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caption: Masked passengers ride the bus through downtown, August 3, 2021. Masks remain a requirement on King County public transit, including busses and street cars. 
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Masked passengers ride the bus through downtown, August 3, 2021. Masks remain a requirement on King County public transit, including busses and street cars.
Credit: Genna Martin for KUOW

Pandemic blog: Washington's hospitals are filling up

This blog post covers July 26 through August 6, 2021.

Check here for more recent updates.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 6

Vaccination required for Neptune, Moore, and Paramount theaters

If you want to see a show at the Neptune, Moore, or Paramount theaters in Seattle, you'll have to show proof of vaccination.

Seattle Theatre Group, which manages the venues, announced Friday that it will require audiences to be vaccinated. It is also keeping its policy that all patrons wear masks, except when drinking or eating.

The vaccine requirement begins on August 12.

The theater group says that the vaccine requirement is a response to the surge in delta variant cases, as well as feedback from performers and customers.

An audience member must be fully vaccinated by the time of a performance. Exceptions are made for children under 12, or people with religious beliefs. People with exceptions must show proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of the event, or a negative antigen test within 24 hours.

— Dyer Oxley

More Seattle area hospitals requiring staff vaccinations

Two more Seattle area hospital systems are requiring employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Swedish Health Services Virginia Mason Franciscan Health are both requiring staff to get their shots.

“Swedish has implemented a COVID-19 vaccination policy to help prevent and control transmission among caregivers, our patients and within our communities. The policy requires all employees to participate by being vaccinated or signing a declination (for either medical or religious reasons),” said a statement from a Swedish spokesperson.

The statement said the policy supports the belief at Swedish that everyone who can get the COVID-19 vaccine should get the shots.

At Virginia Mason, chief medical officer Michael Anderson said in a statement: "After careful consideration, we believe this is a necessary step in order to keep patients and team members safe, and to ensure our communities have full confidence in the safety of their care environments. We appreciate the dedication of our employees over the past year in addressing the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and are finalizing the details of the vaccine requirement."

UW Medicine also has a vaccine mandate that's been in place for some time.

The new policies come in the wake of calls from dozens of medical and health care organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, to require inoculation for all health care workers.

Kate Walters

More Covid outbreaks in King County

King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin is noting that there has been an uptick in Covid outbreaks.

"People are doing more activities while taking fewer precautions, and several recent outbreaks have occurred in indoor workplaces and social events where both unvaccinated and vaccinated people are together, where ventilation was poor, and where people were not wearing masks."

Three such recent outbreaks:

  • A crowded indoor concert with little fresh air
  • Employees at a fitness center where there wasn't enough distance between people
  • A childcare program attended by three symptomatic kids

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people were infected in each outbreak. Officials say that most of those who got sick were not wearing masks.

The vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in King County are happening among people who are not fully vaccinated.

— Kate Walters

Seattle schools won't offer online classes to older students

Seattle Public Schools says it will not be offering older students online learning options this fall. It will only provide online learning for kindergarten through 5th grade.

SPS says that not enough older students signed up to learn virtually. The district also said it also made the call to protect younger students who currently can't get vaccinated against Covid.

KING 5 reports The Seattle Education Association is calling the decision unacceptable, arguing that it was made unilaterally after the district pulled out of negotiations over virtual learning for all students.

The district says online options for younger students will be limited and families need to apply for a spot. The school district says students with documented health issues or concerns will be prioritized for the program. It will also work with the families of older students to find other online learning options available through state-approved programs.

— Angela King

Push to get kids all their vaccinations before school starts

Covid vaccinations have dominated the headlines in recent months, but now there's a new push to get local students their other required vaccinations ahead of the new school year.

Seattle King County Public Health is partnering with HealthPoint and a number of school districts to host free vaccine clinics in Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila.

They will rung from Aug. 3-18.

Students can get their TDap, MMR, and other required vaccines. Those old enough can also get vaccinated against Covid.

Check here for more information.

— Angela King

THURSDAY, AUGUST 5

Hospitalizations up in King County

The Delta variant continues to drive an increase in Covid-19 cases in King County.

Now, hospitalizations in the area are also up, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle and King County.

"Over the past seven days, 62 King County residents were admitted to the hospital for Covid-19,” Duchin said during a media briefing Thursday.

That’s compared with 30 to 40 people admitted per week since late June.

Duchin said hospitalized patients are also skewing younger compared to the start of this year, as more older adults have been vaccinated and social behavior has changed among young people.

Most cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated residents, he said.

Hospitalization levels are still far below the winter and spring peaks, and the county also continues to report a low number of deaths.

Officials are pleading with the public to get vaccinated and, regardless of vaccination status, to protect themselves through measures like masking in indoor public spaces.

Kate Walters

Doctors notice more kids in Seattle with Covid

Seattle Children's Hospital reports that more children are showing up with severe symptoms and illnesses from Covid-19. Some kids are being hospitalized.

Children under the age of 12 are not currently eligible to receive a Covid vaccine. The delta variant is the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Washington state. It is more contagious and can cause more severe illnesses. As such, it appears to be affecting children more than the original pandemic-inducing coronavirus.

KOMO reports that Seattle Children's Hospital is seeing a spike in Covid cases among kids. That has led to many being tested for the virus. A KOMO reporter observed a child as young as one getting a nasal swab.

One doctor told the TV news station that most of the kids they're seeing live in homes where the adults are not vaccinated.

— Dyer Oxley

Washington currently ranks 5th safest (that could change quick)

In terms of the pandemic, Washington state currently ranks as the fifth safest state in the United States, according to one assessment.

First, a little context. It's important to note that the assessment's data is as current as Aug. 4 and pandemic conditions are rapidly changing. This is especially true as the more-contagious delta variant spreads. Washington is currently experiencing a surge in hospital demand.

Source: WalletHub

WalletHub put a panel of experts to the task of measuring various safety factors, such as viral transmission rates, vaccination rates, hospitalizations, etc. After adding everything up, Washington comes in at number five, mostly due to our relatively low transmission rate (relative to other states that are currently having massive outbreaks right now).

It's also important to note that not all areas of Washington are the same. King County has a higher vaccination rate (74.1% of people age 12 and older) than other counties. For example, just south of King County, Pierce County has a vaccination rate of 52.2%; Spokane County is at 50.3%.

And for those who are curious. Arkansas is the least safe state right now, in terms of the pandemic. Followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama.

WalletHub also found that Democratic leaning state are fairing better through the pandemic than Republican leaning states.

— Dyer Oxley

Amazon pushes back return-to-office date

We can add Amazon to the list of large businesses pushing back any return to its offices.

GeekWire reports that Amazon expects to bring employees back to its offices in January 2022. Previously, the company was aiming to bring employees back in September 2021.

Microsoft has also pushed back its full return to the office to October. Microsoft also is requiring that all employees, vendors, and guests be vaccinated if they want to enter any of its offices in the United States (read more on that below). Amazon has not make any statements regarding vaccinations status of its workers.

— Dyer Oxley

Portland bars form vaccine coalition

A collection of bars in Portland, Ore. have formed a "Vaxx Coalition," meaning each establishment agrees to only serve people with proof of vaccination.

The Willamette Week reports that the idea in Portland was inspired by bars banding together in San Francisco with a similar aim. This not only means that bars would require a vaccine card (or a photo of it) to enter, it also means that some venues features bands and other acts will only have vaccinated audiences. One bar owner told WW that they will accept a photo of a person getting the shot as proof.

Similar measures have been taken in Seattle, with bars requiring proof of vaccination. But no official coalition has been formed locally. Though the Willamette Week estimates around 100 such Seattle bars are operating as such.

— Dyer Oxley

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4

Covid testing sites in the Seattle area are seeing a surge in demand

Dr. Geoffrey Baird at UW Medicine says that while Covid testing volumes aren’t where they were during the winter peak, they are significantly trending upward.

He encourages anyone who is concerned to get a test.

"The road to getting out of this is vaccination, but we don't have to go down that road with our eyes closed ... that's testing, that lets us know what's happening, where we are," Dr. Baird said. "Individuals, they need information, how to act, 'should I stay home? Can I go to work?'"

Baird says supply issues from last year are mostly solved and they’re prepared to handle large volumes of tests as needed.

The percent of positive tests is climbing in Washington, according to the Department of Health.

Hospitalizations due to Covid are up 20% over last week, with the state averaging three deaths per day according to the latest numbers.

— Kate Walters

"Untold things" could be done in the future if more people aren't vaccinated

Rising case counts, breakthrough cases, and more people in the hospital.

So far, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has held off on new COVID mandates.

But Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports that nothing is totally off the table:

“There is a lot of uncertainty and it seems we’re at another inflection point. You know I asked the governor last week if he had thought about requiring counties that are below his goal of the 70% vaccination rate to rollback their reopening. He seems very reluctant to discuss that. He says he doesn’t want to shut down businesses, he doesn’t want another round of layoffs, he wants people to have their freedoms. But he also said that there are untold things that could be done in the future if more people don’t get vaccinated. And he also made it clear that he won’t abide by a situation where hospitals and ICUs start getting overrun.”

Inslee continues to encourage unvaccinated people to get Covid shots. He’s expected to address the media and public again later this week.

— Andy Hurst

Another healthcare provider starts vaccine requirement

Another local healthcare provider has announced it will require its healthcare workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

PeaceHealth joins providers like Kaiser Permanente and Multicare, both of which recently announced their vaccination requirements.

PeaceHealth says that it will require caregivers, including those in Whatcom County and at St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham, to be vaccinated against Covid-19 beginning at the end of the month.

All providers, students, contractors, vendors and volunteers with the health system will be required to either receive a vaccine or submit a qualifying medical exemption, according to a PeaceHealth news release.

Those who are not vaccinated will be subject to regular Covid-19 testing and additional masking and could face reassignment to non-patient care settings and other safety protocols, the release states.

— Angela King

Pregnant patients should get the Covid-19 vaccine

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is recommending that pregnant patients get a Covid-19 vaccine.

It's based on the fact that tens of thousands of pregnant people have now received the vaccine, and it has been safe and effective.

Research shows Covid puts pregnant people and the developing fetus at an increased risk of severe health complications.

— Ross Reynolds

TUESDAY, AUGUST 3

Physicians should recommend COVID-19 vaccination to pregnant patients, report says

The leading association of obstetricians in the U.S. is now asking its members to “enthusiastically” recommend the COVID-19 vaccine to their pregnant patients.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says their updated guidance is based on the fact that tens of thousands of pregnant people have now received the vaccine, and it has been safe and effective.

“It is clear that pregnant people need to feel confident in the decision to choose vaccination, and a strong recommendation from their obstetrician–gynecologist could make a meaningful difference for many pregnant people,” J. Martin Tucker, president of ACOG said.

Research shows that Covid puts pregnant people and the developing fetus at an increased risk of severe health complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed eight large health organizations in seven states, including Kaiser Permanente here in Washington. The survey found that only about one in every six pregnant people got one or more shots of the Covid vaccine between Dec. 2020 and early May 2021.

Women aged 35 years and above, white women, and Asian-American women were more likely to get the vaccine, while younger women, Latinas, and Black women were less likely to get it.

The CDC report said their findings show the importance of improving outreach to pregnant women, especially those from racial and ethnic groups who might be at an increased risk of complications if they contract Covid.

Eilís O'Neill

Microsoft to require vaccination to enter its offices

Microsoft announced Tuesday that it will be requiring everyone entering its offices to be vaccinated. It is also pushing out its return-to-office date to October.

The vaccine requirement includes employees, vendors, and guests, and covers all of Microsoft's locations in the United States.

According to a Microsoft spokesperson:

“As we have done since the beginning of the pandemic, we continue to closely track new developments and adapt our plans as this situation evolves, keeping employee health and safety top of mind. Based on our continued consultation with health and data experts, our earliest date for the full opening of our U.S. worksites will be no earlier than October 4, 2021. Starting in September, we’ll also require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors, and any guests entering Microsoft buildings in the U.S., and will have an accommodation process in place for employees. We continue to review the situation on a local basis in each region/country/state where we work and will adjust dates and policies as needed.”

There will be exceptions made for people with medical or religious reasons.

Microsoft also says it will allow employees who are caregivers of people who are immunosuppressed, or parents of unvaccinated children to continue to work from home until January.

— Dyer Oxley

State DOH "concerned about a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations"

Washington state's Department of Health issued a statement Tuesday saying that officials are "concerned about a rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations being seen across the state due to the spread of the delta variant."

According to DOH, Washington's hospital capacity is at its highest levels since the start of 2021. An average of 1,500 new Covid cases are being reported each day. There are now more than 600 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the state; that's an increase of 20% over last week.

The delta variant is now 76% of all sequenced cases in the state. Delta is more contagious than the original strain of the virus. It can also cause more severe illnesses. Despite some breakthrough cases (less than 1% of all vaccinated people) vaccines are keeping people out of hospitals and are effective against death from Covid.

“Higher vaccination rates across the state are needed to protect our communities,” said Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah. “If there was ever a time to get vaccinated, it is now in the race against this variant.”

— Dyer Oxley

Multicare, Kaiser Permanente now requiring workers to be vaccinated

Multicare is joining Kaiser Permanente in requiring its health care workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The provider told the Tacoma News Tribune it's still working through the details, but says most of its workers have gotten their shots already.

But both Multicare and Kaiser plan to have the requirement in place by the fall.

Kaiser Permanente says making vaccinations mandatory is the most effective way to protect staff, patients, and surrounding communities, from the virus and the fast-spreading delta variant.

It's also encouraging all health systems and industry leaders to do the same. The organization is working with its labor unions on implementation of the employee vaccination mandate and will also coordinate with local, state and federal law.

UW Medicine is also requiring employee vaccination. Swedish and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health do not have vaccine mandates in place at this time.

— Angela King

Last "Heroes Thanks" drawing for vaccinated military members

The last drawing for the "A Heroes Thanks" vaccination lottery was held Tuesday morning.

The three week lottery was created for vets, military members, and their families who couldn't participate in Washington's previous Shot of a Lifetime Lotto, which gave cash and other prizes to people who received a Covid vaccine. Military members were able to get a shot through their medical facilities, but those facilities would not share enough information for the members to be included in the statewide drawing.

The grand-prize drawing for the military lotto is for $250,000.

— Angela King

Hospitals are filling up as delta variant continues to spread

The Washington State Hospital Association is urging hospitals statewide to require their workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

This comes as many hospitals in the state are full or are at risk of filling up.

Cassie Sauer of the State Hospital Association says there are a number of factors.

"It's Covid of course," Sauer said. "It's the trauma season, so people are falling off ladders and having bike accidents and drowning incidents and gun violence. It's also the heat. We're worried about smoke. And finally, it's delayed care."

People who couldn’t or preferred not to receive medical treatment during the pandemic are coming in now, and that is putting extra strain on the medical system.

Hospitals are also dealing with a shortage of workers. For example, St. Michael's Medical Center in Bremerton temporarily closed its ER because of staffing issues.

— Andy Hurst

Masks strongly urged for everyone at UW

The University of Washington is now asking anyone who visits campus to wear a face mask while indoors.

Masking up is not technically required for fully-vaccinated people. The university, however, is recommending everyone wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

A UW statement says they are recommending it based on the CDC and state of Washington's own statements urging people to start masking in public again.

UW plans to have employees working in-person again after September 10, unless they have a telework agreement.

Employees and students are required to wear masks in health care settings, UW shuttles, K-12 schools, childcare facilities, and other areas where children are present.

— Paige Browning

Spiffy's to close after repeatedly defying state pandemic regulations

Spiffy's Restaurant and Bakery will close permanently after receiving a multitude of fines throughout the pandemic. It has been open for 50 years. The restaurant refused to adhere to pandemic regulations, such as masking up and a prohibitions on indoor dining.

Spiffy's can be seen from I-5 in Chehalis. It's a common watering hole along the freeway. The Tacoma News Tribune reports that the restaurant collected as much as $480,000 in fines throughout the pandemic by not adhering to emergency orders.

In an announcement on Facebook, Spiffy's says it will close down on Sunday, citing the poor economic conditions from the pandemic, and the current challenge in finding workers. The restaurant says it is also having trouble getting deliveries.

The News Tribune notes in its reporting that there is no evidence to suggest that unemployment benefits are keeping people from returning to work. States that have cut off unemployment benefits due to the pandemic are experiencing the same worker shortage as other states with the benefits.

— Dyer Oxley

MONDAY, AUGUST 2

Kaiser Permanente to require COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and physicians

Kaiser Permanente has announced it will now require COVID-19 vaccines for all employees and doctors.

In a statement, the Oakland-based health care provider said "we feel it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help bring an end to the pandemic."

The company says it is working with labor unions on implementation.

Kaiser Permanente has an estimated 240,000 employees, including its physicians, in Washington and nationwide.

UW Medicine is also requiring employee vaccinations; Swedish and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health do not have vaccine mandates in place at this time.

Paige Browning

Breakthrough cases are not common, but delta variant changes a few things

From January 17 to July 24, only 0.1% of fully vaccinated Washingtonians tested positive for Covid.

Only 52 of the about 4 million Washingtonians who have been fully vaccinated have died of Covid; 37 of them had pre-existing conditions. And for 15 of them, it's unknown whether they had pre-existing conditions or not. Their median age was 83 years old.

In short, breakthrough cases among people who are vaccinated against Covid are not common. And when they do happen, illnesses are rarely severe or lead to hospitalization or death.

Transmission of the virus slows down in populations that are more vaccinated, however, new data suggests that vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus to some degree. This has led to current recommendations from health experts that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors.

KUOW's Eilis O'Neill has answers to common questions, especially as the delta variant changes the pandemic we have come to know. Read more here.

— Dyer Oxley, Eilis O'Neill

Bremerton emergency room temporarily closed

St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton is temporarily closing its ER because of a lack of adequate staffing, according to Kitsap Daily News.

Emergency services came to a halt Friday night. Now those needing emergency care on the Kitsap Peninsula will be diverted to the St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale or St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health which runs St. Michael Bremerton says the ER will remain closed “until staffing levels improve."

— Angela King

Vaccine misinformation from "parents, grandparents and friends"

While youth vaccination rates are higher in King County, they drop considerably in surrounding counties, like Pierce and Snohomish.

Linda Graves, a community liaison for vaccines outreach and education with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department led two youth forums recently.

"Many [youth] said they were getting misinformation from parents, grandparents and friends. They were told the vaccine is harmful. Some youth wondered why teachers were not having conversations with them," she said in a statement to KUOW.

"They felt some fellow classmates were shaming those who had not chosen to get vaccinated yet."

Graves adds that some other teens though are combatting vaccine hesitancy, creating messages, TikToks, and posters to share with their friends and family.

In Snohomish County, the health district has partnered with local schools to deliver vaccines at a place most families know and trust, making them accessible especially in the evenings after work and on weekends.

Come this fall, masks will be required for students and staff at schools across the state, according to updated guidelines released earlier this week by the department of health.

Read more here.

— Esmy Jimenez, Dyer Oxley

FRIDAY, JULY 30

Effort to get students all needed vaccines

Covid-19 vaccinations have dominated the headlines in recent months, but now there's a new push to get local students their other required vaccinations ahead of the new school year.

Seattle-King County Public Health is partnering with HealthPoint and a number of school districts to host free vaccine clinics in Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila. They start August 3 and run through August 18.

Students can get their TDap, MMR, and other required vaccines. Students who are old enough can also get vaccinated against Covid.

Click here to find more information about local vaccine clinics.

In 2020, 17% fewer vaccines were administered to children under age 19 compared to the pre-pandemic five-year average (2015-2019).

— Angela King

High rates of transmission in several Washington counties

President Biden has announced that all federal workers must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face stringent rules around testing and masking.

This comes as the delta variant is spreading rapidly through unvaccinated communities.

In Washington, the vast majority of deaths and hospitalizations from Covid-19 (94%) have occurred among those who didn't get the vaccine.

And new data from the state Department of Health shows just how rare breakthrough cases are among those who are fully vaccinated. Less than .1% of people who are vaccinated report a breakthrough case in the state. Many who do report they were asymptomatic or mild.

The CDC says several parts of Washington state have high rates of transmission, including Pierce, Snohomish, and Yakima Counties.

A total of 61.5% of eligible Washingtonians are now fully vaccinated.

— Andy Hurst, Eilis O'Neill

THURSDAY, JULY 29

Many school-aged kids are lagging behind when it comes to Covid-19 vaccination

An analysis of state health data by The Seattle Times found that the majority of Washington’s 12- 17 year olds are not vaccinated.

Dr. Douglas Diekema, a pediatrician with UW Medicine, says some parents are nervous because vaccines for kids are still pretty new. The Pfizer vaccine became available to younger people in May, under emergency authorization

“While I understand that concern, you know, with this disease, we're playing Russian roulette to some degree," Diekema said.

He says it’s important for youth to get vaccinated because even in mild cases, some could experience long term impacts from Covid, like brain fog, a loss of taste or smell, and in some fewer cases, heart inflammation.

San Juan and King County currently lead the state with the highest vaccination rates among youth. Garfield County in eastern Washington has the lowest rate with around 8% having initiated vaccination.

Diekema says there’s a number of reasons rates are lower for kids.

In some cases, youth are interested in getting vaccinated, but their parents are not. In rural parts of Washington, families may have to travel long distances to get their shots. Diekema thinks school-based vaccination drives may be one way to get vaccination rates up.

— Esmy Jimenez

UW Medicine takes over Covid testing in Seattle

The city of Seattle says UW Medicine will take over Covid-19 testing efforts at the Aurora and SODO hubs starting this weekend.

That's in addition to testing the school is already doing at the Rainier Beach and West Seattle hubs.

And you'll still be able to get your vaccines through local pharmacies, community health centers, and health care providers, including the Downtown Public Health Center.

— Angela King

Vast majority people affected by Covid are unvaccinated

New data from the Washington's health department shows more than 94% of those who've recently died, have become ill, or have been hospitalized because of Covid-19, are not fully vaccinated.

— Angela King

Unemployment in Washington

One of the biggest effects of the pandemic was the dramatic rise in unemployment. According to one recent assessment, Washington has made great strides in recovering from that economic hit.

A WalletHub assessment states that weekly unemployment claims, as of last week, in Washington decreased by 84.18% compared to the same week in 2020. This is the 9th largest decrease in the country.

Things are still up slighting when compared to 2019, aka "the before times." Washington's unemployment claims were up 4.15% last week when compared to 2019, which is the 9th smallest increase in the country.

Washington currently ranks 8th out of the quickest recovering states.

Source: WalletHub

— Dyer Oxley

WEDNESDAY, JULY 28

City of Seattle steps back from Covid testing and vaccinations

The city of Seattle is stepping back from Covid-19 testing and vaccination efforts.

The city's mobile vaccination teams, and the last remaining city-run vaccination site in SODO, will shut down at the end of the month.

Any unused vaccine doses will go to providers in the community, according to the Mayor’s office.

Vaccines can still be accessed at pharmacies, doctor's offices and many other sites in the area. People looking for a vaccination site can search by zip code on the state’s vaccine locator website.

Operation of the city's testing sites will continue, but will be handed over to UW Medicine.

More than 134,000 people have received vaccines through city-run clinics, and 786,131 tests have been performed, according to the Mayor's office.

Just over 80 percent of Seattle residents have started the vaccination process, according to the city.

Officials are urging anyone eligible for a vaccine to get their shots if they haven’t already. Covid-19 cases have started to climb again in King County as the highly infectious delta variant has spread through the state.

Kate Walters

Seattle bars close after positive Covid tests

Some folks around Seattle are taking a voluntary step back to pandemic precautions despite the state being fully open.

A handful of bars (The Seattle Times counted nine) briefly closed after vaccinated workers tested positive for Covid (and the flu), such as the popular Jupiter Bar and Unicorn.

Some bars are bringing back plastic dividers and mask requirements when they open back up.

The Doctor's Office will now require proof of vaccination, or proof of a negative Covid test within 48 hours, when it reopens. In a stern message posted on Facebook, the bar's owner stated: "Anyone giving our staff the slightest bit of pushback on this matter will be barred for life, along with everyone in their party, and if you have a problem with that you can take it up with me, the owner, who has zero tolerance left for the willingly unvaccinated, and even less for anyone who dares give my staff a hard time about it or hangs out with someone who does."

According to NPR, coronavirus spread in King County is currently "substantial."

— Angela King, Dyer Oxley

Vaccinated people should mask indoors, Gov. Inslee says, following CDC guidance

10:30 a.m. — Washingtonians who are fully vaccinated should wear masks in public indoor settings, Gov. Jay Inslee said on Wednesday.

Fully vaccinated people who live with young children or someone who is vulnerable to sickness should consider masking indoors even in counties with lower transmission rates. This is guidance and not a legal requirement.

It will be legally required, however for all students and staff at K-12 schools to wear masks around each other this upcoming school year. This will not be up to local jurisdictions. Physical distancing requirements remain at three feet in classrooms.

The guidance is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the latest science.

Inslee’s guidance on masking is specific to places with “substantial” community transmission, which is nearly every county in Washington state. The only county with a “low” community transmission rate is Adams county in eastern Washington.

—Isolde Raftery

Tuesday, July 27

Vaccination rates aren’t increasing fast enough to control the virus in Washington state

There’s a new surge of Covid cases in Washington state as the delta variant spreads, the Department of Health stated on Tuesday.

Anyone with signs or symptoms of coronavirus should get tested, even if they have been vaccinated, the state health office said.

Hospital admissions are increasing for adults across all age groups, according to daily reports from hospitals ending the week of July 18. Case counts and hospital admissions had flattened out in mid-June, but increased in the first week of July.

As Covid cases go up in the state, vaccination rates are going down in King County. State officials say more vaccinations are needed to keep cases from spiking further.

caption: Vaccination rates in King County as of July 27, 2021.
Enlarge Icon
Vaccination rates in King County as of July 27, 2021.
Credit: Seattle King County Public Health

The delta strain is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the United States and Washington. The state health office says that modeling suggests that 92% of all Covid cases may be the delta variant.

The delta variant has been called “the fastest and the fittest” by the World Health Organization. It is spreading 50% faster than the alpha strain which was previously dominant. The alpha variant was more contagious than the original coronavirus strain. And delta is 50% more contagious than alpha, according to Yale Medicine news.

There is good news, however: Vaccinated people are more protected from serious illness. Hospital admissions rates for unvaccinated people ages 45-65 were 20 times higher than those who were not.

“If you’ve been waiting to get vaccinated for any reason, now is the time to protect yourself,” said Acting Chief Science Officer Scott Lindquist, M.D.”

— Isolde Raftery

Washington State University Football coach declines to explain his decision to not get vaccinated.

Football coaches and star players in the Pac-12 Conference met with reporters on Tuesday to talk about and promote the upcoming season. Washington State University coach Nick Rolovich was among them. But football was only part of what he talked about. He also addressed his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The reasons for my individual choice will remain private. However, I want to make it clear that I respect, I support all the work being done by the state of Washington, who, as a state, has one of the highest percentages of vaccination in the country," he said.

Rolovich’s personal choice has brought unexpected attention to the university. When the news broke last week, the WSU president’s office quickly issued a tweet reiterating the expectation that all students, faculty, staff and volunteers would be vaccinated before fall semester.

Rolovich says he has been in contact with Athletic Director Pat Chun and the president’s office about his decision.

“I plan on adhering to all policies that are implemented for the unvaccinated at the state, local, campus, conference level. I’m not against vaccinations and I wholeheartedly support those who choose to be vaccinated,” he said.

Rolovich said about three quarters of the players in his program are partially or fully vaccinated and added that he believes his players support his decision not to join them.

-- Doug Nadvornick, Spokane Public Radio

Monday, July 26

More county level public health agencies recommend masks indoors

Public health officers across the Puget Sound region are recommending face coverings for indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccine status.

Several health jurisdictions, including King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Grays Harbor, Clallam, San Juan and Jefferson counties issued a joint statement on Monday. The statement says universal masking provides an extra layer of protection as Covid infection rates continue to rise across the region. It came on the heels of a recommendation to wear masks indoors by Public Health Seattle and King County's Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.

It also notes that higher levels of the delta variant increases the risk for everyone.

Last week, state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Linquist said the state was considering a similar recommendation but had not yet made a decision. He noted that localities have the right to issue more stringent recommendations.

-- Ruby de Luna