No post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge, signs of flattening curve in Washington

Coronavirus infections remain rampant, but health officials in Washington state said Wednesday they’re seeing some encouraging signs in recent data, just as front-line workers begin receiving vaccinations.

Health Department Secretary Dr. John Wiesman and Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer, said new cases and hospitalizations appear to be flattening a bit.

However, they warned people to remain vigilant and to remain home for the holidays, because another surge on top of current case levels could swamp hospital capacity. The state has not seen a jump in cases related to Thanksgiving gatherings.

“We are pleased that we seem to be bending the curve, and yet we have not yet plateaued,” Wiesman said told an online news conference.

Lofy noted that hospital bed occupancy has even started falling in southwest Washington, but case numbers in the central part of the state have been more troubling. Overall, just under 13% of the state’s acute-care beds are occupied by COVID patients; officials would prefer to see that number below 10%.

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Frontline hospital workers began receiving Pfizer’s COVID vaccine on Tuesday, and officials hope to residents of long-term care facilities will begin receiving the shots on Monday, though questions remain about which facilities will receive the first doses.

Michele Roberts, one of the leaders of the Washington state Department of Health vaccine planning group, said 31,000 doses have arrived in the state, and another 31,000 are expected this week. If the Food and Drug Administration authorizes Moderna’s vaccine on Friday, 120,000 doses of that version are expected to arrive in Washington next week.

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Also Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan extended an eviction moratorium in the city, which now goes through March 31, 2021. The mayor’s executive order also temporarily suspended late fees for utilities through June 30, 2021.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was in Washington in January. The state also saw the nation’s first deadly outbreak at a nursing home, at the LifeCare Center of Kirkland. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been about 205,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington and nearly 3,000 deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.