Washington’s COVID infections are trending back up as vaccination rates slow

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AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Health says vaccination rates are not increasing fast enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 across the state.

Simply put, COVID cases are back on the rise for the first time since late April.

DOH says statewide case counts started flattening in mid-June, but since early July have been trending back upwards. COVID infections, hospitalizations and reproductive number (R naught) have all risen since July 8.

“I’m deeply concerned about areas of the state with lower vaccination rates now that a more infectious variant is likely to be the one that reaches those communities,” said Acting Chief Science Officer Dr. Scott Lindquist. “If you’ve been waiting to get vaccinated for any reason, now is the time to protect yourself, your family and everyone around you. With transmission increasing and immunity levels dangerously low in many communities, every vaccine matters.”

As expected, the Delta variant is now the dominant strain in circulation in Washington. In just the weeks between June 20 and July 3, recent genetic sequencing shows the Delta variant made up nearly 58% of sequences. Models suggest 92% of COVID infections were likely caused by the Delta variant on July 19.

DOH says overall population immunity is also increasing, but the rate has slowed significantly. Models from July 8 put statewide immunity at roughly 51.9%, though this does not adequately illustrate immunity across individual counties, where vaccinations and immunity could be far higher or far lower.

Despite the grim news, DOH says vaccines are pulling their weight in protecting people from severe COVID-19 illness. Hospitalizations among people ages 45–64 were 20-times higher for unvaccinated people than vaccinated, and for people 65 and older that different was nearly nine-times higher.

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