King County considers mandates, urges masking, boosters

Hospitalizations in King County have increased three-fold since April, resulting in talk of mandates.

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Associated Press

SEATTLE — COVID-19 levels remain high this summer in Washington’s most populous county — which includes Seattle.

Increasingly involving the highly transmissible omicron BA.5 variant and BA.4, cases are higher than the peak of last year’s delta wave, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County.

And those case numbers are an undercount because many people are using rapid at-home tests, which are rarely included in official numbers, KUOW reported.

Duchin said Thursday that hospitalizations in King County have increased three-fold since April. Duchin said as a result there are active discussions about mandates.

“We are actively considering if, and when, additional mandates may be needed. And I’m really encouraging everyone now, to please, let’s make sure we’ve done all we can on a voluntary basis before we have to go there,” Duchin said during a press briefing.

He said mandates have their place when short-term immediate improvement is needed.

In Los Angeles County, county health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday that residents face a return to a broad indoor mask mandate on July 29 if current trends in hospital admissions continue.

“But over the long-term we really do need people to understand that we need both our business community, our leadership in the community, and our community members to take the steps that they need to take to protect themselves and one another,” Duchin said.

Staying current with vaccinations and boosters, improving indoor air quality and ventilation, and wearing high quality masks can help reduce risks.

Duchin said with the potential for lasting symptoms, known as long COVID, it’s worth preventing even mild infections.

More than 86% of people five and older have completed their initial vaccine series in King County. However, just over half have gotten a booster.

Earlier this week the White House response team urgently called on everyone 50 and older to get a booster if they haven’t yet in 2022.

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