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Oct. 16, 2021

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State health department: Washington at a critical moment for COVID

Hospitalization and transmission rates likely to remain high through fall, according to new projections

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COVID-19 hospitalization and transmission rates are likely to remain at high levels through the fall, despite slight declines since peaks in August, according to new projections by the Washington Department of Health.

Washingtonians are at a critical moment in terms of how our actions can shape infection, hospitalization and death rates in the coming months, the department’s latest COVID-19 modeling and surveillance situation report says.

The report found that COVID- 19 prevalence — the percent of residents with an active virus infection — is at a new high at 0.94 percent, or about one in every 106 people in the state. The previous reported high was 0.64 percent this past August.

Transmission remains high but has slowed, according to the state’s projections. At the beginning of this month, the effective reproductive number — or Re, which shows how many additional people each positive person will infect — was 1.14, compared to 1.49 at the start of August. A reproductive number above 1 means cases will continue to increase. To decline, the number must stay “well below” 1 for a “substantial amount of time,” the report says.

The drop could reflect increases in masking or other mitigation strategies as people became more aware of the surge in the delta variant, which accounts for close to all cases since mid-August.

“What this tells us is that our individual choices and behaviors today are going to determine whether or not our friends and families will have full access to health care in the near future, for any medical need, not just COVID,” Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, said in a statement Thursday.

After peaking in August, the number of cases started to drop — continuing the downward trend through the Labor Day weekend — but they have since rebounded, according to the report.

Testing shortages have also been reported across the state.

Deaths, meanwhile, are also increasing again in Washington. The seven-day rolling average of deaths has increased “rapidly” from five to 10 deaths per day in July to 27 per day by the end of August, according to the report.

Hospitalizations have started to decline after peaking at the end of August with about 190 daily admissions, though the change is small.

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