participate in risky behaviors that might land them in hospitals.

“Please mitigate your risk this weekend, so you’re not trying to access an already to-capacity health care system,” Lindquist said.

The delta variant led to a dramatic spike in cases and hospitalizations in August.

Delta is the most predominant variant found in Spokane County, according to the most recent sequencing report.

The delta variant is 40% more infectious than previous variants and strains of the virus, and its effectiveness at making people ill who have not been vaccinated is leading to high case counts everywhere, especially in places where vaccination rates are lower.

Delta changed the game for achieving effective vaccine coverage, and there are not enough people vaccinated or with natural immunity to effectively beat back the variant, Lindquist said.

Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said he thinks the delta surge will last longer in communities with lower vaccine coverage.

“We didn’t want to see a tale of two societies, but we’re starting to see one,” he said.

Here’s a look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 391 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths on Thursday.

There have been 748 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 224 people hospitalized with the virus in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District reported 309 new cases of the virus and no additional deaths.

There are 104 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.