Thursday the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report on COVID-19, which shows increasing transmission and daily case counts. The trends highlight the need to continue prevention measures like wearing masks and maintaining physical distance while vaccination efforts continue.

Report findings include:

  • COVID-19 transmission is increasing statewide, concentrated in certain areas. The DOH’s best estimate for the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) in Washington on March 19 was 1.38. The goal is to maintain a reproductive number well below one—meaning COVID-19 transmission is declining—for a substantial amount of time.
  • Statewide daily case counts began increasing in late March following a plateau in mid-February. The seven-day rolling average on March 26 was 915 new cases per day. There is some variation at the county level, but many counties saw increases in the two weeks ending March 25, including four of the five largest counties (Clark, King, Pierce, and Snohomish).
  • The biggest increases are in younger people, who are less likely to be vaccinated and can still get very sick or die of COVID-19. The data show sharp increases in people ages 10-49, and shallower increases in children ages 0-9 and adults ages 50-69.
  • Hospital admissions remained flat overall over the first three weeks of March, but are increasing as of more recent, incomplete data. Looking at admission rates by age, previous declines are flattening out in people ages 40-59 (less likely to be vaccinated) and those 70 and older (more vulnerable to severe illness). There are also slight increases in admission rates for people ages 20-39 and 60-69.
  • The number of hospital beds occupied by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients began to flatten or increase in mid-March, following previous declines. The number of ICU beds occupied by these patients began increasing gradually in mid-March.
  • Vaccination is helping protect people from severe illness requiring hospitalization. The report includes new analysis of the decline in hospital admission rates by age after the January 2021 peak. Admission rates declined faster for people age 60 and older—one of the first groups vaccinated—than among younger people. The analysis contrasts this pattern with declining rates after the August 2020 peak, when vaccines were not yet available.

“As we work to get more and more people vaccinated, our collective behavior still matters a lot. Right now, 80 percent of our state’s population is still susceptible to the virus, and we’re seeing increasing circulation of variants that spread more easily,” said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. “This is particularly concerning when we’re already working from a higher baseline than we saw before previous waves. These restrictions won’t last forever, but they are still needed as we work to vaccinate more people.”

DOH is asking people to avoid crowds and wear masks in public regardless of vaccination status. If unvaccinated or living with someone at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, wear masks when around anyone outside your household. Consider having fewer, shorter, smaller, and safer gatherings. Gather outside or increase ventilation if you have to go indoors. Keep your distance, wash your hands frequently, and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.