Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that key COVID-19 infection rates in both Eastern and Western Washington have “plateaued or gone up” and health officials are concerned about a trend that might mean the rate of new cases is increasing.
In his weekly Friday afternoon conference on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Inslee said rates are “going to rise again unless we find “some other measure to restrain the rate of infection.”
King County health officials highlighted the new concerns:
After dropping throughout March and into the first part of April, the transmission rate of COVID-19 is no longer falling and may be rising again in Western Washington, according to the latest report from Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM). The report also included an analysis of the rate of transmission in the eastern half of the state, finding it was persistently higher than in the western half.
Increased activity and travel could be contributing to the upward trend. The Institute for Disease Modeling says its latest updates (PDF) show an “estimated rise in transmission” and the new increase is “concordant with observed increases in King County’s highway traffic.”
While there has been growing criticism of many of the widely followed models tracking and forecasting COVID-19’s impact, King County’s daily new case totals continue to show stubborn persistence. Here, May has so far averaged around 95 new cases a day — down about 25% from April’s daily totals. Meanwhile, about nine to ten deaths continue to be reported in the county every day. In the ZIP codes covering Capitol Hill and the Central District, new cases have so far appeared to be holding steady around one new positive case per day in the past week.
CHS COVID-19 TIMELINE: + Feb. 29 First ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 case in King County + Mar. 11 Washington puts ‘over 250’ restrictions in place + Mar. 11 Schools closed + Mar. 15 Restaurants and bars closed, ‘over 50’ threshold + Mar. 21 Police begin clearing parks + Apr. 2 Washington restrictions extended + Apr. 6 Schools closed for rest of year + Apr. 8 Can’t relax those social restrictions yet but, exhale, Seattle — COVID-19 model says you’ve made it through this outbreak’s peak + Apr. 27 Washington eases restrictions on some outdoor activities but you’ll still need to give six feet on the trail + May 1 Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel
Worries of a “plateau or increase” come as Washington continues in “Phase 1” of a four-phase plan for reopening its economy and allowing increased social activity. Construction has been put back into motion and services like car washes are being allowed to operate again. Meanwhile, state lands have reopened for recreation and areas like King County parks have also been reopened. Five counties — Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry and Pend Oreille — have been approved for a more rapid reopening, Inslee said Friday.
Officials say continued social distancing and face coverings are necessary to keep COVID-19 infection rates under control. Increased testing is hoped to also provide information and contact tracing needed to slow outbreaks. Friday, Inslee said Washington had finally received its first federal shipment of testing materials including thousand of swabs used for specimen collection. The shipment was a good start but “the need for testing will only increase,” Inslee said.
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