Two important numbers relating to the coronavirus pandemic are going in different directions, one positive and one negative.
The good number shows that more people continue to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The bad number shows the confirmed cases of people who have contracted the coronavirus has flattened statewide.
As Washington comes off its third surge in cases, daily case counts have flattened to 654 per day as of March 11, which is worrisome because that number is comparable to the state’s count in mid-October during the state’s second surge, said Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health.
At the Department of Health’s weekly press briefing, Shah said that the state was making “incredible progress” in coming off the surge but cautioned that the flattening of the case count was “very concerning to all of us in public health.”
As the third wave of COVID-19 infections began receding in the past couple of weeks, Dr. Scott Lindquist, acting state health officer, was “cautiously optimistic.”
“Today, I’m going to say I’m much more cautious than I am optimistic and with very good reasoning,” he said during the DOH briefing. “Our downward trends have really slowed and flattened in many places.”
The flattening trend isn’t happening in all of Washington’s 39 counties. Lindquist said that 23 counties are registering fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people during a two-week span. But 13 counties are logging 100 to 200 cases per 100,000; two counties are between 200 and 300 and one county has more than 400 cases per 100,000.
King County has a rate of 108 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days. But the county has recorded 200 new cases daily during the past seven days, which is 18% more than the previous seven days.
Snohomish County is in the group of counties with fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people during a 14-day period — 72, slightly up from 70 during the previous two-week period.
Snohomish County and the state’s flattening rate of cases show that the pandemic isn’t finished, making it all the more important people are vigilant and continue to wear masks, practice social-distancing and wash their hands, said Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters.
“It’s been a long haul for all of us and for all of you,” Spitters said during a Tuesday news briefing. “We’re getting close, but we’re not there yet.”
Vaccine supply continues to be an issue. The state plans on making everyone 16 and older vaccine-eligible on May 1, per a directive from President Joe Biden. During the five weeks between now and then, DOH is adding more groups of people to those eligible for a shot in the state’s Phase 1B.
The first addition takes effect Wednesday and includes everyone 60 and older; those 16 and up with two comorbidities (medical conditions); those living, working or volunteering in group-living settings like correctional facilities and group homes; places where people experiencing homelessness stay or are receiving services; and workers considered at high-risk in group settings, including construction, manufacturing, food service and restaurants.
State officials are waiting to see if supply picks up before adding any more phases between Wednesday and May 1.
The state’s three-week forecast for vaccine shipments from the federal government expects 408,730 doses the week of March 28; 343,700 the week of April 4; and 368,270 the week of April 11.
Next week’s allotment is the largest the state has yet received and will include 42,800 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine. No more Johnson & Johnson vaccines are expected April 4 or 11, which is why the shipment numbers are lower, said acting Assistant Secretary of Health Michele Roberts.
Despite the limited vaccine supply, more than 1 million Washingtonians are fully vaccinated, meaning they are at least two weeks removed from both doses of the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Roberts said.