Following the lifting of mask mandates, King County has seen an increase in positive COVID-19 cases. Although the county is now over 80% vaccinated for residents 16 and older, there is still a large proportion of people who are either not eligible or have not yet been vaccinated. On July 23, King County’s Public Health Department hosted a briefing with Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for King County.
Most notably in the briefing, Duchin spoke about the Delta variant of the virus. “One of the reasons we are seeing an increase in cases and more concerning outbreaks is the highly contagious Delta variant is increasing, and is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in King County.” He also goes on to note how concerning this is, especially due to the Delta variant being more contagious. However, if you are vaccinated, rest assured that our current vaccines are still highly effective against this variant as long as you’ve taken the full series of doses and have waited 2-3 weeks since your last dose. The public health department urges all those who are eligible to get the vaccine to do so, as it is the best thing you can do at this time to protect yourself and others.
Beyond the vaccine, Duchin recommends that we should also wear a face mask to protect those who have not yet been vaccinated. The Delta variant, being highly contagious, could lead to more deaths in Washington state. “Although we do not expect a return to the high level of hospitalisations and deaths we’ve experienced in the past, we could see a surge of preventable illness and hospitalisations.” There has been much concern over the increased spread of the Delta variant, but we have the ability to decrease deaths and add another layer of protection. Duchin and his colleagues at the Public Health Department all recommend we voluntarily wear masks regardless of vaccination status when in public areas. The recommendation provides a more reliable way to prevent transmission between people in those spaces, primarily applying to areas such as grocery stores, malls, restaurants and other places where the vaccination status of the occupants is unknown.
Overall, although restrictions may have been loosening, we must remember to continue to protect those who are ineligible to get vaccinated or for whom the vaccine may not be as effective, such as the immunocompromised. Mask up, and when you can, avoid large gatherings with unvaccinated people in indoor and unventilated areas.