Fall COVID-19 surge could happen in Pacific Northwest

Harborview Medical Center (file photo)

The top health officer in Washington state’s most populous county said Thursday that a fall and winter COVID surge is likely headed to the Pacific Northwest after months of relatively low case levels.

County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said during a news briefing that virus trends in Europe show a concerning picture of what the U.S. could soon see, The Seattle Times reported.

"We’re already seeing increasing COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations in many European countries, even before any of the new variants have become dominant," Duchin said. "This means that the waning immunity, the increasing gathering, the return to pre-COVID activity is leading to a surge in COVID in Europe. This should be a clear warning for us because in the past, major surges in Europe have been a good predictor of what we can expect to see in the U.S. in about four to six weeks."

Washington’s most recent wave caused by omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants started decreasing around mid-July. Since then, King County hospitalizations have stayed at 10 to 13 per day with deaths at about two per day, Duchin said.

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Duchin urged residents to get an updated COVID booster shot as soon as possible. He acknowledged frustrations over finding appointments and said a lack of new federal COVID funding and staff shortages at drugstores were part of the issue.

"I understand the frustration, and I’m sorry it’s occurring, but I can assure you it’s worth the effort," said Duchin.

The omicron variant-targeted bivalent booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available to people ages 5 and older, following guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, state Department of Health officials said Thursday.

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The updated booster was made available last month to people age 12 and older who have completed a primary COVID vaccine series.

More than 14,000 people in Washington state have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.