King County official: COVID-19 case surge could lead to rollback

COVID-19 is spreading faster than people can be vaccinated, and cases and hospitalizations are climbing throughout King County, a public health official said Friday.

The Seattle Times reports that if cases continues to rise over the next week or two, the county may return to the more-limited Phase 2 of the reopening plan, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

On March 22, Washington state entered Phase 3, which allows up to 10 people from different households to gather indoors, and outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people.

"We need to be prepared for further increases in cases in hospitalizations over the coming weeks, as the effect of recent travel, increasing activities and the impact of more infectious variant strains continue to promote the spread of COVID-19," Duchin said.

While the number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 is about a sixth of the peak surge during the fall and winter, the hospitalization rate has more than doubled since early March, he said.

RELATED: COVID variant confirmed in Kitsap County for the first time

The recent rise in hospitalizations over the past few weeks is attributed in part to coronavirus variants. More than 600 cases of variants have been detected in King County, and the number continues to grow.

Outbreaks and cases associated with child care and K-12 schools in King County have climbed recently and eight outbreaks have been linked to youth sport leagues.

Additionally, about 30% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 recently in King County said that they had attended social events — a 10% increase from January. About 11% of people with COVID-19 recently also reported visiting bars and restaurants during the period in which they were exposed, which is up from 5% in January.

The number of cases in King County where people were exposed while traveling also rose to 11% over the past few weeks, compared to up to 6% in January.

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