Covid Cases Are Declining Nationwide — Except In Washington And Oregon. Here’s What That Means.
Washington and Oregon are grappling with upticks in coronavirus infections, bucking a national trend of declining case counts, a surge some experts and local officials are interpreting as a signal that the risk of Covid-19 is still lingering even as vaccinations soar.
Case counts in Oregon have more than doubled over the last month, from a weekly average of 419 cases per day in early April to 873 as of Friday, though the state still is far off its peak of over 1,500 cases per day in late November, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile in Washington, average daily infections have spiked 35% from 1,041 in early April to 1,406 at the end of the month, though still well below its December peak of over 3,500.
Over the same time period, cases nationwide fell nearly 20%, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both states are averaging more cases per day as a proportion of their population than the United States as a whole, with Oregon and Washington reporting the nation’s 13th and 17th highest per capita daily cases respectively, according to New York Times data.
The Pacific Northwest still has a low coronavirus death rate: Oregon is averaging just two deaths per day and Washington is averaging 12, whereas the United States reports more than 700 fatalities every day nationwide.
Hospitalizations also jumped in both states last month, according to state health agencies. Oregon had 334 coronavirus patients in hospitals on Friday, a more than threefold jump from late March, and Washington’s hospitalizations increased from 286 in late March to 444 on April 11, the most recent date for which complete figures were available.
Washington and Oregon are dealing with worse-than-average daily case counts despite having roughly average vaccination rates. Some 44.3% of Oregonians and 46.3% of Washingtonians have received at least one vaccine dose, versus 43.6% of Americans overall.
The governors in Oregon and Washington have partially blamed more contagious new coronavirus variants for this latest surge in infections. In particular, a variant first discovered in the United Kingdom late last year is now dominant in the two states. Plus, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) says cases are spiking among younger people, most of whom still aren’t vaccinated, and experts in both states warn some residents have grown complacent and stopped following public health precautions. “We’ve let our guard down to some degree,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Thursday.
What To Watch For
New restrictions. Brown reinstated a slate of strict social distancing measures across much of Oregon this week, shutting down indoor dining and capping other businesses’ capacity, and Inslee (D) could reinstate restrictions early next week.
“I intend to fully reopen our economy by the end of June, and the day is approaching when my emergency orders can eventually be lifted. How quickly we get there is up to each and every one of us doing our part,” Brown said in a statement Thursday.