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'Stop the gatherings': Washington health officials warn about COVID-19 surge over Thanksgiving

Over the last week, Washington broke two records for highest daily case count since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to Department of Health data.

Health officials in Washington state are warning of an increase in COVID-19 transmission in the coming months.

Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer, advises people to stop socializing so we can flatten the curve and prevent another economic shutdown.

“Accelerated growth in (COVID-19) cases in past two weeks… at this point in time, it's the highest number of cases we’ve ever had, and our case count is accelerating," Lofy said.  

As cases continue to spike across the state, health officials are worried that the Thanksgiving holiday will create an even bigger spike in coronavirus cases.

"The safest Thanksgiving is the Thanksgiving celebrated within your immediate household," said Lacy Fehrenbach, the Deputy Secretary of Health for COVID-19 Response.

The Washington State Department of Health recommended a few creative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving:

  • Host gathering outside
  • Have only your immediate family with you
  • Consider "skipping the big meal" and take a walk outside or sit around a fire pit
  • Have a virtual Thanksgiving with loved ones

If you must celebrate Thanksgiving, Fehrenbach advises limiting it to no more than five people outside your home and to self-quarantine two weeks prior.

RELATED: Washington sees another spike in new cases of coronavirus

Based on the latest projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Washington state could see a spike in the number of cases and deaths starting at the end of November, even with mask use.

Over the last week, Washington broke two records for the highest daily case count, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health. On Nov. 3, Washington saw 1,446 new COVID-19 cases, and on Nov. 5, Washington reported 1,699 new cases.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 disease activity has continued to increase statewide since mid-September. From Oct. 16-29, there were 139 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Washington, which was the most recent complete data available. Although data from early November isn't finalized, initial reports indicate the case rate has continued to climb and could even pass the previous peak of 150.6 cases from the end of July.

Health officials around the state have warned of increased transmission recently. On Nov. 6, Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said cases "continue to accelerate in the wrong direction."

In King County, the seven-day daily average case count is approximately 362, which is the greatest it has ever been. Pierce and Snohomish counties are seeing similar upward trends.   

If these trends continue and people don't take voluntary precautions to stop the spread, the state may have to enact mandatory measures. 

To slow the spread, health officials have urged people not to let down their guard. Avoid large group gatherings, especially indoors. If you do meet in small groups, wear a mask, social distance and choose outside over inside.

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