King County health officer provides context behind recent rise in COVID cases

Apr 14, 2022, 8:33 AM

King County COVID...

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued to rise in King County, with Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin offering some context behind the numbers this week.

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

For the seven-day period ending on April 9, cases have increased by 39% countywide, while hospitalizations have risen 9% over that same period. But as Dr. Duchin points out, that increase has been slower than what we saw in the early days of the omicron variant, with totals still “much lower than the peak we saw in January.”

“At the peak of the Omicron surge, an average of 6,500 new cases were reported daily. Currently, we’re seeing an average of 484 new cases/day,” he detailed on Twitter. “That’s about 3X the # reported at the post-surge nadir a month ago, but 7% of the number at the Omicron peak.”

Duchin further notes that deaths and hospitalizations “are comparable to the lowest levels we’ve seen during the pandemic,” the majority of which have occurred among those ages 65 and up. That’s largely driven by the fact that over 85% of eligible King County residents completed their primary series of vaccine shots, while 51% have gotten both their first shots and a booster.

That said, he also cited concerns over the relatively low rate of those who have received boosters when measured against those who got the first series, particularly among communities of color. According to King County’s latest data, just 43% of Black residents have been boosted, in addition to 42% of its Hispanic/Latino population.

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

Duchin goes on to warn that long COVID — instances where someone experiences symptoms that persist for months after the fact — can still occur in “less severe and even mild cases,” although being vaccinated does decrease that risk.

“There’s much we don’t know about long COVID, including how best to diagnose and treat it,” he said. “Many recover after weeks to months. However, even among young, healthy people, long COVID can be serious & long lasting, affecting the brain, nervous system, heart, lungs, and other organs.”

In the weeks and months to come, he advises that people continue to take basic precautions, and that it would be “a good idea to wear a high-quality and well-fitting mask in crowded indoor spaces.” For anyone going to indoor group gatherings, he says that people should also “consider rapid testing.”

That sort of layered protection is what Duchin says will be crucial moving forward, given that the virus “will likely continue to challenge us with intermittent surges.”

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King County health officer provides context behind recent rise in COVID cases