WA Dept of Health: ‘No turnaround yet’ of COVID-19 pandemic

OLYMPIA, Wash – With exceptions in some areas, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread at a higher-than-ideal rate across the state of Washington, according to a weekly report put out by the Department of Health on Friday.

According to the statewide situation report, COVID-19 transmission continues to increase overall in both parts of our state.

“The burden remains at or near peak levels in most counties across the state,” the report says. “Both eastern and western Washington have reached new peaks in cases since our last report.”

It’s important to note that the state divides eastern and western Washington at the Cascades, so counties like Yakima, which have had large numbers of cases, are included with eastern Washington’s numbers.

The report shows that there has been a surge of cases in Okanogan County. The county is in phase two of the governor’s Safe Start plan and now has the highest number of cases per capita in the state. While the county reported 689 cases as of Wednesday, that’s a rate of 892 per 100,000 people.

Case counts in Benton, Franklin, Spokane and Grant counties reported decreases or plateaus earlier this week, but the state says “we cannot entirely rule out impacts from delays in testing that may mimic slowing transmission.”

Overall positivity rate of cases in 14.6% in eastern Washington, which is three times as high as western Washington. Spokane County’s positivity rate is 7.5%. The state overall reports that 5.7% of tests come back positive.

The report discusses next steps and what this means for the public health response. It says that “the new surge in cases in Okanogan reflects that susceptibility remains high and communities can experience explosive growth in a short amount of time.”

“Strict adherence to masking and physical distancing policies and limits on social contacts remains necessary to suppress COVID-19 transmission in Washington State,” it says.

The state also looks at the Re or “R naught” number, which measures how contagious a disease is. Public health officials want that number below one to show the disease has stopped spreading. The latest numbers show eastern Washington with an estimated Re of 1.08 and 1.9 in western Washington.