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Washington health officials say vaccines for first responders on track for mid-December

The latest data from the state shows the number of confirmed and suspected hospital patients with COVID-19 doubled in November.

Washington state health officials gathered online Wednesday to provide an update on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic as hospital occupancy is reportedly "soaring."

Hospital occupancy is rapidly increasing throughout the state as it experiences "exponential growth" in the number of new coronavirus cases.

Health officials said in Wednesday's media briefing that an emergency vaccine from Pfizer should be available to first responders in high-risk fields by mid-December. The state is initially expecting 62,400 doses. By the end of December, the state expects to have 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to distribute. 

This first prioritized phase of vaccine distribution is known as Phase 1A and is contingent on approval. There is no estimate for distribution of the Moderna vaccine, but that could change soon. 

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Hospital occupancy is "rapidly increasing" throughout the state as it experiences "exponential growth" in the number of new coronavirus cases.

The latest data from the state shows the number of confirmed and suspected hospital patients with COVID-19 doubled from 471 on Nov. 1 to 932 on Nov. 23. The number of confirmed and suspected patients in the ICUs increased by about 75% from 124 to 214 in the same timeframe.

If the doubling rate continues, the state "may have over 1,800 COVID-19 patients in our hospitals by mid-December," according to the Department of Health.

RELATED: Washington health experts concerned about hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases surge

“This situation is extraordinarily urgent, and we need everyone in Washington state to take action now to stop the spread of COVID-19 before our hospitals and frontline healthcare workers are overwhelmed,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “I am extremely concerned about the current exponential growth of COVID-19 cases. We must all re-commit to flatten the curve now.”

Because patients with COVID-19 may stay in hospitals for several weeks, occupancy will continue to rise even after admissions level off, according to the Department of Health. In some cases, hospitals may need to delay non-urgent procedures due to the lack of staffed beds.