Inslee: Plateauing of COVID cases in Washington is 'serious concern'

<p><p>OLYMPIA — COVID-19 cases in Washington are beginning to plateau after weeks of steady declines, causing “serious concern” among health officials, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.</p></p><p><p>“We still have an extremely dangerous pandemic on our hands,” Inslee told reporters.</p></p><p><p>The state is still seeing more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, he said, adding he does not want to see the state enter into a “sixth wave.” The fifth wave, caused by the delta variant, began in August and lasted through September, before case rates and hospitalizations began to fall.</p></p><p><p>The plateau is concerning to public health officials because case rates and COVID hospitalization rates are still similar to last winter’s wave, meaning capacity is tight and disease rates are still much higher than they were earlier this summer or spring.</p></p><p><p>Inslee said the state has reached “a fork in the road.” Residents can either accept COVID-19 or continue to fight it, and the only way out is by getting vaccinated.</p></p><p><p>“Every day, I believe we should fight it,” he said.</p></p><p><p>A new rule in King County went into effect on Monday that requires patrons to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test at bars, restaurants, gyms and indoor entertainment venues.</p></p><p><p>Inslee also <a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/oct/14/inslee-large-events-must-require-vaccine-verificat/” target=”_blank”>announced earlier this month</a> that people attending large events would be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test for entry. That rule begins Nov. 15 and will affect concerts or sporting events.</p></p><p><p>Inslee said he is not currently looking to add vaccine requirements to restaurants, bars or gyms statewide at the moment, but he would be monitoring the experience of it in King County to see if it has a positive effect on numbers.</p></p><p><p>As more venues begin requiring vaccines, Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for COVID-19 response, said the Department of Health is working to create a QR code that can verify vaccination status. A QR code would make it “easy and accessible” for everyone to verify their vaccination status. </p></p><p><p>The process is going as quickly as the department can write the code, test it and launch it, Fehrenbach said, adding they will have more to say “very soon.”</p></p><p><p>Inslee said there is a point where the state would want to loosen COVID-19 restrictions statewide, such as mask mandates, but it is not there yet. </p></p><p><p>“I hope we will get to a point to do that,” he said. “I’d like to make it as soon as possible. The way to do it is vaccines.”</p></p><p><p>Statewide, 78.6% of the eligible population, who are 12 years old and older, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.</p></p><p><p>In Spokane County, nearly 65% of the eligible population has received at least one dose.</p></p><p><p><strong>Here’s a look at local numbers:</strong></p></p><p><p>The Spokane Regional Health District reported 388 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and no additional deaths.</p></p><p><p>There are 144 people hospitalized with the virus in Spokane .</p></p><p><p>The Panhandle Health District reported 170 new cases and no additional deaths. There are 1,887 backlogged cases at the district.</p></p><p><p>Currently, 148 Panhandle residents are hospitalized with the virus.</p></p>