More than 10,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Washington state, a tragic milestone as the region battles yet another wave of infections and hospitalizations, health officials reported Friday.
The state Department of Health confirmed Friday, in its daily update of virus trends, 10,004 COVID deaths along with 931,071 infections and 47,062 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. The new total means the death rate is about 1.1% of those confirmed to have been infected in the state.
In King County, the state’s most populous, 2,197 people have died from the virus. The county’s COVID data dashboard reports 33 deaths in the past two weeks, compared to 17 during the prior two-week period, but county health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said Friday afternoon the county is still waiting to see how death trends might be affected by the recent rise in infections from the omicron variant of the coronavirus. On average, King County is reporting about two COVID deaths per day.
As infections hit record-breaking numbers in recent weeks, COVID predictions remain largely uncertain. Hospitalizations in King County are up about fivefold since mid-December, straining already overburdened hospitals — though the peak of infections could be reached later this month, Duchin said.
Statewide COVID death counts had been inching down for months, after hitting 66 deaths in one day during the summer wave of the delta variant. The largest number of deaths recorded on one day in Washington was Dec. 7, 2020, when 69 people died.
While deaths haven’t yet started to increase again on a statewide level, Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, the state’s chief science officer, noted that death rates can sometimes lag behind case counts by more than a month — meaning another rise in deaths could be on its way as hospitalizations spike.
For more than a year, long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and adult family homes, accounted for half the state’s COVID deaths. Those deaths decreased significantly when vaccinations became widely available starting in early 2021. Now, about a third of Washington’s deaths are connected to long-term care facilities.
Unvaccinated people are at the highest risk of severe illness or death from COVID. As of this week, DOH reported death rates among unvaccinated people 65 and older are 15 times higher than rates among the fully vaccinated. The department noted that it only shares data for deaths by vaccination status for Washingtonians 65 and older “due to the relatively small number of deaths in other age groups and associated instability in rates.”
In general, however, unvaccinated Washingtonians made up about 75% of COVID deaths between February and December 2021, while vaccinated Washingtonians made up about 19%. About 5% had been partially vaccinated.
The state passed 5,000 COVID deaths almost a year ago in March 2021, right after the country’s third vaccine — developed by Johnson & Johnson — was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. About six months later, the state hit 7,000 COVID deaths.
Seattle Times staff reporter Paige Cornwell contributed to this story.
Correction: This story previously stated that 75% of all COVID deaths occurred among unvaccinated Washingtonians, instead of 75% of COVID deaths from February to December 2021. It has since been updated to reflect the change.