A mural in Seattle. (SDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

Washington got some good news recently, with the latest update from the Department of Health indicating that the state’s COVID-19 outbreak is beginning to trend in the right direction.

Washington Department of Health changes test reporting for COVID-19

“The flattening of new case counts is observed in practically all counties,” the DOH’s most recent report reads, done in tandem with Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling and Fred Hutchinson.

The reproductive number, the amount of people one person with the virus would likely infect, has now dipped below 1.0 in both Eastern (0.98) and Western Washington (0.97). Generally, getting that number below 1.0 is the mark of an outbreak beginning to come under control. The exception to this progress is in Spokane, where new cases are “now on the rise again due to a sharp uptick in older age groups.”

In terms of how Washington has managed to begin mitigating its outbreak, the DOH attributes that to “statewide policy changes,” including mask mandates and pausing reopening phases for counties.

Despite recent improvements, though, Washington’s success in controlling the spread of the virus also remains tenuous.

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“While a number of trends are moving in the right direction, Washington is not out of the woods,” the DOH noted. “It is imperative that we remain compliant with masking and distancing policies that have likely helped get us out of the uncontrolled outbreak situation that we were in just three weeks ago.”

Until a vaccine can be produced and distributed, state officials warn that “coexistence with the virus requires ongoing mitigation measures, and recognition that return to normal will not be possible in all spheres of activity.”

As of Monday morning, Washington has 67,461 total COVID-19 cases, along with 1,781 deaths. The latest spike in new cases began in early July, before starting to trend downward again at the beginning of August.

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