So far, more than 75% of King County’s eligible population have completed their COVID-19 vaccination series.
SEATTLE — Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health—Seattle & King County, expressed both his concern and optimism Thursday as the region continues to grapple with COVID-19, particularly the highly transmissible delta variant.
He continued to advocate for vaccinations but also urged residents to lower their risk of infection, whether they are vaccinated against the virus or not.
“Risk is additive. The risks you take add up. To lower your risk of COVID-19, do fewer risky things,” he said.
He added as an example that he was not yet partaking in indoor public dining and avoids other places where crowding can occur.
The briefing comes less than a week after Duchin’s last briefing, during which he advocated for a vaccine mandate for health care professionals, discussed the effectiveness of vaccines, illustrated the dominance of the delta variant and briefly talked about multiple recent COVID-19 outbreaks the county was investigating.
He said Thursday that everyone should take multiple strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, adding that breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals do not mean vaccine failure but may be more common with the dominant delta variant.
“Unfortunately, the delta variant seems to increase the risk of vaccinated people developing less severe infections compared to earlier strains, and some of these cases can spread the infection to others,” he said.
More information is expected to be released about recent outbreaks in King County that Duchin said would illustrate and clarify the dangers certain public situations pose for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Last week, details were released regarding one outbreak involving a King County area fitness center, which held a charity workout event with 70 people in attendance at the end of June.
As of July 28, officials found 16 of those individuals were positive for COVID-19 as well as a member of a COVID-positive attendee’s household.
The fitness center voluntarily closed while health officials continue their investigation, but Duchin said that the incident is an example of situations “where even vaccinated people need to take precautions,” especially because of the delta variant.
The variant is responsible for at least 78% of sequenced positive COVID-19 cases in the state as of Friday.
Despite the rise in cases, Duchin said that he is not considering any restrictions because the King County health care system is not being overwhelmed yet and death rates remain stable, adding that he’s optimistic more people will seek the vaccine.
“People are not stupid. People are smart. They know that when folks around them are getting sick and hospitalized, and young people are ending up in the intensive care unit with breathing tubes, you know, that’s not a good thing,” he said. “And people will see that and want to protect themselves. I am convinced.”
The delta variant’s dominance prompted Duchin to come out before many health leaders to recommend universal masking regardless of vaccination status in indoor public spaces, a recommendation later adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Jay Inslee.
While reassuring everyone that the pandemic will come to an end, he warned that residents should expect more uncertainty in the days to come, especially as the country continues to struggle with the delta variant.
“For now, our outbreak continues to evolve, and our understanding is evolving, and our actions need to evolve as well to reflect the reality of our pandemic,” he said. “Delta denial is dangerous.”
The latest data on the health department’s website shows more than 75% of the county’s population has completed their vaccination series.