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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: Tejal Armes, 9, holds onto a stuffed panda bear shortly before registered nurse Iman Yunis with the Othello Station Pharmacy administers a Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Seattle.
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Tejal Armes, 9, holds onto a stuffed panda bear shortly before registered nurse Iman Yunis with the Othello Station Pharmacy administers a Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Pandemic updates for Seattle: WA launches effort to free up hospital beds

Updated news about the coronavirus pandemic in Seattle and Washington state.

As of Tuesday, February 15, 2022, the King County and Washington state departments of health report:

  • -119 new cases (this reflects data corrections) since Monday in King County. That's a 24% decrease over the last seven days. An average of 1,134 new cases are emerging each day.
  • -93 new hospitalizations (this reflects data corrections) since Monday in King County. That's a 21% decrease over the past seven days.
  • 16% decrease in deaths over the past two weeks, with an average of seven people dying every day in King County. The county did not report any new deaths since Monday.
  • 78.6% of King County residents are fully vaccinated.
  • 11,373 Covid-19 related deaths across Washington state; 1% death rate since the beginning of the pandemic.

WA launches effort to free up hospital beds

Washington state is ramping up staffing to help move patients out of overburdened hospitals.

The temporary staff will help open roughly 240 beds for non-Covid-19 patients in 10 long-term care facilities across the state. Currently, roughly 35 beds have been staffed in two facilities.

The temporary staff will cost about $6.5 million per month once all beds are fully staffed, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Hospitals have struggled for years to discharge some patients with complex needs. But officials blame the current bottleneck on staff shortages that have emerged during the pandemic, saying boarding is becoming an issue for less complex patients as well.

"Skilled nursing facilities have beds available, but they're not able to admit residents because they don't have the staff to care for residents in those empty beds," said Bea Rector, with the Department of Social and Health Services' Aging and Long-Term Support Administration.

Health care workers have left jobs for a multitude of reasons, including burnout, pay levels, and work environment.

The extra staff the state has hired are only temporary, funded through the end of June.

Taya Briley, executive vice president of the Washington Hospital Association said she appreciates the extra beds, but she’d like to see a longer-term solution as well.

"We need this pressure removed in a sustainable way so I'm hoping that they can get those 240 beds staffed up quickly, and then continue beyond June," Briley said.

Sommer Kleweno Walley, CEO of Harborview Medical Center, said it’s important for resources to be used appropriately in the health care system in order to continue providing comprehensive care to the community.

“We shouldn’t be having patients who don’t need medical care staying in beds [in hospitals]," she said, adding that it's not good for the patients or the health care system.

— Kate Walters, KUOW

Microsoft, Expedia plan to bring employees back into the office

Two of the Seattle area's largest, major companies are planning to reopen their campuses, showing signs that businesses are looking past the omicron wave.

The Seattle Times reports that Microsoft aims to bring 57,000 employees back into the office at its sites in Bellevue, Redmond, and Seattle. It will start this phase on Feb. 28.

Microsoft says employees can still work a hybrid schedule, once worked out with their managers. The campus will be fully open, however. Part of the reasoning behind this move is King County's high vaccination rate at 83.8%. The company also says it will have "local testing solutions" in place.

Starting in early April, travel company Expedia will also be bringing its workers back into its headquarters in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood. The HQ has already been open to vaccinated employees.

— Dyer Oxley, KUOW

Seattle's pandemic street permit for restaurants may be extended into 2023

The street permit program for Seattle restaurants and cafes is set to expire in May. But this week, the Seattle City Council is looking to extend it.

In pre-Covid times, a small business that wanted to use city streets or sidewalks for outdoor dining, had to pay for permits and occupation fees. It also had to pay for annual parking replacements if parking stalls were converted for café space.

But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the City Council waived those fees to help restaurants and cafes reeling from shutdowns and restrictions. Since then, more than 270 permits have been issued.

With the street permit program set to expire in May, the Council is looking to extend it to January 2023.

Communities around Seattle are also debating the streateries that have popped up during the pandemic, such as Edmonds were city officials recently implemented a $4,000 fee for a restaurant to open up sidewalk and street space. After some pushback, that was lowered to $2,000. But the debate there continues as some residents don't like the way they look and also want parking spaces back. On the other side of that debate are cafes, small businesses, and customers who have found value in the outdoor accommodations. Hear more about Edmonds here.

Ruby de Luna, KUOW