Thursday, December 9, 2021
Dec. 9, 2021

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State, Cowlitz County COVID-19 cases, hospitalization continue decline, deaths increase

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LONGVIEW — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline statewide as vaccination rates increase, state health officials said Wednesday.

“There are hopeful signs in our data, but we’re still in a very tenuous situation statewide,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, state deputy secretary for COVID-19 response.

Cowlitz County’s COVID-19 cases and new hospital admissions also have decreased, but remain at a high rate of about 955 new cases per 100,000 people.

“I’m happy with our downward trend, but we’re still at really high levels of cases and incredible levels of hospitalizations occurring,” said Dr. Steve Krager, county deputy health officer.

The county’s seven-day hospitalization rate is about two-and-a-half to three times the state’s rate, Krager said. Cowlitz County recorded 27 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people from Sept. 14 to Sept. 20, compared to 13.5 per 100,000 statewide.

Krager said the county is seeing the consequence of the spike in cases and hospitalizations in its death rate, which is more than four times higher than the state’s. Cowlitz County recorded about 13.6 deaths per 100,000 people from Aug. 22 to Aug. 28, compared to 3.2 per 100,000 statewide. The state considers the most recent 32 days to be incomplete.

One week in late August, 20 people died from COVID-19, Krager said.

“We’ve never seen that in Cowlitz County,” he said, and “I’m concerned about our really high death rate.”

The county recorded five new COVID-19 deaths so far this week, with 192 total deaths.

Cowlitz County on Wednesday recorded 42 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 10,759 confirmed and 1,286 probable cases. As of Wednesday morning, PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center had 32 COVID-19 patients.

The overall decline in cases and hospitalizations statewide is “welcome and hopeful news,” said Fehrenbach, with the state Department of Health. Disease activity remains very high and the state is recording more new hospital admissions than during the winter peak, she said.

Health officials expect hospital occupancy and capacity to be strained over the next several weeks to months, Fehrenbach said.

“Our ability to continue to drive down disease rates and hospital admissions related to COVID depends on reducing the number of people who are susceptible to COVID in the first place,” she said. “Getting vaccinated and also doing measures that we know slow spread … are really important.”

State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said he is worried about the strain on the healthcare system as high numbers of COVID-19 patients are admitted on top of patients needing urgent medical care.

Shah urged everyone eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine to help reduce the burden on healthcare providers.

Since mid-August, the state has seen a 25% increase in residents initiating vaccination, said Michele Roberts, health department acting assistant secretary.

As of Monday, 63.1% of Washington residents initiated vaccination and were 57.6% were fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccinations given in Cowlitz County increased from August through mid-September but appear to be decreasing slightly in the last couple weeks. About 55% of county residents had initiated vaccination and 49.1% were fully vaccinated as of Monday.

County and state officials said they looking forward to federal approval for COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 12 years old.

Pfizer submitted research to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine in children 5- to 11-years-old, the Associated Press reported. Company officials said they will file an application to authorize vaccine use in the coming weeks, and shots may be available in November.

Krager said the expanded eligibility would help decrease Cowlitz County’s COVID-19 activity. Children and teens 12 to 19 years old had the second-highest seven-day COVID-19 case rate in the county, he said. The highest rate is among 20- to 34-year-olds, according to the Department of Health.

“There are a lot of kids getting sick right now with COVID-19, so vaccinating them would be a huge help,” Krager said.

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