Officials with the state Department of Health on Wednesday said that while the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline, Washington needs to remain vigilant in avoiding transmission that could stress hospitals more.
“COVID-19 hospital occupancy is at 18 percent,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for COVID-19 Response during a briefing with reporters. “This is a decrease from a high of about 25 percent in early September but still well above our goal of being less than 10 percent.
“Total occupancy remains high, about 91 percent, and ICU occupancy is sitting around 88 to 89 percent from day to day.”
She added: “COVID 19 ICU occupancy is at 29 percent. That’s a decrease from our high of 37 percent. A move again in the right direction but still above our goal of being less than 20 percent.”
While hospitals were seeing some relief, she noted they were still “very, very stressed and stretched and we expect that this will continue because disease is high.”
Michele Roberts, acting assistant DOH secretary, reported that more than 9.3 million vaccine doses had been given to more than 5 million people in the state, with 77.6 percent of the population 12 and older receiving at least one dose. Statewide, 71.4 percent of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
Roberts said that as of Oct. 10, about 205,000 people in the state since Aug. 13 have received an additional dose of vaccine, either as the Pfizer booster among qualified recipients or third dose for those whose immune systems are compromised.
The FDA is meeting this week to consider further booster recommendations for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer is to meet with the FDA later this month to review its data on vaccines for children ages 5-11.
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the White House has told governors to start preparing for child vaccinations by next month.
“Vaccines for kids under 12 are getting closer to becoming a reality,” said Roberts. “We are hopeful vaccines will be available for younger kids soon.”
Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah announced the state was starting to receive some of the federal resources requested last month when hospitals were even more strained.
“I want to be really clear that these resources are not going to solve the entirety of the challenges,” he said.
More details on the federal resources would be shared at a later date, officials said Wednesday.
Officials also warned residents to keep COVID prevention top of mind with upcoming Halloween celebrations.
“Outdoor activities and gatherings are safer than indoor ones — you can take your kids trick or treating around the neighborhood,” Fehrenbach said. “We would recommend limiting indoor Halloween activities.”
“And if you do gather indoors, make sure you have good ventilation,” she said.
“Just a reminder … wearing a Halloween mask is not the same thing as wearing a mask that’s going to protect you from COVID-19,” Shah added.