We gotta batten down the hatches, people.
We gotta batten down the hatches, people. UNSPLASH/ CDC

On Tuesday Washington public health officials sounded the alarm, rang every bell they could find, pressed the siren button on the bullhorn, clapped slowly until the rest of the class caught on and shut up, and used several quotable *urgency* words to describe the current state of the pandemic in Washington.

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According to a press release, the new statewide situation report shows "disease transmission is happening at an accelerated pace across the entire state." The target reproductive number needs to dip "well below one," but we're at 1.29 west of the mountains and 1.39 east of the mountains. Hospitalizations increased practically everywhere during the last half of October, but testing increases don't account for the jump.

At a press conference, Seattle-King County health officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin said King County averaged close to 400 new cases per day this past week, and pointed to hospitalization rates rising 30% over the last week.

Dr. Christopher Spitters, the health officer for Snohomish Health District, said case rates in Snohomish jumped 50% in the first week of November.

Lacy Fehrenbach, Washington's Deputy Secretary of Health for COVID-19 Response, was about *this close* to canceling Thanksgiving.

She recommended celebrating America's genocidal, settler-colonial history only with those in your current household. If for some reason you decide that you need to stuff yourself in a room with people from other parts of the city, state, or country, then eat outdoors and with no more than five people, Fehrenbach said. "We know that folks are done with COVID and looking forward to the holidays, but we know that COVID isn't done with us and doesn't take holidays," she added.

Here are a few more tips from the release, emphasis mine:

Wear a mask around people you don’t live with (even close friends and family). Stay home as much as possible, limit the number, size and frequency of gatherings, and only attend gatherings that are essential.

Wash your hands frequently, get your flu shot, and stay home if you’re sick. People who want to visit family for Thanksgiving should limit themselves to only the most essential activities now, and essentially quarantine for two weeks before even a small outdoor gathering.

You can find more guidance on holding "safer gatherings" here.

Dr. Duchin said health officials will monitor and remain in communication with hospitals "over the next couple of days" and decide whether or not we need to impose more restrictions or rollback phase advancements in certain counties. "It takes weeks to turn around a trend, and if we see this trend is going in a direction that's going to stress out our hospitals, we're going to need to act quickly," he said.

In terms of potential actions the state may take to regain control over the spread, Washington health director Dr. Kathy Lofy said "everything is on the table...some more dramatic than others."

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To prevent that from happening, all state and local public health officials recommended not attending any gatherings or really going anywhere unless you absolutely have to, and they all stressed the need to act now. "Not after the holidays, not next week, not after the holidays—now," Spitters said.

David Postman, Governor Jay Inslee's chief of staff, said the Governor will talk more about this situation "later this week," but stressed that "this not a case where he has some secret plan in his jacket—this is the plan."

The same industries continue pumping out the highest numbers of outbreaks. According to the latest report on outbreaks outside health care settings, "food service/restaurant" top the list with nine outbreaks recorded statewide in the penultimate week of October and 143 ever recorded. Then "agriculture/employer housing/produce packing" with three at the end of Oct and 122 total. Then "construction with nine at the end of last month and 95 total. And "childcare" rounds out the top four, with six outbreaks at those facilities late last month and 81 since the beginning of the pandemic.

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