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New COVID-19 Measures in Washington State

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Following is a statement from Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health—Seattle & King County, on Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement of new measures to control the surging outbreak of COVID-19 in Washington state:

COVID-19 transmission and the number of people being infected are at all-time highs in King County and the outbreak is growing faster than ever. In the past week, hospitalizations have increased by 70 percent. Cases are on a trajectory to continue to increase and will be followed by even more hospitalizations and deaths.

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Click on the image above to learn which activities have low, medium, or high COVID risk.

The fact is that there are limits to the number of patients our hospitals can care for—the health care system can surge but is not infinitely expandable. Hospitals are already feeling strained from growing numbers of COVID-19 cases and healthcare system leaders have told us they are worried about becoming overwhelmed if current trends continue. We can’t wait until our hospitals are overwhelmed to act. We must take steps now to prevent additional hospitalizations and deaths before we reach a healthcare system crisis. 

We have been raising the alarm to the public as the numbers have been rising and asking the public to do everything they can to stem the spread in our community. Now, as the numbers continue to increase, we need to take decisive action, including restrictions on activities where the risk for spread of COVID-19 is highest. Public Health and medical experts from around the country agree that the highest risk is from indoor spaces where people gather, especially when masks are not used. Risk increases with longer duration and closer contact, and when ventilation is not adequate. For example, activities such as indoor restaurant dining, exercising at a gym, and singing with others are considered high risk. Indoor social gatherings in homes and other locations such as visiting with friends and relatives pose a similar risk.

We proved in the spring that with strong and comprehensive actions to stop the spread, we can drive COVID-19 levels down low enough so that we can get back to doing many of the things that are so important to us. Today, the stakes are even higher and with the change in weather and pandemic fatigue, it will require a strong commitment and renewed and sustained effort to stop the spread. With that effort and by supporting one another, we can emerge as a community with more of us, our loved ones, and our community members, alive and healthy.

This article originally appeared in Public Health Insider on November 15, 2020.

For accurate, up-to-date information about COVID-19 (coronavirus), including data and current recommendations, visit Public Health—Seattle & King County at