COVID-19 still looms despite relaxing restrictions in Washington

It may feel like the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided in Kitsap with all counties in the West Sound area now into Phase 2 of the governor’s “Safe Start” reopening plan, but the state is still seeing anywhere between 200 to 300 new cases daily.

However, the base of the virus outbreak has shifted. Statewide case counts were once dominated by populous King and Snohomish Counties, but those areas have seen sharp declines. Rising numbers have been found in Yakima County, Franklin and Benton Counties (the Tri-Cities region) and Spokane County.

An increase in the number of tests performed has also risen raw case counts while the percent positive rate hovers around six percent. In Kitsap County, the percent positive rate is two percent, even with the confirmation of nine new cases this month. The rolling average in tests performed statewide per day is at about 5,500 with between 7,000 and 8,000 performed during weekdays.

Department of Health Secretary Jonathan Wiesman noted that state officials are aware that even this level of testing is capturing only a fraction of COVID-19 activity, and that an uptick in cases was likely to occur with more folks out and about as restrictions lift.

“This increase is, in many ways, not unexpected,” said Department of Health Secretary Jonathan Wiesman.

A spike in the number of COVID-19 cases may also eventually come through the protests that have happened statewide following the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“It’s a little bit unknown whether last week’s data is going to end up with higher case counts than the week before,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer at the Washington Department of Health. “So far, nothing looks too concerning on the statewide level.”

Peaceful protests were held in Kitsap this past week and weekend as well, though the number of attendees certainly did not rival the large-scale protests that happened in major cities around the country. But no matter how large or small the gathering was, Wiesman encouraged anyone who feels they need a test to go get one.

“If you attended a large gathering and you want to get a test, you should certainly feel free to go ahead and do so,” Wiesman said.

Protocol remains the same for anyone who begins to show COVID-19 symptoms — stay home and isolate.

“The single best thing one can do … is to stay home and stay away from others for 14 days, that time period in which symptoms can develop,” Wiesman said.

WHO statements cause confusion

Earlier this week, a World Health Organization said during a media briefing that asymptomatic patients rarely spread COVID-19 to others drew a variety of responses, with many experts stating their disagreement, since it is not known how many people have had the virus, but never developed symptoms.

Wiesman addressed this during this week’s state media briefing, stating that the jury is still out on such a conclusion and that the Department of Health’s guidelines have not changed. Actions such as wearing a face mask in public are still an encouraged behavior for all, not just those who believe they have COVID-19 symptoms.

“We’re still trying to understand how big a part asymptomatic transmission does play in this pandemic,” Wiesman said.

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