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Summer Covid surge hits Washington state

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Washington state is once again in the midst of a slight Covid-19 surge.

It's an indication that Covid is not yet acting like a seasonal respiratory virus, like flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which show up each year in the fall and winter.

The current uptick in Washington is nowhere near as big as the surges we've seen in past years. But it's still a relatively large increase over recent low levels.

The state’s virus dashboard shows emergency department (ED) visits up by about a third at the very end of May and the start of June. Hospitalizations are also rising.

Case numbers and prevalence of Covid-19 in the community are harder to track now than they were during the pandemic. The mass public testing sites are a thing of the past and many rapid tests taken at home go unreported.

“However wastewater and hospitalization/ED visit rates are a reasonable proxy,” said Pavitra Roychoudhury with the University of Washington Medicine’s virology lab.

Dr. Scott Lindquist, the Washington state epidemiologist, said Covid-19 levels are increasing in all those areas.

Lindquist said he’s also seeing an increase when seeing patients, and anecdotally among family and friends.

“What this means to me, and what I think the public needs to know, is that it is still here and we need to be careful,” Lindquist said.

Lindquist said people need to implement lessons learned during the pandemic like staying home when sick and taking other precautions.

"I think it's time to use a mask if you're out in the public,” Lindquist said. “I am flying this weekend and I will wear a mask in the airport. I haven't been wearing it around the clock, but now that I'm seeing a little increase in Covid, I think it's reasonable to wear a mask in crowded settings."

Lindquist said it's important to protect those who are most vulnerable. He’s urging caution as people prepare to gather for upcoming celebrations like Father’s Day and graduations.

"If you have any of these respiratory symptoms and you're going to visit someone in your family that has an underlying condition, it's not a good time to do that," he said. "Or, if you do, washing your hands and wearing a mask."

Lindquist said staying up to date with vaccines remains an important step for individuals to protect themselves and others.

He said it’s likely that a new Covid-19 booster will be available and recommended in the fall.

For those who may be wondering if they’re due for another shot before then, especially those who may be at higher risk for complications from the virus like those who are 65 or older, Lindquist said it’s a good idea to check in with a health-care provider.

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