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Washington COVID cases see slight decrease, but health officials warn the numbers don’t tell all

June 29, 2022 Updated Wed., June 29, 2022 at 9:46 p.m.

By Julien A. Luebbers The Spokesman-Review

Washington COVID-19 cases have declined slightly in the past month, said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, chief science officer for the Washington Department of Health. But Kwan-Gett said the number’s don’t necessarily tell the full picture.

Because of home tests or people skipping tests altogether, “the cases that are reported to the department of health likely only represent less than 10% of infections in Washington,” Kwan-Gett said.

That’s why the panel of experts at a state news briefing Wednesday noted that residents should remain careful as they head into the summer months. That includes by staying up to date on vaccinations, wearing masks in dense settings, meeting and socializing outdoors when possible, testing, and staying home when sick.

Preventative measures are especially important given the “slight uptick in hospitalizations” across the state reported by Kwan-Gett.

The DOH focuses primarily on monitoring the danger of COVID, though.

“Fortunately, the curve for deaths remains stable at this time,” Kwan-Gett said.

Still, the rise in hospitalizations is troubling for local health officials, as hospitals statewide are “reporting significant stress due to a combination of factors such as work force shortages, and difficult-to-discharge patients,” Kwan-Gett said.

“The health care system in Washington is lower capacity than I think we wish we had for a population the size of Washington,” said Nathan E. Weed, acting deputy secretary for the Department of Health.

“The COVID pandemic disease rates are still impacting hospitals.”

The state vaccination rate is nearly 75% for those 5 and over. Vaccinations are recommended for children aged six months and older.

As the state rolls out a new batch of vaccines, Kwan-Gett said that COVID’s universal mildness in child cases is a myth, and that over 1,700 children 17 and under have been hospitalized in Washington for COVID-19. Another 17 have died.

“Washington provides all recommended vaccines at no costs for kids through age 18,” said Michele Roberts, assistant secretary for prevention and health.

The constantly changing field of COVID mitigation is complicated by new variants of the disease. Since the boom of the first omicron variant in 2022, several subvariants have taken its place.

Though the distribution of subvariants in Washington is in constant flux, Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for prevention and health, noted that “from a clinical perspective, we’re not seeing huge differences in disease. What we have noticed and are dealing with is that each of these subvariants are more transmissible.”

While the newer BA.4 and BA.5 variants may be more communicable, the risk to healthy individuals is not noticeably increased

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