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Washington DOH concerned over ‘alarming’ rise in COVID-19 cases

A COVID testing site in King County. (Seattle-King County Public Health)

Heading into what it’s calling a “fall surge,” the Washington Department of Health is expressing concern over an “alarming” rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

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According to the DOH, cases “continue to trend sharply upward” across King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, consistent with a national trend that recently saw 70,000 cases in a single day reported in the United States.

According to Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington state is now averaging 100 cases per every 100,000 residents, roughly four times the benchmark the state would like to be at. That’s largely been driven by “widespread disease transmission,” rather than localized outbreaks.

The concern from the DOH is that if these increases continue, it will put added pressure on the state’s health care system, while slowing or halting plans to open schools, and stalling economic recovery.

“A surge in COVID-19 along with flu season puts us at enormous risk of overwhelming our hospital systems and undoing other important statewide progress toward containment,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a Tuesday news release.

With that, the state is advising people to continue wearing a mask in public, maintain social distancing, and limit contact with people outside of households.

COVID-19 cases beginning to climb again in Washington state

“This needs to be a matter of all of us being involved in this effort to help our entire community — this is not easy work,” Inslee said. “… But it’s totally in our control. It means we have to do what we know works.”

This comes amid new rules and requirements for colleges and universities, announced Tuesday by Gov. Inslee. As of Monday, a total of 291 students across 10 sororities and seven fraternities at the University of Washington in Seattle tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak that began more than a month ago. An outbreak among Washington State University also briefly had Pullman, Wash., among the nation’s leaders in new cases per every 100,000 residents.

Inslee cited 35 separate outbreaks at colleges and universities statewide since the start of the pandemic, along with 800 cases associated with campuses.

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