COVID Weekly Report for Sept. 21: Encouraging declines in Washington; mixed bag worldwide

Each week we scour the internet to collect the latest information on the COVID battle from the global the local levels.  Our aim is to provide you – our readers – with a one-stop-shop to gain a comprehensive overview of progress in fighting the pandemic at all levels.

The global spread of COVID-19 continued unabated this week, with 2.1 million new cases, up from 1.7 million last week (see our earlier reports for Sept. 14 and Sept. 9 for comparison). Deaths worldwide were also up, with 36,572 added compared to 31,426 last week. The United States continues to lead the world in sheer number of cases, now surpassing 6.5 million — ahead of India, Brazil and Russia in that order.

Note that total U.S. COVID-related deaths now stand just shy of the grim 200,000 milestone, gaining almost 5,500 since last week.

In our area, the Sept. 19 totals put Washington state and Snohomish County at 82,548 and 6,697 respectively, up from 79,826 (gain of 2,722) and 6,527 (gain of 170) a week ago (see overview maps below in the state and county sections).

Daily confirmed case counts, hospitalizations and deaths have all dropped since spiking in July. Despite this good news, officials continue to urge vigilance, avoiding gatherings, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing (for more information see our Sept. 20 update here).

The world and national situation:

The global overview map and chart from Johns Hopkins again shows the United States leading the world in overall numbers of cases, ahead of Brazil, India and Russia, the only other countries surpassing 1 million cases.


The most recent tabular display of the top 10 nations worldwide from the World Health Organization shows similar numbers, the discrepancies due to the updates being taken in different time zones (WHO is based in Europe, and due to time differences the numbers are approximately 10 hours earlier than Johns Hopkins, a testament to how quickly new cases are diagnosed and added to the count).

While the U.S. leads the world in overall case numbers, it rose from 11th to 10th place this week in per capita cases (expressed here as cases per one million population, ninth column from left).  Note that with the exceptions of Brazil and Mexico (pop. 213 million and 129 million, respectively) all countries in this table have much lower total populations than the U.S. (See the complete interactive table here.)

Taken by region, while the Americas continue to lead the world in the daily new case counts, this metric has remained relatively steady for the past six weeks, suggesting that viral activity is leveling off in this hemisphere. By contrast, daily new cases in Asia are on the rise, adding 700,000 last week. According to this report from NPR, cases are raging in India, putting that country on track to surpass the U.S. as the country most affected by COVID-19.

In worldwide COVID deaths per 100,000 population, the U.S. has risen from seventh to sixth place this week, increasing to 60.98 COVID deaths per 100K compared to 59.32 last week. (See mortality chart from Johns Hopkins University.)


The Washington state situation:

The most recent (Sept. 19) state overview from the Washington Department of Health (DOH) shows confirmed cases at 82,548 with 2,037 deaths, up from 79,826 and 1,991 respectively last week. In addition, 91,000 new tests were administered and tabulated, an increase of 20,000 since the last (Sept. 12) report.

And now for the good news — Washington state is entering the third month of steady decline in new cases from the mid-July peak.

As illustrated below, the Washington state daily new caseload chart from Johns Hopkins University tracks this continuing decline, with 597 cases added on Sept. 19 — down from the July 18 spike of 959 (see the interactive chart for Washington state on the Johns Hopkins website here).

While no single factor likely explains this reduction, heath department officials attribute it to the combined effects of wearing face coverings, limiting social gatherings, and maintaining physical distance in public. While the general decrease is encouraging, hotspots continue to persist in college towns, prisons, hospitals and some counties.

This drop in new cases is also reflected in a Sept. 17 case rate of 74.6 (cases per 100K population, two-week rolling average), a drop of almost nine from the previous week’s report of 83.8. While this still remains short of the Department of Health goal of 25, it is moving in the right direction.

The good news extends to Washington state’s daily COVID-related hospitalization and death counts, with both continuing their encouraging downward trends. Hospitalizations have now reached the historic lows of late May and early June, and preliminary recent data (grey bars) project this trend to continue. Deaths continue to plummet from the early August bump (note that the hospitalization chart from DOH reflects Sept. 19 data, while the mortality chart from Johns Hopkins includes data through Sept. 18).

The charts below represent the fourth week of test results reporting under the new DOH protocols. These figures now reflect total testing volumes rather than just the number of new individuals receiving a negative or positive test result for the first time (i.e., if an individual is tested more than once, each test is counted).

The Sept. 17 positivity rate is down to 2.8 percent from 3.3 the week before, still just short of the 2.0 percent DOH goal.

It is important to note that while overall statewide numbers are falling, significant variation persists among counties.  Chelan, Douglas, Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties have yet to move beyond modified Phase 1, while several others have moved to Phase 3. In our area, Island County continues as the lone county in the northwest quadrant of the state to qualify for Phase 3 reopening.

State demographic patterns continue unchanged, with the Sept. 19 report following the familiar pattern of most infections among younger people, and most hospitalizations and deaths in older populations. Note that more than half the COVID-related deaths occur among those 80 years old and more.


The Snohomish County situation:

The county numbers overview as of Sept. 19 shows total confirmed cases at 6,697, and deaths at 210. Total tests now stand at 129,771, up more than 7,000 from last week’s report.

The Sept. 19 county daily new case count reflects the steep decline statewide, but is expected to continue declining to the all-time low levels of June as more recent data (grey bars) are processed and verified.

Trends in critical county measures over time (total cases, recovered cases, and active cases) are shown below (note that these numbers are through Sept. 12).

Cumulative case counts for the county continue to level out, another indicator that the spread of the virus is slowing in our area. These numbers are also through Sept. 12, and come from the most recent weekly report from the Snohomish Health District, and do not include more recent and as yet unverified data.

Reflecting this trend, as of Sept. 12 the case rate (cases per 100K population, two-week rolling average) stands at 43.5, down from 48.8 the previous week, continuing the decline begun in mid-July and closing in on the DOH goal of 25.

Hospitalizations and deaths at the county level continue to show little change from last week, reflecting the statewide trends noted in the demographic bar charts above (see tables below).

Testing activity at the county level continues at a relatively high level. The testing activity chart and table below reflect and compare overall counts with numbers of positive results through Sept. 19 and Sept. 12 respectively.  Note that the positivity rate continues to decline, an encouraging trend.

The local situation in our home cities:

Note: These data are taken from the COVID-19 Weekly Update report from the Snohomish Health District, which summarizes verified data as of the end of the previous week, in this case Sept. 12.

Critical metrics (total cases, recovered cases, deaths, and active cases) for our home cities are shown in the charts below.  The good news is that active case numbers have been generally declining over the past four weeks, an encouraging sign that our local communities are taking the necessary measures to stay safe. Note that death and active case figures are not available for Mountlake Terrace for 6/6, 6/13 and 6/20.

The local numbers summary, data as of 9/12:

Some more recent, but as yet unverified, current data are available on the Health District’s COVID Case Count page.

The data, tables and charts in today’s report come from the following sources:

— By Larry Vogel

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