Registered nurse Estella Wilmarth tends to a patient in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center on Jan. 14 in Seattle. In Snohomish County, weekly COVID-19 case counts decreased dramatically in late January, (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

Registered nurse Estella Wilmarth tends to a patient in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center on Jan. 14 in Seattle. In Snohomish County, weekly COVID-19 case counts decreased dramatically in late January, (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

Past the omicron peak? Snohomish County’s COVID cases declining

Hospitalizations are still a concern, however, and infections in Eastern Washington and Idaho could have ripple effects here.

EVERETT — Snohomish County’s weekly COVID-19 case counts have decreased dramatically in late January, officials reported Tuesday.

Last week, 7,801 new cases were tallied. That’s compared to the previous week’s more than 14,000 cases, according to updated data.

The county’s two-week case rate also decreased for the first time since the omicron variant began fueling the most recent surge in infections. That rate is now at 2,636 per 100,000.

The local health district also reported 192 patients were in the hospital with COVID-19, with 27 ventilated. Three deaths had been reported since Monday.

Decreasing case rates align with local public health officials’ expectations that Snohomish County had moved past peak infections.

Hospitalizations are still higher than they were in previous peaks. On Tuesday, Dr. George Diaz, Division Chief of Medicine at Providence’s Everett hospital, said increasing hospitalizations in Eastern Washington and Idaho could ultimately impact Western Washington.

Some hospitals are at 150% capacity, said Taya Briley, executive vice president of the Washington State Hospital Association. And last week, the Washington Medical Coordination Center triggered a “guaranteed acceptance protocol.”

“The protocol goes into effect when all hospitals are full to the point of needing to refuse patients,” she said. “It’s a commitment of our large hospitals and health systems that no patient who’s in dire need of care will go without it.”

The protocol ended after about three days, Briley said, and helped place two patients who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten care.

This week three public health districts in Idaho activated crisis standards of care, a change in hospital operations that the state Department of Health and Welfare describes as “a last resort” to prioritize saving as many lives as possible, when demand outstrips hospital resources.

“We know from prior experience that their hospitals get overwhelmed and patients come and ultimately end up in Western Washington,” Diaz said. “So that’s highly concerning.”

While a Washington National Guard team is assisting the Everett hospital, Diaz said they’re largely doing non-clinical tasks, like transferring patients and performing face mask fit tests.

“In terms of staffing or where we really need help, which is nursing and (certified nursing assistants),” Diaz said, “it’s not having a huge impact in that regard.”

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @yawclaudia.

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