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'We're going the wrong way fast': Experts concerned by COVID spike in Washington

This week, the Washington Department of Health reported close to 1,500 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, which is the highest the state has ever reported.

SEATTLE — Concern over the spread of the coronavirus is growing in Washington state as the number of new COVID-19 cases hit a record this week.

"We’re going the wrong way fast," said Dr. Kathy Lofy, health officer for the Washington Department of Health (DOH). "Yesterday, we reported almost 1,500 new cases, which is the highest number of cases the state has ever reported in a single day."

Data from the DOH showed the state reported 1,443 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 1,068 new cases on Wednesday. As of Thursday evening, there are 112,550 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, including 2,431 deaths.

Another measurement health experts are pointing to is the number of new cases per 100,000 people on a 14-day average, which should be 25 or less, but it's currently more than 146, according to the DOH.

Blame it in part on pandemic fatigue. 

Lofy said it's not that people are doing bad jobs of wearing masks while they're in the grocery store or out in public, but that they're only wearing them 50% of the time when indoors with people who are not members of their immediate families. 

As the weather gets colder and people move gatherings indoors, Lofy said it’s easier for the virus to be transmitted. She recommended bundling up and making the outdoors work, even for get togethers with a limited amount of people. 

Dr. Laura Evans is the associate medical director for critical care for UW Medicine’s hospital on the university campus. She also treats COVID-19 patients, and even volunteered to go back to New York City and help out last spring. 

"I think the winter could be a very tough winter for us, I’m worried about the number of cases. I’m worried about the number of hospitalizations that will result from that," said Evans.

She cited a national study that found 30% of COVID-19 patients who get admitted to the ICU end up dying, even as doctors are relying on better techniques and therapies to treat the disease. 

"I’m worried that even making advances in terms of promising therapies, that when you’re hospitalized with this disease, it’s a very serious disease, and when you end up in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 the risks of dying in the ICU are very high," said Evans. 

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, and so far the state’s bed occupancy rate, in all but Whatcom County, is about 61%. Experts said 80% or above is troubling. 

The number of hospital beds with COVID-19 patients stands at 3.5%, below the goal of 10% or less, according to the DOH.

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