COVID-19 continues to spread across Washington, and quickly.
But with prevention techniques like masking, treatment like Paxlovid, and vaccines and boosters, health officials are not concerned yet of hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have not reached a point yet where hospitals are again struggling to find intensive care unit beds or to deliver normal care, said Dr. Dan Getz, chief medical officer at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
“It’s really a slow rise,” he said. “That’s the whole point of the measures we implemented.”
Those measures include things like getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible. Department of Health officials on Wednesday also recommended masking indoors, though they are not implementing a mask requirement yet.
“This is the time for us to remind ourselves that this pandemic is not over,” Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said.
Department of Health officials said Wednesday both cases and hospitalizations are increasing, and because many people are testing at home now, the state numbers could be an undercount.
Through Thursday, the seven-day case rate in Washington per 100,000 of population is 211.8; the total seven-day case count is 16,217, according to data from the state.
Deaths related to COVID-19 have not started going up yet, Shah said.
“We’ve gotten much better at how to treat COVID,” Getz said. “We have therapies that never existed before.”
One of the differences right now is how widely available treatments for COVID-19 are. Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment, and the monoclonal antibody treatment are both available for patients who qualify.
The requirements for the treatments are broad, Getz said, and includes anyone 65 and over; anyone with a history of high blood pressure; anyone with a body mass index of 25 and over; anyone with diabetes; pregnant people and anyone who is unvaccinated and 12 and over.
It’s a medication that tends to be “very, very safe,” he said. He encouraged anyone who tests positive to talk to their health care provider about treatment options.
“It’s important to remember we do have treatments, which we didn’t have just a short time ago,” Getz said.
Paxlovid can be helpful in preventing serious disease from COVID-19, especially for those who are immunocompromised or elderly, said Dr. Bob Lutz, a medical adviser for the Department of Health. The treatment is best used within five days of testing positive.
There is currently plenty of it available across the state for those who may need it, Lutz said.
As transmission increases, health officials are encouraging anyone who has symptoms to test for COVID-19. There are still community testing sites across the area, and at-home tests can still be ordered through the federal government at www.covid.gov/tests or the state at sayyescovidhometest.org/.
Getz said it’s hard to tell how long the rise in cases will last and what it could mean for the summer and fall. Memorial Day weekend could also mean a spike in cases, he said, especially among those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised.
This week’s local numbers
In Spokane County, there were 791 new cases reported this week.
The hospital admission rate is 0.4 per 100,000 for the past seven days. There were two new hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in the past week.
One more death due to COVID-19 was reported in the last week, bringing the county’s total to 1,351.
The Panhandle Health District reported 176 new cases in the last week. There are three people currently hospitalized with the virus in the five-county district.
No new deaths were reported in the past week.