Coronavirus, Public Health, Vaccines

King County marks two years of COVID outbreak, looks ahead to next phase of pandemic response

Image of SARS-CoV-2 (magenta objects) emerging from the surface of lab-cultured cells.

From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Today marks the two-year anniversary of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s emergency declaration in response to the COVID outbreak in King County, the first community in the nation to face an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, shortly after the nation’s first case was discovered in Snohomish County. 

Relying on trusted health leaders to chart the course forward and keep the community safe, King County has gone from the epicenter of the outbreak, to now one of the nation’s highest vaccinated communities with the some of the lowest cases and death rates two years later.

“There wasn’t a playbook when COVID hit, but King County residents worked together. Our largest employers and small businesses, friends and neighbors have followed the science and expertise of our public health leaders to achieve some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation,” said Executive Constantine. “The last two years have challenged all of us, taking a toll on our community and our day-to-day lives. Entering the next phase of our COVID response should be a moment for all of us to reflect on the loss and pain of the last two years, but also a chance to look forward to the recovery and future we’re building together.”

Since the first days of the pandemic, King County and Public Health – Seattle & King County have led the response focused on ensuring no community was left behind. From purchasing and distributing masks, to buying hotels so people would have a safe place to quarantine, here’s a look at some of the statistics behind King County’s response, and the impact the community has made together.

Case counts – among the lowest in the nation

Out of the 97 most populated regions in the country, King County ranks 90th in terms of COVID case rates, with 16,067 cases per 100,000 residents. Miami-Dade for comparison has 42,764 per 100,000. King County also ranks 90th in terms of rates of deaths from COVID in those 97 most populated regions. For counties with more than 2 million residents, King County has the lowest rate of any county for case counts and deaths from COVID.

Vaccination Rates – highest booster rate in the nation

For counties with more than 2 million people, King County has the 3rd highest vaccination rate in the nation, and the highest rate of people receiving booster doses in the country with 57%. Nearly 85% of all residents eligible for the vaccine are fully vaccinated, and more than 70% of every racial and demographic group tracked by Public Health are fully vaccinated.

Vaccine distribution supported by community members

From the first health care workers getting vaccinated in late 2020, to wide availability of the vaccine by spring 2021, King County’s community partnerships have ensured residents have access to the safe, effective vaccines. With more than 25 partner locations including high-volume sites in stadiums and large businesses, Public-Health ensured every community could get vaccinated and stay protected from the worst effects of COVID.

Staying healthy with safe places to quarantine

From the first week of the pandemic, King County worked to provide safe places to isolate and quarantine for people who couldn’t do so at home. All told more than 3800 people were placed in safe locations, and nearly 5,000 people were assessed by the public health teams.

County purchased PPE and tests to help communities stay healthy

Using COVID emergency funds, King County purchased more than 24 million masks to distribute to residents, and during the Omicron surge distributed 1 million higher-grade masks to community-based organizations. Late in 2021 the county purchased 700,000 tests and distributed them to nearly 200 organizations.

Economic support for residents and small businesses

More than 31,000 households in King County received rental assistance since the beginning of the pandemic, totaling more than $265 million in funds distributed. King County awarded nearly $6 million in small business grants, and more than $20 million in grants for arts and culture organizations.

Unprecedented emergency budget actions

In the two years since first declaring an emergency, King County has passed eight supplemental budgets that appropriated nearly $1.5 billion in pandemic response and recovery funds

Looking ahead

Given the decrease in cases and hospitalizations King County announced this week the indoor mask order would expire alongside the state’s order on March 11. As of today the vaccine verification order for restaurants and other venues also expired. Businesses and organizations may continue to implement their own vaccination verification rules for their establishments. 

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