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Washington state ‘on the cusp’ of beating 5th wave of COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic's fifth wave appears to be waning in Washington state, but officials say a lot of work still needs to be done.

SEATTLE — The fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen cases soar across Washington since August. The state's hospitalization and death rates reached record heights at the tail end of summer despite the availability of vaccines.

However, the state’s epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said Wednesday that he thinks Washington is “on the cusp of being able to turn this fifth wave down pretty good.”

The positive outlook came during the Department of Health briefing Wednesday morning. The latest data shows that case rates, hospitalization rates and even death rates are on a steady decline.

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In addition to distribution beginning for the newly approved pediatric vaccine for kids ages 5-11, Lindquist and the rest of the DOH panel voiced optimism for the future of the pandemic.

“Still, doesn’t negate the need to wear your mask,” Lindquist said. “All those principles—vaccination, masking and distancing from others—will very much help us get out of this fifth wave.”

The state has seen nearly 350 deaths in the last two weeks and there are still about 100 new hospitalizations every day, according to the DOH dashboard.

As for the pediatric vaccines, the rollout has been expectedly slow. As of Wednesday, 265,000 doses have arrived in the state, but getting appointments has been difficult as parents must compete with booster shot seekers to get their children a spot at a clinic or a doctor's office. 

“We want to make sure that the message to parents is ‘keep trying,’” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah. “The vaccine supply, as we’ve said over the last few weeks is slow and low, but it is going to increase.”

The state’s dashboard does not yet include vaccination rates for those ages 5-11, but as of Nov. 6, about 60% of the state’s total population is fully vaccinated. Also, 675,000 Washingtonians have also gotten their booster does.

“This continues to be a race against a virus,” Shah said. “The virus is doing what viruses do. It’s taking people on.”

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