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WA's COVID caseload remains high as death toll from the virus climbs by six

WA's daily COVID cases have dropped slightly after reaching a new peak yesterday. (ABC News: Rob Koenig-Luck)

COVID case numbers in Western Australia have dipped slightly from yesterday's record, however the state's death toll from the virus has risen, with six more deaths reported to WA Health overnight.

Yesterday more than 17,000 cases were recorded for the first time in WA, but the numbers declined to 16,670 new infections today.

As of 8pm last night, WA had 75,581 active cases of COVID-19 with 275 people in hospital, unchanged from yesterday's figure.

However, there are now eight people in ICU, one more than yesterday, and a further six deaths have been reported, dating back to May 3. 

They include two women in their 90s, two women in their 80s, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s.

WA Health said the death of a woman in her 40s in April has now been reclassified as a non-COVID-related death.

WA's COVID death toll climbs

The current death toll in WA since the start of the year is now at 169, three more than the number of people who died on WA roads in 2021.

According to the WA Health Department, there have been 178 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

Before the start of this year the state had only reported nine COVID-related deaths.

Of the 16,670 new infections reported today, 5,317 were confirmed via PCR tests with the remaining 11,353 self-reported positive rapid antigen tests.

A total of 16,050 tests were conducted at either state-run or private pathology clinics yesterday, which was almost 3,000 thousand fewer than the day before when 19,360 PCR tests were conducted.

Code yellow declared at three major hospitals

While today's figures are slightly lower than yesterday, the recent surge in cases is having an impact on the hospital system

Yesterday, a code yellow was declared at three of WA's major hospitals — Fiona Stanley Joondalup and Sir Charles Gairdner.

A code yellow is defined by WA Health as "infrastructure and other internal emergencies", and means the emergency department is full and unable to accept patients.

AMA WA emergency department spokesman, David Mountain, told ABC Radio Perth hospital emergency departments are full. (ABC News: Rhiannon Shine)

AMA WA emergency department spokesman, David Mountain, told ABC Radio Perth it was concerning.

"They're [code yellows] extraordinarily bad," Dr Mountain said.

"By the time code yellows are declared, that means there's nothing left in the hospital to open, that patients are basically just jamming up in emergency departments.

"There's lots of ramping, lots of people spending many, many hours in the wait room before they get seen, many other patients spending up to 24, 36, 48 hours down in the emergency department waiting for a bed upstairs."

Dr Mountain said the state of play within the hospital system was "very, very poor at the moment for any number of reasons".

"Lack of staffing and lack of ability to open wards is the major one that's just driven what was already a system that was already in deep trouble further into the troubles," he said.

Staff shortages compromise patient care

More than 2,000 members of the state's health workforce are furloughed at the moment, and Dr Mountain said the number of staff off work with the virus was only part of the issue.

"Because of COVID, but not with COVID, so that's part of the issue," he told ABC Radio Perth.

"Part of the problem is the bureaucracy, which is always troublesome, means that people who are furloughed but actually don't have COVID, find it difficult to get back into work, there's like a disincentive for people to come in and we need to make that process much simpler.

A large number of the state's health workforce are unable to work at the moment due to COVID-19. (ABC News: Rob Koenig-Luck)

"Really, it should just be a RAT test [sic] in the morning, if you're negative and you want to work, you should be allowed to come in and work.

"People are much more likely to be dying at the moment because of lack of staff and people being furloughed than they are from COVID itself."

Dr Mountain said he would like to see a return of the mask mandate to try to get the state's current Omicron outbreak back under control.

"The fact is we had 17,000 [cases] yesterday, it was well over 10,000 on average in the previous week, well above our previous peak," he said.

"We're clearly on an escalating phase again at the moment.

"We need to do something to try and stop this and make sure we can actually run a health system that that doesn't, you know, harm people."

United States passes grim milestone of 1 million COVID-19 deaths
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Dive Deeper:
Western Australia records fresh COVID peak with 17,033 new infections
Western Australia sets a fresh record with daily COVID case numbers, which represent almost a 40 per cent jump on…
South Australia records 4,696 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths
The number of total active cases in the state has climbed back up over 23,000, and includes a rise in…
WA records fresh peak with 12,390 new COVID cases after reporting third-worst day for ambulance ramping
Western Australia sets a new COVID record the day after St John recorded its third highest day of ambulance ramping,…
Western Australia records more than 15,000 COVID-19 cases for the third day running
Western Australia's Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson says the state can expect to see COVID-19 numbers rise in the coming…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Active COVID case numbers rise, hospitalisations remain high
There are 1217 new COVID cases in the ACT.
COVID-19 case numbers from around the states and territories
Here's a quick wrap of today's COVID statistics from each Australian jurisdiction.
Get all your news in one place