State officials: Trends encouraging, but don’t let your guard down

Kitsap County has shown only a small decline in disease activity in recent weeks, but state officials are overall cautiously optimistic about the latest statewide trends.

Washington’s epidemiological curve shows a distinct downtrend trent beginning around July 23. At that time, the state’s rolling seven day average was 799 new positive COVID-19 cases. As of Aug. 10, that average had dropped to 513, though that figure is still higher than the April peak of about 373.

With most counties seeing a plateau or starting to see a small drop in cases, the data is encouraging, but health officials warn that it’s not a reason for residents to let their guard down.

“We still have a long way to go,” Department of Health secretary Jonathan Wiesman said.

Wiesman said the relatively widespread use of face coverings seems to be making an impact and seemed to no longer be a divisive issue in the state. By and large, that has been the case in Kitsap as well, as Republicans and Democrats alike in local and county political positions have encouraged mask wearing.

“We have people who have really embraced this all across the state,” Wiesman said.

As state and local officials perform contact tracing, they have found that the largest contributor to the steady number of new cases has been through large social gatherings at private residences. High rates of disease transmission in Central Washington has been associated with the food production industry as well.

“Disease transmission is so dependent on people’s behaviors right now,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer.

Less clear is whether large gatherings for protests have been a factor. That question has been raised several times at the weekly Washington Joint Information Center briefing and thus far, case investigation data does not show a large number of people who test positive after a protest.

Officials had another piece of good news Wednesday, noting that both Eastern and Western Washington have a reproductive number right at one. A reproductive number above one means each infectious person is spreading the disease to more than one other person on average.

Hospitalization rates have also remained steady, as have the number of tests being performed per day, which is approximately 11,000.

The state expects to be able to publicly report negative tests again by early next week. The DOH is changing the methodology used to report negative tests in order to get a more accurate report of volumes and the percentage of positive cases. Previously, people were only counted once no matter how often they were tested.