This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its guidance about wearing masks in certain outdoor situations. At the same time, rising COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations place several Washington counties in danger of backsliding to phase two of the state reopening plan.
In King County, weekly hospitalizations are unfortunately over 5 per 100,000 people, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County statistics. The case count is 236 per 100,000 over the last two weeks.
The good-news, bad-news announcements share a common denominator: vaccination. Washingtonians should take the hint and get their shots.
The CDC’s advice is that people vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely go maskless in uncrowded outdoor areas. Unvaccinated people should wear masks outside unless they’re alone or with members of their own household. Everyone should continue to mask up when they are indoors.
But just under 30% of Washington residents are fully vaccinated — we have a long way to go before reaching herd immunity. And despite outreach and education efforts, vaccine resistance persists.
State health officials have largely solved logistical and supply problems that made it difficult to access COVID-19 vaccines early this year. Now, appointment slots are going unfilled.
It’s impossible to know for certain how many vaccine laggards are just procrastinators and how many have no plans to get their shots, but recent survey results are troubling. Nearly one-third of Republican respondents in a recent statewide Crosscut/Elway Poll, for example, said they had no intention of getting vaccinated. Another 16% said they weren’t yet sure. Even in deep-blue Seattle, only 73% of respondents told U.S. Census takers last month that they definitely planned to get the vaccine, according to Seattle Times’ FYI Guy, Gene Balk.
Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, says he thinks vaccine hesitancy may be even more widespread than such surveys indicate. He likened it to another socially unacceptable admission, saying: “If you survey people after they go to the bathroom, they’re going to tell you they washed their hands whether they did or not.”
COVID-19 vaccinations work. They’re safe for the overwhelming majority of people. They’re the ticket back to friends, family, socializing — and to going barefaced on the bike trail.
And oh, yeah: It’s a shot that could save your life or the lives of the people you love.