COVID-19 immunity increasing in Washington, but not quickly enough

OLYMPIA, Wash — The Washington Department of Health says Washington is seeing increased immunity for COVID-19, but it’s not high enough to slow transmission of the virus in the state.

In a COVID update released Thursday, DOH says the R number in Washington is still over two. The R number reflects how many other people are infected by someone with COVID-19. Health experts have said since the pandemic began that the number needs to be below one to slow transmission enough to end the pandemic.

In early April, the statewide immunity was 26.8%. At the time, immunity from vaccination was just starting to surpass immunity from previous infection.

While a rise in immunity is a good sign, it’s not rising fast enough to counteract what the state calls “risky behavior.”

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State wide, cases are going up and hospital admissions are increasing. As of April 8th, that was happening in most of the counties in the state, including Spokane.

However, Spokane Regional Health told 4 News Now this week, they noticed a discrepancy in hospitalization numbers between what they were seeing and what the DOH was reporting. SRHD says it was a confusion in procedure and SRHD is now reconciling the data more often to make sure the metrics are aligned. SRHD did not say whether DOH was reporting higher numbers or lower numbers than what was seen at the county level.

Case rates are up in all age groups except people 70 and over. That age group was the first to be eligible for the vaccine and also represents people most at risk for serious complications from COVID-19.

Right now, kids between birth and age nine actually represent higher case counts than people over 70.

The vaccine wasn’t available for healthy people 16 and over until last week.

“Vaccination is working, but immunity isn’t high enough yet to combat increasing disease levels. All of us, including people who are fully vaccinated, need to keep taking steps to slow the spread while we vaccinate more people,” said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. “Keep your social circles small and whenever you plan an activity with others, take it outside. Wear your mask every single time you’re around others, indoors or outdoors. If you’ve gotten your vaccine, you still have a role to play – encourage and help people you know to get vaccinated.”