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‘COVID is the fire and we are the fuel’: Health official sounds alarm on rising cases

Make some sacrifices now to avoid future pain. That was the message from Washington state health officials Tuesday as confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state are at their highest levels yet — and accelerating quickly.

The current estimates of how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect are 1.29 in Western Washington and 1.36 in Eastern Washington. The goal is a number well below 1, which would indicate a decline in COVID-19 transmission.

State officials are raising the alarm, begging the public to change behavior to help stop the spread of the virus.

“Pay attention now, redouble your efforts now. Reduce your social contacts now, and don’t let your guard down because we are very concerned,” said Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman.

State officials are reluctant to impose restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and closing businesses. They say we are not at that point yet and that doing so is incredibly disruptive to peoples’ lives. So, they are imploring people to wear masks, stay away from social gatherings, and stay as close to home as possible.

But health officials say everything is on the table if the numbers continue to go up at this current rate.

For the upcoming holidays, people should only celebrate with their immediate household. If you do plan to have a gathering, do it outside and consider quarantining two weeks prior.

Hospitals are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 patients. If the trend continues, hospitals could be in danger of becoming overwhelmed. 

In Snohomish County, the number of COVID patients in area hospitals has gone from 25 to 44 in the past week. In King County, hospitalizations are up 30 percent from last week.

Health officials stress that, yes, the virus does affect the elderly at a higher rate, but that hospitals are currently treating patients with COVID-19 who are children, as well as adults in their 20s and 30s.

“COVID-19 is a viral wildfire and we are the fuel, let’s not put more logs on the fire,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin with Seattle King County Public Health. “We knew from the start that this pandemic posed a relatively long-term challenge and for this reason the response requires endurance.”

Referencing the announcement from Pfizer that it’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to be more than 90 percent effective, Duchin said, “It hurts to run a marathon, but there will be a finish line when we can relax in the future.”

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Jennifer Wing is a Producer for our weekly show, Sound Effect.