SEATTLE - On the path forward and out of the pandemic, the line looks a little blurry as COVID cases continue to rise in Western Washington, and local doctors are sounding the alarm as hospitalizations are on the rise.
Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington, Dr. John Lynch, says this surge is due to two things; a highly infectious variant and the fact so many of us have let our guard down as the mask mandate has ended.
"This is not going anywhere and we're going to still continue to need to wrestle with it," Lynch said.
As a country, we’re steadily approaching 1 million deaths due to COVID. Lynch says the aftermath of the virus is far greater.
"Far more people died due to COVID-19 than a million people-- [it's] just that that's a million people we can attribute it to up very clearly," Lynch said.
It also doesn't capture the number of people still suffering from the aftereffects, long COVID and other serious outcomes due to the infection.
Locally and regionally, he is concerned with the increase we’re seeing now.
"Unfortunately, this has translated into increasing hospitalizations just recently, the death rate is starting to increase just a little bit as well, which hadn't for a couple of months," Lynch said.
Indicators he says are going in the wrong direction with no peak in sight.
Our positivity rate is at 20%, very high, historically, according to Patrick Mathias with the Department of Laboratory Medicine and pathology at UW Medicine, but the number could be far greater and going unreported due to at-home testing.
"It's harder for us to predict multiple weeks from now what kind of resource limitations we might have on the hospital side in terms of ICU beds or hospital beds if we don't see those cases earlier," Mathias said.
Even more alarming, fall and winter as 100 million COVID infections are predicted.
"I think we have to prepare for that because we could have new variants," Lynch said.
Another red flag is the hospital system – which is already stressed – while critical care for COVID patients is not being seen, at the time, doctors do warn the new numbers impact clinic visits and access to treatment.