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King County hovering just below Phase 3 threshold

The sign outside the Lumen Field COVID-19 vaccination site. (MyNorthwest photo)

King County is hovering right below the threshold for remaining in Phase 3, and the next reassessment date is May 3.

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Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health – Seattle & King County, said on Friday that the 14-day incident rate was 198.5 per 100,000 residents, which is similar to last week and about double the fall-winter surge.

Hospitalizations have been on the rise since March. Duchin said last week, 97 King County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, which is up 15% compared to the week prior.

That’s one person hospitalized every one hour and 45 minutes, currently. The hospitalization rate is hovering around 3.5 to 4 per 100,000 residents per week, which is double what is was in early March.

The greatest number of recent hospitalizations are among adults age 40-69 years old, Duchin said. The next age group is 20-39 year-olds.

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. Counties with a population under 50,000 need to have 100 or fewer total new cases over two weeks and three or fewer hospitalizations over the past week.

Gov. Inslee announced Monday that Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties would be rolling back to Phase 2 of reopening. Those three counties rolled back on Friday.

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Previously, any county that fell out of compliance with one of those two criteria would have to move back to Phase 2. Gov. Inslee announced in early April that a county would now have to fail to meet both criteria before moving back.

COVID deaths

Weekly deaths have fallen dramatically since the fall-winter surge, according to Duchin. In the past week, 1-2 King County residents have died each day from COVID-19. That’s compared to nine per day during the winter peak.

Over the past 14 days, 9% of deaths are in the 25-49 year-old age range, compared to 2% overall during the outbreak.

Over the last 14 days, 27% of deaths are among the 50-64 year-old age range, compared to 13% during the outbreak as a whole, Duchin said. The rate of death has fallen for those over the age 65 from 65% to 27% in the last two weeks.

COVID cases

Duchin says the county has seen almost two months without decreasing the level of COVID-19. He says the recent increases are likely due to the reopening of activities, combined with the presence of more infectious variant strains.

As for cases, the highest rates are among 18-34 year-olds, but every age group is trending up except those over 65 and below age 5.

Cases remain highest in cities in south and southeast King County, including Covington, Enumclaw, Auburn, Kent, Federal Way, Burien, Renton, Seatac, and Tukwila.

“Over the past 14 days, these places are experiencing double to triple the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths compared to north and central Seattle, Shoreline, the Eastside, and Vashon Island,” Duchin said.

Vaccination in King County

As of Thursday, 51% of King County’s residents over the age of 16 had received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Duchin said. He expects cases will decline as more people are vaccinated, but until then, he says it’s up to residents to mask up, social distance, avoid gathering with people outside your household who aren’t vaccinated, and pay close attention to ventilation.

About 32% of all King County residents are fully vaccinated.

For those 65 and older, across all racial and ethnic groups, the county has passed the 75% or higher vaccination coverage rate for one or more doses, Duchin said. Disparities are more prominent in groups 16 years or older. He expects numbers to improve with eligibility, and as the county works to make vaccination events more easily accessible.

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