Oct 17, 2022 - COVID

Washington state COVID-19 hospital stays drop by 50%

Illustration of a distressed hospital sign with the arrow portion detaching and swinging downwards

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

COVID-19 hospitalizations locally and statewide have fallen by about 50% since the peak of the most recent Omicron wave in July, public health data shows.

Why it matters: Fewer hospitalizations mean fewer people are getting seriously ill from the virus.

  • And, as cases go underreported amid a rise in home testing, hospitalization rates are a more reliable way to gauge the severity of the pandemic right now.

The big picture: The drop in hospitalizations between July and early October comes as city and state COVID-19 emergency orders are nearing an end.

  • Gov. Jay Inslee announced last month that Washington's pandemic state of emergency will expire Oct. 31. Last week, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the city's COVID-19 emergency will end the same day.

Yes, but: On average, two people are dying in King County from COVID-19 daily, Jeff Duchin, the county's public health officer, told reporters last week.

  • While down slightly from the summer peak, if that death rate continues, it would make COVID-19 the county's fifth leading cause of death annually, he said.
  • And, based on rising infections in Europe, officials are expecting another U.S. surge soon, Duchin added.

What they're saying: "If we account for underreporting, there are still thousands of new cases, many thousands more with infectious COVID-19, in King County every day," Duchin said.

  • Avoiding infection matters for avoiding long COVID, the symptoms of which can persist for weeks, months or longer.

Meanwhile, almost a third of Washington residents who contracted COVID-19 said they also experienced the often disabling after effects known as long COVID, according to a recent CDC survey.

By the numbers: The 30.4% of Washingtonians who reported long COVID symptoms post-infection was slightly higher than the national rate, which was 30%, per the late September survey.

Details: Long COVID symptoms vary from person to person but can include fatigue, difficulty breathing and mental health problems such as depression, the CDC says.

  • A study published this week in JAMA Network Open found long COVID could set individuals back the equivalent of a decades' worth of aerobic fitness, the Washington Post reported.
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