In the past month, King County hospitals have seen a 700 percent increase in the average number of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations, straining hospital resources and staff, according to a press release by Public Health — Seattle & King County.
As the highly transmissible Omicron variant rips through the region, hospitalizations in King County went from an average of 8 per day to 70, according to the press release. That and other factors, like staff shortages, have meant delaying most surgeries, said Cassie Sauer, president and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.
“The sheer number of patients means hospital acute care and ICUs across the state are very full. Hospitals are doing everything they can with critical staffing levels to provide care in the most challenging situation we’ve seen to date,” Sauer said in the press release.
To help control community spread of the virus, people should: get vaccinated and boosted; wear better masks, such as N95s, KN95s or KF94, if available; avoid crowded indoor spaces; only go to the emergency rooms in actual emergencies; and continue to visit primary care doctors for routine health maintenance.
In recent weeks, health professionals have also stressed increased testing, including rapid at-home tests, which quickly became difficult to find. The Biden administration created a website that allows people to order four tests to home addresses, weeks after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to dismiss the idea raised in a question by NPR reporter Mara Liasson.
The website did not work for all residents of multi-family buildings in which other residents had already ordered tests. In a statement, the U.S. Postal Service said that the percentage of orders experiencing issues was “small,” according to The Verge news site.
Washington state also set up a way to order five free tests for households, which were delivered by Amazon. According to New York Times reporter Mike Baker, the state ran out of tests within hours, but will restock.
Both levels of government have been criticized for not differentiating by household size, meaning that a family of four could receive up to nine tests — the same as a single-person household.
This is a far cry from people’s experience in other countries like the United Kingdom, where you can pick up tests in packs of five or seven for free from local pharmacies, without limit, according to CBS News.
Under rules passed by the federal government, private insurance companies will reimburse customers for the price of eight at-home tests per month that they buy on their own. However, that cuts out the millions of Americans who do not have private insurance.
The federal and Washington state governments have also announced that they will be distributing millions of free, high-quality face masks.
Ashley Archibald is the editor of Real Change News.
Read more of the Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2022 issue.