Washington officials are cautiously optimistic about the flattening of the curve of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, but are also asking residents to continue to keep their guard up as the state continues to battle the coronavirus.
The good news is the number of newly reported cases has generally declined since March 30, when 422 positive tests had been confirmed. Washington’s current totals are 9,097 cases with 421 deaths.
“We do continue to flatten the epidemic curve in Washington, which is great news,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer for the Department of Health. “But we can’t let this news make us complacent.”
That does not mean the state is out of the woods. There is typically a four- to seven-day delay between the time an illness starts and a laboratory-confirmed positive case is reported.
Lofy said it would take a two- to three-week decline in data indicators to determine whether or not the pandemic is truly starting to subside in the Evergreen State.
“It’s really difficult to know if we are at peak activity,” Lofy said.
The positive developments, combined with the warmer weather in the Puget Sound region, could cause people to get a little complacent about staying home and as well as social distancing, said DOH Health Secretary Jonathan Wiesman.
“That is the absolute worse thing people could do right now,” Wiesman said.
Wiesman urged residents to stick with good hygiene practices and to continue observing Governor Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” mandate.
Test result reporting delays continue
The Kitsap Public Health District has not reported negative results or the total amount of tests this week as the state transitions to a new reporting system, which had been previously overwhelmed by the high-volume of results. Negative tests had to be diverted to another system.
Lofy said the state is testing between 4,000 and 5,000 people per day, Monday through Friday, and about 2,000 people per day on the weekend.
The goal is to report all test results each day and take on other initiatives such as gathering hospitalization data from around the state, Wiesman said, which will give residents a more complete picture of the reality of the situation.
State’s bed capacity in good shape, officials say
In many states around the country, one of the biggest concerns in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is the ability to handle virus-related hospitalizations.
Navy Vice Admiral (retired) Raquel C. Bono, the director of the COVID-19 system health response in Washington, said the state is in good shape in that regard. Bono said one of her tasks has been to assess bed capacity throughout the state, and she reported that Washington’s capacity is sufficient, even if there is an unexpected surge in cases that require hospitalization.
Bono is also working with the state’s various health providers to have each hospital pledge to take on extra patients if another nearby hospital is overrun.
“We are able to flex to the surge, even at the higher number,” Bono said.
As far as personal protection equipment, Wiesman said the state has in its warehouse right now 554,000 N95 respiratory masks and 782,000 surgical masks. The N95 masks are being prioritized for hospitals and surgical masks are for long-term care facilities.
The state has received 6 million total items to date, including 1,526,438 from the national stockpile and another 500,000 from donations.