King County remains in Phase 3: What that means for our community and our way forward

Governor Jay Inslee announced today that King County will remain in Phase 3 of Washington state’s Roadmap to Recovery for the next two weeksIn Phase 3, indoor spaces such as restaurants, gyms and museums will be able to continue to operate with up to 50% of capacity.  

In King County, cases remain high, and cases and hospitalizations have been on the increase since mid-March. But after several weeks of cases rising, in the past week cases have remained stable, showing signs that the recent increase may be starting to level off. 

Overall, rates of COVID-19 remain highest in south and southeast King County. These areas continue to experience higher rates of hospitalizations, a continued concerning trend.  

Notably, over the past two weeks, the arrival of plenty of vaccine into King County has been a game-changer. For the first time in over a year, as a community, we have the very real opportunity to get the pandemic under control.  

“It is too early to tell if we have passed the peak of this recent surge. A two-week pause at this time recognizes this uncertainty and provides time to see whether we are turning a corner and which direction we are heading, while we continue to do everything we possibly can to get more people vaccinated,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“Our best path out of the painful cycle of COVID-19 resurgences and restrictions – and for a return to normalcy as quickly as possible – is by rolling up our sleeves and getting vaccinated. As more people get vaccinated, the number of infections and hospitalizations will go down and all of us will be safer.”

Vaccine coverage and the impact on cases, hospitalizations 

Currently, people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s are experiencing more severe disease and hospitalizations than earlier in the pandemic. This age group only became eligible for the vaccine in the past three weeks. Already, more than half have received a first dose.   

If even more young and middle-aged adults get vaccinated in coming weeks, that could bring a substantial drop in COVID-19 infections.  

King County is already seeing evidence that remarkable turnarounds are possible by looking at older adults.  

Over 90% of residents age 65 and older have received at least one dose.  This level of vaccine coverage is starting to drive down hospitalizations and deaths in this age group. Hospitalizations among older adults have fallen substantially since January, dropping 80% among people age 75 and older and down 58% among people age 65-74. 

Couple in Shoreline after vaccination. Man displays post-vaccine band-aid on his bicep.
Roberta and William after their vaccinations at the Shoreline YMCA in March.

Our county has had a deliberate focus on ensuring access to vaccine for communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Communities are looking out for one another, and thanks to their efforts, we are seeing results. 

While there is still more work to be done, among people age 65 and older, 84% of Asian Americans, 82% of Black and African Americans, and 85% of Hispanics have received at least one dose along with 90% of White Americans in this age group. There is close to full coverage in this age range for Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander groups and American Indian and Alaskan Native groups.  

Mohamed gets his first shot at a HealthPoint-Renton drive-through in February.

And our community continues to step up by making vaccine even more accessible. For example, a partnership helped vaccinate more than 200 local residents last week in the Skyway neighborhood, located between Renton and Seattle. The effort included neighborhood businesses, the local fire department, community groups, health care providers, and Public Health. 

Jimmie was happy to get his first shot in Skyway in April, 2021.

Getting back to our pre-Covid lives 

How successful we ultimately are as a community and how quickly we get back to our activities depends on how many of us get vaccinated and how quickly we do so. If vaccine coverage stalls, then we are greater risk for more outbreaks, severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Unfortunately, we will also be at risk of greater restrictions.   

But as more and more people getting vaccinated, and the quicker we do, the safer we will all be and the more we will be able to get back to our pre-Covid lives, from travel to gathering with friends to having our kids in school without the risk of infecting others.  

In the meantime, fighting COVID has always required doing more than one thing.  

  • Wear masks, especially indoors with unvaccinated people you don’t live with and in crowded places. 
  • Keep gatherings small.  

Until the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations decline, and more people are vaccinated, everyone needs to take these steps for a while longer.  

Convenience of vaccine: Here’s how to fit vaccine into your day 

Many vaccination sites are accepting patients without appointments during the days and hours noted below. All sites are ADA and offer interpretation services on-site.  

For those living or working in Federal Way, a new Federal Way vaccination site opened on May 3. Appointments are required in advance but the site is specifically open on weekends, Saturdays, 8:30am-4:30pm, and Sundays, 10am-2pm. 

And for Mariners and Sounders fans, the City of Seattle is offering vaccinations to all eligible fans at home games.

For additional vaccination locations, assistance, resources, and information, visit:

Originally posted May 4, 2021