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Delta variant causing COVID-19 cases to spread 'like wildfire' in Washington

Health officials said COVID-19 cases are approaching levels last seen in the winter 2020 surge.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — COVID-19 cases are “spreading like wildfire” among adults as well as children in Washington and state health officials said Friday they are extremely concerned. 

Department of Health (DOH) officials said in a news release the rapid acceleration in cases is demonstrating the delta variant’s potential to unravel the state’s hard-fought progress toward recovery. 

Health officials say unvaccinated people are being hit hardest and they are urging everyone who hasn't gotten fully vaccinated to do so immediately.

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"We are extremely concerned by this increased spike in cases, driven by the delta variant, spreading like wildfire amongst men, women, and children,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah. “Vaccination the best tool we have in this pandemic, but we also recommend that individuals mask indoors, and avoid large, crowded settings vaccinated or not."

Within the last 30 days, officials say the majority of counties have seen substantial case increases.

Here's the county break down from the DOH:

  • Only seven counties (Kittitas, Okanogan, Ferry, Klickitat, Walla Walla, Jefferson, Garfield, Grays Harbor) have seen cases increase less than 100% .
  • Twelve counties (Adams, Thurston, Snohomish, Benton, Skamania, Whatcom, Skagit, Kitsap, Yakima, Cowlitz, Mason, Grant) have seen cases increase between 100-299%.
  • Ten counties (Clallam, Stevens, Asotin, Whitman, Franklin, Spokane, King, Clark, Lewis, Pierce) have seen cases increase between 300-599%.
  • Six counties (Pend Oreille, Douglas, Lincoln, Pacific, Chelan, Island) have seen cases increase more than 600%.
  • Columbia, San Juan and Wahkiakum counties have among the fewest cases.

Health officials said virus cases are approaching levels last seen in the winter 2020 surge, "which means a lot of people are currently infected and may be spreading the virus." 

The state is seeing daily case counts in the 3,000 range for the first time since the winter of 2020. As of July 30, the DOH said one in 172 Washington residents was estimated to have an active COVID-19 infection. 

The increase in COVID-19 infections is putting a strain on hospitals that are already dealing with staffing challenges which are now being compounded by an increase in staff who have tested positive for the virus.

According to the DOH, COVID-19 related hospital admissions reached November 2020 levels as of Aug. 8 based on data reported by hospitals. 

As of late July, about 95% of COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized since February were not fully vaccinated, the DOH said. 

“Vaccination progress is continuing, but not fast enough,” said Shah. “If you are unvaccinated and continue to have questions, we encourage you to speak to a trusted healthcare provider.”

According to the state's COVID-19 data dashboard, as of Aug. 10, 70.7% of the population 12 and up has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.