Pandemic blog: Updates for the Northwest (February 22-26)
This post is archived. Read the latest here.
As of Friday, February 26, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 4,956 Covid-19 related deaths; 320,317 confirmed cases; 18,505 probable cases; and a 1.5% death rate among positive cases.
- 19,275 people have been hospitalized with Covid-19 in Washington state. According to the most recent data and NPR's hospital capacity monitor: King County has 74% of hospital beds taken, with 5% occupied by Covid-19 patients; Pierce County has 88% of beds taken, with 12% occupied by Covid-19 patients; and Snohomish County has 65% of beds taken with 5% occupied by Covid-19 patients.
- Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases is nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
- So far, 1,500,485 Washingtonians have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26
More counterfeit N95 masks confiscated
10:30 a.m. — Federal authorities have confiscated 460,000 counterfeit N95 masks that were slated for medical staff on the front lines in Washington state.
KING5 reports that the masks were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI. They were purchased by seven organizations, and were valued at $587,000.
N95 masks are used by doctors and nurses and are heavily relied upon as part of pandemic measures.
As with previously-discovered counterfeit masks, these fakes also appeared as if they came from the company 3M, which makes verified N95 masks used by medical officials. About two million counterfeit N95 masks were previously distributed in Washington state.
The recent seizure adds to the nearly 10 million fake 3M N95 masks that the feds have intercepted in recent weeks; 12 states have been affected.
— Dyer Oxley
Seattle starts standby list for leftover vaccines
10:15 a.m. — The Seattle Fire Department has been driving around the city, giving vaccine shots to people who have difficulty getting to a vaccine site. Sometimes they have a couple extra doses left over from the day and they have to use them ASAP, or they'll go to waste.
The city has started an online standby list to help get these leftover doses into arms, fast.
KING5 reports that the list is for people already approved to get a vaccine (ages 65 and older), and aimed at neighborhoods more affected by the pandemic. People on the standby list should be able to meet fire fighters within 30 minutes of getting a call.
— Dyer Oxley
Older students will not return to classes in Lake Washington School District
10 a.m. — The Lake Washington School District says middle and high school students will not return for in-person learning this school year. Grades 2-5 are still slated to return next month.
Secondary students in the district will be offered access to in-person learning.
“We need to ensure that any secondary student who wants an in-person experience is afforded that opportunity," Lake Washington Superintendent Dr. Jon Holmen said. “Our adolescent youth are experiencing this pandemic in many different ways. We need to be responsive to those needs and be creative in how we address the varying needs across our district.”
High school football in Lake Washington began on February 24. Other school sports are starting on March 1. Middle schools are planning for sports in the spring.
The Edmonds School District made a similar decision earlier this week, saying third through 12th graders will not return to the classroom this year. Edmonds cited complex negotiations over working conditions and logistics.
— Angela King
Washington is not moving past Phase 2
9:30 a.m. — All of Washington will remain in Phase 2 of reopening for at least another week. The state's coronavirus outbreak remains too severe to move forward, despite recent downward trends in cases.
Governor Jay Inslee says the current outbreak remains as such that we cannot move into Phase 3, which involves a few factors.
"If we get some clarity on the variants, if we get further clarity on the ability of the vaccines to knock out the variants, if we find a consensus across the state over how to have business openings under certain conditions," Inslee said.
As of Friday, nearly 6% of Washingtonians are vaccinated against Covid-19.
Inslee hopes the Johnson & Johnson single-shot Covid vaccine is deemed safe enough for emergency authorization. If that happens, he says, Washington would get a first shipment as soon as next week.
— Paige Browning
Washington anticipating emergency approval of Johnson & Johnson vaccine
9 a.m. — Governor Inslee says if the FDA approves the new Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine for emergency use, doses could start arriving in Washington state as soon as next week.
You only need one dose of this vaccine. The others in use right now require two doses. The single dose could dramatically improve pandemic conditions.
Say, for example, you work on the high seas. You’re out there for months at a time living in close quarters. Scott Lindquist, with the state Department of Health, says that getting maritime workers their second shot is tough.
“We’ve been challenged with this in Washington where we’ve had to send the second dose onward to where their next port of call is and that gets a bit complicated.”
The one-shot could also be apt for agricultural workers.
Still, the state wants more information from the federal government about which groups should get access to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
KIRO 7 reports that Washington state has been allocated 60,900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, pending approval. The FDA could approve the vaccine as early as Friday. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not need to be kept at as cold temperatures as the Pfizer or Moderna options. It can be refrigerated for up to three months.
But, just a reminder: the state has not opened up vaccine access to more groups of people yet, and there’s no estimate when that will happen.
Even if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved by the FDA for emergency use, it will still go through the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup — a coalition of western states that are committed to double checking any emergency vaccines that emerge.
— Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Washington to get increase in vaccine shipments
8:30 a.m. — Washington state is looking forward to getting a boost in Covid-19 vaccine shipments from Pfizer and Moderna.
Health officials say the state could start receiving around 310,000 weekly doses by the middle of March.
Currently, Washington state is getting about 260,000 to 280,000 doses each week.
The increase doesn't take in to account what could be coming from Johnson & Johnson if the FDA approves that single-shot vaccine for emergency use. If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could start arriving in Washington next week.
— Angela King
Pandemic side effect: Flu cases are down, zero deaths
8 a.m. — As people took precautions — social distancing, wearing masks — against the coronavirus, a side effect over these recent pandemic months has been a drop in flu cases and flu deaths.
Over the previous flu season, 114 people died from the influenza in Washington state. This season, that number is zero.
Associate Professor of Health with the University of Washington Dr. Helen Chu tells KUOW that the dramatic drop in flu cases is "surprising."
"I think we all believe that with all the measures we put in place — the masking, the distancing, the school and workplace closures, the travel lockdowns — all of those things would decrease the presence of other viruses, including flu, but also RSV and Parainfluenza, and all of the other viruses that cause cold-like symptoms. But to see it eliminated to essentially zero was something that none of us expected."
The flu is likely to return once daily life returns to normal conditions. Dr. Chu says that there are a few things to learn from this time. And a few challenges as future flu vaccines (which rely on the most recent cases) will be more difficult to develop.
"You can also look at the places where there was an initial lockdown with total suppression of cases, like Australia and New Zealand, and then see what's reemerging as things are relaxing. For example, in Australia, they're starting to see more cases now of other respiratory viruses. I think it's from that kind of observation that you can make some conclusions about which pieces play the most important part in suppressing flu."
Read more about the drastic drop in flu cases here.
— Dyer Oxley, Kim Malcolm, Andy Hurst
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25
DOH's online vaccine locator
2 p.m. — Washington's Department of Health has a new website to help people find vaccine sites and appointments.
CovidVaccineWa.org takes you to the Department of Health's website for the Phase Finder which now also features a vaccine locator.
This new DOH vaccine locator is different than CovidWa.com which KUOW has previously reported on. Software engineer George Hu developed CovidWa.com to help people search more directly for vaccine appointments using their zip code.
— Dyer Oxley
Notable, informative tweets today, so far
1:45 p.m. — Here's a selection of informative tweets on the pandemic in the Northwest.
A new wave of Covid-19 cases could come in the spring as new variants continue to spread, according to Trevor Bedford (University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) who was quoted on CNN.
“It’s going to increase in the spring. It could result in more of a wave in, say, April or May than we would have expected otherwise. But I still do suspect that things will be brought under control in the summer, and there will be very little virus circulating.”
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department says its latest rate of infection is 192 per 100,000 people. The state has had a general goal of 25 per 100,000. It also reported three deaths of people in their 80s and 90s.
— Dyer Oxley
Third through 12th grades not returning to class in Edmonds
10 a.m. — The Edmonds School District says third through 12th graders will not return to the classroom this year, according to a letter sent to staff Wednesday.
The district said both officials and the teachers union agreed that by the time they worked out complex negotiations over working conditions and logistics, there'd only be a few days left in the school year.
But the district says it's committed to working on other in-person opportunities using indoor and outdoor spaces for students.
Meanwhile, kindergarten through second grade students are expected to start returning to campus in phases in March.
— Angela King
Seattle tenant protections can stay in place
9 a.m. — A judge has ruled that Seattle's new tenant protection laws can stay in place.
Several landlords sued the city saying the three ordinances — aimed at helping people up to six months after the city's eviction moratorium expires — were unconstitutional.
Those ordinances banned things like late fees and required landlords to offer payment plans to those who were hurt by the pandemic
— Angela King
Washington inches toward vaccine goal
8 a.m. — Washington state has a goal of administering 45,000 vaccine doses each day. We're not there yet.
Currently, the state is averaging 26,380 doses a day, which is slightly up from one month ago when the average was 24,000.
About 4% of the state's population have received both doses.
— Dyer Oxley
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24
Washington state poised to receive 40,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses pending FDA authorization
4:57 p.m. — Washington state could get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as next week, if the vaccine is authorized.
The state is expecting 40,000 doses in the first week, Department of Health Covid-19 vaccine director She Anne Allen said Wednesday during a presentation to the Bellingham City Club.
On Friday, an advisory body of the Food and Drug Administration will meet to discuss the vaccine, and authorization could come quickly after that.
The federal government expects to have two million doses following approval, White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zeints told governors on a call this week.
Washington state gets a share of Covid vaccines commensurate with our 2% of the national population.
The 40,000 expected Johnson and Johnson doses are a fraction of the state’s weekly allotment of Pfizer and Moderna doses, at around 200,000 combined. However, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a one-dose shot and stable at the temperature of a home fridge, making it easier to handle and administer than the other two authorized vaccines.
The state is also expecting its weekly allocation from the federal government to increase over the next few weeks, up to 313,280 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by March 14, according to Allen.
Notable tweets, so far today
3 p.m. —
— Dyer Oxley
Homeowners more willing to sell when vaccine is distributed
2 p.m. — An interesting survey from Zillow shows homeowners looking to sell might be more willing to do so now that the Covid vaccines are becoming more available.
About 70% (of 14 million homeowners surveyed) said they feel comfortable moving to a new home as more people are vaccinated. And 4/5 homeowners who said the vaccine would impact their decision to sell, said that factor makes them more likely to move.
Zillow's survey also indicates that younger owners are more likely to sell their property within three years (37% of Gen Z & Millennial homeowners). The pandemic had the most influence on younger homeowners' decisions to sell. A total of 26% of Gen Z and Millennial owners said as much. Only 15% of Gen X and 9% of Boomers said it influenced them.
Inventory's been on the low side since the pandemic hit. As a result, home prices are climbing at the fastest pace we've seen locally in nearly seven years, according to some economists. Seattle prices are expected to climb by 25% over last year.
— Angela King
Washington should be caught up on vaccines by next week
11 a.m. — Vaccine shipments are coming to Washington state once again, after nationwide storms caused severe delays last week.
King County Executive Dow Constantine says the county is expected to catch up on its weekly allotment of doses by next week. While progress is being made, he says we're still far from herd immunity.
"Right now about 16% of adult King County residents have received at least one dose, half of those people have received a second dose, but we've got 1.8 million adults so we've got a long way to go before folks can really let down their guard."
He cautioned again Tuesday that it's a race between getting people vaccinated, and new variants taking hold in the community.
— Paige Browning
Continue pandemic precautions as variants emerge
10 a.m. — Washington state leaders and public health officials are urging Washingtonians to continue to take precautions, especially now, as more infectious variants of the coronavirus have been discovered in the state.
The variant first detected in South Africa and was recently identified in King County. At the same time, virologists in Washington have found an additional cases of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
“With the emergence of these variants, especially a doubling in the number of our variants detected this week, I’m very concerned how this is going to affect our trajectory," said Washington State Epidemiologist Scott Lindquist. "So this is now the time to really double down on all the efforts to help prevent the spread.”
Governor Jay Inslee says he's confident the state’s monitoring systems will be able to identify and address new variants. He noted the effectiveness of vaccines against the one from the UK, but urged the state to remain cautious.
“We’re extremely happy that the numbers are coming down dramatically," Inslee said. "The hospitalizations are coming down dramatically, the vaccines coming on like gangbusters, while simultaneously realizing there is still risk because of these variants. That’s why these masks are still extremely important, social distancing is extremely important, not having too many people in your home is extremely important. We’ve got to do both those things at the same time."
Current numbers are small, but scientists expect there are many more undetected cases spreading among the community. Only 2% of all Covid-19 cases in Washington are being sequenced to find out what strain they are.
A total of 39 variant cases have been detected in Washington. The variant that emerged in Brazil has not been detected in Washington yet, but has been identified in Alaska. A Californian variant has spread quickly in that state, but has not yet been detected in Washington.
— Derek Wang, John Ryan
Grocery workers hope for hazard pay statewide
9 a.m. — Mandatory hazard pay for grocery workers in Seattle and Burien is now in effect. Workers in other cities hope they’ll be next. They’re calling on city councils across Washington state to make that happen.
Isabella Monger has been raising the issue with council members in Port Angeles. She works as a checker at her local Safeway.
“We put our lives on the line every single day when we go to work," Monger said.
She says the extra pay would help her and her coworkers deal with the challenges brought on by the pandemic. And even with all the precautions at the store, Monger says it’s hard to get customers to follow the rules.
That makes her worried about getting Covid-19 or exposing her family to the virus.
“To my mom and my dad, that is the scariest thing to think about," she said.
Monger is hoping Port Angeles will follow Seattle and Burien’s lead and pass a pandemic pay increase for grocery workers.
King County is considering a similar proposal. QFC recently announced it’s closing two neighborhood stores, partly because of Seattle’s mandatory pay increase. Union leaders call the move a bullying tactic.
— Ruby de Luna
Tacoma teachers plan sick out
8 a.m. — A group of Tacoma teachers, worried about in-person learning amid the pandemic, plans to hold a sick out today The Tacoma News Tribune says the group called Safe Return Tacoma has asked participants to set their students up with independent work today and join in “mini actions” throughout the day to lessen any impact on them.
Younger students started returning to the physical classroom earlier this month. But the group says it wants assurances school buildings' air ventilation systems are up to date. They also want teachers to return for in-person learning only when the vaccines have been made available to the entire community.
They also want hazard pay and the right to choose whether to work from home.
— Angela King
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23
‘Who knows if I’ll be myself again?’ Covid long-haulers turn to Seattle rehab clinic
5:07 p.m. — Finding helpful medical care can be difficult for Covid-19 survivors who still experience long-term effects of the disease.
But a rehabilitation clinic for Covid long-haulers at Harborview Medical Center aims to help patients get back "as much life as possible."
Donna Lawson, 47, got Covid last March. It seemed like a mild case at first. But then things got worse.
In May, Lawson was hospitalized for three days with low blood oxygen. And when she got home, she didn’t get better.
“My legs feel like jello all the time — very, very weak,” said Lawson, a designer and mother based in West Seattle. “On really bad days and bad times, I'm trudging through concrete is what it feels like — or like there are cinder blocks literally on my feet, or magnets pulling me to the ground.”
Many people who got Covid-19 early on are still feeling the effects of the disease months after their initial diagnosis. Now, some of them are seeking help from a special clinic at Harborview for Covid “long-haulers.”
Lawson said she can’t concentrate or remember things. She’s tired all the time and no longer has the energy to make art, or volunteer at her daughter’s school. On a good day, she said, she’s 80% of her old self for a few hours. Other days, she can’t get out of bed.
Read the full story here.
Union grocery workers pushing to expand hazard pay
4:08 p.m. — Union grocery workers, hoping for additional compensation for helping keep stores open during the pandemic, are campaigning across the region to make hazard pay mandatory.
Sue Wilmot, a checker at Safeway on Bainbridge Island, says workers are not asking for a bonus. They want to get paid for the risks they face each day.
“I can’t control who comes in that door whether they’re wearing a mask or not, I can’t control my personal space who is closer than 6 feet to me," said Wilmot. "It’s very stressful mentally and physically.”
Wilmot is part of a group of union workers urging the Bainbridge Island City council to institute a hazard pay ordinance like Seattle and Burien.
Similar legislation is underway that would mandate a temporary pay hike in unincorporated King County.
Earlier this month, Seattle grocery workers started earning an extra $4 an hour. In Burien, workers earned an extra $5 an hour.
Two grocery associations are suing to block the law.
10 school districts to get rapid Covid tests for in-person learning
1 p.m. — A new partnership with Seattle Children's Hospital will bring 300,000 rapid Covid-19 tests to elementary schools in 10 districts in March.
Congresswoman Dr. Kim Schrier announced the program after securing the tests from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Seattle Children's hospital will run the program, with aim of testing school staff and students with parental consent once a week, on a voluntary basis.
The hospital will analyze the results to determine the prevalence of Covid-19 in schools; a data gap that Schrier says has left teachers across the country reluctant to return to classrooms.
Read more details here.
— Katie Campbell, Angela King
Pfizer begins vaccine trial with pregnant women
Noon — Pfizer has started a clinical trial testing its Covid vaccine in pregnant women.
The researchers will look at how effective the vaccine is during pregnancy, how safe it is, and whether the mothers pass antibodies on to their babies. The trial will include 4,000 participants in the US, Canada, and seven other countries. Some will get the vaccine; others will get a placebo.
After the babies are born, Pfizer will tell participants whether they got the vaccine. Then they’ll administer the vaccine to everyone who got a placebo.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have already tested their vaccines in pregnant rats and found no harmful effects.
In many countries, including the US, pregnant women in eligible tiers can already get the vaccine.
A recent study out of UW Medicine indicates that pregnancy is a risk factor for Covid-19 and could lead to more severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and maternal mortality. Read the previous blog post about that here. Researchers concluded that pregnant women should be moved to the front of the line for a vaccine. Women of color faced more severe rates of infection, with the highest rates among the Hispanic community.
— Andy Hurst
South African variant detected in King County; UK variant spreading
11 a.m. — State health officials say the first case of the South African coronavirus variant, B.1.351, has been found in King County.
“The detection of these Covid-19 variants in our state reminds us that this pandemic is not over," said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. "Despite the decrease in our case count, we are very concerned about the emergence of these variants and how it will affect future case counts. As a community, we need to re-double our efforts to prevent the spread of this virus and its variants by following public health guidance."
UW Medicine Virology Lab detected the South African variant from a sample on Monday. The patient initially tested positive for Covid-19 on January 29. That patient has not been able to be reached for contact tracing.
Like the UK variant, the South African variant of the coronavirus poses a new set of concerns. The UK variant spreads much faster. There is no indication that these strains cause more severe illnesses. But some reports state that the strain out of South Africa is about 50% more contagious, and there is potential for more cases and therefore more deaths.
There is some additional concern as vaccines, so far, appear to be less effective on the B.1.351 strain. Also, there is evidence showing that people who have previously recovered from Covid-19 could be re-infected with the South African variant. Vaccines, however, still offer better protection against Covid-19 in general and protect against severe disease.
Meanwhile, cases of the UK variant, B.1.1.7, continue to spread in Washington state (19 more cases since last reported; a total of 39). This strain shares many of the concerns as the South African mutation.
Another variant out of Brazil , aka P.1, has not yet been detected in Washington state but has been found in Alaska. And a California variant is also prompting concerns.
“Covid-19 is threatening us in new ways, and we need to rise to the challenge,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Heath – Seattle & King County. “The B.1.1.7 variant can spread more readily and B.1.351 viruses might reduce vaccine effectiveness. For these reasons we need to continue to do all we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and push our case rates as low as possible.”
At a press conference Tuesday, Duchin added that current falling case numbers is cause for "guarded optimism," and urged people to keep up preventative measures, such as social distancing, not gathering, spending time outdoors, and mask wearing.
— Dyer Oxley
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is on this year, at reduced capacity
10 a.m. — It's that time of year when we start talking about the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
There are a lot of events are still up in the air, but some of the growers say they will be opening up their fields to the public at reduced capacity this year. Those wanting to stroll the fields will most likely have to make reservations and buy their tickets online. The springtime staple was shut down last April because of the pandemic.
— Angela King
Only five states have lower Covid case rates than Washington
9:30 a.m. — Covid-19 vaccine shipments that were delayed by last week's winter storms should start arriving in Washington within the next day or two, according to Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington Hospital Association.
The delayed shipment is coming on top of the doses that were already scheduled to arrive this week. Sauer says that'll help some mass vaccination sites cover both first and second shots.
But some sites like Kennewick will focus on those needing to get their second shots when it reopens Tuesday.
About 4% of Washington state's population has received both doses.
Only about 11 cases per 100,000 were reported in Washington over the past week. The national average is twice that amount.
When it comes to Covid-19 cases, numbers crunched by the Tacoma News Tribune show only five states have lower case rates than Washington. South Carolina has the highest rate in the United States at 40.3 per 100,000. Hawaii is the lowest at 2.9.
— Angela King
Washington reps hope for easing of border restrictions
9 a.m. — Seven house Democrats from Washington state are hoping President Biden will press Canada minister Justin Trudeau to ease border restrictions when the two leaders meet virtually for the first time Tuesday.
Rep. Susan Delbene and others sent a letter to the president urging him to make this issue a priority.
It's been almost a year since the US-Canada border has been closed to most traffic. That has caused problems for people who own seconds homes across the border, or students who need to cross. Also, residents of Point Roberts, who have water on three sides, and the border on the fourth, have been without access to their usual needs in British Columbia.
The White House and Canada say the focus of Tuesday's talks will be Covid-19 response, fighting climate change and economic ties.
— Angela King
What happens when the eviction moratorium ends?
8 a.m. — Many people who rent in cities like Seattle, Everett, Tacoma and Bellevue have fallen behind on their rent during the pandemic.
Will they get kicked out of their homes right away when the eviction moratorium ends? One bill making its way through Olympia is setting a few ground rules for this scenario.
Renters and housing advocate fear landlords will unleash a tidal wave of evictions when the moratorium ends, and that lots of people could end up displaced and even homeless.
Senate Bill 5160 tries to define how much protection to give renters during the difficult period after the pandemic. The bill instructs landlords to offer a "reasonable" schedule for tenants to pay back rent.
Currently, “reasonable” means that each month, tenants would owe their rent, plus 33% more, until they’ve paid the landlord in full.
Lawmakers are still negotiating, so those details could change before the bill becomes law.
— Joshua McNichols
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Delayed vaccines expected in Washington this week
8 a.m. — Mass vaccination sites that were closed over the weekend are coming back on line this week. They include: Spokane, Ridgefield, Kennewick, Wenatchee.
They were closed after winter storms on the East Coast delayed the delivery of about 90% of the state's anticipated shipment last week — about 200,000. But those doses now are expected to arrive, on top of the more than 200,000 additional doses that were already scheduled to arrive in Washington, this week.
The state has doled out more than 1.2 million doses so far, which is about 25,000 per day. About 345,000 people, or 4% of the state's population, has received both doses.
More than 50,362 people have been served at the state's four mass vaccine sites so far. They opened in late January. They include.
- Spokane: 11,772
- Ridgefield: 14,327
- Wenatchee: 12,252
- Kennewick: 12,011
— Angela King
Are you late getting your second dose? That's OK
7 a.m. — If your appointment for a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is a little later than recommended, don't worry. Experts say it's OK.
Experts say the bigger danger is getting your second dose too early, before your body has had a chance to react to the first dose.
Getting your second dose a few days, or even a few weeks late, is OK. The key is to get the second shot before the immunity from the first shot wears off entirely,
And researchers don't yet know exactly when that is.
The Washington State Department of Health says it's fine to get the second dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines up to six weeks after the first dose.
— Eilis O'Neill
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19
Covid cases dropping sharply in King County, Washington state
2:30 p.m. -- The number of new coronavirus cases is dropping sharply in King County and statewide.
That’s in part because people have been masking up in public and avoiding gatherings, in turn cutting down on transmission.
But we might also be starting to see some limited herd immunity in Washington state.
State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said enough people have been vaccinated that could be starting to cut down on new infections.
And King County’s public health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said that in some social bubbles, it’s possible so many people have already had Covid that very few people in those groups are still susceptible to the virus.
“Perhaps the virus is running into more dead ends, because people have developed previous infections, and they’ve got some immunity,” Duchin said.
That said, it’s possible for cases to start going up again if people let down their guard, especially now that a more transmissible variant is becoming widespread.
— Eilis O'Neill