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Washington enters fifth COVID-19 wave as delta variant cases surge

Hospitalizations in King County, meanwhile, have remained steady.

SEATTLE — Washington wrapped up the week with surging cases of the delta variant that has effectively placed the state in a "fifth wave" of COVID cases.

The latest data from the Washington Department of Health showed COVID cases and the percentage of positive COVID tests rose in the last few weeks, compared to weeks prior.

"After about two months of decreasing numbers, the trajectory of our COVID outbreak changed," said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer at Public Health -- Seattle & King County.

COVID cases have risen noticeably in King County, even as the county boasts high vaccination rates, with the latest data showing 80 percent of those eligible received their first dose of the shot. 

In a briefing Friday, Duchin said in the last week alone, King County saw 233 new cases daily -- a 63 percent increase since last week.

He pointed to the delta variant, which has spread significantly throughout Washington and elsewhere in the U.S.

"It's much more contagious than earlier variants, which means people get infected easier, faster, and more likely to spread the virus to others," Duchin said.

Duchin added that hospitalizations have remained steady, though they may be on the traditional track of going up, following a rise in COVID infections.

Statewide, COVID-related hospital admission rates are seeing a slight rise compared to last month, according to the latest data from the Washington Department of Health's data dashboard.

Gov. Jay Inslee, in his latest COVID briefing this week, remained vague about the potential for rollbacks and a mask mandate, rather than the current mask recommendation for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in indoor public settings.

"There's just not a lot of money in speculating about what might happen. I'll tell you this though, I do not want to shut down a single business in the state of Washington," Inslee said.