The latest COVID-19 surge in cases brought on by the highly-contagious delta variant and causing serious illness in unvaccinated people is straining Washington state’s health care system, officials said.

Washington State Hospital Association officials held a briefing Monday led by CEO Cassie Sauer, who was joined by Dr. John Lynch of UW Medicine and Florence Chang, executive vice president and COO of MultiCare Health System, KING-5 reported.

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Sauer said the current surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations is scary, physically draining and emotionally draining for health care workers, who have been dealing with the pandemic for more than a year and a half.

Because of the surge, the hospital association’s board of directors is urging hospitals and health care providers to require their employees get the vaccine, with very few exceptions, Sauer said.

“This is a big deal,” Sauer said. “We understand vaccine requirements are controversial but we think it is the right thing to do.”

Washington State Medical Association President Dr. Nathan Schlicher also said he supported providers who require employees to get vaccinated, saying that patients should be confident about going to the hospital without “leaving sicker.”

Health officials continue to call on those who are not vaccinated to get the shots, as the unvaccinated continue to make up nearly all of the new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

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