WA COVID-19 spread risk remains high as county numbers fall

A new report shows that risk of coronavirus contraction and spread in Washington remains high despite cases an overall decline in new cases, according to the Washington Department of Health Sunday, Sept. 20.

The reproductive number, which is how many people someone infected with COVID-19 can infect, has gone down to nearly 1.07 in western Washington and 0.94 for eastern Washington. Seeing both numbers below 1 would mean a decline in transmission, according to the report.

While case counts are declining across the state, cases are plateauing in eastern Washington. Decreases have slowed in Whatcom County along with Pierce, Clark and Snohomish, while they are increasing in Lewis, Adams and Whitman counties.

Outbreaks at Washington State University in Whitman and a rehabilitation center in Lewis are being monitored and are likely the source of the increasing case numbers in each county.

“While we continue to see some encouraging declines in case counts, it is clear we cannot let our guard down,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in the Sunday news release. “The counties where we are seeing plateaus or increases in case counts illustrate the continued importance of limiting the size and frequency of our in-person gatherings, wearing face coverings and staying home when we are sick. We must all consistently take these steps in order to safely reopen schools and protect our communities.”

The report noted the outbreak at WSU as an example of how the virus can spread rapidly among a population of people who are still susceptible to it.

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Mack Ervin III, a journalism student at Sacramento State, is a reporting intern for McClatchy based at The Sacramento Bee.

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