COVID cases rising in western Washington

SEATTLE — Now to the pandemic and the latest numbers from the Seattle-King County Health Department.

Right now, the county is seeing an average of 484 new cases each day. That is three times the number of cases reported about a month ago.

That is still a much lower number than the peak of omicron, when King County was reporting 6,500 new cases per day.

Now Washington is forming a work group of public health officials to help recommend metrics for reinstituting a mask mandate.

The state public health official says the rise in cases is concerning, but the state is not alarmed.

Business wasn’t especially brisk at this COVID-19 testing site along Aurora Avenue, but people are still showing up concerned they might have contracted the coronavirus.

“I have a runny nose and I’m getting weak,” said Segaye Tewole. “And I’m coughing.”

Tewole was among those who came here because they have symptoms, even though he says he is vaccinated and boosted.

So, he is doing what health officials say anyone should.

“I am not feeling well,” said Tewole. “So I have to check my status.”

He is not alone. Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist, says he is concerned by what he sees.

“Yeah, so, I think the big concern is we’re seeing a modest increase on the west side of the state here,” he said, “where we’re seeing more patients being diagnosed.”

Lindquist says soon a work group will be created to determine whether masks and other restrictions should be reimposed.

“It’s way too early to institute mandatory respiratory guidance right now,” he said. “But our guidance has always been recommending masks.”

Still, Dr. John Lynch, a UW Medicine infectious disease specialist, says with more people using rapid COVID-19 tests at home, it may be difficult to get a clear picture of how many people are actually sick.

“We don’t know how big the number is of people with COVID in our community,” he said. “What we do know is that people are going to start ending up in the hospital; and that’s the metric we’re paying the closest attention to right now.”

Both he and Lindquist suggest reimposing the restrictions on yourself: get vaccinated; get boosted, twice, if eligible; wear a mask indoors, and keep personal distance.

They also recommend taking a home test if you have symptoms or are going to be with a lot of people.