Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest conference on the state’s COVID-19 outbreak was about the “when and how” — Friday will bring the “what.”
In a discussion full of statistics and models showing falling but still dangerous infection rates in the state, Inslee said Wednesday that he will, indeed, extend restrictions set to end May 4th.
“The metrics that will inform us about when we start the next steps,” Inslee said.
The afternoon conference marked 100 days since the nation’s first COVID-19 case was identified in Washington.
Wednesday, Inslee walked through the five “buckets” of datasets and models state officials are considering in making their determination on stay home restrictions including “disease activity” with measures of infection rates, “health-care system readiness” focused on hospitalization measures and forecasts, testing, contact tracing, and the status of vulnerable populations like senior communities and long-term care centers, and communities facing a disproportionate level of infection from the outbreak. Many of the metrics are available online via the state’s COVID-19 site at doh.wa.gov.
UPDATE: The state has posted its new COVID-19 dashboard with the metrics being used to determine Washington’s restrictions.
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 + Apr. 27 Washington eases restrictions on some outdoor activities but you’ll still need to give six feet on the trail
Inslee said state officials are also utilizing models CHS reported on here that show the COVID-19 infection rate dropping in Washington but still far enough from safe levels that restrictions here might need to be in place beyond the end of May unless a major increase in testing and contact tracing capabilities is put in place. The 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,” researchers said.
Wednesday, Inslee said that Washington’s trends continue to show a stubborn rate of infection that can only be brought down by increased testing, better contact tracing, and better isolation. Previously, Inslee said a 1,500-person team including members of the Washington National Guard is being put together to tackle contact tracing in the state. Work on a smartphone app that would enable better contact tracing while maintaining privacy is also underway.
Inslee’s two-part effort to explain the state’s rationale for extending COVID-19 restrictions comes amid ongoing federal pressure for elements of the economy to reopen as soon as possible. For all of the numbers, Inslee emphasized that his decisions are focused on saving lives. “Each one of these numbers are a person,” he said.
Inslee said lifting restrictions will be “more like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch” as he eased the first set of restrictions last week around the reopening of non-essential construction.
Earlier this week, Inslee also announced the easing of restrictions on some outdoor activities. The state is also ready to allow the return of non-essential medical procedures.
Washington’s economy has been battered by the crisis with unemployment reaching record highs and thousands of businesses waiting for federal aid.
Wednesday, Inslee said again that a major increase in testing and contact tracing capabilities must be in place for the state to fully reopen. CHS reported on the way much testing continues to play out in Seattle — a community drive-thru testing clinic put in place to try to stamp after an outbreak was identified related to four deaths in the Central Area senior community. At a “virtual town hall” last week focused on Capitol Hill and the Central District, Mayor Durkan called on President Trump to invoke executive powers to require the manufacture of COVID-19 testing kits.
Inslee also addressed questions about pressures to open elements like schools or factories like meat packing plants in the state but said Washington just does not have the virus under enough control at this time. “Let’s just do this once and get it over with,” Inslee said, adding it is better, he believes, to do something “100%” once than “90%” twice.
“We do not want to go through this pain again,” Inslee said.
Through Tuesday, 786 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Washington with 436 of those in King County. Six people have been reported to have died due to the virus in the ZIP codes covering Capitol Hill and the Central District. Tuesday, there were 128 new cases reported in King County and nine new deaths.
- 5/4/20: COVID-19 updates: Phase 1 begins, what’s in Phase 2 (and 3 and 4), King County removes antibody testing case counts, COVID-19 yard art
- 5/1/20: Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel
- 4/30/20: Washington investigating state totals after COVID-19 ‘excess deaths’ report
- 4/30/20: Facing opposition from mayor and chamber advocates, Seattle tax on big businesses for COVID-19 relief and housing moves toward May vote
- Plus: Capitol Hill Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes offering takeout during COVID-19 ‘stay home’ restrictions
BECOME A 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' CHS SUBSCRIBER TODAY: Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.