April 27 (UPI) — COVID-19 surges in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon prompted state and local officials on Monday to warn of dangers to younger people and new lockdown restrictions.
The number of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in Washington has nearly doubled in the past month to around 600, a state hospital association official said, while in Oregon a similar spike is poised to trigger new restrictions on restaurants and gyms.
Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said during an online press briefing that the spike in serious illnesses has left “no question” the state is experiencing a “fourth wave” of COVID-19 infection.
The situation across the state is “very concerning,” she said.
Statewide daily hospitalizations were mostly flat at around 350 during March, but have skyrocketed this month.
“We are now above 600 hospitalizations in our state,” Sauer said. “That is a really high number and a number we haven’t seen in months, and we’re very concerned about it.”
The spike is being driven by a “sharp increase” in the number of young adults in their 30s and 40s coming down with a serious form of the illness.
“These are people who think their age is protecting them from getting very sick from COVID, and that is not happening,” Sauer said. “We don’t know if it’s the variants that are making people sicker at younger ages, but a really strong message for folks in that age group is do not assume that you are safe from this disease.”
More contagious variants of the original coronavirus are prevalent in the current fourth wave, she said.
The Oregon Health Authority on Monday reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 319 people — the highest since late January.
Gov. Kate Brown has set a benchmark of 300 hospitalizations beyond which renewed restrictions for restaurants and gyms would be activated in the hardest-hit counties.
“In the race between vaccines and variants, right now the variants have the upper hand,” Brown said Friday in an issued statement. “Today’s cases topped 1,000, with Oregon now ranking second in the nation for having the most rapid growth of infection spread.
“Our hospitals are about to surpass 300 positive COVID-19 cases. That means several counties are on the verge of having to reinstate Extreme Risk restrictions on businesses and activities,” she said.