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Sept. 18, 2021

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Clark County hospitals near capacity as delta surge fuels COVID-19 cases

County ICUs were full, hospitals at 97 percent capacity as of Tuesday; Public Health data shows August deaths were underreported

By , Columbian Metro Editor
Published:

Clark County reported that 100 percent of its ICU beds and 97 percent of its hospital beds were occupied earlier this week as the delta variant continues to boost infection and hospitalization rates.

The new information, as of Tuesday, came as data from Clark County Public Health revealed a much higher recent death rate from the disease than previously reported.

Public Health added 43 new deaths to the county’s tally on Thursday, for a total of 349 deaths from COVID-19 to date. Public Health said 34 of those deaths occurred in August, five in July and four in prior months.

Public Health has previously said it generally takes 10 to 12 days for a death to be added to the county’s total as county health officials review medical records to learn more about the death, such as if the person had an underlying condition. That process derailed as cases surged with the arrival of the highly contagious delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases and increase in local outbreaks, Public Health was unable to keep up with medical record reviews for COVID-19 deaths, which resulted in a delay in Public Health reporting some of these deaths,” the agency said on its website Thursday.

Public Health said it will now report all COVID-19 deaths referred to it by the Washington Department of Health, though it may no longer be able to report on underlying conditions.

The county reported 1,252 COVID-19 cases confirmed by molecular PCR testing, for a total of 30,977 to date, and 104 probable cases diagnosed by antigen testing, for a total of 2,834.

Combined, the 1,356 new cases work out to an average of about 194 new cases a day, lower than last week’s average of about 229 cases per day but the second-highest average to date.

The number of active cases still in isolation fell by 50 cases since Sept. 2, for a total of 1,511 as of Thursday.

The heightened disease activity pushed the county’s COVID-19 activity rate to 549.3 cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, up from last week’s 523 per 100,000. The new rate set a record, but it reflected a smaller week-over-week increase than the county has been seeing since cases began to pick up in late July.

Hospitalizations continued to rise, with 15.4 new hospital admissions per 100,000 population over a one-week period. As of Tuesday, there were 132 hospital beds occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients and two more occupied by people suspected to have COVID-19, according to Public Health. They accounted for 27.1 percent of the county’s hospital beds and 20.7 percent of its ICU beds.

Hospital occupancy levels vary day by day, according to Legacy Health System spokeswoman Vicki Guinn. She said Legacy Salmon Creek had two open ICU beds on Thursday. Similar information wasn’t available from PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

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