Omicron now dominant virus strain in King County, western Washington

A Seattle hospital leader said Thursday that omicron has become the dominant coronavirus strain in King County and much of Western Washington.

Dr. John Lynch, Harborview’ Medical Center’s medical director for infection prevention and control, said in a statement the super-infectious variant will soon overtake delta throughout the rest of the state, The Seattle Times reported.

Scientists now know omicron spreads fast — perhaps up to three times faster than the delta variant. It also seems to be better at evading vaccines, although boosters help particularly against hospitalization and death. Some research suggests omicron causes less severe illness than delta does, but the studies are preliminary.

Omicron even if milder could still overwhelm hospitals because of the sheer number of infections.

Lynch said healthy people who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot "should mostly expect coldlike symptoms" if they get sick from the variant.

The ever-morphing virus presents people with a difficult choice: cancel holiday gatherings and trips or figure out ways to forge ahead as safely as possible.

"I know this is hard for everyone," Lynch said.

As of Thursday, King County was averaging 778 daily infections, a 169% increase in the last seven days compared to the week before, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. There’s also been a 2% increase in hospitalizations in the past week, according to the dashboard.

King County had a single-day increase of 2,879 new coronavirus cases Thursday, and cases nearly doubled statewide from the day before with 4,154 new cases reported Thursday by the state Department of Health.

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