COVID-19 infections rising in Washington; health officials plead for public to wear face coverings

SEATTLE – COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Washington, and health officials warn the risk is not over.

Health officials Monday say the biggest increases of infection in western Washington are linked to the fishing industry, while eastern Washington is seeing increases.

The state said Monday more than 26,000  COVID-19 cases have been confirmed across Washington.

All of this is happening with businesses struggling to comply with new guidelines to salvage an economy all while defeating a pandemic.

Crews at Eastlake Bar and Grill have doubled down on their sanitation methods. Now that customers can dine-in, the business is in a fight for survival.

“This is where we need to make up for the whole year,” said owner John Schmidt.

His restaurant can’t pack the customers as he could prior to the pandemic. King County is currently in Phase 1.5. That means nobody can sit at the bar, indoor seating is cut to 25% capacity and Schmidt says his bottom line is taking a hit.

“We probably need to be at 80% capacity to make money,” he said.

Dr. Theo Vos from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation told Q13 News the public needs to continue following local health department guidelines.

“Apart from Yakima County, we’re doing pretty well,” said Vos. "We’re seeing a steady decline, maybe not as fast as hoped, there’s some worry this epidemic is lingering longer than we had expected.”

What’s changed for communities in western Washington in the past few weeks are massive protests.

In Seattle on Friday, 60,000 marched against police brutality and racism.

It could take weeks for carriers to show symptoms. Vos says he joined demonstrators Friday.

“Initially people were keeping good distance but it was hard to maintain,” he said. “I decided to drop to the end of the march, starting to feel a little uncomfortable about being in close contact.”

State health officials said Monday afternoon the counties that have partially reopened their economies need to continue distancing, practice good hygiene and wearing masks.

While Schmidt says he’s in full support of those crying out for police reforms and ending bigotry, he worries the damage may already be done.

“I think there’s no question another spike is coming,” said Schmidt.

Vos says modeling warns that October or November could see cases spiking again.

State health officials said demonstrators who worry about COVID-19 may seek testing but warn a negative result may be misleading.