King County Still in Phase 3, South King County Remains Less Vaccinated

by Elizabeth Turnbull

Though COVID-19 disease activity remains high, and there are suggestions the pandemic curve might be starting to flatten, King County remains in Phase 3 of the Gov. Inslee’s reopening plan. And in South and Southeast King County there are concerns that certain communities of color have received the least vaccine coverage.

“We are currently in a pause with respect to Phase 2 restrictions. That makes sense based on our disease trajectory,” King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin said at a public health briefing on Friday. “After we release the pause button I want us to be able to push play and not rewind. Our outbreak continues to smolder but with increasing vaccination coverage we will see a decrease in the risk of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — and fewer large outbreaks that disrupt our workplaces, our schools, our economy and other activities.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a two-week pause on deciding whether the county should go back a phase. As a result, King County still stands in Phase 3 and shops and restaurants continue operating at 50% capacity as government officials pay attention to a potential plateau in a fourth wave of the virus, which the Washington State Department of Health says is too early to confirm for sure.

Over the past 7 days, 117 King County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 — a decrease of 20% compared to the week before. In King County in general, one person continues to be hospitalized every hour and 26 minutes. Adults aged 40 to 69 accounted for most of the hospitalizations over the past week, while more 20-to-39 year-olds were hospitalized than people over 70 in the same period.

Overall, COVID-19 vaccinations are becoming more widely received and over two-thirds of people 16 and older in King County have had one or more doses of the vaccination, with 46% now fully vaccinated. Older residents remain the most vaccinated populations: over 90% of King County residents who are 65 and older have received one or more doses and 82% of King County residents in this age group are fully vaccinated.

While these numbers are substantial, some of the demographic groups and areas that have been hardest hit by the virus also remain less vaccinated. Compared to the greater Seattle area, South and Southeast King County, some of the most diverse areas of Seattle, have lower vaccination rates.

While 63 to 70% of White, Asian, Native Hawai‘ian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Alaska Native residents of King County who are 16 and older have received one or more doses of the vaccine, only 49% percent of Black and Hispanic residents have received vaccine coverage, according to Duchin.

At the press briefing, Duchin spoke to the possibility of younger populations becoming eligible for the vaccine and said that it is likely that by next week residents aged 12 to 15 will become eligible for the Pfizer vaccine after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advisory council meets. In the meantime, health officials are encouraging residents to wear masks around unvaccinated individuals and to maintain ventilation practices in public and private spaces.

Overall, as the prevalence of the virus has evolved over time, and new variants are more easily spread, officials are urging the public not to let go of safety precautions too soon.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is no longer a five alarm fire but it continues to burn and it has not yet been extinguished,” Duchin said. “We need to continue to fight this fire with multiple strategies — vaccines, plus precautions — and as more people are vaccinated, particularly young adults, and subsequently adolescents and eventually children, the risk to both individuals and to our community as a whole will continue to decrease.”

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.

📸 Featured Image: A patient at the City of Seattle’s Rainier Beach COVID-19 vaccination site waits after receiving a shot. Photo by Alex Garland.

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