Enthusiasm about Seattle’s progress on vaccination and move to a new phase of reopening including more room for sit-down dining after a year of COVID-19 restrictions is being tempered by an uptick in new positive cases in King County.
The health department’s latest tallies show a rise to around 187 new positive cases per day over the past week in King County — up just under 30% over recent levels. Hospitalized cases and deaths that had mostly leveled off after peaking again in winter haven’t yet started to climb but could tail the positive case uptick. Currently, around six people per day are hospitalized with COVID-19 complications and the county is averaging two daily deaths over the past week. 1,456 have died here since the start of the pandemic.
“Even as more opens up, we need to proceed with caution,” King County Public Health Tweeted this week. “We are already seeing an uptick in cases. Wear a mask, keep gatherings small, and stay outdoors when possible.”
Monday, Seattle and King County joined the entire state in moving to Phase 3 of reopening including a further reopening of Washington’s economy and loosening of restrictions on large gatherings including professional and youth sports and “other outdoor spectator events.” Restaurants can now serve indoor diners at 50% capacity.
Large counties like King County with more than 50,000 residents must maintain a 14-day average of new COVID cases at or below 200 per 100,000 residents, and a seven-day average of new hospitalizations per 100,000 at five or fewer to remain in Phase 3.
The county currently is measuring a positive rate of around 104 per 100,000 and its hospitalization rate is considered “flat/decreasing.”
The eligibility for vaccination is also being expanded though supplies still can’t keep up with demand — a situation the White House says will improve by May. Washington residents 60 to 64 and those experiencing homelessness that live in or access services at shelters and congregate settings will also be eligible. Restaurant workers have also joined the ranks of the essential workers who formally qualify for COVID-19 vaccination.
Seattle officials say efforts to reach vulnerable residents including communities of color have been successful here with around 70% of those 65 years old and older in all parts of the city receiving at least one shot of vaccine. Despite efforts to reach the communities, People of Color groups continue to lag the county’s white population in the rate of vaccination.
King County reports that 31% of its 16+ population has now received at least one dose with more than 18% fully vaccinated.
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