Based on Public Health’s latest data from Monday, April 25th, our rate of cases now puts King County into the Medium COVID-19 Community Level as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): over 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.
While the CDC “medium” risk category is not a magic threshold, meaning something has suddenly or fundamentally changed about the outbreak, it does tell us that COVID-19 risk is increasing for individuals and for our community. We can use this information to lower our own risk and those around us by increasing our protection.
To limit spread of COVID-19, Public Health recommends using layered prevention measures. These include:
- being up to date on COVID-19 vaccine and recommended booster doses. Vaccination and boosters also help lower the risk of developing long COVID.
- improving indoor air quality through ventilation, filtration and other strategies
- using high quality and well-fitting face masks in crowded indoor settings
- getting tested and isolating if you have symptoms and testing when possible before attending gatherings with high-risk people
What the numbers tell us
We know the number of reported cases is an underestimate of the actual current level of COVID-19 in the community. That’s because more people are using at-home rapid test results that are often unreported to health officials and some people don’t get tested at all.
While cases have been rising gradually over the past month, hospitalizations and deaths remain relatively low, thanks primarily to the protection against serious illness that vaccinations and boosters are providing to most King County residents.
As King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin reflects, “that hospitalizations and deaths are stable and relatively low is a good sign that people who are vaccinated and boosted have great protection from serious infections. This can change if cases continue to increase, but so far, it’s reassuring.”
COVID-19 activity can rise and fall in response to several factors. For example, the amount of virus in our community can change based on whether we take more or fewer precautions. Levels can also change when new variants emerge and if they spread more readily, cause more severe illness, or dodge protection from vaccines and past infection. And levels can shift depending on if or when protection from vaccination or past infection decreases over time.
“Preventing hospitalizations and deaths is the top priority, and our vaccines are currently doing a great job on this front,” says King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin. “Although we’re not able to count every case, every case counts because even less severe COVID-19 can lead to long COVID in an estimated 10-30% of cases, with brain, heart and lung problems that can make it difficult to work and do normal activities. People with less severe infections can also spread COVID-19 to others, including people at high risk. And some people will get severe infections, especially those who are unvaccinated such as children under five,” says Dr. Duchin.
What about any new restrictions?
At this time, we are re-emphasizing our recommendations for layered prevention measures described above and are not issuing any new requirements or restrictions in King County.
Public Health will continue to monitor our local situation to determine whether additional measures will be needed to optimally protect the health of our community.
It’s not possible to predict if cases will continue to rise, when they might fall, or when they might rise again, but we expect ongoing ups and downs over the next few years based on what variants emerge, population immunity and other factors. By increasing our prevention steps when more virus is circulating, as it is currently, we can help prevent larger surges and lower our risk.
Going forward, to decrease risk over time, it’s critical to continue to focus on sustainable, long-term strategies, such as increasing opportunities to improve indoor air quality and confronting structural and systemic disparities that place some communities at greater risk for more severe impacts from COVID-19.
Watch video on how to reduce risk
This latest video highlights the key recommended steps that can help reduce risk.
Originally published 4/25/22