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‘A highly precarious situation’ — Seattle’s lonely Thanksgiving appears to have paid off but state officials say Christmas COVID risk remains high with hospitals filling

Washington case counts (Source: www.doh.wa.gov)

After the restrictions, the masks, and the lonely Thanksgiving, things are better in Seattle and King County but state officials say Washington remains at risk of overwhelming its healthcare system with COVID-19 patients.

“Although substantial reductions in transmission have been observed, this reduction has not been sufficient to reverse increases in prevalence or hospitalizations, and daily hospital admissions have remained relatively flat over the first three weeks of December,” the Washington State Department of Health reports in its latest coronavirus situation report (PDF).

State officials said heading into the Christmas holiday that Washington “remains in a highly precarious situation, with prevalence at the same level as it was in mid-November, and daily hospitalizations at a higher level than they were in mid-November.”

Washington hospitals and ICUs continue to have high occupancy despite reductions in non-urgent procedures, according to the state report.


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Worries of a Thanksgiving surge led to the reinstatement of restrictions on social gatherings and most businesses in Washington starting in November. Gov. Jay Inslee asked people to forgo gathering with family and friends for the holiday.

Similar discipline is necessary for Christmas, state officials said Wednesday.

“Any relaxation in the behaviors that have successfully lowered transmission over the previous month would again result in exponential growth in cases and hospitalizations, but starting from a much higher baseline level than the start of November,” the report reads.

Officials say daily hospital admissions in Washington were projected to double every two weeks if transmission had remained at levels seen at the start of November. If the rate of increase were to occur starting at current levels, COVID-19 admissions would “overwhelm hospital capacity in a matter of weeks.”

The effort to encourage safe behaviors at Thanksgiving seems to have helped slow the spread in Seattle and King County. The county is currently averaging around 400 new positive cases per day — down from highs averaging above 700 in November.

The county continues to pay a heavy prices for those who become sick. New hospitalizations are hovering around 31 a day and deaths are being recorded at around 7 — every day.

And there will be more deaths to come. Around 2% of those who become sick have died from COVID-19 related complications.

King County’s readiness appears to be holding steady. The county reports 84% of its hospital beds are occupied — still above the 80% readiness goal but a total is that is no longer surging.

Meanwhile, more is being done to help people make it through the crisis. CHS reported here on what comes next as the new vaccines arrive in Seattle and here as the state’s “Phase 1a” of distribution began.

Wednesday, Gov. Inslee announced he would again extend the ban on evictions through March 2021.

And in Washington D.C., Congress has agreed on a $900 billion relief bill that includes new stimulus checks, expanded unemployment insurance, and billions to help support industries, small businesses, and theaters and live music venues. Now it just needs to get the bill by the lame duck president.


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