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Thurston County adds 4 more COVID-19 deaths as first Omicron variant detected

·7 min read

Four more Thurston County residents died of COVID-19 and 507 tested positive for the virus in the past week as the state detected the first Omicron variant cases.

Two Thurston women died due to COVID-19: one in her 50s and one in her 60s. Two men also died: one in his 60s and one in his 80s. The cases and deaths were added between Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, according to data from Thurston County Public Health and Social Services.

The state announced the detection of the first Omicron variant cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, including the first in Thurston County. The state described the local patient with the new variant as a man in his late 30s.

County Health Officer Dimyana Abdelmalek acknowledged the first Omicron case during a county meeting Tuesday morning. She called on residents to get vaccinated and continue following mitigation measures such as physical distancing and mask wearing.

“We are still learning about the specific efficacy of vaccine regarding infection,” Abdelmalek said of Omicron. “But we anticipate, and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is confident that the vaccines that we have, that are currently available, protect against severe illness and death including from the Omicron variant.”

Thurston County, which has a population of more than 295,000, has reported 23,022 confirmed cases and 243 deaths due to COVID-19 from March 2020 to Sunday. The county considers 22,137 cases recovered or recovering as of Monday — meaning 885 cases remained active.

The county’s weekly case count for the past week was significantly higher than the previous week when PHSS reported five deaths and 295 cases. Save for the previous week, the county has reported weekly case counts in the 500s since mid-October.

State data for Thurston County indicates disease transmission may be on a downward trend. The county’s two-week case rate fell to 294.2 per 100,000 people between Nov. 14-27 after reaching 368 from Nov. 3-16.

Given the lag in the state’s data, it remains to be seen if the Thanksgiving holiday may have spurred increased disease transmission in Thurston County. The record high case rate in the county was 523 from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1, the data show.

The county reports it’s responding to seven ongoing outbreaks at congregate care settings. To date, there have been 105 such outbreaks.

PHSS data indicates there was just one school closure due to a COVID-19 outbreak from Nov. 22-28. The closure affected a setting at North Thurston Public Schools and involved six cases.

Ten people were hospitalized with a confirmed case of COVID-19 over the past week in Thurston County, per PHSS. Since the start of the pandemic, the data show 1,438 people with COVID-19 have at some point been hospitalized.

PHSS director Schelli Slaughter described Thurston County’s hospital occupancy as high but stable. She said that 37 COVID-19 positive patients were hospitalized in the county and 21 of them were on ventilators as of Tuesday morning. Acute bed occupancy was at 97% and intensive care unit occupancy was at about 75%, she added.

The state reports the county had a hospitalization rate of 7.2 per 100,000 people between Nov. 21-27. This rate has been fluctuating after reaching a recent low of 5.5 from Nov. 8-14.

About 90.7% of ICU beds over a seven-day period were occupied in the West region, which includes Thurston County and some of its neighbors, as of Friday. The data show 21.4% of ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients in the region.

Hospitals in the region were 92% full over a seven-day period as of Sunday, per the data, while COVID-19 patients accounted for 13%.

From February to October, state data show 75.4% of cases (9,463) in Thurston County were in unvaccinated individuals. Meanwhile, 19.7% of cases (2,468) were in fully vaccinated individuals, per state data.

Across the state, those who were unvaccinated accounted for 75.6% of all 12 and older COVID-19 deaths from Feb. 1 to Nov. 2. Those partially vaccinated made up 5.8% of deaths and those fully vaccinated made up 18.9% of deaths, the data show.

PHSS does not share the vaccination status of those who die due to COVID-19 in Thurston County because they do not have access to that data, a county spokesperson previously said.

Vaccinations and tests

Just 59.7% of all Thurston residents were fully vaccinated as of Saturday, Dec. 4 and 64.8% had initiated vaccinations, per state data. The county’s vaccination rate increased by less than 1 percent over the past week.

Meanwhile, the data show about 76.9% of Thurston residents 16 and older have initiated vaccinations and 70.9% have been fully vaccinated.

As of Nov. 29, 80.8% of the state population 12 and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.6% had been fully vaccinated. This percentage includes aggregate data from the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs, both of which are not entirely reflected in the state’s data dashboard.

For comparison, 75.5% of Thurston County residents 12 and older have initiated vaccinations and 69.6% had been fully vaccinated as of Saturday.

The state reports 49,180 people (16.9%) in Thurston County have received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Across the state, just over 1.2 million people have gotten a booster.

Thurston County PHSS continues to offer free vaccination events every week. Events are listed on their coronavirus vaccine information website.

Eligible residents can find appointments at local providers such as pharmacies by visiting the state’s Vaccine Locator website. Many supermarket pharmacies are taking walk-ins for vaccines.

Those who have difficulty scheduling appointments online can call the Department of Health vaccine hotline at 888-856-5816 or the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services line at 360-867-2610. Information for Spanish speakers is available at these numbers as well.

There have been no updates to COVID-19 testing data since Sept. 15. PHSS says the state Department of Health paused this data release to increase capacity so it can process an increasing number of tests.

The DOH does not expect to restart its reporting of testing data until about Dec. 30 due to an “unexpected delay,” according to its data dashboard.

PHSS offers testing at various locations throughout the county, but this is limited to people with symptoms or who may have been exposed by a close contact.

People also can get tested at pharmacies such as Rite Aid and Walgreens. Over-the- counter COVID-19 antigen tests also are available at pharmacies.

In the region

▪ Pierce County had confirmed 97,894 total COVID-19 cases with 942 deaths as of Monday. Pierce County has a population of about 927,000.

▪ Grays Harbor County has seen a total of 9,634 confirmed and probable cases, with 147 deaths as of Sunday, according to state data. Grays Harbor County has a population of about 75,000.

Lewis County has had a total of 11,137 confirmed and probable cases with 176 deaths as of Sunday, per state data. Lewis County has a population of almost 83,000.

▪ Mason County has reported 5,526 confirmed cases with 72 deaths as of Monday. Mason County has a population of about 69,000.

In the state, nation and world

The state of Washington has reported a total of 784,129 COVID-19 cases and 9,436 deaths from the beginning of the pandemic to Sunday.

As of Nov. 19, the state estimated its effective reproductive number over time was 0.73 on Nov. 13, indicating the number of infected people has been decreasing. This metric measures the average number of new people that one COVID-19 positive person infects.

In the U.S., about 49.3 million COVID-19 cases had been reported as of Monday with over 779,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. population is about 330 million.

Globally, more than 266.3 million people had contracted the virus and over 5.2 million people had died of COVID-19 as of Monday, the data show.

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