Officials: COVID-19 activity intensifying in Washington

SEATTLE (AP) — State health officials say a new COVID-19 report shows an increase in cases and hospitalizations throughout Washington.

If not brought under control, officials said the spike could jeopardize progress toward reopening schools, strain the health care system and increase risks during the holiday season.

In an updated situation report released Wednesday, the state Department of Health said the virus is spreading faster in Western Washington than Eastern Washington, but is rising on both sides of the Cascades.

Estimates show each new COVID-19 patient is infecting 1.34 others, on average, in Western Washington. In Eastern Washington the average infection rate is 1.12. The goal is a number well below one, which would mean COVID-19 transmission is declining, officials said.

“High rates in the community increase the chance that someone at your gathering — even people you know well and trust —could have COVID-19,” Deputy Secretary of Health Lacy Fehrenbach said in a news release. “If we act now, we can get these increases in control in time for the holidays.”

Recent growth in cases is widely distributed across the state. Several larger counties including Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston are seeing steady growth in cases. After increases through Oct. 7, King County case counts began to decline, possibly because of decreased testing in that time period.

Health officials say the trends can be reversed if everyone wears a mask around people they don’t live with and limits the number, size and frequency of gatherings.

State health officials confirmed an additional 716 COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths in Washington state on Wednesday afternoon. That brings the totals to more than 104,700 confirmed cases and 2,353 deaths since the pandemic began.

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