COVID-19 cases rising, but King County health officer hopes they’ll soon level off

As the most transmissible version of omicron spreads, so does word of COVID-19 infections.

“On social media I see friends post, ‘Oh no, it just happened, I got the COVID,’ and they show their little at-home tests,” said Ramona Beeson of Burien.

Public health officials said COVID cases in King County are up 8% in the last week and hospitalizations are up 37%.

“What we’re seeing is just a whole lot of cases in the community,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, King County’s health officer. “We know even if you’re infected in that first omicron wave, you’re still susceptible to infection by these new variants.”

Duchin is hoping new cases will level off.

“I can tell you the rate of rise of cases is slowing a little bit, it’s possible that we’re going to see a little crest. That doesn’t mean we can’t jump up again in a couple of weeks,” Duchin told KIRO 7.

Most of Washington is in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s low-risk category, but King, Snohomish and Jefferson counties are listed as medium-risk.

Clallam County is high-risk.

Duchin said King County could move up to high risk if COVID patients start needing more hospital beds.

“I don’t think we’re going to imminently trigger into the CDC high category. It could happen over the next couple of weeks, but it’s not going to happen this week,” Duchin said.

A move to high-risk would not automatically mean a new indoor mask mandate.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee responded to a question about reinstating mask rules, saying, “We don’t have any immediate consideration of additional measures like that.”

In fact, the governor hinted about loosening the vaccine mandate for state contractors.

“We may make changes in the near future for some contractors, frankly, and we’re looking at that issue right now,” Inslee said.

Health officials continue to recommend wearing a high-quality mask in crowded indoor places.