The number of people hospitalized locally for treatment of COVID-19 has doubled in a week, according to data from the Benton Franklin Health District.

It is the highest number of hospitalized COVID patients reported by the local health district in more than five months.

Public health officials are blaming the spread of the much more easily transmitted Delta variant in the Tri-Cities area and the low vaccination rate. The number of new daily cases continues to increase.

On Monday, 46 people were being treated at hospitals in Benton and Franklin counties for COVID-19, up from 22 the previous Monday.

That number increased to 54 on Tuesday.

The number of COVID patients needing intensive care or ventilators also has increased at Kadlec Regional Medical Center, the Tri-Cities largest hospital, said Dr. Kevin Pieper, chief medical officer for Kadlec Health System, speaking on the Kadlec on Call podcast.

The Washington state Department of Health's most recent data showed that Benton County has the third highest hospitalization rate in the state.

In a week it had just under 11 people hospitalized per 100,000 people due to COVID-19, the state reported. Walla Walla County had a hospitalization rate of 14 and Douglas has a hospitalization rate of 11.

Franklin County's hospitalization rate was seven people hospitalized for 100,000 in a week due to COVID-19.

In contrast, the state's largest county, King, had just under two people hospitalized per 100,000 in a week due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to lag the rest of Washington state.

Statewide 52% of all residents are fully vaccinated and in King County the percentage increases to 63%.

In Benton County just under 39% of people are fully vaccinated and in Franklin County 31% of people are fully vaccinated.

For people eligible to be vaccinated — those 12 and older — state data shows 61% of Washington residents are fully vaccinated.

In King County 73% of residents in that age group are fully vaccinated, compared to 47% in Benton County and 40% in Franklin County.

The Benton Franklin Health District posted on social media that 98.5% of people known to have COVID-19 in the state from Jan. 17 to June 26 were not vaccinated.

The 54 patients being treated for COVID-19 as of Tuesday accounted for nearly 14% of the 400 patients in the Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and Prosser hospitals.

Tri-Cities COVID cases

The Tri-Cities had 91 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to the Benton Franklin Health District.

They bring the total for the last four days to 297, or an average of 74 per day.

Last week new cases averaged 59 per day, up from 46 the previous week and 32 the week before that.

The new cases brought total cases confirmed with positive test results in the Tri-Cities area since the start of the pandemic to 30,835, including 17,939 in Benton County and 12,896 in Franklin County.

Statewide, 461,847 COVID-19 cases had been reported as of Monday and 6,043 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Benton and Franklin counties have had 346 deaths due to complications of COVID-19.

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