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Credit: Office of Governor Jay Inslee

‘The virus is everywhere,’ warn King County health officials as new Covid-19 cases emerge

Starting today, people are required to wear a mask or face covering in public indoor spaces, or outdoors, if you can't stay six feet apart from others.

The new requirement comes as cases of Covid-19 are dramatically increasing in many parts of the state. KUOW's Anna Boiko-Weyrach is here with the latest.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

The rising number of infections has been dramatic. Today, Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Public Health Seattle & King County gave an update to reporters. He said last week there was a 60% increase over the week before.

This week, preliminary data shows over 100 new cases on Tuesday. That’s the largest daily increase since May.

The biggest increases come from people in their 20s and 30s, and people who live in Seattle. People of color still have disproportionately high rates compared to white people.

And, to step back for a second, there’s something interesting about the age of people getting Covid-19. Even as more people are testing positive for it, we haven’t seen more people getting hospitalized.

That’s an important point, because what health officials in King County really, really want to avoid is the hospitals getting overwhelmed. Any trend in that direction, where it seems like people are going to the ER with Covid-19 and hospital beds are filling up, that’s a big thing that’s going to make them pull back the reins on the economy reopening.

There are a lot of different ways people are getting Covid-19 now. That makes it tricky because there’s not one, or even a number of hotspots. The virus is everywhere.

In particular, a lot of people may be getting the virus from someone they live with. But tracing it further back, we don’t know where those people got it in the first place.

Other people might be getting it at work: essential workers, healthcare workers, and people who work in long-term care facilities in particular.

The risk of getting Covid-19 has not gone down since we’re in Phase 2 of reopening. It’s actually higher now. More cases happen when people spend time together, and don’t take measures to reduce their risk.

Dr. Duchin emphasized that our risk of getting Covid goes up the closer you are to other people, the longer you spend with them, and when you’re in places with poor ventilation.

That’s why we need to stay at least six feet away from others, wear a mask, and wash or sanitize our hands. Staying home is still the biggest thing we can do to stop the spread. Dr. Duchin emphasized, if we don’t do the right thing and manage the risk, we won’t be able to reopen the economy more. He said:

“Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something. Everyone needs to weigh the risks and benefits of our actions, and their impacts on the community.”

Every time I hear health officials talk this week, I just keep thinking of the tagline from Jaws 2: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”

It’s summer, there's beautiful weather, it’s easy to forget that there’s still a global pandemic. It’s a big bummer to say this, but the coronavirus is still here, and still a problem, and the risk is actually going up.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.

Link to free testing sites in King County