GOLDENDALE, Wash — The sheriff of Klickitat County in southwest Washington who has been especially vocal in his opposition to pandemic restrictions was recently hospitalized with COVID-19 and is relying on oxygen.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the experience hasn’t changed Sheriff Bob Songer's stance. Songer said this week he doesn’t know how he caught the coronavirus, but in late July, he experienced symptoms including a headache, runny nose and difficulty breathing.
The 76-year-old’s diagnosis led to a five-day hospital stint. Songer said he’s back home now and using oxygen.
Songer chalked up his oxygen use not solely on COVID-19, but to an array of lung issues, including chronic pulmonary issues and being a smoker for 50 years, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
“I’ve had pneumonia, bronchitis, all sorts of health problems associated with lungs,” Songer said in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting. “So, me going in, and them diagnosing me as COVID, didn’t mean squat to me. It meant I was fighting the same thing I’ve fought for several years.”
When he returns to work, Songer said he would resume fighting pandemic restrictions he calls government overreach.
Songer has openly criticized Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 restrictions and public health mandates like social distancing. In November 2020, Songer said he would “uphold our citizens’ constitutional rights and liberties” and not enforce COVID-19 restrictions put in place by Inslee to slow the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said there are more people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Washington state than at any other time during the pandemic.
The latest data shows 1,240 COVID-19 patients are currently in Washington state hospitals. About 85-90% of those patients are unvaccinated, while the other 10-15% are almost entirely those who are vaccinated but suffer from a preexisting medical condition.
The previous record for the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients came in December, with about 1,100 hospitalizations.
Sauer said until the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations due to the delta variant, the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the state had been holding steady at about 300 to 350 people. The numbers began increasing in early July and have been doubling about every two weeks.
As of Thursday, there were 72 active COVID-19 cases in Klickitat County, according to health department data.