Other respiratory viruses obscure the COVID-19 picture in Washington state – Community News
Covid-19

Other respiratory viruses obscure the COVID-19 picture in Washington state

SEATTLE – Washington state health officials say there is growing concern that more patients are getting sick from respiratory viruses other than COVID-19 as the colder weather approaches.

The Seattle Times reports that in the last week of October, the state recorded a seven-day number of coronavirus cases of 174.2 infections per 100,000 Washingtonians, the most recent full data. The rate dropped from about 200 cases per 100,000 in mid-October.

COVID hospitalizations also continue to decline slowly. At the end of October, there was a seven-day rate of 9.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, down from 10.6 per 100,000 the week before. Last year around this time, hospitalizations were about the same, ranging from 9.3 to 10.9 per 100,000 people.

“When it comes to cases, especially hospitalizations, we are still seeing higher numbers than we would like to see,” said Health Secretary Dr. Umair A. Shah at Wednesday’s press conference.

Hospital occupancy also remains high, which is common at this time of year, said state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist.

“A lot of this is due to the start of our respiratory virus season,” he said.

This year, in addition to COVID, Lindquist said he is concerned about the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which causes cold-like symptoms. King County, which follows the respiratory virus season each year, has reported that the percentage of positive RSV tests at the end of October was much higher than in the past at this time of year – 13% of tests are positive compared to the average of less than 2%.

“I see patient after patient with respiratory viruses that are not COVID,” Lindquist said. “This really complicates the picture.”

Children tend to have “very high” cases of coronavirus, especially in northeastern Washington, Lindquist added. At the end of October, the seven-day infection rate for children between the ages of 4 and 10 was 224.37 cases per 100,000 people, about 22% higher than the general population.

Fortunately, Lindquist said, the state is seeing some increase in community immunity, both through vaccination and natural immunity. He referred to Washington’s current R-effective estimate — the average number of new people one person infects with COVID-19 — which is about 1.07.

The state passed a milestone of 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses last week — at least 600 of which were given to children between the ages of 5 and 11 after the small injections were federally approved last week, DOH Acting Assistant Secretary Michele Roberts said Wednesday.

Roberts acknowledged a “significant” data delay for those shots as it takes a few days to process vaccination numbers, and said she expects the number to “increase rapidly” in the coming weeks.