King County moved to the second phase of the state’s reopening plan Monday and two mass vaccination sites opened, signaling positive steps in the battle against COVID-19 even as problems related to the massive demand for coronavirus vaccines continued.
Moving to Phase 2 allows restaurants to offer indoor service at 25% capacity until 11 p.m. Indoor fitness centers and live entertainment venues such as museums, bowling alleys and concert halls can also operate at 25% capacity. Bars that don’t serve food must remain closed.
Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine at the county’s two mass vaccination sites in Auburn at the General Services Administration (GSA) Complex and in Kent at the ShoWare Center is so great that all appointments have been filled through February. The county said it has the supply to provide 500 shots a day at each location.
The 7,000 doses King County is getting from the state this week will be directed to those two sites, said Kate Cole, spokesperson for Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“We’re not able to forecast how many doses we’ll receive beyond this week,” she said.
In Snohomish County, three of its four mass vaccination sites closed Monday and Tuesday because of lack of supply.
“Our capacity for vaccinating people at these sites is greater than the number of doses we received, so all of the doses were used during the appointments last week,” said Snohomish Health District spokesperson Kari Bray.
At least two of the sites in Edmonds, Monroe and Everett will reopen Wednesday after this week’s shipment arrives, while vaccinations continue at a location in Arlington that opened last week, Bray said.
The continued frustration with supply not meeting demand comes as King, Snohomish and Pierce counties — the Puget Sound region — moved into the second phase of the state’s Healthy Washington reopening plan.
Of the state’s eight regions, the only other region to move to Phase 2 was the West, which includes Thurston, Lewis, Pacific and Grays Harbor counties.
The state’s eight regions are measured by four metrics: a 10% decreasing trend in case rates during the previous 14-day period; a 10% decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission rates during the previous two-week period; an average ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a positive test rate of less than 10%. Those last two categories are measured on a seven-day basis.
Moving into Phase 2 is going to require people to stay vigilant and then some, according to an emailed statement from King County’s health department.
“The most important thing as we move into Phase 2 is to do so with extreme caution and be ready to reassess along the way. If we find that the trends are moving in the wrong direction, we must be willing to change course,” the statement read.
As businesses open from Everett to Ilwaco, the pressure is mounting to quickly increase the number of shots in arms, which hasn’t proven easy and might not happen soon.
After Gov. Jay Inslee announced last month that the state was ready to start vaccinating people in the 1B group, which was originally people 70 and older and expanded to those 65 and older, UW Medicine filled 30,000 vaccination appointments in three days and stopped accepting new appointments, Cynthia Dold, UW Medicine’s associate vice president of clinical operations, said Monday.
“Each week we need to see what we get because there is no commitment at this point from the state about how much you will get, so it makes it tough, actually,” Dold said during a Washington State Hospital Association news briefing.
More communities of color in South King County have been affected by the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, than other parts of the county. The mass vaccination sites were set up in southern King County because of this and historical health care disparities.
Appointments are reserved for South King County residents 75 and older. Caregivers or home care workers of any age taking care of someone 50 and older who can’t live independently are also eligible.
Caregivers 50 and older living with and caring for family such as grandchildren and nieces and nephews can also be vaccinated at the two sites. Parents living with their children are not included.
Dold said that an unreliable vaccine supply complicates efforts to distribute doses equitably.
“We need to start to get to a place where we know what we are going to get as organizations, so that we can honor the appointments made, as well as make sure we are reaching out to the individuals and communities that need our help,” she said.
The state could help by guaranteeing a minimum number of doses, Cassie Sauer, CEO of the hospital group, said during Monday’s briefing.
“Every week and weekend it is a nail-biting moment when the hospitals open up their delivery list and find if they’re getting any, and if so, how much and what kind and when it’s coming,” Sauer said.
Supplying the 612 health care facilities that have requested the vaccine in addition to the state’s four mass vaccination sites in Clark, Benton, Chelan and Spokane counties and county-run sites in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties isn’t possible because of the lack of supply, said DOH spokesperson Teresa McCallion.
“There is not enough vaccine to match the full capacity at any of these sites. All providers could be giving more vaccine if we had more,” McCallion said.
King County, which is using $7 million from the county’s budget to fund the vaccination locations, will be taking appointments once more is known about supply.
Once appointments are available, residents can make them on King County’s website or by calling the state’s COVID-19 assistance hotline, 800-525-0127.
Vaccinations at the GSA complex and ShoWare Center will be given by appointment only from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday -Saturday.