BA.5 wave on downturn in King County, but numbers still high

Aug 11, 2022, 6:35 AM | Updated: 6:38 am
(Getty Images)...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The local BA.5 surge is starting to look a little better.

But health leaders say that does not mean it is time to relax COVID precautions.

“Our COVID-19 BA.5 wave appears to have crested in King County,” said King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin at a briefing on Tuesday.

He followed up, however, by noting that there are still too many cases for comfort. To put it in perspective, he said, case rates are higher than they were at most other high points in the pandemic.

WA Department of Health: COVID fall booster doses could be ‘weeks away’

“They do remain higher than all past peaks — except the [winter] omicron wave — when you consider unreported cases, which are particularly high in the current outbreak,” Duchin said.

The situation for hospitalizations and deaths is similar.

“Hospitalizations and deaths are decreasing or stable, but still at substantial levels. Our current overall hospitalization rate is comparable to our average peak seasonal influenza rate,” Duchin said. “And the greatest impact is on older adults and those who are not up-to-date on vaccinations.”

That last part is a a problem in King County. While 87% of people 5 years old and older got their initial round of vaccines, fewer than half — 44% — are up-to-date with recommended boosters.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible for a booster after their primary vaccine series. Additionally, the CDC recommends second boosters for everyone 50 and older, or everyone 12 and older with compromised immune systems.

The new booster doses coming out this fall will target the omicron variant, including the BA.5 subvariant responsible for the current wave. In the meantime, however, it is recommended that you receive all boosters you are currently eligible for; you will still be able to get one of the fall boosters when they arrive.

Staying up-to-date on vaccines — along with wearing tight-fitting masks indoors and in crowds, ensuring rooms are well-ventilated, and testing if you have symptoms, will be key to mitigating the severity of COVID as new variants cause future waves, Duchin said.

“There is still a lot of COVID-19 out there, but we are moving in a better direction,” Duchin said.

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BA.5 wave on downturn in King County, but numbers still high