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caption: Kevin Barrett, in quarantine after his former hospital roommate tested positive for Covid-19, sits in bed as he recovers from an injury. Nurse Scott McGieson looks at records in the room in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in Seattle. About half the patients in the unit are Covid-19 positive or in quarantine after exposure.
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Kevin Barrett, in quarantine after his former hospital roommate tested positive for Covid-19, sits in bed as he recovers from an injury. Nurse Scott McGieson looks at records in the room in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in Seattle. About half the patients in the unit are Covid-19 positive or in quarantine after exposure.
Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Pandemic updates: Covid-19 cases in King County have roughly doubled since mid-March

Updated news about the coronavirus pandemic in Seattle and Washington state.

As of Monday, April 11, 2022, the King County and Washington state departments of health report:

  • Covid cases have risen 35% in King County over the last seven days, with a daily average of 455 new cases.
  • Hospitalizations in King County have increased by 95% in the past week, with an average of six people hospitalized each day.
  • Covid deaths have declined by 67% over the past week in King County, with an average of one person dying each day.
  • 84.7% of eligible King County residents are fully vaccinated; 71.8% of eligible Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated; 58.3% of eligible Washingtonians have received a booster shot.
  • 1% death rate across Washintgton state since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • 54 Covid cases per 100,000 people across Washington state.

Covid-19 cases in King County have roughly doubled since mid-March

While the number of Covid cases in King County have nearly doubled since mid-March, it's still far fewer than what the region saw over the winter omicron surge. Hospitalizations remain low, right now.

King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, says people should pay attention to the numbers and keep taking precautions, especially as folks get ready to gather outdoors, for Easter on April 17.

"There are things we can do to protect one another and we should do," Dr. Duchin said. "And so all of these organizations should be paying careful attention to indoor air quality to decrease the risk of Covid transmission in their spaces."

Dr. Duchin further says people should also stay up to date on vaccines and boosters, use rapid tests, and consider masking.

Gathering for long periods indoors can increase transmission and exposure, especially when people are singing or sharing meals together.

— Kate Walters

Covid deaths began earlier than previously known

Newly reviewed data shows at least four people died of Covid before the first official Covid death was recorded in Washington state.

Washington's health department now says a Snohomish County woman in her 30s died with the infection on February 24, 2020.

That's four days before what was previously believed to be the first death in the state on February 28.

Health officials also say three other people died in between those dates. The Seattle Times reports those three were patients at the Life Care Center in Kirkland.

And when it comes to the very first Covid death in the country, that's now been traced back to a 78-year-old woman from Kansas, according to The Mercury News. It was initially believed that the first Covid death in the country happened here in Washington state.

— Angela King

Covid cases rising in King County

Covid-19 cases in King County have roughly doubled since mid-March, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County data.

But the county remains in the CDC’s “low” community level category, the number of cases remains far below the levels seen during the winter surge, and hospitalizations are low at roughly four a day.

Still, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health – Seattle & King County, said people should be aware of the recent trends and take precautions.

“The key thing is that we just remember that Covid is still with us and it's actually increasing,” Duchin said.

“Even if you don't land in the hospital it's a disease that's very much worth preventing."

Duchin anticipates cases will rise for several weeks, but the bump won't be at the same levels of the recent winter surge.

As cases rise, Easter is fast approaching for those who celebrate it.

Duchin said it’s okay for gatherings to go ahead, but he recommends people consider their own risk factors and the risk factors of those around them.

He said people who are vulnerable, or gathering with anyone who is vulnerable, over the holiday can do a few things:

  • Get up to date with vaccines and boosters. Duchin said boosters are an important tool to help give people the best protection against severe illness and death.
  • Mask in public indoor settings in the days leading up to, and potentially during, gatherings.
  • Use rapid tests prior to gatherings

When it comes to churches, or any organization that brings people together indoors, Duchin said it is also important to be aware of the ways to limit transmission.

"There are things we can do to protect one another and we should do. And so all of these organizations should be paying careful attention to indoor air quality to decrease the risk of covid transmission in their spaces."

Gathering for long periods indoors can lead to transmission, especially when singing or loud speaking is occurring.

— Kate Walters

Covid rates increasing in Western Washington, and in schools

Case counts are still low in Washington schools compared to the height of the omicron variant's winter wave. But they doubled in Seattle and Tacoma School Districts last week compared to the previous week.

That’s a similar trend to the increase seen in both King and Pierce counties last week: twice as many people testing positive.

Public Health Seattle-King County spokesperson Gabe Spitzer said they’ve seen an increase in school outbreaks in the past two weeks, “especially among elementary-aged children and in connection with higher-risk school activities like sports, singing, and eating together.”

Spring break starts in Seattle Public Schools next week, and the district has a plan to prevent students from bringing Covid back to school. It’s sending each student home with a Covid test kit to take within 24 hours before returning from break.

The district says it’s ready to require masks again if there’s a new surge in cases — in a school, or district-wide.

— Ann Dornfeld

Covid-19 infection increases your risk for diabetes, a new study says

People who suffered from even mild cases of Covid-19 face an increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes within a year of recovering from the illness, a new study reports.

Researchers found that people who had Covid-19 were about 40% more likely to develop diabetes within a year after recovering, compared to participants in a control group. The likelihood of developing diabetes grew if the patient suffered from a serious infection that led to hospitalization or a stay in intensive care.

"What's surprising is that it is happening in people with no prior risk factors for diabetes" before becoming infected with Covid-19, said Ziyad Al-Aly, the lead author of the study.

These latest findings add to a growing list of studies showing that people who suffered from Covid-19 are at risk of facing other long-term health problems. Those include heart and kidney ailments and chronic fatigue.

Al-Aly also helped lead the study that showed the prevalence of cardiac issues in people who survived Covid-19 infections.

This newest study, published Monday in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, analyzed data from more than 180,000 patients from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The study's authors compared patients who tested positive for Covid-19 and survived the illness for more than a month with more than 4 million other people who didn't contract Covid in the same period. This data was also compared with another 4.28 million patients who were treated at the VA in 2018 and 2019.

The paper states that around 1% to 2% of people who have been infected with Covid will develop diabetes as a result. That may seem like a small number, but nearly 80 million people in the U.S. have had Covid, Al-Aly told NPR — meaning 800,000 to 1.6 million people developing diabetes who might not have otherwise.

Read more here.

Jaclyn Diaz, NPR

Coronavirus FAQ: Our mini-zine has advice on when & how to dial down Covid precautions

I live in a place where case counts are dropping. I know they could go back up again, but in the meantime, what Covid precautions are advisable (if any) and what precautions can be put on hold?

First things first: The pandemic isn't over. The current surge in Hong Kong, for instance, has produced the highest reported death rate over the past two-plus years of Covid. And the U.S. still has 700 Covid deaths a day — far fewer than a couple of weeks ago but still a staggering and tragic count.

And the highly transmissible variant omicron BA.2 that's causing surges in some countries is now the dominant variant in the U.S. and could bring a surge.

But for the vaccinated and boosted in places where numbers are trending downward, times have changed — at least for the moment. Mandatory and even voluntary mask-wearing is on the wane. (If you don't believe me, come to my neighborhood coffee shop where half the servers and customers are masked and half aren't.)

If you're fortunate enough to live and work in a community where numbers are dropping, it is indeed an appropriate moment to assess your own risks and the risks of those in your inner circle. And then perhaps adjust your personal precautions.

As Dr. Preeti Malani puts it, you might decide to "dial it down" precaution-wise but also be prepared to "dial it up" if things change. She's an infectious disease doctor and the chief health officer at the University of Michigan.

For example, if you've only been an outdoor diner at restaurants, you might weigh going indoors, Malani says — keeping in mind that there are ways to minimize any potential Covid exposure.

Read more here.

Marc Silver, NPR