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‘A slow decline’ — Latest models show Seattle half-way through possible 90+ days of COVID-19 lockdown

Broadway Market getting a new paint job (Image: CHS)

Seattle might be in the middle of a 100-day lockdown to beat the coronavirus.

Two of the most widely followed models measuring how governments are faring in their battles to push down the COVID-19 outbreak agree: Washington is still weeks away from being able to safely lift its most important restrictions.

The new reports come as Washington nears the end of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest emergency order extending restrictions in the state including a “stay home” lockdown that has been in place in Seattle since March 11th and since was expanded across the state. In Seattle, residents have now been hunkering down for about 46 days.

The latest report (PDF) from Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling includes what researchers say is evidence that Washington’s infection rate is continuing to decrease — but at a pace so slow that we’ll need restrictions in place through May to have a chance to successfully corral the virus:

Without new or strengthened interventions to further reduce the rate of transmission, COVID prevalence will likely only slowly decline and may plateau. Policy action to reduce transmission further may be required to bring daily case counts down before partial relaxation of social distancing policies can occur without substantial risks to the community and healthcare system. However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about how to achieve further transmission reductions and how to quickly measure the impacts of policy changes before the consequences become clear in case data.

The IDMOD researchers conclude that King County’s infection rate has remained stable and that “the continued persistence at this level of transmission will lead to at best a slow decline in the daily case rate through the end of May and beyond.”

(Image: IDMOD)

“Thus, the future outcomes in the region remain exquisitely sensitive to policy changes and public adherence to physical distancing guidelines,” they write.

Increased restrictions like “tightened physical distancing recommendations” could be needed, the researchers write. “Scaled up testing and contact-tracing strategies on top of current restrictions” could also be enough to push the region over the hump.

The forecast lines up with the latest report (PDF) from another influential moderer at the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Included in its state by state forecasts for the nation, the IHME lumps Washington into its bands of states lining up for a predicted end of May social distancing policy “easing” and meeting the “1 prevalent case per 1,000,000 threshold.”

(Image: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation)

CHS COVID-19 TIMELINE+ Feb. 29 First ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 case in King County + Mar. 11 Washington puts ‘over 250’ restrictions in place + Mar. 11 Schools closed + Mar. 15 Restaurants and bars closed, ‘over 50’ threshold + Mar. 21 Police begin clearing parks + Apr. 2 Washington restrictions extended + Apr. 6 Schools closed for rest of year + Apr. 8 Can’t relax those social restrictions yet but, exhale, Seattle — COVID-19 model says you’ve made it through this outbreak’s peak

Washington officials and Gov. Inslee, meanwhile, have already begun — slowly — to unwind some of the state’s restrictions. Friday, residential-level construction and work on state transportation construction projects was reopened with new safety guidelines shaped by an industry work group. Larger scale construction will follow. State officials say similar loosening should also come soon related to outdoor recreation like fishing or golf as well as allowing elective medical procedures. Similar work groups will be convened for each industry, officials say.

Inslee said last week he would take a “scientific approach” to reopening Washington and its economy in a recovery that will be “more like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch.” Washington’s current restrictions have been ordered though May 4th. The legally enforceable order restricts activities to only essential needs including visiting health facilities, grocery shopping, and working in “essential businesses” and industries. Restaurants and bars have also been able to continue offering to go and delivery orders. Larger impacts include a halt to most commercial construction that does not involve safety or critical repairs.

In King County, while the rates of new positive cases and deaths have slowed, officials say they would like to see a lower transmission rate in addition to the call for increased testing and contact tracing before social restrictions are lifted. CHS reported here on calls for a “loosen, test, loosen” approach to any relaxation in the orders including requirements for increased testing, contact tracing, and hospitals better prepared for a possible second outbreak. California, Oregon, and Washington have formed a three-state pact to coordinate the transition. The economic impact has been devastating with Washington unemployment claims the “highest on record.”

Through Thursday, there have been 387 deaths reported related to the outbreak including six in the ZIP codes around Capitol Hill. You can see the latest reports on the King County Public Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard.


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21 thoughts on “‘A slow decline’ — Latest models show Seattle half-way through possible 90+ days of COVID-19 lockdown

  1. Does anyone else feel like the goal posts have been moved? At first it was all about “flattening the curve”. But now it’s about waiting for a vaccine. If anything the virus is less lethal than originally feared. Seems strange.

    • I think the reality is that May and June will be spent as we are now, shut down and in quarantine.

      Inslee and other public health officials really don’t want to say “you will be staying inside for much longer than you think,” so we get this piecemeal information/policy.

      It’s sort of maddening, he’s said he’s definitely extending the stay at home order…but hasn’t said for how long (unless I missed something). Much easier if we had an idea of how long this would be…eventually, like it or not, we need to get back to some semblance of normalcy or the depression that is looming will be looooooooong.

      Oh, and it will be a depression, esp. if Biden wins as the GOP will immediately switch to “sabotage mode” and the neverending crowing about the deficit will be all we hear. Well, that and Donald Trump screaming from the sidelines about voter fraud and how the election was stolen, and how it’s the “deep state” and something something something….

      But, for example, restaurants. What percentage will be coming back, even now? 50%? Maybe? This will happen all over the economy.

      We are in for a severe contraction, and want a goalpost that cannot move, here’s one: we are screwed! Buckle, economically it will be a rough ride.

      • I can appreciate your frustration and not knowing what will happen in the coming months….we all are frustrated. But, as Dr. Fauci has been saying, “the virus will determine what happens.” Governor Inslee, or anyone else, cannot predict with any certainty where we will be in a month or two, so therefore he cannot say how long he will need to extend his directive. All we can do is increase testing as much as possible, socially distance, stay at home….and collect accurate data, which will determine what happens next. For now, we have to live with the uncertainty.

  2. I work in clinics and hospitals. The data show that we are in for a second wave, because people who feel they need to are getting back outside. I don’t blame them. The money they were promised is too slow to materialize. Every time a new wad of cash is released by the Feds, the rich corps suck it all up before any of the people who need it can get it.

    Lots of people need money NOW, not in another two months. Since the stimulus money is not trickling down, the only way they can get it is through work. But when they do go back out to work, they will spread the virus again, and the number of sick people will ratchet higher again.

    • If we are in for a second wave, history suggests that 1) it will be more severe than the 1st and 2) those infected in the first wave will have some immunity.

      So our efforts to prevent exposure now, especially among the healthy, may be counterproductive.

      • Immunity seems to be a maybe, different variants will emerged, and those who are young will easily get infected again lacking antibodies and thus infect others and off we go again.

    • Yes, the money has been slow to get to those who need it, but it is happening and this will continue. Through a combination of state unemployment, the federal supplement of $2400/month, and the $1200 stimulus check to everyone, laid-off workers should be fine. For those whose work income was less than $65,000/year, they will actually have more income than before they became unemployed.

      I agree that, in the first round of funding for small business, too many larger businesses received foregiveable loans. But in the latest round, passed just a few days ago, the money will go to truly small businesses and not to the bigger ones.

      • It pays them until the end of July, then what ? I don’t see everything sprinting back to life until next year. The base is $188 week.

      • I think the unemployment cash will likely be extended beyond July, depending on what is happening with the virus and how many businesses are re-opening (if any).

  3. The solution is far down the road. It will come when we have a vaccine that will successfully immunize all of us, 325 million, and everyone who enters our boundaries. Testing and social distancing will keep the pot from boiling over, but we deserve an assurance that we are safe from this deadly disease, and that assurance will come from vaccination. My opinion is that we will be in grips of Coronavirus for 12 to 18 months or more.

    • This thing is barely more deadly than the flu, the economy and the country will not survive 12 to 18 months of lockdown. If you’re trying to intentionally destroy the country, well I guess congrats, that’s exactly what your proposed policy will accomplish.

      • Wow, not really.
        The seasonal flu in the U.S., over a seasonal 6-8 month period, kills 16,000, on the low end.
        As of today, Covid has killed 53,000 in the U.S., less than a 4-month period. How is this “barely more deadly than the (seasonal) flu?”

      • Seasonal flu death rates in the US range from 10,000 to 60,000 + (the last figure for the 2017-18 flu season, which barely registered in the national consciousness).

        The original best guesses ranged from 1 to 3+ million deaths, best case to worst. The nightmare scenario is now about ten-fold better than the best of best cases two months ago.

        Virtually no one below the age of 30 dies. The median age on the Hill is 27.

        And so on.

  4. And what if they don’t find a vaccine? Many viruses have eluded scientists – either refusing any vaccine or being only partially effective (like the flu vaccine).

    At some point we’re going to have to do the math. We should be doing it now.

    Unfortunately too many people are needlessly scared. Everyone cites the 1918 Spanish Flu, but a far more comparable case study is the 1968 Hong Kong flu. It killed 100,000 Americans when the population was only 200M, yet did not lead to the panic we are currently experiencing.

    • Um, no. Not really

      Hong Kong Flu, 1968–1969

      In early 1968, a new flu virus was detected in Hong Kong. The first cases in the U.S. were detected as early as September 1968.
      The number of deaths between September 1968 and March 1969 was 33,800, making it the mildest flu pandemic in the 20th century.
      The flu hit hardest in December when schoolchildren were on vacation, leading to a decline in flu cases.
      Improved medical care and antibiotics effective for secondary bacterial infections were available, minimizing fatalities.

  5. I think there are people on these pages, posing as right-wing nut jobs, deliberately citing BS “evidence” to make the protestester look like idiots? There is no way rac and ter are as stupid as they appear. It’s a put-on.

    Just agents of the Deep State actings as Poes.

    • And by “Deep State”, you mean ‘anyone who hasn’t drunk the TrumpAde’?
      I guess the overwhelming majority of people in Seattle must be part of the “Deep State” and not even know it. Go figure.

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