Jan 5, 2024 - News

COVID ticking up in King County

Illustration of an arrow breaking through a pile of coronavirus cells.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

COVID-19 is on the rise in King County and rates of flu and RSV remain above the local "alert threshold," according to Public Health – Seattle & King County (PH–SKC).

Why it matters: Rates of transmission above the alert level show substantial spread of the viruses in the region, signaling health care organizations and hospitals to enact masking requirements, said PH–SKC spokesperson Kate Cole.

Driving the news: The fast-spreading COVID-19 variant known as JN.1 is now the most prevalent in the U.S. — especially in the Northeast, where it accounts for about 57% of tested cases, writes Axios' Adriel Bettelheim.

Zoom in: According to data from the state Department of Health released Dec. 27, spokesperson Raechel Sims said the JN.1 variant accounted for only 2.6% of all confirmed molecular COVID-19 positive cases that were sequenced in Washington in November.

What they're saying: "There has always been a little bit of lag time between the East Coast and West Coast," Pavitra Roychoudhury of the University of Washington School of Medicine told Axios.

  • In Washington, the percentage of JN.1 among sequenced cases is now rising, "which was the prediction," she said.

Between the lines: JN.1's surge suggests it's either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems than other strains in circulation, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • COVID-19 levels in wastewater, a potential indicator of infection levels, are higher nationally than they were last year, CDC data shows.

The bottom line: As with all other viruses, COVID-19 will continue to mutate and evolve over time, state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist has said, but the main constants of protection will remain the same: Stay up-to-date on vaccines, be diligent about hand-washing and stay home when sick.

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