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COVID-related hospitalizations rise amid surge in omicron cases in King County

The COVID-19 case peak is projected to come in mid-January.

SEATTLE — COVID-19 cases due to omicron are still surging, with King County predicting the peak to come mid-January.

The rise in cases, meanwhile, is leading to an unprecedented strain in Washington hospitals.

"Right now, we are closer to crisis situation than we ever have been," said Dr. John Lynch, who leads the clinical response to COIVD-19 at the University of Washington Medicine.

Meanwhile, in a briefing Friday, King County's health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin expressed that cases may get a lot worse before they get better.

"The speed of spread of omicron has been mind-boggling," Duchin said.

Duchin said as of Friday, there were 400 patients with COVID-19 in King County hospitals. That exceeds the past peak of 331 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in August 2021. It is the highest number the county has seen to date, according to Duchin.

"We expect hospitalizations to continue to rise and healthcare systems stress to continue to increase for several weeks after cases peak," Duchin said.

The Washington State Hospital Association led a briefing on Thursday, with the group's CEO, Cassie Sauer, pointing out the rise in cases come amid an already short-staffed workforce.

"One thing that is new for us is that we have a lot of hospital staff who are sick, who have tested positive," Sauer said.

Sauer also said delta cases are still an issue and compounding hospitalizations.

Also in the briefing, Lynch said the numbers at UW Medicine hospitals are growing every day.

For comparison, Lynch said there were 30 COVID-19 patients at UW Medicine hospitals during the weeks before the Christmas holiday. Today, that number is closer to 145.

"Just to be clear, within UW Medicine facilities, this is the largest number of COVID-19 patients we've had in the entire two years," Lynch said.

Overall in King County, the number of hospitalizations in the last seven days has increased to 71 percent, according to Lynch.

Projections from the Washington Department of Health's hospital admission rate show an upward trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide, with at least 1,200 COVID admissions leading into the new year.

Duchin said there are strategies to prevent the rise in COVID-19 hospital visits and ways to protect oneself from omicron.

He advised the public to avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces, wear a high-quality mask or respirator, isolate from others when sick, and get vaccinated and boosted.