Rate of COVID-19 infections in Washington continues to decline

Epi Curve of COVID-19 cases in Washington as of 8-26

OLYMPIA, Wash – For the third week in a row, Washington public health officials talked about encouraging signs regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state.

In its weekly briefing for reporters, the Washington Department of Health talked about testing staying mostly the same, but the number of new cases declining.

“We have a nice decline in cases being reported over the last few weeks, which is positive,” said state health officer Kathy Lofy. Lofy added that the state is doing about 13,000 tests per week.

Lofy also pointed out a decline in hospitalizations over that same period.

“The graph [showing the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations] has flattened out, it did flatten out around the end of July,” Lofy said.

The state has also seen a decline in deaths, which Lofy indicates is a reflection of the decline in overall infections. As of Wednesday afternoon, the state is reporting that 1,876 people have died since the outbreak began.

The state also pointed to the incidence rate, which is the number of new cases per 100,000 over a two-week period. That is a key metric when determining whether it’s safe for kids to go back to school. Statewide, that number is now just below 110. The state wants the incidence rate at 25 to show it’s safe for that in-person learning.

“We really want to continue this trend,” Lofy said, of the incidence rate going down. “It’s really important our kids are in school.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Spokane County’s incidence rate is 152. Spokane County is averaging just over 35 cases per day over the last week, which is a drop from where it was in July. 8.3% of tests done in Spokane County over the last week have been positive. Statewide, the positivity rate over the last week was 4.1%.

Spokane County has seen a decline in testing in recent weeks. It’s not clear why that’s happening and there’s not much data available to explain it. But coupling that information with hospitalizations and ER visits, it appears the decline in testing supports the idea that there’s simply less disease in the community.

“That would be, in some ways, a hopeful sign,” says Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

You can see the full dashboard at this link

Public health officials did express some concern over college campuses welcoming students back. They pointed to Whitman County, which has seen a spike in cases since Washington State University students returned to campus. WSU is doing mostly remote learning, but many students have returned to Pullman and police and the university pledge to crack down on parties and other prohibited gatherings that are contributing to the spread.

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