COVID cases, hospitalizations rising in western Washington

As the country marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths, cases and hospitalizations are rising again in western Washington.

“Everybody knows somebody who’s tested positive recently,” said Pavitra Roychoudhury, an acting instructor in the University of Washington virology lab, who also has an appointment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

She said one in five PCR tests that UW Medicine processes are coming back positive, at a time many people are testing quietly at home.

“What we are seeing with PCR testing is very likely an underestimate of the overall positivity rate, which means that transmission is definitely very high,” Roychoudhury said.

She’s tracking the latest omicron subvariant, known as BA2.12.1.

“So far we are facing a highly transmissible variant,” Roychoudhury said.

The Washington State Department of Health’s COVID dashboard shows cases well below January highs, but beginning to creep up again.

Seattle Public Schools cases have inched up to their highest level since January.

The Washington State Hospital Association says a month ago, 200 people in Washington were hospitalized with COVID.

That number is now 450.

“This is still well below some of the peaks where we’ve been before. What we don’t know is, are we at the beginning of a trend or are we at the crest of a wave? But we’re definitely concerned,” said Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.

White House COVID advisor Dr. Ashish Jha said he is concerned about waning immunity from vaccines or previous infections.

“We have 80-plus thousand infections happening a day, hundreds of people are still dying every day, we have a host of challenges, while we’re in much better shape than where we were two years ago,” Jha said last week.