by Carolyn Bick
Sporting a Seahawks face mask, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee in a July 7 press conference tried to reframe the state’s burgeoning novel coronavirus case rate in a more positive light, but the state’s current numbers still paint a bleak picture. As of this writing, the case rate is even higher than it was in April, at what had previously been the peak of the pandemic in the state.
Joined by Washington State Department of Health State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy, Inslee showed a graph that showed a dramatic spike between June and today. As of the press conference, the state is seeing more than 95 cases per 100,000 Washingtonians in the last two weeks, which is about 20 more cases per 100,000 people than at the previous peak in April.
Despite the misinformation floating around claiming that the increase in positive cases is due to an increase in testing, this is not the case, Lofy said. Despite an increase in testing, the state still has not reached the testing rate goal of 50 tests for every new positive case it had initially set out. Instead, the state is still at about 20 tests for every new case. In response to a Northwest News Weekly reporter’s question, Lofy explained that though the state has increased its testing, the current positive case rate indicates an increase in sick people throughout the state. She said the state is going to be setting up several new drive-through test sites, including a few in Yakima and the Benton-Franklin area, and is exploring potential partnerships with larger pharmacy chains.
There has been a corresponding increase in hospitalizations, too, which Lofy said puts the state in a bad position for the coming autumn.
“If COVID-19 activity continues to increase throughout Washington, during the summer months, our hospitals could be full of COVID-19 patients moving into the fall, which would position us very poorly for the start of the school year and the anticipated fall wave,” Lofy said.
Current King County data shows that most of positive cases are now occurring in people aged 20-39, with cases per 100,000 people occurring most frequently in people aged 20-29. Though he did not speak specifically to the increase in King County, Inslee addressed the rise in cases among young people, and warned that young people can die from COVID-19, too.
Inslee also once again pushed masks, which the state currently mandates for all Washingtonians in both indoor and outdoor settings, and mandates in order for businesses to serve customers as of July 7. However, neither of these mandates have any real teeth, as Inslee has not committed to actively enforcing these mandates.
Though Inslee did not touch on it, during the press conference, and the Emerald was not given the opportunity to ask any questions, new federal data indicates that Black folks are almost three times as likely to catch the virus, while Latino people are more than three times as likely to catch it, as reported by the New York Times. Both groups are almost twice as likely to die from the virus, and both groups face disproportionately more barriers to quality healthcare than white people.
Earlier in the day, Inslee’s office also put out a press release regarding Cascade Care, a public option healthcare program floated last year that is set to take effect this year. The press release said that this program is more important than ever, given the current circumstances, and that the program will begin on Jan. 1, 2021. It also announced that five insurance carriers plan to participate, but did not say which ones. It also did not say if undocumented immigrants are eligible for the program, and the Emerald was not given an opportunity to ask this question.
Featured image from Wikimedia Commons.