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While virus models show hope, social limits may stay for now

SNOHOMISH — Not so fast, buddy.
Any official indication today’s coronavirus-driven restrictions on everyday life will be eased in Washington state is unknown.
Models show the spread has plateaued — the curve is flattening within Washington state.
Gov. Jay Inslee has indicated that’s not good enough as people are still at risk until the state has a way to do wide, rapid testing and case containment.
In Snohomish County, cases counts are down to 30 new case reports a day, compared to 80 cases a day in the past, Dr. Chris Spitters, the health officer for Snohomish County’s health district, said April 14.
Physical distancing is credited for the change.
Researchers at the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) of Bellevue said in a paper that “while current levels of adherence to physical distancing policies are effectively controlling the rate of spread of COVID-19, the region is in a precarious state and must maintain distancing to prevent rebound transmission.”

What do we need for possible easing?
The governor last week outlined two pieces he’ll need to see before lifting some of the social restrictions introduced during March.
Rapid testing is one piece the state needs in place before easing can happen to help recover the economy, Inslee said during an April 15 press conference.
The other is for the state as a whole to have a consistent, downward turn in infections for 14 days, he said.
Inslee said it is “unknowable” if widespread testing will be in place by May 4 when state restrictions have been scheduled to end as of press time.
With rapid testing, he’d like to see the state able to “test people rapidly, isolate them rapidly and where we treat them rapidly,” calling the response method like a “fire brigade” responding to fires.
The state is doing 4,500 tests daily — the most in the country. However, it’s at a capacity limit. “We simply have not had enough test kits,” the governor said, although he notes more are coming.
At a conference April 16, Inslee commented on President Donald Trump’s informal guidelines that states can ease their measures as “not consistent totally with Washington state” and its goals.
“We have not had a downward curve in a meaningful way in (cases) or deaths,” Inslee said April 16. “Even if we got our curve going down, ... (if we) reduce social distancing, this virus will come back.”
Spread slowing, but potent
The viral spread for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus is slowing.
Inslee is putting the pressure on the public to follow social distancing to contain the spread. In a conference earlier this month, he called more deaths unacceptable.
“One thing we can control today, and that’s by doing social distancing, and we have to commit to that 100 percent,” the governor said.
“You let off social distancing, you go backward.”
Repeatedly, the governor has said he doesn’t want a rebound spike. Models officials are watching suggest there might be one if limits are lifted.
One could say the goal now is not just to flatten the curve, but to see a trajectory of eliminating viral spread.
Even with everything as-is, a University of Washington daily model, as of April 16, predicts additional COVID-19 deaths— between 40 to 310 more who haven’t died or possibly even been infected yet — in the state. COVID-19 is responsible for 630 deaths in the state already. This model, which Inslee is watching, presumes government-mandated social distancing stays the same throughout the entire month of May
The infection rate for the Puget Sound region is down to where one person infects one other. At its worst in early March, one infected person might have spread it to three other people, which at a 1:3 ratio exponentially furthers the spread, data from the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) of Bellevue shows. The transmission rate dropped to a 1:1 level in King, Pierce and Snohomish shortly before Inslee’s March 23 stay-home order, IDM’s latest data up to March 25 showed.
The desired rate is well below 1:1 to halt the spread.
Cumulatively, Snohomish County has surpassed 2,100 positive cases and 90 deaths.

 

  

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