COVID cases climb in WA, CDC director warns of ‘impending doom’

SEATTLE — After a plateau, COVID cases are climbing again in the state even after millions of vaccine doses have been given.

This has doctors concerned, especially with Washington now operating in phase 3.

Researchers say the more transmissible variants are driving the increase in cases. They’ve identified two variants from California that are spreading in Washington. They expected the U.K. variant to become dominant, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Health officials say a fourth wave is looming. The situation is so daunting the director of the CDC couldn’t hide her concern on Monday.

“I’m going to pause here. I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now, I’m scared,” said CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

In Washington vaccination rates are climbing, but can they outpace the more transmissible variants.

“I’m feeling increasingly worried, not yet to ‘impending doom’, " said Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.

In King County, doctors say the increase in cases we’re seeing is linked to behavior before the Phase 3 opening last week.

“I think there’s a good chance we’re looking at the beginning of a fourth wave, I can’t predict how big it will be and how much damage it will cause,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health for Seattle and King Counties.

Doctors say spring break travel could make it worse. Cases are climbing in 18 to 24 year-olds and spring break partying is already a problem on the beaches of Miami.

“I think the behavior that concerns me is the college students going on vacation en masse to these destinations, packed into a pool like sardines and bringing it back to their community,” said Dr. Daniel Getz, chief medical officer at Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane.

In King County hospitalizations jumped 25% last week, now mostly impacting 40 to 69-year-olds, as a majority of older residents are vaccinated.

On Wednesday 2 million people will be eligible for the vaccine in our state. All adults will become eligible May 1st.

“I hope we can get more supply and keep zipping through these phases and be faster than May 1st,” said Cassie Sauer.

“There’s no wrong person to vaccinate. The sooner we can get everybody vaccinated, the quicker we’re through this,” added Dr. Getz.

There has been debate over whether to open up eligibility to everyone. Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health Seattle and King County says it would only create frustration. He says right now King County only has enough vaccine for 1 in 10 eligible residents.