Most of the Continuing Increase in Novel Coronavirus Cases Throughout the State Is Among 20-Year-Olds

by Carolyn Bick

Washington State continues to see a dramatic rise in novel coronavirus cases, with most of the new cases now occurring in young people ages 20–29. But despite the rapidly increasing caseload statewide, Gov. Jay Inslee stopped short of moving counties back into earlier phases of the state’s Safe Start plan.

In a press conference on July 14, Inslee shared several graphs, including one that showed cases are continuing to increase. They are now at almost 112 cases per 100,000 people. Just last week, they sat at a little more than 95 cases. The rate of infection in western Washington is now more than 1.5 and just above 1 in eastern Washington. This means that one person is infecting a little fewer than two people in western Washington, and one person is infecting about one other person in eastern Washington.

Moreover, data shows that between June 15 and June 30, most of the rise in cases occurred in young people ages 20–29. In King County, cases in this age range accounted for 29% of the increase countywide.

While young people may feel as though they are “immortal,” Inslee said, they can still transmit the virus to their older family members or friends who have underlying health conditions. They can also still die from COVID-19, the disease associated with the virus.

But Inslee did not announce that he will move counties back to earlier phases of the state’s Safe Start reopening plan. He committed only to extending the pause on counties moving forward into new phases until July 28, and simply floated the idea of moving counties backwards.

Inslee also did not announce any new mandates and continued to avoid enforcing mask usage among Washingtonians. Instead, he touted Yakima as a success story, citing the county’s increased mask usage. However, he did not note that the mask mandate for Yakima is more stringent than in other counties, with violators in Yakima subject to criminal penalties. This renders the Yakima mandate — an official gubernatorial proclamation — significantly less voluntary than the statewide one, which is simply a public health order that is not actively enforced and carries with it fewer penalties than the mandate in Yakima.

In response to the Emerald’s question regarding extending the state’s current eviction moratorium, which ends August 1, Inslee said that his office is still considering an extension, but had no more details to share at this time. He did not respond to the Emerald’s question asking if the state was exploring additional rental assistance. At least one local group, Be:Seattle, has expressed concern over the end of the moratorium, creating a petition to bring to Inslee’s desk, and a piece released today in Crosscut details the struggle many poor Washingtonians, particularly in expensive metropolitan areas and close suburbs, are facing.

Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You can reach them here and here.

Featured image “Surgical Face Mask” by NurseTogether is licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0