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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: A 15-minute, at-home Covid test.
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A 15-minute, at-home Covid test.
Credit: Dyer Oxley / KUOW

Pandemic updates: Washington moving toward long-term approach to Covid

Updated news about the coronavirus pandemic in Seattle and Washington state.

As of Friday, March 18, 2022, the King County and Washington state departments of health report:

  • Cases have declined by 25% in King County over the last seven days. An average of 170 daily cases.
  • Hospitalizations are down 53% in King County since a week ago, with a daily average of three new hospitalizations.
  • Deaths have decreased by 48% over the past week in King County, with an average of three people dying each day.
  • 84.3% of King County residents ages 5 and older are fully vaccinated; 67.2% of Washington's total population is fully vaccinated; 58% of eligible Washingtonians have received a booster shot.
  • 12,273 Covid-19 related deaths across Washington state; 1% death rate since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • 61 Covid cases per 100,000 people across Washington state; 10% of state hospital beds occupied by Covid patients.

Student athletes and myocarditis

The American College of Cardiology is now advising that student athletes between the ages of 14-25, who have had a case of Covid but do not have resulting cardiac symptoms, do not need to be screened for myocarditis.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart as a result of an infection and can be more likely after a case of Covid.

Dr. Kimberly Harmon is section head of sports medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She was on the ACC panel that is making the recommendation about student athletes.

“Large registry-based studies showed that the incidence of cardiac issues was not nearly as high as initially feared and that diagnostic testing should be based by symptoms,” Harmon said. “If people have chest pain during their infection or upon return to play, then they should have a diagnostic workup, but aside from that, they should have a gradual return to exercise.”

According to UW Medicine, there were smaller studies that occurred early in the pandemic that indicated up to 50% of athletes had the potential of experiencing myocarditis after a Covid infection. But researchers have now looked at accumulated data from across the United States.

"Our registry showed that 0.5% to 1% of athletes developed Covid-associated myocarditis — which is still something we need to pay attention to, but it is far less than 50%. And most of the athletes with myocarditis had cardiac symptoms,” Harmon said.

— Dyer Oxley

Canada eases up on one restriction for international travelers

Starting April 1, Canada will no longer require international travelers to show a negative Covid test before entering the country, if they are fully vaccinated.

Travelers who are unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated, will still need to show a negative Covid test to enter the country.

Also, arriving travelers will still be required to use Canada's ArriveCAN app.

"Adjustments to Canada's border measures are made possible by a number of factors, including Canada's high vaccination rate, the increasing availability and use of rapid tests to detect infection, decreasing hospitalizations and growing domestic availability of treatments for Covid-19," said the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health. "As vaccination levels and healthcare system capacity improve, we will continue to consider further easing of measures at the borders-and when to adjust those measures-to keep the people in Canada safe."

— Dyer Oxley

Another Covid wave could be ahead

Covid cases have dropped significantly over the past month, but Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that cases could spike again very soon, or at least the decline will flatten out, Bloomberg reports.

This is largely due to the fact that the United States has generally follow trends overseas, usually with a two-week delay. The United Kingdom has been experiencing a rise in cases due to the subvariant of Omicron. China is currently experiencing its highest levels of Covid cases since the pandemic began.

Dr. Fauci also said that some Americans — those over 65 or with underlying health conditions — will likely need a fourth shot of a Covid vaccine.

— Dyer Oxley

Washington state health officials to unveil next steps in Covid-19 response

Washington state is moving towards a long-term approach to Covid-19. Health officials are expected to release details of their plan Thursday.

Dr. Umair Shah previewed the state’s next steps during a media briefing Wednesday. He said the approach focuses on what works and lessons learned.

"Obviously the forward plan can be adjusted as needed, but will ... carry us through the next several months,” Shah said, adding that the plan will also “help guide us into co-existing safely with Covid-19 for the foreseeable future."

Shah said the long-term approach focuses on three main areas: getting good information to people to help them make decisions; continuing prevention strategies like testing and vaccination; and preparing for whatever may come next through things like monitoring variants, cases, and hospital capacity.

As the state looks at long term Covid-19 response, they’re also keeping an eye on federal funding, which they say has been important to the ongoing response. The future of emergency Covid funds at the federal level is currently uncertain.

— Kate Walters

Seattle and King County employees area heading back into the office

Seattle and King County announced last month that both governments intended to bring public employees back into the office in March. That return is set for this week.

The Seattle Times reports that about 35% of Seattle's employees have been working remote. The city will offer masks for every employee coming into the office. While the statewide indoor mask mandate ended over the weekend, Seattle still has a mandate that requires masks inside government buildings. That mandate will end on April 4, however.

Seattle is also still requiring that employees be vaccinated if they are working in-person at a city facility.

— Dyer Oxley

Status check on Covid in Washington state

Covid cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have dropped significantly in Washington state. Currently, the state has a Covid case rate of 92 cases per 100,000.

Vaccination rates have also risen with 84.8% of King County residents ages 5 and older being fully vaccinated. A total of 67.1% of all Washingtonians are fully vaccinated.

And 58% of eligible Washingtonians (ages 12 and older) have received a booster shot.

— Dyer Oxley

Washington DOH will pay you $50 to start Covid vaccine process

The Washington State Department of Health has organized popup Covid vaccine clinics between March 11-13, and is offering $50 gift cards for people getting their first or second dose.

Dyer Oxley

Sick with Covid? Washington has a hotline for that

Dyer Oxley