Though the case numbers are declining in Washington state, it’s not time to let the coronavirus guard down. A new report from the state Department of Health says the COVID-19 risk is still high due to a lack of herd immunity.
Most people are still susceptible to COVID-19 since they have not yet been infected. With no vaccine and no widespread built-in immunity from having had the illness, there is not the herd immunity seen with diseases like measles.
“The risk is still high because a very small proportion of the population of Washington has immunity to COVID-19,” said Dr. Cathy Wasserman, state epidemiologist for non-infectious conditions. “So we’re all still largely susceptible to COVID-19 and we need to remain vigilant.”
Also of chief concern is the state’s R-naught number, which is the average number of people each coronavirus patient infects. Statewide, the R-naught number is around one — about 0.94 in Eastern Washington and 1.07 in Western Washington.
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Wasserman said it ideally needs to be below one. If it remained at one that would mean each sick person would be replaced by a new sick person, and the cases would plateau.
“If that effective reproductive number is under one, then you’re infecting fewer than one [person],” she said. “And so you’re not replacing the cases, and so the virus is declining.”
Whitman County is a big COVID-19 hotspot right now due to the Pullman outbreak at Washington State University. There are also recent

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