OLYMPIA — Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday warned that Washington state was on the cusp of a fourth COVID-19 wave with case numbers and hospitalizations rising.
He urged people to get vaccinated and to socialize and conduct business outside as much as possible to help slow further spread of the virus.
“We have to prevent this from taking over the state of Washington,” Inslee said at his first in-person news conference in more than a year, which was held outside of the governor’s mansion. For much of the pandemic, the governor’s news conferences have been held remotely.
Inslee said newly reported COVID-19 cases had grown to more than 1,000 a day, up from 700 a day in February, and that daily new hospitalization rates were now in the 40s compared to the 30s a month ago.
On Monday, Inslee announced that three counties will move back to more strict coronavirus restrictions at the end of the week because of rising cases and hospitalizations.
Starting Friday, Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties will roll back to Phase 2 of the state’s economic reopening plan, which includes decreasing capacity for indoor dining at restaurants, retail stores and gyms from 50 percent to 25 percent and reducing the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings.
“That’s frustrating to people,” Inslee said. “But these are extraordinary times and they require extraordinary measures still. We are not out of the woods.”
As of Thursday, more than 4.2 million doses of vaccine have been administered to date, and the state has been averaging more than 62,000 shots a day. More than 34 percent of people have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than 23 percent are fully vaccinated. On Thursday, the state’s eligibility expanded to all people aged 16 and older.
Inslee noted that hospitals are not being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, but he wanted to make sure the state does not get to that scenario.
As of early this week the Department of Health said there were more than 500 in the state hospitalized with COVID-19. More than 7.6 million people live in Washington.
The governor said he hoped increasing vaccination numbers and encouraging people to not congregate indoors will continue to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
“We have knocked down this virus already three times, but we have to knock it down a fourth time,” Inslee said.
In Washington state there have been more than 355,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 5,360 deaths.
For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.