Health officials issue dire warning to change behaviors as COVID cases increase

Nov 10, 2020, 9:49 AM | Updated: 4:15 pm

State and county health officials held an “urgent” COVID-19 response briefing Tuesday to discuss the accelerated COVID-19 transmission rates occurring across Washington state.

The news release for the briefing said “time is running out to reverse course and flatten the curve.” Both the state and individual counties have been reporting record high case numbers over the past few weeks, reaching or topping numbers seen early in the pandemic. King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties have all reported record highs and only expect their numbers to keep rising.

State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said total daily tests have remained steady while new cases have exploded, so the accelerated cases are not due to an increase in testing but “a real increase in disease.”

“Cases continue to accelerate in the wrong direction, and it’s best to hit the brakes before we crash and not after,” Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said at the end of last week, adding that the “risk of acquiring COVID-19 today is higher now than it has ever been.”

The main concern, as health officials have expressed, is a potential surge in hospitalizations that could put a strain on our health care system and overwhelm local hospitals. Hospitalizations are increasing statewide, Dr. Lofy said, and it’s typical that when case counts accelerate, hospitalizations follow. This is especially true now, Lofy added, because cases are rising among all age groups, which indicates that “transmission is very widespread in our community.”

It also indicates, as Lofy explained, that we’ll see significantly more hospitalizations and eventually deaths since the older age groups who are most likely to be hospitalized or suffer severe complications from COVID-19 are impacted by this surge.

“We cannot give up,” Lofy said, reminding everyone of the importance of limiting contacts outside of your household and wearing a mask. She said, ideally, we’d all stop socializing for the next several weeks to flatten the curve once again.

If behaviors do not change, Lofy warned that “we’ll have to take action that will hurt our economy, and no one wants to do that again.”

A news release from the state Department of Health also suggests that “people who want to visit family for Thanksgiving should limit themselves to only the most essential activities now, and essentially quarantine for two weeks before even a small outdoor gathering.”

Find tips for safer gatherings and alternative celebrations here.

With growing concerns over a rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide as well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance for how families should manage the holiday season, advising against large gatherings.

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 epidemic is worsening, and small household gatherings are an important contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases,” the CDC warns. Read the CDC’s full recommendations here.

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