OLYMPIA — On Feb. 26 the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report on COVID-19.
Report findings include:
• While trends in cases, hospitalizations and deaths are largely continuing to decline, some concerning signs remain. In particular, the state is detecting increasing numbers of cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that spreads more easily than other strains. As this variant continues to spread through the state and becomes predominant, case numbers and hospitalizations will likely increase and could strain health care resources.
• COVID-19 transmission decreased in January following peaks in late December, but the reproductive number (Re) has remained close to 1 in both eastern and western Washington. The best estimate of the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) on Feb. 5 was 0.71 in western Washington and 0.88 in eastern Washington. The goal is maintaining a reproductive number well below one—meaning COVID-19 transmission is declining—for a substantial amount of time.
• Case rates have remained high across the state but continue moving in the right direction. Only nine of 39 counties had rates above 200 new cases per 100,000 people over the two-week period ending on Feb. 11. No counties had rates above 500 new cases per 100,000 people.
• The estimated percentage of people with active COVID-19 infections is only slightly lower than the peak estimates during the first two waves of disease in late March and mid-July 2020. The best model-based prevalence estimate as of Feb. 5 was 0.16%. That means we still have a lot of infected people who may need health care and could be spreading the virus to others.
• Total hospital admissions have steadily declined since early January, with a slight flattening beginning in early February. While this trend is going in the right direction, hospital admissions as of early February were still only slightly lower than the highest levels in the first two waves of disease in 2020.
• The number of hospital beds occupied by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients was steadily declining across the state as of Feb. 22. This trend follows a late fall spike that flattened in early to mid-January. The number of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has varied more, but has generally been declining since January.
“Despite the very positive signs we’re seeing in the data, we are still in a risky situation and we must all work to maintain and strengthen our prevention measures; however, I remain cautiously optimistic,” said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. “As we see cases of the B.1.1.7, B1.351, and other variants of concern increase, it’s more critical than ever to keep limiting gatherings, wearing masks, watching our distance and washing our hands.”
DOH partners with the Institute for Disease Modeling, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington and the Microsoft AI for Health program to develop these reports every other week. More COVID-19 data can be found on the DOH data dashboard (www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard) and in the state’s Roadmap to Recovery dashboard (https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need-know/roadmap-recovery-metrics).