The hospitals are operating out of beds and intensive care workers

An infection control nurse accompanies a patient who was born on Jan.

Karen Ducey | Getty Images

The Washington state Covid outbreak is so bad that hospitals are running out of intensive care beds as the Delta variant is driving cases near record highs, state health officials said Wednesday.

At least one woman died while waiting for a bed in the intensive care unit, said Dr. Steve Mitchell, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

“This patient who was seriously ill and sadly actually died in this small hospital when, after eight hours of trying, we couldn’t find an intensive care bed that could support her life at the time,” Mitchell said at a press conference with state health officials.

Another patient had to wait six hours for life-saving surgery and one patient had to be transferred to an Idaho hospital where a bed was available, he said.

“Unfortunately, we have long since got to the point where there really are no ICU beds in our state to accept these patients,” he said. Hospitals lack staff at all levels, from janitorial staff to clinical staff, he added.

According to a CNBC analysis of the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, cases are nearing all-time highs set in December, which averaged around 3,200 cases per day for the past week. However, Covid hospital admissions have hit an all-time high of 1,460 Covid patients, officials said. In the past month alone, 1,100 new Covid patients have been hospitalized, and the number doubles every 18 or 19 days, state officials said.

All hospitals in the state are “stressed, stretched and strained,” said Washington Minister of Health, Dr. Umair Shah. Hospital stays tend to rise a week or two after spikes in cases, but Covid deaths in the state have remained relatively stable.

The highly transferable Delta variant now accounts for 96% of cases in the state and has taken the case numbers to levels “higher than ever in Washington state,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the Acting State Scientific Director.

An overwhelming majority, 95%, of Covid hospital admissions in the state from February 1 to August 3 were people who were not fully vaccinated.

Vaccinations across the state have increased 21% in the past week and 34% in the past two weeks as the Delta variant dominates the headlines, officials said.

“We’re seeing an increase in vaccinations across all age groups,” said Michele Roberts, Assistant Secretary of State for the Department of Health.

The biggest surge in vaccinations is in older adults as parents worry that the Delta variant will spread to children when they return to school. About 48% of 12-15 year olds in Washington have started vaccinating, and 54% of 16-17 year olds have started vaccinating.

“That’s about half the children who are eligible in our state … we’d love to see those numbers rise, especially early in school,” said Roberts.

Washington ranks eighth among all states when it comes to how much of the population is fully vaccinated with two doses, about 59.5%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Aug. 24.

The state currently vaccinated 71.5% of its population ages 12 and older with at least one dose, according to the state Department of Health, but some counties in the state are still lagging behind.

“If we had 70% in the entire state, every neighborhood, every county, every region, we would be in a different place,” said Shah.

Some counties have vaccination rates well over 90% and other places dwell in the 30% range, “and that concerns us all,” said Shah.

“If we don’t vaccinate people and people don’t do what they can to help, then unfortunately we will move on in this situation,” said Shah. “And I know the majority of Washingtoners don’t want that.”

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