GEORGE, Wash. — Public health officials are reporting a multi-state COVID-19 outbreak linked to Watershed – a three-day outdoor country music festival in Grant County.
The Grant County Health District is now asking all 20,000+ people who attended to self-quarantine or get tested for the virus.
The outbreak from the festival is impacting multiple states, with at least one person in Oregon who self-reported a case to Grant County. (The local health district doesn’t track cases in other states.) The outbreak is also hitting at a time when hospitals across Washington are filling up to capacity.
There are 160 lab-confirmed cases so far tied to the festival, but Grant County says the numbers will be much higher than what’s been currently confirmed through lab testing.
The Grant County Health District said Watershed organizers had no vaccine or testing requirements for attendance. They were worried about an outbreak connected with the festival.
“We had alerted other local health jurisdictions that Watershed was occurring,” said Theresa Adkinson, administrator for the Grant County Health District.
Forty of the 160 confirmed cases are in King County, and about 20 are in Pierce County. Cases have also been identified among residents of Grant, Skagit, Kittitas, Okanogan, Whatcom, Kitsap, San Juan, Lincoln, and Stevens counties.
“It is quite concerning to start to see the numbers. This is not the end of the numbers coming in,” Adkinson said. She said some people were self-reporting other cases on social media, some reported symptoms but were not getting tested, and others were not returning calls from public health.
Even though the festival was outdoors, doctors say given how contagious the delta variant is and the type of activity, even being outside may not protect you.
“Even if it’s outdoors, if you’re in elbow-to-elbow proximity of your neighbor for several hours, there is that risk of transmission,” said Dr. Dr. Tim Dellit, chief medical officer of UW Medicine.
This latest outbreak is happening as hospitals across the state are once again halting non-essential surgeries to make space, including at UW Medicine.
“Within our system, our ICU capacity is essentially 100 percent. And most hospitals I think are really in that situation,” Dellit said.
“Our hospitals by far and large are filled with unvaccinated people,” Adkinson said.
The surge in cases and the latest outbreak have people in healthcare pleading with the unvaccinated to get the shot.
“In Grant County we are below 50. Vaccinated, and that’s very concerning for us. It’s heartbreaking. I grew up here, I am raising my own family here. And it’s hard. It’s hard to see because there is something out there that can help mitigate this for our entire community. So while it’s personal choices and freedoms, those personal choices and freedoms are impacting our whole community,” Adkinson said.
For people who attended the festival, Grant County is urging you to get tested – even if you were vaccinated.
“If you’re going to recreate with large groups of people, it’s always been our recommendation to consider self-quarantining and getting yourself tested four to five days after the event,” Adkinson said.
KIRO7′s Deedee Sun asked Watershed, which is run by Live Nation, if organizers would consider requiring proof of vaccination or testing for future events. Organizers didn’t answer the question but said in a statement:
“Watershed festival worked to ensure all recommended guidelines from local officials were followed. We are encouraging everyone who attended to engage in regular testing for COVID-19 so we can all do our best to protect one another. Watershed Music and Camping festival also encourages anyone who is eligible aged 12 years and older, to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are able.”
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