No summer increase in COVID is expected, but those who are not vaccinated remain at high risk

Fans can be seen in the stands dedicated to those fully vaccinated during the Seattle Mariners-Detroit Tigers game at T-Mobile Park on May 18, 2021 in Seattle, Washington.

A digital highway sign promotes COVID-19 vaccination on May 14, 2021 in Vancouver, Washington. Governor Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the statewide mask mandate would no longer apply to fully vaccinated adults.

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King County’s top health official said Thursday he was not forecasting a summer spike in COVID-19, but stressed that unvaccinated people continue to be at increased risk of contracting the virus as more highly communicable variants dominate the county.

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“We are now at the same level of COVID-19 transmission as we were just before the last fourth wave began, and roughly double what we were at in late September 2020 before the start of the big autumn and winter summit were, “said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Public Health Commissioner – Seattle & King County at a press conference. “I am optimistic that the COVID-19 burden will continue to decrease in the coming months as more are vaccinated.”

Both the average daily cases and hospital stays have continued to decline over the past week. King County is currently reporting 165 new cases of the novel coronavirus every day, a 64% decrease from the last high in late April. Hospital admissions have dropped from 23 a day in April to just 10 a day, and the county reports deaths from the virus on a daily basis.

Cases are still highest in young people ages 5 to 24, a sign of high vaccination rates in the older population.

The falling cases are due to the county’s vaccination efforts being well advanced. 63% of people aged 16 and over have completed the vaccination sequence. Duchin said the county is on track with 70% of the county to be vaccinated by the end of June. This is the date set by Governor Jay Inslee when the state will fully reopen.

However, unvaccinated people remain at “significant risk” for contracting COVID-19, according to Duchin, with a staggering 97% of current cases in the county occurring in unvaccinated people. About half a million people aged 12 and over remain unvaccinated despite their eligibility.

“This means that if you are not vaccinated, your risk of COVID-19 is currently higher than it was on Memorial Day,” said Duchin.

Although Duchin is fully protected against the virus, he continues to advise vaccinated residents to continue using face masks in indoor public spaces, in accordance with the policy he issued last week. The guideline was followed after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed their guidelines to allow fully vaccinated individuals to be exposed both indoors and outdoors.

Companies in the county are asked to voluntarily adhere to the policy, which remains in place until 70% of the county is vaccinated.

Duchin also addressed concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine related to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle mainly caused by viruses circulating in the community. Duchin said there have been 14 reports of myocarditis following the administration of the vaccine, and all cases are being investigated by the Washington Department of Health.

“With cases appearing to be relatively rare and mostly mild, the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine still far outweigh the risk of a rare complication. Therefore, the CDC, American Heart Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics continue to recommend vaccination for everyone aged 12 and over, “said Duchin.

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