East King County COVID-19 Response Update
From the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine:
1. Phase Finder is now retired; find vaccination appointments using Vaccine Locator:
As of March 31, Phase Finder is no longer needed to verify eligibility. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) decided to remove Phase Finder to help speed up the vaccination process and reduce barriers for eligible individuals.
Eligibility is still in phases. At this point, specific high-risk groups are eligible. For more information about eligibility, see “Who can get vaccinated now” on KingCounty.gov/vaccine. The Governor has announced that everyone 16 and over will be eligible for vaccination starting April 15th.
Those who are eligible can use the Vaccine Locator at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov. Vaccine Locator shows who is currently eligible for the vaccine and finds available appointments. Vaccine Locator has a drop-down menu (in the upper right-hand corner of the page) in 30 languages.
For those who need help making an appointment: Call the King County COVID-19 Call Center any day between 8 AM – 7 PM at 206-477-3977. Interpreters are available – state the language you need when you are connected.
2. In a national survey, Seattle and Puget Sound most likely to get vaccinated: The US Census Bureau conducted a nation-wide survey in early March that asked people whether they would get vaccinated. Seattle had the highest intention to vaccinate of any city at 73%, a jump of 5 points since a previous poll in January. The Puget Sound area also had a higher intention to get vaccinated than other metro areas. The Seattle Times reported on the poll.
3. Cases and hospitalizations are rising in King County, driven by increased activity and contagious variants: Dr. Jeff Duchin provided a Friday press briefing on the state of cases and vaccinations in King County. The good news is that 700,000 people in King County have had at least one dose of vaccine so far – this is up almost 100,000 since last week. Across all races and ethnicities, 70% of those 65 and over have had at least one dose. Inequities in vaccine access persist and King County is investing in transportation to vaccine sites, mobile vaccinations, language access, vaccine appointments on evenings and weekends, and partnerships with trusted community organizations to close the gaps.
As vaccination rolls out, COVID “is alive and well” in the community. Case rates continue the recent increase and the number of variant cases is increasing as well. Cases are up almost 80% since the latest rise began in January with 250 new cases each day of last week. Hospitalizations have also increased with one person being hospitalized for COVID every two hours. South and Southeast King County are seeing the highest rates – two to three and a half times that of northern cities. Because of vaccine protection among the most vulnerable, deaths continue to fall from the winter peak. However, COVID-19 is not safe for any age group.
Cases associated with long-term care facilities have dropped, but cases linked to childcare and schools are slightly up. An increasing number of people with COVID infection report being in workplaces, retail, bars and restaurants, and at social and community events during the time they were exposed. Almost a third of cases did not have exposure to someone with a known infection, indicating there is “silent spread” in the community from asymptomatic individuals. There have also been eight recent outbreaks in youth sports leagues in previous weeks. While organizers have put precautions in place for practices and games, transportation and socialization connected with the leagues create transmission risk. People with COVID are now more likely to report having traveled in their exposure period as well, including for spring break. Travel poses a substantial transmission risk, and Public Health recommends people not do unnecessary travel. The CDC guidelines require testing before and after travel for non-vaccinated individuals, and quarantine after return. Vaccinated people should monitor symptoms and wear a mask, but do not need to quarantine.
Cases are climbing at a steady pace; the trend is not leveling, and COVID is getting smarter in more contagious and severe variants. We should expect further infections and hospitalizations as the virus spreads more quickly than we can vaccinate. Vaccine supply remains the number one limit on how fast we can vaccinate. At this time, the steps that we know prevent the spread of the virus are essential such as mask-wearing, limiting activities with transmission risk, avoiding crowded indoor areas, and increasing ventilation in indoor spaces.
4. Pregnancy and the COVID-19 Vaccine: Public Health, using information from the Maternal Coalition (https://thematernalcoalition.org/), CDC, UW Medicine and others, has put together frequently asked questions about pregnancy and vaccination. The questions address the higher risk of COVID-19 for pregnant people and vaccine safety. Over 60,000 pregnant people have been vaccinated against COVID since December and the CDC has not reported any safety concerns. The FAQ also has links to videos on this topic like this one from Between Us, About Us.
5. King County COVID-19 dashboard features state metrics for recovery: The Washington State Roadmap to Recovery uses the case rate for the previous 14 days and the hospitalization rate for the previous 7 days as the measures for reopening. King County is currently in Phase 3. The state will evaluate these two metrics on April 12. At this time, King County will either remain in Phase 3, revert to Phase 2, or advance to Phase 4. You can see the metrics on this dashboard.