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Bellevue modelers warn of increasing COVID cases across Washington

A sign off the highway in Yakima, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The latest report from Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling points to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Eastern and Western Washington counties, particularly in the Puget Sound region.

Bellevue modelers: King County progress ‘remains precarious’

The update from the IDM describes an “upward trend in daily COVID-19 positives” in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. Part of King County’s increase is attributed to “recent increases in testing volume” of almost 100%. The IDM also points out that “upward trends in Snohomish and Pierce counties are not accompanied by a large testing volume change, suggesting that the upward trends are connected to increasing transmissions across the Puget Sound area.”

Increased transmission rates in Eastern and Western Washington are indicated by a rising effective reproduction rate (Re), a numerical value indicating the amount of people a single confirmed case could potentially infect.

Typically, an Re number below 1.0 indicates a declining rate of transmission, a threshold Western Washington dipped under for much of May. Beginning in early-June, though, that number rose back over 1.0, settling around 1.3 by June 14. Eastern Washington’s Re number sat just above 1.0 at that same time.

This coincides with a rise in daily confirmed cases in Washington. Since mid-June, the state has jumped from between 100 and 200 new cases every day to over 400. That had Gov. Jay Inslee pausing all applications from counties looking to move into Phase 4 of reopening. Counties in Phase 4 would effectively operate without any restrictions related to COVID-19. Such a scenario was deemed by Gov. Inslee as “impossible at this time.”

What’s allowed as counties reopen in ‘Safe Start’ phases

That’s partly been driven by a flare-up in Yakima County. That being so, recent progress in mitigating that outbreak “suggests that recent public health focus and mitigation efforts are having some success.”

IDM credits part of that improvement in Yakima County to increased mask usage. On May 23, a survey found that just 35% of the county’s resident regularly wore masks in public. By June 20, that number was up to 65%.

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