Washington is ‘so close to the end,’ but still needs to take COVID precautions

Mar 26, 2021, 5:06 AM
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Seattle's Paramount Theater in May 2021. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

After a decreasing trend in cases of COVID-19 across Washington in the past couple months, rates are starting to rise again in parts of the state.

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In the beginning of 2021, the state has made “tremendous progress,” however, Lacy Fahrenbach, the Deputy Secretary for COVID Response with the Washington State Department of Health, warned Thursday that there are signs the progress is slowing.

“Many counties are seeing plateaus in their case rates. There is some variation from county to county, with some seeing increases and a few still decreasing, but we’re at a pivotal moment here,” she said. “Our statewide daily case count has flattened at a relatively high level, around 650 new cases per day.”

That number, Fahrenbach said, is about where the state was in the early fall, and much higher than when we leveled off after the July wave.

While vaccines are making an impact, Fahrenbach said that there are some signs that transmission is starting to increase again.

“Vaccines are making a huge difference. They have helped us bring down our rates, and they are helping us continue to bring down our hospitalization and death rates, but there are still more than half of us who are susceptible here in Washington,” she said.

The state health officials know that people are excited to be in Phase 3, to see their families, their friends, celebrate with one another again, and start to play more sports.

“We’re excited about these things too,’ Fahrenbach said. “It’s imperative that we undertake them cautiously given where we are, and given that we want more students to return to in-person learning.”

To reduce the community transmission, she said that means continuing to wear masks, watching your distance, using WA Notify, and staying home if you’re sick.

Fahrenbach specifically called out the upcoming spring break, a time when many families may be thinking about a trip, or college students may want to return home or vacation. Travel is not recommended at this time.

“It increases your risk to get COVID-19 and spread COVID-19,” she said. “The safer choice for our families, for our schools, and for our communities is really to stay home and keep your activities close to home.”

“We are so close to the end and we want to keep going forward,” she added.

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Gov. Inslee echoed that sentiment as well, noting that the state needs to balance its joy with continued precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

“I think this is a difficult challenge for us at the moment because we’re all so joyous about the coming of spring and the coming of vaccines, and the coming of new opportunities in our business and social lives,” he said. “… We’re kind of rapturous at this moment — rightfully so after this long, long year — but the question is can we maintain at the same time of rapture, a sense of diligence and discipline to protect ourselves that we know is also necessary at that moment?”

“We know that we still are on the razor’s edge of this pandemic, as Lacy noted,” Inslee added.

With case counts and hospitalization rates going up in parts of Washington, Gov. Inslee reminded everyone to wear a mask when in public or around others outside of your own household, and to keep using other prevention strategies.

“Finding a way to open up while still masking up is really, really important, and I hope people will do it,” he said. “We are so close, as Lacy said. We don’t want to drop the baton right before the finish line here.”

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Washington is ‘so close to the end,’ but still needs to take COVID precautions