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Fourth wave of COVID still a concern, says King County health official

Even as older and more at-risk people continue to get vaccinated, the Seattle area is still at risk for a “fourth wave” of the coronavirus. That’s according to King County’s top public health doctor.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, says COVID-19 cases have risen steadily in the county throughout March, and they’re rising fastest among younger people, many of whom are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

“I want this outbreak to be over. It’s been like a very bad dream. But unfortunately, it is not a dream, and it won’t go away unless we work together to make that happen,” Duchin said Friday. “We’ve endured much over the past year, but we need a few more weeks of serious effort to finish this off successfully.”

He says a fourth wave would disproportionately affect younger, unvaccinated adults. While most of those cases would be mild, a small percentage would have serious cases or symptoms that linger for weeks – and even a tiny percentage among thousands of people is a lot of people.

The good news, he said, is that deaths remain low because many of the most vulnerable people have been vaccinated.

However, Duchin expects vaccine supply problems will worsen.

King County should receive about 50,000 first doses next week, but many more people are becoming eligible for the vaccine. Duchin says the county expects to have a first dose for every 10 people eligible for it next week.

Everyone older than 16 is expected to be eligible for a vaccine by May 1. 

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