Experts warn of King County COVID surge, say few people have gotten updated booster

SEATTLE — As October begins, health experts are warning about a COVID-19 surge this fall and winter.

King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said a surge is likely, but it is not known how severe it will be.

Duchin is urging people to get the new booster shot. Currently, fewer than 10% of eligible people have done so.

If you ask someone about COVID-19 these days, you may hear a lack of concern.

“I feel like it’s going away,” one person told reporter Graham Johnson.

And what about getting the updated omicron booster shots?

“I don’t know. I’ve had both of the COVID shots. I haven’t really thought about it, actually,” another person said.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that two-thirds of American adults are not planning to get the updated booster shot soon.

Duchin said he hopes that changes.

“This is something that can make a fall and winter surge much worse if they haven’t received a booster,” said Duchin.

There have been surges of COVID-19 cases before when people begin to head indoors during cooler weather.

“It’s very likely we’re going to see a surge in the fall and the winter, but we really can’t predict how severe it will be,” said Duchin.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects a slow rise in local cases in the coming months.

But researcher Theo Voss said with so many cases now going unreported because of home tests, predictions are difficult to make.

“That work has become much, much harder. What we do know is that virtually everyone has been in contact with the virus, even people who have been vaccinated,” said Voss.

People with the virus are still being hospitalized, but Voss said COVID-19 is becoming more manageable.

“So, there’s a lot of good news but there are remaining worries and it’s certainly not a problem that is over,” said Voss.

About 12% of older adults in King County have had the new booster shots so far.