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Increasing vaccinations will help King County ‘push play and not rewind’

Aeryal Thomsen of Lake Stevens, Wash., fist pumps after receiving her COVID-19 vaccination from Kristine Gill, with the Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Vaccination Teams, before the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles at T-Mobile Park on May 05, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Gov. Inslee paused all phase movements in the state’s reopening plan for the next two weeks, leaving King County — and most counties — in Phase 3. In the meantime, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health — Seattle & King County, says more vaccinations and continued precautions will help the region move forward in reopening.

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“During this time, the quickest way to decrease cases and hospitalizations is through limiting indoor activities with unvaccinated people, continuing to wear face masks when indoors around unvaccinated people and when in crowds, and ensuring good ventilation in workplaces, businesses, homes, and wherever people gather indoors,” Duchin said on Friday.

The more people are vaccinated, he says, the less vulnerable the community will be as a whole to future surges and severe outbreaks, and the risk will continue to decrease.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is no longer a five-alarm fire, but it continues to burn and has not yet been extinguished,” Duchin said. “At the moment, new cases of COVID-19 can still spark flare ups that spread among unvaccinated people.”

“After we release the pause button, I want us to be able to push play and not rewind,” he added later in his weekly briefing. “Our outbreak continues to smolder, but with increasing vaccination coverage, we will see a decrease in the risk of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and fewer large outbreaks that disrupt our workplaces, our schools, our economy, and other activities.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Duchin says the end game of the pandemic is impossible to predict with certainty. He expects COVID-19 will not suddenly disappear, but rather will fade out gradually with “fits and starts over a period of years.”

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“And flare ups will still be possible in populations with low vaccination coverage or with unanticipated changes in the virus,” he said, adding that while future outbreaks are likely to occur in unvaccinated groups, it should not lead to large outbreaks in a well-vaccinated general population.

“Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to reduce our risk now and in the future,” Duchin said. “And the speed with which we can return to normal and the extent to which we will need additional precautions depends on how many of us get vaccinated and how quickly.”

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