Officials urge vaccinations as Delta variant takes root

Dr. Chris Spitters recommends everyone, even the vaccinated, mask up in public indoor spaces.

EVERETT — COVID-19’s delta variant is taking root in Washington and leading a rise in cases that’s predominately targeting the unvaccinated, health experts warn.

That’s leading Snohomish County health officer Dr. Chris Spitters to recommend that everyone, even the vaccinated, mask up when entering indoor public spaces, Snohomish Health District spokesperson Kari Bray said.

“He notes that it is clear that reduced use of masks combined with circulation of the more contagious delta strain in recent weeks, along with incomplete vaccination coverage, are driving a fifth wave of COVID-19 transmission that is preventable,” she said.

Snohomish County’s latest two-week case rate shows a small jump from 80 new infections per 100,000 residents to 108 per 100,000. Previous pandemic peaks reached as high 462 cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks.

And Snohomish County isn’t alone. Cases are rising statewide, and health experts are worried about counties with lower vaccination rates.

Another cause for concern, officials say, is genome sequencing that shows the delta variant is the predominant strain circulating in the state.

The delta variant is one of the most transmissible known strains, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

The best way to be protected is to get vaccinated, experts say. While breakthrough cases have occurred both locally and statewide, data shows that vaccinated individuals are far less likely to be hospitalized or die due to the virus.

Spitters’ recommendation for indoor masking is similar to an order issued Friday by King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.

Local and state health officers have the authority to take these recommendations a step further with indoor mask mandates, though none have been issued.

State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said he and other leaders are concerned about the rising cases, but stopped short of recommending that vaccinated people wear a mask indoors.

“There is no recommendation from the state or the governor, at this point,” he told reporters Friday. “But stay tuned, this stuff changes pretty quickly.”

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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