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COVID-19 activity intensifying across Washington state

Higher rates in Western and Eastern Washington

There continues to be a general rise in the intensity of COVID-19 in both Western Washington and Eastern Washington, according to the latest statewide situation report released Wednesday by the state Department of Health.

The Department of Health reported a total of 104,027 confirmed cases as of Oct. 26. There have been 2,337 COVID-19 deaths in Washington.

Report findings include:

• Transmission is increasing in Western and Eastern Washington. The best estimates of the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) were 1.34 in Western Washington and 1.12 in Eastern Washington as of the latest results available. The goal is a number well below one, which would mean COVID-19 transmission is declining.

• From mid-September to mid-October, case counts and hospitalizations have risen in both Western and Eastern Washington. Some of the increase in early October appears to be due to more testing. However, case counts increased during the week ending Oct. 15 despite decreases in testing.

• Increases in Western Washington are widely distributed geographically and across ages. Growth is particularly high in the 25 to 39 and 40 to 59 age groups and in the Puget Sound region (Snohomish, King and Pierce counties). This wide distribution suggests increases are due to broad community spread, not driven by a single type of activity or setting.

• Though cases have been rising at a slower rate in Eastern Washington, other trends indicate a risk for faster growth in the future. The proportion of positive tests to total tests is considerably higher in Eastern Washington than Western Washington. Additionally, the case rate per person in Eastern Washington remains twice as high as in Western Washington.

• Recent growth in cases is widely distributed across the state. Several larger counties (Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston) are seeing steady increases. After steady increases through Oct. 7, case counts in King County began to decline—possibly due to decreased testing in that time period. Several smaller counties (Grant, Kittitas, Skagit and Walla Walla) are clearly experiencing increases, though the total number of recent cases remains low.

• Trends are also mixed in counties with flat or decreasing case counts. After gradual but steady increases through Oct. 5, case counts in Benton and Franklin counties have plateaued. In Spokane County, case counts are now flat following a steep increase in early to mid-September. Case counts are fluctuating in Whitman County, with some likely increases in older people following a recent spike in the college-age population. Cases remain flat in Yakima County.

“Any spike in COVID-19 cases will jeopardize our progress toward reopening schools, strain our healthcare system and increase risks during holiday gatherings,” said Lacy Fehrenback, deputy Secretary of Health for COVID-19 Response. “High rates in the community increase the chance that someone at your gathering—even people you know well and trust—could have COVID-19. If we act now, we can get these increases in control in time for the holidays.”

State health officials recommend wearing a mask around people you don’t live with (even close friends and family) and limiting the number, size and frequency of gatherings. Wash your hands frequently, get your flu shot and stay home if you’re sick.

If you do choose to gather with others, there are steps you can take to reduce risk. You can get tips for safer gatherings and ideas for alternative celebrations at coronavirus.wa.gov/gatherings.

DOH partners with the Institute for Disease Modeling, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington and the Microsoft AI for Health program to develop these reports every other week. More COVID-19 data can be found on the DOH website and in the state’s risk assessment dashboard.


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