SEATTLE, WA — State health officials confirmed 9 new deaths linked to COVID-19 in Washington and 818 new confirmed cases of the disease Thursday, continuing the streak of high daily case counts that has health officials scrambling and state leaders warning of potential repercussions.

Deaths Thursday were reported in Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin, King, Kittitas, Spokane and Yakima counties. A death mistakenly assigned to Snohomish County was also reassigned.

Health officials continue to warn residents that, in order to get the daily case counts under control and avoid another lockdown or new restrictions, the public needs to take the virus as seriously as it did back in early April, when the state began to see success flattening the curve and cutting down on new infections. For most, that means wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing, limiting gatherings with people outside your household, and practicing better hygiene with frequent hand washing.

Experts also want to remind everyone that infected people can spread the virus for days before even knowing they have it themselves, another reason that residents need to stay home as much as possible and stop gathering with friends in large numbers or in public spaces, even if they feel healthy.

The new numbers mean a total of 55,803 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the state since the outbreak began, and 1,564 people have died.

A total of 973,654 Washingtonians have been tested for the coronavirus, meaning roughly 5.7 percent of tests come back positive.

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Pandemic unemployment backlog to be resolved Friday

Washington’s Employment Security Department says the state’s unemployment backlog will be cleared by the end of the day Friday, fulfilling a promise made earlier in the summer to have the backlog sorted by the end of July.

Since the pandemic began and the first wave of job losses hit in early March, the ESD has received a total 2,338,445 unemployment claims. Its a huge influx of new cases for such a short period, and was massively complicated when an international fraud ring targeted Washington in late May, stealing hundreds of millions through bogus unemployment claims.

The ensuing fallout, attempts to recoup the money, the installation of new safeguards to prevent further fraud, and the continued influx of new claims all contributed to a backlog in case processing that grew to up to 81,000 cases in June.

However, with the help of the National Guard, the ESD got that number down to just 35,000 unresolved claims in early July, and Thursday announced that they planned to have the backlog fully cleared by the end of the work day Friday.

To date 966,464 people who filed initial unemployment claims have been paid, and the state has distributed more than $8.7 billion in benefits.

Read more: Washington’s Unemployment Backlog To Be Cleared By Friday

New proclamation aims to protect privacy during contact tracing

When Washington announced the contact tracing program, one of the biggest criticisms and concerns was that the program would infringe on resident’s right to privacy.

Now, in an attempt to further protect the privacy of coronavirus patients, Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a new proclamation designed to protect personal information from public records disclosures.

As a part of contact tracing, when a patient is confirmed to have the coronavirus, investigators then reach out to their personal contacts, fellow employees or employers, and anyone else that person may have exposed to the virus, in an attempt to get those contacts to self-isolate or quarantine, with the goal of cutting off all avenues for the virus to spread further.

Under the new proclamation, the information used in contact tracing will be exempt from public disclosure requests. The governor says he believes the decision will help ensure the privacy of patients, and in turn encourage more residents to work with contact tracing efforts.

The success of the response to the COVID-19 epidemic depends in part on the free flow of information and individuals’ willingness to share information and cooperate with public health authorities,” Inslee said. “Ensuring the protection of a person’s personally identifiable information may determine whether that person will fully cooperate with COVID-19 case investigators and contact tracers.”

The state does note that, the records were likely already exempt under the Public Records Act, but that this clarifies the issue and protects against any potential future challenges.

Read the governor’s full proclamation.

Total coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths by county:

County

Confirmed Cases

Hospitalizations

Deaths

Adams

374 (+3)

20 (+1)

3 (+1)

Asotin

24 (+2)

1

2

Benton

3,434 (+44)

307 (+3)

107 (+1)

Chelan

1,019 (+21)

40

9 (+1)

Clallam

91 (+3)

4 (+1)

0

Clark

1,411 (+13)

149 (+4)

39

Columbia

13

3

0

Cowlitz

426 (+6)

36 (+1)

5

Douglas

726 (+20)

31 (+2)

7 (+1)

Ferry

12

0

0

Franklin

3,210 (+37)

244 (+5)

46 (+1)

Garfield

2

0

0

Grant

1,186 (+12)

77 (+1)

12

Grays Harbor

92 (+2)

11

2

Island

234 (+2)

33

11

Jefferson

51

10

0

King

15,025 (+169)

2,004 (+17)

649 (+1)

Kitsap

598 (+23)

54

3

Kittitas

326

15

17 (+1)

Klickitat

100

9

3

Lewis

166 (+6)

20

3

Lincoln

10

0

0

Mason

145 (+11)

8 (+1)

1

Okanogan

689 (+16)

19 (+3)

2

Pacific

33 (+1)

3

2

Pend Oreille

36 (+1)

4

0

Pierce

4,836 (+100)

577 (+16)

125

San Juan

28

1

0

Skagit

783 (+23)

79

20

Skamania

47

5

1

Snohomish

4,949 (+46)

674 (+3)

186 (-1)

Spokane

3,613 (+102)

256 (+10)

57 (+1)

Stevens

82 (+13)

8

1

Thurston

603 (+25)

59 (+3)

7

Wahkiakum

5

0

0

Walla Walla

395 (+12)

32 (+2)

3

Whatcom

894 (+15)

77 (+1)

37

Whitman

84

1

0

Yakima

9,865 (+61)

691 (+16)

204 (+2)

Unassigned

151 (-1)

4

0

Total

55,803 (+818)

5,568 (+92)

1,564 (+9)

The above numbers are provided by the state Department of Health, and some numbers differ from the totals provided separately by county health agencies.

This article originally appeared on the Lakewood-JBLM Patch

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