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Increasing cases of COVID-19 in King County highlight the need to limit close contact

Summary

Public Health—Seattle & King County continues to monitor cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 and has noted an increase in cases over the past two weeks. Public Health expects to see some increase in cases as we get back to work and other activities in the community because there are more opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.

Story

It's been one week since King County moved into Phase 2 of the Governor's Safe Start plan. With more re-opening of businesses, community activities and contact with one-another, Public Health—Seattle & King County is warning that the risk for infection has increased.

As more businesses re-open and people get back to work and other activities in the community, there will be more opportunities for COVID-19 to spread, leading to an increase in cases. Public Health has already noticed an increase in cases the past two weeks.

We face a long-term challenge from COVID-19 that requires us to fundamentally change the way we interact with one another for the foreseeable future if we are to move forward safely," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health—Seattle & King County.

Recent cases are from all areas of the county, with the largest increase in new cases in young adults and Seattle residents. At this point, no specific venue or risk factor has been identified as a cause of the increase.

Public Health has not seen increasing trends in hospitalizations, and it is not known if the recent increase in cases will subside, be sustained, or further increase, potentially causing significant stress on the healthcare system in coming weeks or months.

In order to minimize the risk of a continued increase in COVID-19, it is even more important to do everything we can as individuals and in workplaces, businesses, recreational and social settings to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

“Increasing cases over the past two weeks means we are having more contact with one another but not taking more precautions, giving COVID-19 too many opportunities to jump from person to person. There seems to be a misconception that because we are reopening, the risk of COVID-19 has receded. But the truth is that the virus is still widespread in the community and the risk for infection remains serious,” said Duchin.

To minimize the risk of a continued increase in COVID-19, it is even more important to understand the risk and take steps to decrease it. For example, closer contact is higher risk than maintaining 6 feet of distance. Longer duration interactions are higher risk than shorter ones; outdoors is lower risk than indoors. And well-ventilated indoor spaces are lower risk than poorly ventilated ones.

“COVID-19 connects us all through the air we breathe, and we must depend on one-another to prevent infections and stay safe,” said Duchin. “We are a highly interconnected community, and the impact of transmission in one setting, such as coffee shops, construction sites and businesses, is felt across other sectors, like restaurants, manufacturing and recreation, and vice versa.

“While we can't eliminate the risk of COVID-19, we can and must understand the risk and take steps to decrease it,” Duchin said. “Close contact with others, longer duration of contact, and poorly ventilated spaces all increase risk. That's why it is so important for all worksites, businesses, restaurants and other community spaces to do whatever they can to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread as we reopen. Physical distance and staying home remain the most powerful prevention measures, along with use of face masks in public and good hand washing."

For more information, view this blog post, "The virus hasn't let up and we can't either", on Public Health Insider.

More information about how case investigations and contact tracing help support the safe behaviors described above is available in another blog post: Prevention is key for containing COVID-19 – How case investigation plays a role.

Featured this week: Information for families

Case updates

Daily totals for new COVID-19 cases and deaths are available on Public Health's Data Dashboard webpage, which updates as soon as data are available, typically between 1-3 p.m.

How to follow updates about COVID-19 from Public Health