Transmission of COVID-19 is back on the rise in the Seattle region and other parts of Washington state, again exceeding the threshold needed to further stem the spread of the pandemic, according to a new report released by researchers and state officials.
The effective reproductive rate for the disease, or Re, rose to an estimated 1.16 as of May 31 in western Washington state, after previously dropping well below 1, according to the latest situation report issued by the Washington state Department of Health, based on research by the Institute for Disease Modeling, Microsoft and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Re is the number of new transmissions resulting from each infection. The number needs to be below 1 for a sustained decline in new cases.
“With updated data from the Washington State Disease Reporting System through June 10, we find that the trends in Re suggest that transmission is likely increasing in both Western and Eastern WA,” the report says.
The report notes, “These results possible increases in transmission over Memorial Day weekend but not increases that may have occurred from protests.” That’s consistent with findings from the University of Washington, which said Friday that people who attend protests are not testing positive for COVID-19 at higher rates than the rest of the population.
Weekly cases in the state have been rising for the past three weeks, reaching 2,180 cases for the seven days ended Friday. But the weekly total remains 33% below its peak in early April, according to GeekWire’s calculations from state data. The growth coincides with an increase in available testing in the region, which contributes to an increase in confirmed cases.
Washington state has not experienced the sudden spike seen in states such as Arizona, Florida and Alabama. However, it also hasn’t had the ongoing decline achieved in Illinois, Maryland, Virginia and other states.
In a statement, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called for increased testing and mask-wearing, and said it remains important to maintain social distancing.
“This is not the time to give up on efforts to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” Inslee said. “We are still in the middle of a pandemic that is continuing to infect and kill Washingtonians.”