Meet you at the corner of COVID and 19th. pic.twitter.com/iGgAOmYl6y
— R. Beda (@rachelbeda) July 14, 2020
Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday state officials are “actively considering other options” as Washington continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases as businesses are reopening and social interaction increase after months of restrictions.
The governor said with the reopening of schools across the state representing a “critical moment,” his office may need need to act “in just the next few days.”
“Somehow we have to break that climb,” Inslee said.
With a freeze now extended through the end of July on counties moving forward in the state’s phased approach to lifting COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and business, a next move could be for Inslee to join other governors in rolling back phases, or targeting specific industries like bars and restaurants.
One hope for Washington officials is the impact of increased masking now that face coverings are required at businesses and in public where distancing cannot be maintained. Inslee said state health officials are hopeful that the mask requirements could help swing the state’s infection rates lower.
There is also hope that this new wave of infections will continue to produce lower hospitalization and death rates.
State health officer Kathy Lofy said that demographic analysis continues to show that this COVID-19 wave is hitting younger people including those in their 20s and 30s. For now, that cluster appears to not be making a jump into higher risk groups of older adults or the very young. Kids across the state, Lofy said, currently make up a representative percentage of all COVID-19 case, something officials will continue to watch as the new school year is approaching.
Washington is faring better than many states in the union but still faces a steadily climbing number of new cases every day though some key measures including the positive case rate — the those found to be infected as a percentage of those tested — have settled after an early July climb that has caused increasing concern.
In King County, the state’s most populous and a key driver of many of its statewide measures, the positive case rate has settled out around 4% of those tested — far from the terrible surges above 10% the state saw in March and April. Things could be much worse. In Florida, positivity jumped above 20% this week. UPDATE: CHS has revised our positive case rate chart and this analysis. Our original report showed the positive rate per 100,000 residents. We are now charting the seven-day rolling average of percent of positive cases in King County as reported by the state. Thanks to our readers for help in sorting this out.
King County restrictions were advanced to “Phase 2” to end June. While reopening businesses across Washington are likely adding to the totals, it’s not clear they are driving this summer surge.
“We don’t have an industry we can just target which really highlights the need for everyone to do their part,” Lofy said.
Officials said a major factor in King County’s recent increase is people becoming sick and not immediately isolating:
Health officials say the tracers are finding most people are waiting too long to go into isolation, saying only 21% of the people they contacted went into isolation on the day they first developed symptoms. More than half are waiting until they get tested. On average, there’s a 3-day gap between the time symptoms develop and when a person gets tested.
“Young adults and Seattle residents” have also been at the core of the rise though officials have said that early indications that protests were not causing any spike in cases have not shifted and that demonstrations with masked participants in outside settings still do not appear to be a factor in any surge.
More people in Seattle are also being tested now. In June, the city launched a new free testing initiative that added two mobile clinics — one to the north off Aurora and one in SoDo — as well as expanded recommendations for who should seek a test that includes anyone feeling even mild symptoms or who has had even a brief exposure to someone who is sick or tested positive.
In total, Washington has now suffered more than 40,000 cases of the virus and nearly 1,400 deaths. King County has reported more than 12,000 of those cases and 600 of the deaths.
In spite of the continued hopes for a slowdown without reinstituting social and business restrictions, economic hardships are coming including the fallout from the eventual end of the state’s moratoriums on commercial and residential evictions. Inslee Tuesday said there are plans for programs to help soften the blow when the moratoriums are lifted but made no specific announcements about the efforts.
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