COVID trends down in WA, officials say vaccines still recommended
Respiratory illnesses are on a downward trend across Washington, with COVID-19 emergency department visits the last week of September down 11% from the previous week.
COVID-19 cases accounted for 3.6% of total hospitalizations, which is down from 5.7% during the same period last year and 12.7% in 2021.
Chris Skidmore, Whitman County Public Health director, said the county saw its biggest increase shortly after students’ return in August, and has seen between 15 and 20 reported cases each week since.
“But I will say, that just covers the known, diagnosed cases of COVID, that go through a medical office,” he said.
While respiratory illnesses are on a slight decline, more are expected to pick up in the coming weeks.
“We are anticipating that they are going to start picking up here, probably by the end of the month,” he said. “And then as we get into the Thanksgiving time, that we should be seeing a decent amount of transmission of influenza, RSV and probably COVID at the same time.”
Both influenza and updated COVID-19 vaccinations are now available, he said. Both are approved for anyone six months or older, though availability of the pediatric vaccines may vary.
The updated COVID-19 vaccines more closely target the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are anticipated to better fight currently circulating variants.
An RSV vaccine is now available and recommended for adults 60 years and older.
No RSV vaccine is available for children at this time, Skidmore said, but there are antiviral treatments available to patients who are more vulnerable, including people with compromised immune systems and those 65 or older.
“If you get some complications from RSV, they can prescribe these monoclonal [antibodies] and they’ll give you a much better chance, a much better fight against that virus,” he said.
A vaccine locator for COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, including COVID-19 vaccines for children, is available at vaccines.gov.
U.S. residents also can now order more free COVID-19 at-home tests through the postal service at covid.gov/tests. Each household can order a set of four rapid tests.
Vaccines should be free for most people with insurance.
“I think it’s going to continue to be free through our public health department if you are uninsured,” Skidmore said. “For all other cases, they’ll probably want to reach out to their pharmacy.”