OLYMPIA, Wash. — As Washingtonians prepare for all the remaining COVID-19 restrictions to sunset, cases are also declining.
According to state health officials, COVID cases have continued to decrease since July. They are now lower than the omicron spike early this year.
State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah said 7% of hospital beds are now occupied by people with COVID symptoms, down from 11% at the end of August.
When Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 emergency orders and the state of emergency ends Oct. 31, the one requirement that will remain is face coverings being required in healthcare settings and correctional facilities. The Department of Health is reviewing the requirement.
"We are without a doubt in a markedly different place than we were in early 2020," Shah said.
Lacy Fehrenbach with the Department of Health reiterated that while cases may be lower, the pandemic isn't over. Wearing well-fitting masks is still one of the best tools to stop the spread of COVID, the deputy secretary for prevention, safety and health said.
Additionally, Washington residents can still receive 10 free tests through the Say Yes! COVID Test program.
As far as COVID vaccinations go, nearly 180,000 booster doses have been provided since Sept. 1. The bivalent booster shot became available this month and targets the omicron variant.
In addition to the declining COVID cases, state health officials report monkeypox rates are also on the decline. The state has recorded around 550 infections and 15 hospitalizations. Nobody has died from monkeypox in Washington state.
With the lowering cases, health officials have another warning: flu season.
Shah points out this will be the first winter in a few years where masks will not be required. He said it's "critical that we do not forget that prior to COVID-19," influenza was killing Americans.