For the past four days in a row, for the first time since May, Washington state reported double-digit numbers of COVID-19 deaths: 11 more deaths confirmed by the end of Sunday, 14 on Monday, 10 on Tuesday and 15 on Wednesday.
These apparent spikes can be alarming, but public health experts say daily tallies don’t paint much of a picture on their own.
It’s more informative to watch rolling averages over a longer time span — a trend line known as the “epidemiologic curve.”
“That really tells you when those individuals first became sick, and whether we’re seeing sort of an increase in an activity,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the Washington state health officer. “And I’m not seeing a big uptick in our epidemiologic curve for any one date, or a timeframe, quite yet.”
When looking at charts of COVID-19 cases or deaths, look for the line cutting across the vertical bars. Each point on this line represents the average daily count from the previous 14 days.
This rolling averages of daily diagnoses and deaths gives a more accurate picture of how the virus is spreading and how lethal it has become, without our perception being muddled by one day here or there when the count was especially high or low.
Over the past two weeks, Washington has reported an average of eight deaths per day. At its peak, in early April, this average fluctuated between 20 and 25 deaths per day. It has not ticked above 10 since May.
As of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, 1,409 people in Washington have died of COVID-19, which is 3.7% of the state’s 38,581 confirmed cases.