King County’s top health officer reports that the rate at which the Omicron variant has spread over the past month is “mind boggling” because it is estimated by experts at the University of Washington that 90 percent of COVID cases in the region can be attributed to the new variant.
During a virtual press conference on Jan. 7, Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, said the infection rate has gone up 12-fold in the past month as a record-breaking average number of cases occur per day and hospitals are taxed by a five-times increase in hospitalizations in the same time span.
He said 1 in 7 ICU and acute-care hospital beds are currently occupied by a COVID patient. He said non-COVID hospitalizations and under-staffing are currently putting more stress on the healthcare system than at any point in the pandemic.
“Omicron is challenging us in new ways,” said Duchin. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”
He said there has been an 83 percent in hospitalizations in the last week alone when compared to the week before, with most of those patients being over age 40.
According to Duchin, Omicron infections seem to be “uncomplicated for most” and less severe as the vaccine seems to be protecting people. Statistically, the unvaccinated are 27 times more likely to die if infected.
He touted King County’s vaccination rates as a positive factor, with 86 percent of those age 12 and older completely vaccinated and 93 percent having begun their vaccination series.
Predictions from the University of Washington estimate that the region’s Omicron wave will peak in mid-January, but there is no sure determination of how long that peak will last. Duchin said the peak could last several weeks.