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‘More like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch,’ Inslee lays out a take it slow approach for lifting Washington COVID-19 restrictions

Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday night that Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions are set to be extended but plans are being put in place for slowly reopening the state.

Saying he would take a “scientific approach” to reopening Washington and its economy, Inslee said Tuesday he will not be able to lift many restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by May 4th but, when it begins, the recovery will be “more like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch.”

“We’re going to take steps and then monitor to see if they work or if we must continue to adapt,” Inslee said.

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.

The governor said some elements currently under restriction are being lined up to return first including elected surgeries, the return of more “outdoor recreation,” and a “sensible plan” for a limited return to construction.

King County residents have now been living under COVID-19 restrictions since March 11th.

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

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 fully prepared for a possible second outbreak. California, Oregon, and Washington have formed a three-state pact to coordinate the transition.

Through Monday, King County has reported 372 deaths during the outbreak. 682 are reported dead across Washington. The United States total has now surpassed 45,000.

The economic impact has been devastating with Washington unemployment claims the “highest on record.”

Earlier in the day, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the city is preparing for a possible $300 million budget shortfall as it faces reduced revenue and increased expenditures in the face of the pandemic and the restrictions.

Last week, researchers said an influential model from UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicated Washington was on pace for meeting a possible threshold to begin lifting restrictions around May 18th.

Tuesday, Inslee said health officials believe infection rates are “likely declining” in the state and new modeling coming “in days” would help inform the plan. A “rapid response team” will be put in place to handle issues with elements like testing or a rise in infection rates, Inslee said, comparing the group to a fire department ready and on call for emergencies.


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15 thoughts on “‘More like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch,’ Inslee lays out a take it slow approach for lifting Washington COVID-19 restrictions

  1. I’m not entirely optimistic. I’ve been watching the daily figures for King and have seen the ratio of reported infections to deaths climb slightly over the last few weeks. Here’s hoping that a broad testing procedure, if and when implemented, can give us more realistic numbers and bring the ratio down. Read the history of Spanish flu. It’s eerily similar and came in dangerous waves for a few years. Individual survival still depends as much or more on responsible behavior than science.

      • Two things:
        1) comparisons to the Spanish Flu are not correct and a scare tactic used by some. Spanish Flu had much higher mortality, disproportionately affected young adults and occurred in a time of terrible hygiene due to trench warfare in WWI and massive urban tenements where poor workers shared beds in shifts.

        2) the “ratio” we all know is wrong. Nobody knows the denominator because we are mostly testing sick people, not a random sample. But for certain it’s not lower. Studies out of CA suggest is should be 50-100x higher. So, WA has 682 deaths of 12,282 confirmed cases. That would be 6% and that would be catastrophic. But it’s a total garbage number. Let’s take the conservative 50x out of CA, that would mean WA has probably had 614K cases. That would make the mortality rate 0.1%. Not so scary after all.

      • Yeah – you are right – you can’t compare this to 1918 flu, because today we have much better medical knowledge, facilities and treatments and we are still having a hard time preventing a certain set of people who have COVID from dying…. and no…. they are not all just the old folks that you appear to have no regard for…

        Be realistic and also know your history – no one knows exactly what the death rate from 1918 flu was because back in those days there was no test, so who knows how many people were mildly ill or asymptomatic. Today we may be getting a greater handle on those numbers, but it doesn’t mean you can say the situations are definitively different.

        1918 flu did start striking down people in the prime of their lives – *in the second wave*…. the first wave had the mortality rates and struck the people that a typical flu season did. Better hope there isn’t a second wave of COVID… BTW – the army first carried and spread the first and less deadly wave to Europe…. These days we may not have troop movements, but there are typically millions of just ordinary people moving about the world- country to country – extremely quickly, which wasn’t the case in those days.

        Don’t try to write this off… it’s serious. Even if we assume a .1% death rate and that everyone in King Co will eventually be exposed that’s 22,530 deaths or around 2x the number of people who would typically die of all other causes over a year, more than likely packed into a few months.

        We’ve been doing a decent job keeping a lid on this here in WA, which may make some people feel it’s not a big deal, but make no mistake, it still is and still could be worse.

      • Not only do I know history, I also know math. Which is clearly not your strong suit CD. King County Population is 2.25M. Times 0.1% is 2,250. Not 22,500. Check your work next time.

      • Oh, and CD, I meant to ask. Does being wrong by a factor of 10x change your opinion? I feel like I probably know the answer but feel like I have to ask anyway.

      • rac:

        How many additional people will die when these 2,250 (your number) people dying of COVID and countless more sick, but not necessarily dying, of COVID clog the hospitals, preventing other people from seeking non-COVID treatment?

        Everytime people throw out a optimistic numbers like yours, they fail to account for these externalizes, whether purposefully or ignorantly.

      • WA hospitals have plenty of capacity at the moment according to those in the industry I know. Only NYC is capacity constrained at the moment.

        We’ve moved the bar from flatten the curve to keep cases below hospital capacity to minimize deaths until there is a vaccine.

        Let’s talk about externalities. Let’s talk about 40M unemployed people. Let’s talk about suicides, drug abuse, domestic abuse, mental health, etc.

        For some reason we as a society have decided on a myopic focus on this virus. We can’t allow anyone to die from it. Everything else – who cares.

        Why? Because what’s measured matters. And all we’re measuring now is COVID deaths (and doing a piss-poor job at is as anyone trained in statistics knows). More importantly, politicians have staked their careers on it. So now we have to live out this charade. Read the article in the new issue of the Economist.

        Studies out of CA suggest a 20% rise in deaths in March. Given a 0.8% normal mortality rate in the US, that’s consistent with a 0.16% mortality rate from COVID. Not a good thing. But not that far off from the flu. Does it really warrant trillions of dollars of economic damage? Who knows, because it’s taboo to do the math. To the detriment of all of us.

        I know I’m not going to convince you. We are well past the point of reason in this country. It’s tribalism.

        When historians date the start of the American Civil War II, it will be now. Because we agree on nothing, especially on using facts to make decisions.

      • @rac If the covid death rate in CA in March was “not far off from the flu” it’s likely BECAUSE of the distancing measures you are decrying. One thing we know about this virus is that it’s far more contagious than flu even if it isn’t as lethal as once believed. I don’t see how that’s an argument for going back to business as usual. This is not a “tribal” controversy. It only seems that way because the president’s shrinking amen chorus has tried to frame it as one to cover for his refusal to take it seriously until it was too late to contain.

    • Re: the (antibody) studies in CA

      Top number crunchers are calling the Stanford study “sloppy, biased and an example of “how NOT to do statistics.” In addition, both studies had a very small sample for testing; 3000 for Santa Clara and 1000 for LA.

      Santa Clara pulled their test samples from Facebook ads which may have attracted people who thought they were exposed to the virus and wanted testing, plus those in good health who could drive themselves to a testing location (self selection bias). Volunteers were disproportionately white and female. LA did better by using a market research company which managed to represent minorities better.

      The Stanford authors may have had bias; 3 wrote articles arguing against quarantine or making economic sacrifices before the study.

      The test that both studies used has not been approved by the FDA, is already outdated, and has a high rate of false positives. It was also recently banned from export from China where it’s made because it hasn’t been vetted by their version of the FDA. Even a LOW false positive rate wipes out the significance of this study.

      These should be treated as preliminary at best. With no peer review on any Covid19 research currently, it is up to the researchers to do their own peer review of some kind that does NOT begin on Twitter.

      And… it’s still not yet known if antibodies prevent future infection. Or how long shedding after infection lasts. WHICH means all the more reason for people NOT to quit social distancing at this point in time.

      (if you want to hear about the NY study, maybe in a bit)

      Two good articles on this:

    • so rac, you said previously that you know history but after CD Neighbor posted this,
      “1918 flu did start striking down people in the prime of their lives – *in the second wave*…. the first wave had the mortality rates and struck the people that a typical flu season did.”
      You seem to have completely ignored it when you posted about making the wrong decisions about the economy and keeping ourselves at social distancing and lockdown right now. And there is a strong chance we will get a second wave (guess which countries are having them NOW?) and we need to be ready…especially since we still don’t know if immunity will give you any protection.

      You said
      “Why? Because what’s measured matters. And all we’re measuring now is COVID deaths (and doing a piss-poor job at is as anyone trained in statistics knows).”
      You then pointed to a study of the CA mortality rate which is NOT complete. Why not use Italy or Germany or somewhere that is further along?

      And although domestic violence is definitely up (not only in the US), the suicide rate is not any higher than expected to be. There are warnings from experts and suicide lines have increased call volume but these are not the same thing. Since 1999, suicide rates have increased by at least 2% each year so that would be a possible expected increase.

      The same goes for drug overdoses. Opioid addiction meds have had the restrictions relaxed which is likely helping a lot.

      If we are going to say that measuring matters, we have to actually look at those measures.

  2. We are fortunate in Washington to have such a smart and science-based leader in Governor Inslee. Some state Governors are and will be soon contributing to the death rate, such as that idiot in Georgia.

    • Agree. While Inslee has a whiff of the doofuss about him, he’s obviously taking counsel from the right people and he’s smart enough to know who those people are.

      • What’s not being discussed is how certain categories of dense or close contact businesses will ever reopen. Bars, hairdressers, gyms etc seem like they could be gone for a long time. Ireland has said bars won’t reopen until next year…

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