Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect new COVID case numbers and includes new information about St. Elizabeth Hospital.
Enumclaw continues to break daily COVID case records, but hospitalizations have remained low, and there have been no new deaths since the new year.
The city’s previous record of 52 cases (which was later updated to 53 cases), reported Dec. 29, was broken on Jan. 3, when 70 COVID cases were reported, according to King County data.
That record was broken again the following day, when 78 cases were recorded. Another 66 and 71 cases were reported on Jan. 6 and 7 respectively, and a new record of 97 cases were reported on Jan. 10.
This brings Enumclaw’s total case count since the beginning of the pandemic to 3,001 as of Jan. 18.
Enumclaw’s case count increases when a local resident tests positive for COVID at any official testing site in King County; people who live outside Enumclaw, but who may get tested at the local testing site, do not add to the city’s overall count. Additionally, at-home tests are not added to King County data.
It remains unclear how many tests have been administered since Aug. 20, 2021, as there have been delays in the reporting of negative COVID tests, the county has said.
“This does not affect reporting of positive results or new cases,” King County’s COVID dashboard webpage reads, adding that the county hopes to resume reporting negative test numbers sometime this month.
However, data collected by Enumclaw Council member Anthony Wright (shared in a Jan. 12 Facebook post) shows that the Enumclaw testing site performed 6,203 tests in the month of December; of those, 2,587 tests were given to Enumclaw residents (about 42 percent).
Combining that data with the King County COVID dashboard, which showed 388 positive cases for December, that means about 15 percent of all tests administered to Enumclaw residents last month were COVID positive.
“I think it’s evident right now that we have a lot of virus in the community,” Wright wrote.
About 1,200 Black Diamond, Buckley, and Auburn residents were also tested at the Enumclaw site, and around 2,400 tests were administered to out-of-state residents.
There have been 11 additional hospitalizations since the Courier-Herald’s last update on Jan. 5, bringing the city’s total to 123.
The vaccine status of those currently hospitalized is unclear, as King County does not appear to track that data. However, the county does track how many fully vaccinated and non-fully vaccinated residents test positive for COVID in the last 30 days; in all age groups, more people who are not fully vaccinated tested positive for the virus than those that are vaccinated.
According to the county, those who are not vaccinated are 2.4 times more likely to test positive for COVID, 11 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 18 times more likely to die of COVID-related illness than vaccinated individuals across the county; in the South East King County area specifically, residents not fully vaccinated are nearly 14 times more likely to contract COVID than fully vaccinated residents.
With no new deaths in recent weeks, the total COVID death count remains at 37.
Enumclaw’s cases to population ratio, hospitalizations to population ratio, and deaths to population ratio, remain higher than King County as a whole.
ST. ELIZABETH ‘AT CAPACITY’
While Enumclaw’s hospitalization numbers have remained fairly low, other hospitalizations across the county may be affecting how many beds are available at the local St. Elizabeth hospital.
In a Jan. 7 email to the city, hospital Chief Operating Officer Renee Espinosa said St. Elizabeth is “at full capacity” and that a third of the census are COVID patients; the hospital has 25 beds, according to a 2016 press release
The hospital confirmed that information was accurate as of Jan. 14.
Espinosa also wrote that St. Elizabeth is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours for visitors, and that visitors are limited to one per patient per hospital stay.
Mayor Jan Molinaro, in a Jan. 12 Facebook post, noted that the only exceptions to this policy are “birth, end of life and if a patient has a caregiver that is needed to be with the patient for support/information.”
In other hospital news, the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health system (which St. Elizabeth is a part of) is taking care of more than 350 COVID patients total across all its hospitals, surpassing the previous peak by more than 100 cases. The health care system says the vast majority of hospitalizations are people who are unvaccinated.
While hospitals remain open to anyone experiencing an emergency, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Jan. 13 he was suspending any non-urgent medical procedures for four weeks.
The 98022 ZIP code area is reported to be 70 percent having at least one vaccine dose, according to King County data; it appears to be the second-least vaccinated area in the county, only ahead of the 98051 ZIP code area (Ravensdale, Kanaskat, Kangley, and Selleck) which reports 68.2 percent of its residents having at least one dose.
However, the 98022 area also reports 65.2 percent of its residents being fully-vaxxed, ahead of the 98051, 98288, and 98015 ZIP code areas.
While King County reports 93.7 of the county residents have received at least one dose (and 86.5 are fully-vaxxed), Wright noted that nationally, 74.7 percent of people have received one dose (and 62.8 percent are fully vaccinated), according to the CDC.
“I think sometimes the media or news can divide us or cause us to point the finger of blame,” Wright wrote. “I think it’s important to view everything from different lenses to evaluate where you are at in retrospect to a problem that everyone is facing. While trying to overcome it as best we can with our individual and collective community challenges.”