Students on the University of Washington campus before classes were moved online this week.
Students on the University of Washington campus before classes were moved online this week. Lester Black

On Tuesday, Washington state saw its biggest single-day rise in new confirmed COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began, with the Washington Department of Health (DOH) reporting 105 new cases. That brings the statewide total to 267 cases and 24 deaths.

Tuesday’s tally includes 74 new COVID-19 cases and two new deaths from the illness in King County alone, as well as 14 new cases in Pierce County. Separately, King County’s health department announced that the novel coronavirus had been confirmed in ten different nursing homes or long-term care facilities in the county, a serious concern as the virus is particularly deadly for the elderly.

The rapid increase in confirmed cases is likely a result of increased testing as the deadly disease continues to spread in this community. Testing for the virus had been seriously limited until late last week due to problems at the federal Centers for Disease Control. The University of Washington is now running up to 1,000 tests a day while the state lab says they can test for 200 a day.

The DOH reported that a total of 2,442 total diagnostic tests have been run for COVID-19 to date, with 89 percent of those tests coming back negative.

Most people with the flu-like COVID-19 virus will experience only mild symptoms, but older people and people with underlying medical conditions have a higher risk of complications from the illness.

The virus continues to spread across the country, with Massachusetts announcing 51 new cases Tuesday, Los Angeles County reporting 20 confirmed cases, and New York State deploying national guard troops to create a two-week-long containment area surrounding an outbreak in their state. New York has the second most cases for any U.S. state, after Washington, with 170 confirmed cases.

Gov. Jay Inslee hinted Tuesday morning that he may implement mandatory social distancing measures to help contain the outbreak and warned that he estimates about 1,000 COVID-19 cases are already present in the state. He warned that the number of infections could balloon to 64,000 by May, if the outbreak isn’t curbed.

"We need to look forward, ahead of the curve," Inslee said. "If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming and not just what’s going on today."

Patty Hayes, director of Public Health—Seattle & King County, told The Seattle Times today that cases are likely to continue increasing for the foreseeable future and that she’s “assuming that we have it occurring low-level throughout the county.”

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