Tri-Cities COVID hospitalizations are down, but at what cost?

Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital Rn Checks Monitor, Tri-Cities
Courtesy: Bridget Turrell/Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital

KENNEWICK, Wash. — While the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Tri-Cities area hospitals is down as of Monday, state health experts suggest that lower hospitalization rates across Washington may be attributed to increased death rates.

According to Monday afternoon’s 3-day coronavirus update from the Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD), there are 100 people in bi-county hospitals suffering from coronavirus complications. Last Monday, as many as 127 Tri-Cities COVID patients occupied local hospital beds as they combatted the virus.

From this Monday to last, there has been a 6.6% decrease in the number of total hospital patients suffering from COVID-19 in the Tri-Cities region. This may look like positive growth on the surface level, but it reflects a more grim outlook for some patients who are suffering more severe cases of the dangerous virus.

PREVIOUS: Tri-Cities health district reports 34 COVID-19 deaths

On Sept. 17, the BFHD announced 34 new community deaths to COVID-19; 22 of which were backlogged and occurred sometime between July 6 and September 5.

Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) President & CEO Cassie Sauer shed some light on the relationship between COVID-19 hospitalizations and death rates across the state during a WSHA media briefing Monday.

“Sometimes on Monday morning, there’s catch-up reporting people haven’t reported over the weekend; so that number could go up a bit, but when we look at the Friday to Friday comparisons, it also shows a bit of a decrease. So that’s really good news,” Sauer explained. “The reason it is not good news is that one of the reasons the hospitalization rates are falling is that death rates are rising, and so [that is] a reason—when you’ve got fewer people in the hospital, it is because some have died.”

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With all of this said, COVID-19 positivity rates are down from last week across the Tri-Cities. Positivity rates logged at the CBC West public testing site are down 1.3% from rates published this time last Monday. Additionally, there were far fewer cases recorded on Sept. 20 than on Sept. 13.

Tri-Cities health officials announced 447 new coronavirus cases this Monday. Last Monday, the 3-day case count for the weekend was 668. That means there were 33.1% fewer cases announced this Monday than this time last week, which marks a vital difference for a bi-county region that has experienced some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the entirety of Washington state.

To date, the Tri-Cities region has experienced 43,070 coronavirus cases. Of that sum, 436 community members have died from complications with the virus.

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