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COVID-19: Transmission rates ‘high’; Samaritan still has room, contingency plan

by EMILY THORNTON
Assistant Managing Editor | August 20, 2021 1:03 AM

The COVID-19 transmission rate recently has prompted health officials to require people to take precautions, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, even if they’re vaccinated.

Adams and Grant counties have “high” COVID-19 transmission rates according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as they have had 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents in the previous seven days.

The transmission rates throughout the state also led Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday to require certain people to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. Additionally, he said those, such as businesses, which don’t follow the indoor mask mandate starting Monday for all – regardless of vaccination status – will face repercussions.

In Grant County, there were about 781 new cases in the past 14 days as of Wednesday, according to the state Department of Health’s website. The CDC COVID Data Tracker reported the county had 473 in the previous seven days as of Wednesday, which was a 36% increase. This equals 484 cases per 100,000 people. (The population was 99,123 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.)

Some of the increase in the county has been linked to a public event to which more than 230 cases have been tied. Cases from exposure at the Watershed Music Festival July 30-Aug. 1 near George have appeared in Grant, King, Kittitas, Pierce, Okanogan, Kitsap, Whatcom, San Juan, Stevens, Spokane, Snohomish, Skagit and Lincoln counties, as well as one case in Oregon. Nine of the cases were Grant County residents hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to the Grant County Health District.

Officials, such as Inslee, seem to be motivated by the case totals, even though there appear to be nearly the same number of positive cases as in December. Washington recently broke the previous record for COVID hospitalizations set in December, according to the governor’s Medium page, but no numbers from December were readily available.

Inslee’s public affairs officers deferred the Herald to the DOH, and the DOH didn’t respond to requests by the Herald for further information by press time.

The county has had 545 hospitalizations from the start of the pandemic and 99 deaths, which is a less than 1% death rate of the 11,123 total cases as of Wednesday, according to the DOH.

The CDC reported new hospitalizations during the seven-day period ending Tuesday were 3.97 per 100 beds, an increase of 325%.

Adams County had about 489 new cases in the past 14 days as of Wednesday, according to the DOH, while the CDC reported 75 cases in the last seven days, which was a 150% increase through Wednesday. The 75 new cases amount to 375 per 100,000 people. (The county’s population was 20,613 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.)

The county has had 121 hospitalizations since the beginning and 25 deaths, which is a 1% death rate of the 2,443 total cases, according to the DOH.

The CDC reported one new hospitalization in the past seven days as of Tuesday, which was about 5 per 100 beds.

Meanwhile, Samaritan Hospital on Thursday morning had 14 COVID-19 patients, all between the ages of 26 and 84 – seven were in the intensive care unit, and seven were in the medical/surgical unit, according to Gretchen Youngren, executive director of development & communications for Samaritan.

“Over the past week, there has also been a constant flow of COVID patients in our Emergency Department, although not all of them are admitted to the hospital,” Youngren wrote to the Herald. “Of the 14 COVID patients in house, zero are vaccinated.”

The hospital has a plan in case there is a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“While Samaritan is licensed as a 50-bed facility, we continue to update and maintain a surge plan that could potentially accommodate up to 200 patients at one time,” she wrote. “Thankfully, we have not had to fully activate this plan during the pandemic.”

Youngren wrote the hospital has had a “significant increase in testing appointments and admissions to the hospital” in the past two to three weeks.

“Staff continue to work around the clock to provide care to patients in both our hospital and clinics, but they are tired and like many other health facilities throughout our region, staffing has become challenging as the pandemic surges again,” she wrote.

She also urged people to get routine medical care.

“A significant number of the non-COVID admissions over the past several months have been largely due to medical issues that could have otherwise been caught or avoided by seeking routine care with a primary care provider,” Youngren wrote.