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With Covid levels high, King County ‘actively considering’ if and when to bring back mask mandates

Summer is here, but Covid-19 levels remain high in King County.

Reported cases are higher than the peak of the Delta wave, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. And that’s definitely an undercount because many people are using rapid at-home tests, which are rarely included in official numbers.

Duchin said Thursday that hospitalizations in King County have increased three-fold since April. That means someone in the county has been hospitalized for Covid roughly every hour over the past week. With all this in mind, and with highly contagious Omicron subvariants surging across the country, Duchin said there are active discussions about whether a new mask mandate should be put in place.

He said it’s not an easy question because things change over time and the evolution of variants is unpredictable.

“We are actively considering if, and when, additional mandates may be needed. And I’m really encouraging everyone now, to please, let’s make sure we’ve done all we can on a voluntary basis before we have to go there,” Duchin said during a press briefing.

Duchin stressed that Covid-19 is going to be a long-term challenge, and said the best long-term strategy to fight the virus is through voluntary measures.

“We’re not going to be able to have an infinite series of mandates forcing people to do this, that, and the other. They have their roles, where things get very serious and we need short-term immediate improvement. But over the long-term we really do need people to understand that we need both our business community, our leadership in the community, and our community members to take the steps that they need to take to protect themselves and one another.”

Staying up to date with vaccinations and boosters, improving indoor air quality and ventilation, and wearing high quality masks can help reduce risks.

Duchin said with the potential for lasting symptoms, known as long Covid, its worth preventing even a mild infection if possible.

More than 86% of people five and older have completed their initial vaccine series in King County. However, just over half have had their booster.

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