by Elizabeth Turnbull
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state appears to be entering a fourth spike in coronavirus cases as mutations of the virus appear to be contributing to its spread.
“We have a situation that we’re dealing with right now, I wish it was otherwise,” Inslee said at a press briefing. “Unfortunately we now are seeing the beginnings of a fourth surge in the state of Washington.”
More transmissible and possibly more dangerous variants of the virus — such as the B.1.1.7 strain, sometimes called the UK variant — is now the most dominant strain of cases in Washington, making the need for vaccine distribution and preventative safety measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing, a continued imperative.
Mitigation efforts and high vaccination rates among elderly people may have slowed the spike in cases compared to previous waves, and there have been fewer ICU hospitalizations, intubations, and slightly quicker recoveries, said Dr. Dave Carlson, the chief physician officer at MultiCare Health System, who spoke at Thursday’s press conference.
However, the people who are now being hospitalized are generally younger than before — between the ages of 20 to 60 years old — and many have comorbidities such as diabetes or lung disease. Responding to this data, government and health officials are urging people of all ages to be proactive about getting the vaccine.
By the end of this week more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Washington and more than half of the adult population has received at least one dose. Still, at least 300,000 people over the age of 60 still have not received the vaccine, Inslee said.
A large number of vaccination appointments are now available at two sites in South King County: at the Auburn Outlet Mall and Kent ShoWare clinics beginning April 22 through at least Monday, April 26. South King County residents above the age of 16 can obtain either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine at these sites.
Vaccines will also be available at a pop-up at Garfield Community Center in the Central district on Saturday, April 24, and on Saturday, May 25, where anyone 16 and older can get the Pfizer vaccine. For information on vaccine appointments at Garfield Community Center call 206-477-4992
COVID-19 has created a long-standing public health crisis but also a financial one. Applications are now open for the latest round of the State’s COVID-19 Immigration Relief Fund for workers who have been impacted by the virus but who are not eligible to receive federal aid because of their immigration status.
Overall, Inslee stressed the importance of vaccinations and encouraged people who were skeptical of the vaccine to go to their health provider with any questions, rather than relying on information from social media.
“We have a rapidly mutating virus that is infecting and invading our state, and it has an ally and that’s the social media and the internet, because that new technology allows mutation of information,” Inslee said. “We do encourage people who have any questions or concerns, call a medical practitioner and ask to get the straight scoop, that’s something you do when your life is at stake and people’s lives are at stake.”
All people ages 16 and older in Washington State are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To find out more about how to get your vaccine, read the Emerald’s guide to COVID-19 vaccinations in South Seattle and King County.
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
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