Okanogan County recorded seven new COVID cases in the past week, one in Winthrop. The county’s cumulative tally also shows a case in Mazama — the first in that community — as of Monday (Oct. 19). There have been 17 total cases in the Methow Valley since the start of the pandemic.
As in the rest of the state — and much of the country and world — new cases are on the rise locally. Okanogan County’s rate of new infections per 100,000 population over 14 days increased to 44.5 this week, from 37.4 a week ago, according to Okanogan County Public Health. The goal is below 25. There have been 1,125 total cases and 13 deaths in the county.
Case numbers in western Washington are climbing at an alarming rate, near or beyond previous peaks in some areas, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). As cases trend sharply upward, health officials warn the state may be seeing the start of a surge as colder weather sets in.
“This is part of a phenomenon called fall,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news conference on Tuesday (Oct. 20). “People are coming inside and letting down our guard and having infections take off.”
Inslee pointed to the state’s success in knocking down disease rates since March, particularly through actions by businesses and consumers to wear masks and maintain physical distance.
But Inslee and health officials are concerned that private social gatherings are a big contributor to the current infections. Inslee acknowledged that the risk may seem counter-intuitive, because people tend to feel safe in their own homes and with their friends and family.
New cases have been intensifying across the country. In just one day last week, there were 70,000 cases nationwide, matching infection rates not seen since July. These are not localized outbreaks, but widespread disease transmission, DOH said.
Although much of eastern Washington has been seeing a plateau in cases, the situation is “unstable,” DOH said. Per person, the case rate in eastern Washington is twice as high as in western Washington, and the daily hospitalization rate is more than twice as high.
DOH said that committing to behaviors like wearing a mask, even with people you see regularly, and keeping gatherings small — and outside whenever possible — will keep the virus from spreading, the agency said. For interactions that take place indoors, people should open windows to maximize ventilation.
More than 22,000 people have died from COVID in Washington.