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Report: COVID cases have ‘declined substantially’ in Washington since August

A COVID patient at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. (Getty Images)

A new report from the Institute for Disease Modeling indicates that COVID-19 cases across the state have “declined substantially” since August.

Washington Department of Health changes test reporting for COVID-19

The decreases have been consistent across all age groups, including in “areas that were previously hotspots,” like Yakima County.

In western Washington, the effective reproductive number (Re) — a number indicating the amount of people a single person with the virus would infect — is now around 0.86. That number is roughly 1.22 in eastern Washington. That’s the lowest that number has been since early April, “when mobility and economic mobility was much reduced.” Generally, an Re number below 1.0 indicates a positive step toward getting a COVID-19 outbreak under control.

“This suggests that individual behaviors such as mask wearing, limited gathering size, and keeping physical distance are offsetting the recent increases in social and economic activity compared to early in the pandemic,” outlines the report, done in tandem with the Washington State Department of Health, Fred Hutchinson, and the University of Washington.

That all being so, the one exception to decreasing case numbers is in Whitman County, where local authorities continue to deal with Washington State University students frequently throwing large parties.

Pullman police start issuing tickets for parties as COVID outbreak escalates

Despite Pullman police issuing tickets to party hosts, WSU students have gotten creative in getting around those consequences, often sending money to party hosts over Venmo to cover the cost of an infraction.

That trend has seen the county suffer through a “sharp spike” in new COVID cases since mid-August, almost entirely among college-aged individuals. As of Monday, Pullman, Wash., also now has the highest rate of new cases of any city in the United States over the last two weeks.

Despite cases largely being prevalent among Pullman’s college students, the DOH remains concerned that “this outbreak has the potential to drive cases into the general population.”

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