Coronavirus In Lakewood: The Week In Review

·10 min read

LAKEWOOD, WA — Coronavirus activity remains high in Washington and across the United States heading toward the holidays, and health officials continue to urge precautionary measures well into 2021.

The Washington State Department of Health reported more than 3,100 new coronavirus cases Friday and added 29 deaths to its official tally.

According to the risk assessment dashboard, Washington's rate of new cases has grown to 460 per 100,000 residents over two weeks — more than 18 times the target threshold. All but one of the state's 39 counties currently show rates well into the highest transmission bracket.

Approximately 81.5 percent of the state's acute care beds are occupied, and more than 12 percent of that total is from patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. Intensive care beds are just below 80 percent occupied, and COVID-19 patients account for more than 20 percent of that total.

Earlier in the week, state health officials said it was still too early to determine the full impacts of the Thanksgiving holiday, due in part to fewer people seeking testing or health care over the long holiday weekend. However, hospitalization trends have remained high and federal testing data show a higher percentage of positive tests in the weeks since the holiday.

In Pierce Couny specifically, case counts have continued to rise. As of the latest update to the Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 499.1 coronavirus cases per every 100,000 county residents over the past 14 days. That is higher than the last few weeks but not inordinately high for the state: Washington's statewide average rate is 460 cases per every 100,000 residents.

In Lakewood, there have now been a total of 1,650 lab-confirmed COVID-19 infections and 19 deaths since the pandemic began.

Highest weekly case increases (Dec. 4 - Dec. 11)

  • King County: +5,908 cases (+261 hospitalizations)

  • Spokane County: +2,155 cases (+114 hospitalizations)

  • Pierce County: +2,187 cases (+129 hospitalizations)

  • Snohomish County: +2,155 cases (+101 hospitalizations)

  • Clark County: +1,344 cases (+102 hospitalizations)

Catch up on this week's headlines:

FDA grants emergency approval for Pfizer vaccine; first shipments expected next week

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday formally granted the first emergency use authorization for a coronavirus in the United States, allowing states to begin receiving them by next week. According to the Associated Press, three million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be distributed across the country in the first shipments. Washington is preparing for 62,000 doses next week, and 222,000 by the end of December.

If a second vaccine candidate, developed by Moderna, is approved, state health officials expect another 180,000 doses available by the end of the month. Both vaccines require two doses for maximum effectiveness.

Initially, immunizations will be limited to frontline health care workers and staff and residents at long-term care facilities, classified under state and federal guidelines in "phase 1A." What groups will qualify in the next steps, phases 1B and 1C, is still being finalized.

In a news briefing Wednesday, the state's lead vaccine planner said the goal was to have the first priority group vaccinated by mid-January while immunizing everyone in the general public who wants the vaccine is likely to take a few more months.

Washington's coronavirus situation report shows more hospitalization, higher percentage of positive tests

The state's latest situation report, released this week, showed a rapid spread of coronavirus through mid-November, as hospital admissions reached the highest level since March.

The Washington State Department of Health said some post-Thanksgiving trends, like case counts, are still uncertain and likely to become more clear in the next week. Concerning trajectories in hospitalizations and rising deaths remain.

Here are a few of the report's highlights, identified by DOH:

  • COVID-19 continued to spread at a rapid pace throughout the state through mid-November. The best estimates of the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) were 1.44 in western Washington and 1.33 in eastern Washington as of November 15. The goal is a number well below one, which would mean COVID-19 transmission is declining.

  • 30 of 39 counties had rates above 200 new cases per 100,000 people prior to Thanksgiving. This indicates that COVID-19 activity is both high and widespread in Washington.

  • Cases, hospitalizations and deaths continued to increase sharply since the last situation report. The seven-day rolling average case count in western Washington was more than eight times higher on November 20 than September 12. In eastern Washington, that average increased fivefold over the same period.

  • Daily hospitalizations have been on the rise, with hospital admissions reaching peak March levels as of November 20. Eastern Washington saw an almost threefold increase in daily hospital admissions since the start of September. In western Washington, daily hospitalizations increased over four times since the beginning of October.

  • Over the month of November, the number of hospital beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 rose sharply across the state. Intensive care unit (ICU) beds occupied by COVID-19 patients show a similar trend, with particularly steep increases in western Washington.

  • If hospital admissions continue to grow, we could see hospital occupancy double every two weeks. Hospital occupancy rises faster than admissions, as COVID-19 patients generally stay in the hospital longer than one day. Increasing percentages of the general population with active COVID-19 infections could also result in hospital staff shortages. Washington hospitals have already reduced non-urgent procedures to increase capacity, and ability to create further capacity may be limited. It’s not yet clear whether we are beginning to see a leveling off of hospital admissions or if exponential growth will continue.

  • Growth in cases is widely distributed across the state. Among the five largest counties, Clark, Snohomish and Spokane continued to see increases in case counts. Case counts appeared to be flattening in King and Pierce counties. Several medium-sized counties (Benton, Cowlitz, Franklin, Grant, Skagit, Thurston and Yakima) saw steep increases through mid-November, with some recent flattening through November 20. Other mid-size counties such as Kitsap and Whatcom continued to see increases.

  • Many small counties are still affected by the surge, with high case counts for their population size. Several of these counties (Adams, Asotin, Clallam, Walla Walla and Whitman) saw recent plateaus but still have high average case counts. Others (Chelan, Kittitas, Lewis, Stevens) continued to show increases. Several counties (Mason, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, Columbia, Ferry, Skamania, Wahkiakum) had low overall case numbers but were still seeing increasing case counts. Per capita case rates were particularly high in several southeastern counties.

  • The overall percentage of Washington state residents with active COVID-19 infection was higher in November than the peak in late March. The best model-based estimate as of November 20 was 0.52%.

Washington changes how it publicly reports coronavirus deaths

State health officials on Thursday announced a major change in how it presents coronavirus deaths, shifting from reporting those with preliminary causes to only including deaths after they have a registered cause of death in the state database. As a result of the change, the state temporarily removed 214 deaths from its official tally. In a news release, the state Department of Health said it expected to add back more than 150 of them within two weeks.

Officials said the adjustment allows for a streamlined process and more precise reporting.

From the Department of Health:

  • We will no longer assume a death is caused by COVID-19 if a positive lab result is reported more than 28 days prior to death. Until now, we correlated a positive COVID-19 lab result up to 60 days prior to death. Using this new process, 68 such deaths are being removed from our dashboard today.

  • Deaths won't be reported until they are fully registered in the Washington Health and Life Event System (WHALES). Just over 150 deaths that are only in the state's Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) fit into this category. These deaths will return to dashboard death counts once they are registered in WHALES.

The DOH said the new methods will mean an added delay in reporting deaths after they occur, but the end result will be more accurate data.

Read more: 214 Coronavirus Deaths Removed From WA Totals After Adjustment

Inslee extends coronavirus restrictions until Jan. 4

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a three-week extension to pandemic restrictions, which were set to expire on Monday, Dec. 14. Under the governor's latest order, a statewide ban on indoor dining will remain in place until Jan. 4, along with limited capacity at retail and grocery stores and a prohibition on indoor gatherings with people from outside the immediate household.

Inslee said it was possible the restrictions could be lifted earlier, if the state's data showed "significant improvement." However, with the current level of transmission and hospitalizations, health officials are skeptical that will happen soon.

Read more: Inslee Extends Coronavirus Restrictions, Announces Relief Grants

Total coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths by county:

Editors note: Patch is now updating these totals on a weekly, rather than daily, basis. Readers should keep in mind that the increases below represent infections, hospitalizations and deaths over a seven-day period.

County

Confirmed Cases

Hospitalizations

Deaths

Adams

1,467 (+88)

80 (+3)

13 (+1)

Asotin

798 (+77)

36 (+2)

15 (+2)

Benton

9,562 (+1,034)

552 (+41)

143 (-4)

Chelan

2,604 (+92)

117 (+12)

22 (-2)

Clallam

576 (+64)

24 (+2)

4

Clark

10,773 (+1,344)

588 (+102)

129 (+14)

Columbia

59 (+10)

9 (+1)

3

Cowlitz

1,815 (+279)

93 (+15)

15 (+1)

Douglas

1,422 (+29)

69 (+3)

10 (-2)

Ferry

136 (+36)

6 (+3)

1

Franklin

7,478 (+699)

413 (+20)

75

Garfield

60 (+1)

2 (+1)

0

Grant

4,562 (+266)

225 (+8)

38 (-2)

Grays Harbor

1,360 (+256)

81 (+13)

17 (-3)

Island

767 (+78)

55 (+4)

16 (-2)

Jefferson

191 (+20)

17 (+1)

1

King

52,398 (+5,908)

3,587 (+261)

912 (-2)

Kitsap

3,029 (+348)

173 (+17)

30 (-1)

Kittitas

1,318 (+133)

36 (+5)

23

Klickitat

326 (+38)

16 (+2)

3

Lewis

1,602 (+271)

108 (+23)

17 (-1)

Lincoln

203 (+24)

14 (+1)

4

Mason

1,140 (+203)

46 (+2)

12 (-1)

Okanogan

1,315 (+60)

75 (+3)

14 (+1)

Pacific

292 (+25)

10 (+2)

3

Pend Oreille

317 (+37)

17

3

Pierce

20,280 (+2,187)

1,557 (+129)

285 (-7)

San Juan

67 (+5)

3

0

Skagit

2,462 (+300)

162 (+19)

31

Skamania

142 (+30)

7 (+2)

1

Snohomish

17,587 (+2,155)

1,313 (+101)

306 (+2)

Spokane

20,544 (+2,351)

1,143 (+114)

276 (+5)

Stevens

877 (+105)

51 (+6)

10

Thurston

3,580 (+394)

249 (+23)

47 (-6)

Wahkiakum

43 (+7)

0

0

Walla Walla

2,601 (+261)

148 (+14)

26 (-4)

Whatcom

2,834 (+239)

161 (+9)

52 (-4)

Whitman

2,519 (+92)

49 (+5)

25 (+1)

Yakima

15,271 (+1,135)

933 (+32)

294 (-19)

Unassigned

1,177 (+583)

12 (+1)

3

Total

195,554 (+21,264)

12,237 (+964)

2,879 (-46)

The above numbers are provided by the state Department of Health, and some numbers differ from the totals provided separately by county health agencies.

This article originally appeared on the Lakewood-JBLM Patch