Omicron surge starting to slow in Yakima County; hospitalizations down statewide – Yakima Herald-Republic

February 9, 2022
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Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High around 55F. Winds light and variable..
Partly cloudy skies. Low 33F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: February 8, 2022 @ 11:50 pm
Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital staffer shows Spc. Juan Perez and Spc. Evony Ramirez a supply area.

Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital staffer shows Spc. Juan Perez and Spc. Evony Ramirez a supply area.
Authorities say coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are falling throughout Washington state as the surge of the omicron variant subsides.
But in a Tuesday morning news briefing, Cassie Sauer, president of the Washington State Hospital Association, said the end of the omicron wave will likely persist for at least a few more weeks and hospital leaders remain worried about the recent wave’s lasting effects on their staffers and supply of equipment.
“We really don’t want people to rip off their masks or go to big parties quite yet — COVID activity remains a threat,” Sauer said.
Yakima County COVID-19 hospitalizations were down to 55 countywide on Tuesday, from a peak of 79 on Jan. 27-28, according to data from the health district. The seven-day hospitalization rate was 15.1 per 100,000 with seven new COVID-19 hospitalizations reported Tuesday.
Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital had fewer than 50 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marty Brueggemann said during the hospital briefing. The hospital recorded a pandemic-high of 69 COVID patients in a single day in January, Brueggemann said in an interview.
Yakima County’s case rate has declined from 4,178 per 100,000 over two weeks in January to 2,659 per 100,000 over two weeks, as reported by the health district Tuesday.
Hospitalizations are falling statewide, but Sauer said the decline has been most significant in Western Washington hospitals.
The Seattle Times reports that in King County, public health officials are counting about 1,428 infections per day, about a 50% drop from the past seven days, and 30 hospitalizations per day, about a 33% drop since the prior week.
At the beginning of the month, Washington counted 1,958 hospitalizations, compared to about 1,635 this week. As of late January, the state had also counted a seven-day average of about 16,365 infections per day, compared to 19,000 infections per day in mid-January.
Eastern Washington is beginning to mirror the same trend. In Spokane County, for example, about 196 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 a week ago, compared to about 170 Tuesday, Sauer said.
Sauer said deaths remain high, with 25 to 30 per day throughout the state.
The Yakima Health District has reported 22 total deaths from COVID-19 in February, with five new deaths reported Tuesday. There were a total of 26 COVID-19 deaths in January.
The number of hospital employees out for COVID-related reasons has also fallen statewide. About a month ago, Washington hospitals had 808 people out because of COVID-19 infection or exposure, Sauer said, compared to 134 people on one day last week and 108 people on Monday.
“That is a really, very good shift and very helpful for hospital capacity,” Sauer said. “To have both more staff available to work and fewer patients to care for is just fantastic news.”
At Memorial, the number of staff members out with COVID-related absences has fallen by more than 50% in the past couple weeks, Brueggemann said. The hospital had about 270 staff members out at the peak, he said, compared to 118 employees out on Tuesday, he said.
Memorial has help from more than 30 nurses and certified nursing assistants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who serve in critical bedside staffing roles, Brueggemann said, along with about 11 members of the National Guard who help with nonmedical tasks.
“Having FEMA clinical staff at the bedside is huge to be able to fill those holes with people out,” Brueggemann said in an interview. “The National Guard help has been incredibly welcome, as well. They can’t do clinical work, so they’re helping us stockrooms, clean rooms, running errands, those kind of non-clinical roles.”
The National Guard will be at the hospital until Feb. 21, he said, and the FEMA nurses will be there until at least early March.
Contact Kate Smith at katesmith@yakimaherald.com.
The Washington Department of Health re-opened a statewide portal Tuesday that allows people to order free COVID-19 rapid tests online. This time, 1.45 million tests will be available, serving 290,000 households, a news release said. This is the third time the state has made the tests available.
People can go to www.sayyescovidhometest.org or call 1-800-525-0127 to order the tests. Supplies are limited. When more tests available, the state will open the portal again.
People also can order tests through the federal government website www.COVIDtests.gov.
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