Washington Pauses Non-Urgent Medical Procedures At Hospitals

Washington Governor Jay Inslee today issued an emergency order to temporarily restrict non-urgent health care services, procedures and surgeries that are performed in hospitals as part of a package of measures taken to address the current COVID-related state of crisis in hospitals.

The emergency order also prohibits all hospitals from utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) other than according to a conventional capacity strategy.

This emergency order is effective at 12:01 on Monday, Jan. 17 and will remain in effect until 11:59 pm on Feb. 17 unless rescinded sooner.

Inslee is also sending 100 National Guard members to help hospitals that are maxed out with COVID-19 patients.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is seeing an increase in the number of “vaccine breakthrough” cases related to the recent increase in overall cases statewide. Even with the increase in breakthrough infections, data continue to show that vaccination is highly protective against hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Current reporting shows a recent 43% increase in the number of breakthrough cases. The increase in the number of breakthrough cases is related to the increase in the number of total cases statewide. From January 17, 2021 - January 1, 2022, there have been 123,365 vaccine breakthrough cases identified in Washington State. While the majority of individuals with confirmed vaccine breakthrough experienced only mild or no symptoms, at least 3% were hospitalized.

To date, more than 4.8 million people in Washington state are up to date on their vaccines. The breakthrough cases represent a small portion, about 2.5% of the vaccinated population.

“If you are already vaccinated, getting a booster dose of vaccine is the best way to decrease your chance of getting a breakthrough infection,” said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer. “Even without a booster dose, those who are vaccinated are less likely to become very ill and need hospitalization, and a booster dose decreases the risk even more.”

Large-scale clinical studies have found that COVID-19 vaccines prevented most people from serious illness and hospitalization. This means a very small number of fully vaccinated people will still become infected with COVID-19. Scientists note that breakthroughs are expected with any vaccine.

A person is considered to have vaccine breakthrough if they test positive for COVID-19 using a PCR test or antigen test and received their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine more than two weeks prior to the positive test. Additional investigations help us better understand clinical and outbreak information when vaccine breakthrough happens.

“Even though the Omicron variant has an increased ability to evade immunity from vaccination, vaccines and boosters will lower the risk that an infection could land you in the hospital,” said Dr. Kwan-Gett. “That’s why to avoid worsening the strain on our hospitals, everyone should use a high quality well-fitting mask, don’t use the emergency department unless it’s a true emergency, and most important get vaccinated and boosted as soon as you are eligible.”

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