DAVE ROSS

How new ‘mini wave’ of COVID cases in King County is different from past surges

Apr 8, 2022, 8:28 AM
COVID, Seattle, Pike Place...
Seattle's Pike Place Market. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As mask mandates have faded away and many having returned to pre-pandemic routines, COVID-19 cases have begun to tick back up again.

UW researchers: ‘The pandemic phase of COVID-19 is gone’

In King County, COVID cases have risen by 41% over the seven-day period ending on April 2, albeit with hospitalizations largely remaining unchanged. And as University of Washington Virology head Dr. Keith Jerome notes, there’s a strong chance that case counts could be even higher than what’s being reported.

“I think we’re having a mini wave, or the beginnings of a wave, I don’t know where it’s going to go,” he told KIRO Newsradio’s Dave Ross. “I’ll say this is, there’s probably more COVID out there than we realize because people are doing the tests at home now.”

With public testing sites have scaled back, a large portion of people are performing their own at-home rapid tests, which don’t get reported to local health agencies. For the cases that are getting reported, labs like UW Virology where roughly 2-4% of samples were coming up positive months ago are now seeing that rate rise up over 10%.

Unlike past surges, though, there are factors at play now that could mitigate the severity of the virus as it continues to spread.

“It’s partially about the virus, but it’s also about us,” Dr. Jerome described. “Have we had COVID before? What’s the medical care like? We have a vaccine. Those are generally factors in our favor.”

Europe’s omicron surge ‘totally different’ than what’s expected in Washington

“Hopefully, what we’ll see is that there are more cases, more illness, and then people say, ‘Wow, that was a bad cold,’ or, ‘I missed a couple of days at work,’ or something,” he continued. “And that’s the majority of what we see.”

Looking toward the future, Jerome also notes that collectively we “need to get to the idea that this virus is going to be out there forever.”

“We as a scientific enterprise, as humanity, have eradicated one virus, and that’s smallpox, with a just Herculean global effort,” he explained. “That was kind of the perfect virus to be able to eradicate; this one’s going to be here, and we’re going have to learn to live with it.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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How new ‘mini wave’ of COVID cases in King County is different from past surges