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Threat of COVID ‘remains serious’ as King County cases surge, warns health officer

Lumen Field's mass vaccination site in Seattle. (MyNorthwest photo)

Seattle-King County Public Health provided some additional insight into the region’s recent surge of COVID-19 cases in a new blog post, detailing where the increases are occurring, and how it compares to past waves.

State doesn’t think April 15 vaccine date will create unmanageable backup

According to Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, case rates are highest in south and southeast King County, spanning Auburn, Kent, Federal Way, Burien, West Seattle, Delridge, and more.

Of those who’ve tested positive recently, the county determined through interviews and contact tracing efforts that almost 30% said they’d attended events “such as family visits, group meals, parties, or weddings” when they were likely exposed. Another 11% said they’d been visiting bars and restaurants, an increase from 5% of those who tested positive in January.

That had Dr. Duchin emphasizing that the county — and the rest of the state — should continue to be cognizant of the risk COVID-19 still poses.

“The threat is real and remains serious,” he warned.

Duchin also detailed how the county has seen roughly 260 new cases a day over the last week, “almost double the number of cases that were occurring in late February when the recent rise began.” Hospitalizations are up as well, with 83 reported in the final week of March, twice the weekly number the county saw to start the month.

To put it in a larger context, hospitalizations are on par with what King County saw during the second wave of COVID-19 cases last summer, but “only one-third of the peak level during this past winter.”

That tracks with a warning Dr. Duchin issued in mid-March, saying at the time that “we may be watching the tide silently recede before a tsunami” of new cases.

Gov. Inslee echoes concerns over move back to Phase 2

This comes as the county nears the threshold for potentially having to slide back to Phase 2 of reopening. In order to remain in Phase 3, large counties need to have 200 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks and five or fewer hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the past week.

As of Wednesday, King County sits just below that benchmark, reporting 182.6 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days, and 4.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 over the last seven days. On Monday, the state will review the latest data to determine whether to send any counties back to Phase 2, and will then reevaluate again three weeks later.

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