‘Entirely avoidable’: Health officials urge vaccinations as COVID-19 cases surge

The highly transmissible Delta variant is causing over 90% of COVID-19 cases in Washington state

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Local health officials are urging eligible unvaccinated people to get their shots as COVID-19 cases climb and the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to spread throughout the country.

In a news conference on July 29, Dr. Amy Person, a health officer with the Benton Franklin Health District, said “over 90% of cases in Washington” are caused by the Delta variant.

“Unfortunately we are seeing more outbreaks and clusters particularly when we have groups of people that are not vaccinated,” Dr. Person said. “If we include people who have already been infected, over half of our population is still susceptible to COVID-19.”

Dr. Person noted that vaccines are what will keep the Tri-Cities safe.

“It really isn’t just about the numbers. Each one of these represents a person, represents a person with a family, and all of those are people who have been affected,” Dr. Person said.

In Benton County, only 47% of the eligible population is vaccinated. In Franklin County, it’s even lower with only 40% of the eligible population vaccinated.

Dr. Kevin Pieper, the chief medical officer for Kadlec, said “the way out” is through vaccination.

“We’re seeing a lot more patients in the less than age 50 category that are needing hospitalizations,” Dr. Pieper said.

Kadlec CEO Reza Kaleel agreed, adding that “the hardest thing for us to see is this is entirely avoidable.”

“With the rise in COVID, as of this morning we have 44 patients here at Kadlec in the hospital, hospitalized for COVID,” Kaleel said. “If there’s any way that we can get our percentage of vaccinated folks in our community up, we know now from lots of evidence that it’ll make a huge difference for the health of our community.”

Of the patients in the Intensive Care Unit, between 95% to 99% are unvaccinated.

“Don’t look to politicians on the left or the right or anywhere on social media for information,” Kaleel said. “Please do your own research, talk to your physician, and look at sources that follow science.”

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