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Hospital leaders: 'Mask up' amid new COVID-19 surge in Washington state

COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 10% over the last week, reaching almost 600 cases in hospitals statewide, according to the state hospital association.

SEATTLE — Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated there was fewer than one COVID-related death per day. The current death rate per 100,000 residents is less than one per day.

Hospital leaders in Washington said the state is in a "very concerned" stage when it comes to the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. All but five Washington counties are reporting a "high rate" of the virus.

According to the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 10% over the last week, reaching almost 600 cases in hospitals statewide.

Hospitalizations, while high, are plateauing. It's now down from February's peak which saw 1,700 hospitalizations, but still higher than April's average of 230 coronavirus hospitalizations a day. 

Most people are not getting as sick from COVID, though, with more access and faster testing and treatments, according to health leaders who spoke at a press conference Monday. 

According to information from the Washington Department of Health, there is currently less than one COVID death per 100,000 residents per week. As of June 3, the seven-day rate was 0.6 per 100,000, which equates to six to seven COVID-related deaths per day across the state.

But, state health leaders said it's not just COVID patients that are making some hospitals in the Puget Sound run at 120% over normal capacity.

Washington has one of the fewest hospital beds per capita ratios in the country, according to WSHA, so other viruses like the flu are also a concern.

"What it ultimately means is at times, to staff our facilities, we've got to use staffing levels that are crisis staffing where sometimes we have to ask people who feel well enough to come to work, which is not ideal," said Dr. David Carlson, chief physician officer at MultiCare Health.

While last month Gov. Jay Inslee said reinstating the mask mandate was not on the table, health officials are asking everyone to mask up indoors and in crowded places to keep more people out of the hospital. 

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