‘Stop social gatherings. Stop it’: WA health officials issue strong warning as cases spike

SEATTLE — Washington state health officials issued a strong warning in Tuesday afternoon briefing, urging people to stop social gatherings and increase mask wearing as cases spike across the state.

State health officer Kathy Lofy said there has been an accelerated growth of cases in the past two weeks leading to the highest number of COVID-19 cases Washington has seen since the pandemic started.

The growth is widespread across both western and eastern Washington, and the high case number is not due to an increase in testing - it is an increase in disease, Lofy said.

She warned hospitalizations are increasing across the state and they will soon overwhelm the healthcare system.

The state said of the 2.6 million tests conducted in Washington, 4.7% have come back positive. That’s more than twice the target the state is aiming for and suggests increased spread.

Lofy emphasized that everyone needs to be wearing masks and strictly limit contact with people outside the household.

“Ideally we should stop all socializing the next few weeks,” she said.

Health officials urge you to limit contact to no more than five people outside your household per week.

A major concern is Thanksgiving.

“If we’re celebrating it unsafely this year, we’re going to have a whole lot of people who are dead next year,” said Cassie Sauer with the Washington State Hospital Association.

According to Washington’s top doctors, there is action that can be taken to help curb the numbers.

  • Talk to family and friends about alternate ways to celebrate the holidays such as getting together virtually.
  • Make a safety plan for in-person gatherings.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County, gave an ominous warning.

“COVID-19 is a viral wildfire and we are the fuel. Let’s not throw more human logs on the fire,” he said.