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COVID-19 updates: Concern transmission rate could be ‘no longer falling and may be rising again in Western Washington’

Hopes for a rapid progression in the phases in the state’s plans for reopening its economy might need to be tempered.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that key COVID-19 infection rates in both Eastern and Western Washington have “plateaued or gone up” and health officials are concerned about a trend that might mean the rate of new cases is increasing.

In his weekly Friday afternoon conference on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Inslee said rates are “going to rise again unless we find “some other measure to restrain the rate of infection.”

King County health officials highlighted the new concerns:

After dropping throughout March and into the first part of April, the transmission rate of COVID-19 is no longer falling and may be rising again in Western Washington, according to the latest report from Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM). The report also included an analysis of the rate of transmission in the eastern half of the state, finding it was persistently higher than in the western half.

Increased activity and travel could be contributing to the upward trend. The Institute for Disease Modeling says its latest updates (PDF) show an “estimated rise in transmission” and the new increase is “concordant with observed increases in King County’s highway traffic.”

(Image: Institute for Disease Modeling)

While there has been growing criticism of many of the widely followed models tracking and forecasting COVID-19’s impact, King County’s daily new case totals continue to show stubborn persistence. Here, May has so far averaged around 95 new cases a day — down about 25% from April’s daily totals. Meanwhile, about nine to ten deaths continue to be reported in the county every day. In the ZIP codes covering Capitol Hill and the Central District, new cases have so far appeared to be holding steady around one new positive case per day in the past week.

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 + May 1 Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel

Worries of a “plateau or increase” come as Washington continues in “Phase 1” of a four-phase plan for reopening its economy and allowing increased social activity. Construction has been put back into motion and services like car washes are being allowed to operate again. Meanwhile, state lands have reopened for recreation and areas like King County parks have also been reopened. Five counties — Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry and Pend Oreille — have been approved for a more rapid reopening, Inslee said Friday.

Officials say continued social distancing and face coverings are necessary to keep COVID-19 infection rates under control. Increased testing is hoped to also provide information and contact tracing needed to slow outbreaks. Friday, Inslee said Washington had finally received its first federal shipment of testing materials including thousand of swabs used for specimen collection. The shipment was a good start but “the need for testing will only increase,” Inslee said.

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48 thoughts on “COVID-19 updates: Concern transmission rate could be ‘no longer falling and may be rising again in Western Washington’” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. The constant fear mongering by city, county, and state officials (and this blog). Several early serological tests for coronavirus antibodies have demonstrated that coronavirus infection is already widespread. 21% of NYC residents carry antibodies. 30% of Chelsea MA residents are positive. 11% of Swedes. 4% of LA County residents. Many millions of people, including one or two orders of magnitude more in Washington than confirmed case numbers here suggest. The more testing that’s done, the more cases that will be found.

    But so what? Studies show that 98.5% of those infected are only mildly affected if not entirely asymptomatic. Most who are hospitalized fully recover. COVID’s morality rate is on the same order as flu. Hospitals have not been overwhelmed. It is not the plague.

    Lockdown is unnecessary. Here in King County, the “reproductive number” R of the virus was dropped from over 3 to around one simply by voluntary social distancing before Inslee’s mega-job-destroying lockdown started, which had little subsequent effect on R.

    All lockdown does is push the problem of coronavirus infection into the future, while destroying a million jobs (and counting) here in Washington. Surveys show that half of the newly unemployed million could not have covered a $400 emergency while they were employed. What will happen to them as the lockdown mania continues? It has ruined countless businesses. But infection is already widespread. Soon, enough people will carry antibodies to shut the epidemic down. Stop this incredibly destructive nonsense toot-sweet, Inslee et al.

    • “Soon, enough people will carry antibodies to shut the epidemic down.”

      Let’s all hope this is true, though we don’t yet know how much immunity antibodies actually confer. But in the meantime, the only way to keep from overwhelming hospitals is for everyone who can possibly do so to stay home for a while longer (I know, it’s a privilege not everyone has). And since I am able to, that’s what I’m going to do until the governor and our world-class public health officials say otherwise.

      • My type, David? Glad to know an advanced-degreed computer scientist and lifelong Democratic voter is welcome in Idaho.

        Because I thought they were all right-wing spud farmers there. I guess stereotypes suck.

      • Bob, I work in tech too.

        Let’s just sad that those coming out of CS departments pretty much everywhere are not really known for their solid understanding of the ways the world works.

        It’s, as those outside the bubble know, part and parcel of CS grads and later employees being both highly paid and coddled, told repeatedly that they are the smartest as the best and deserve everything and can do anything better that those in other fields. Other fields that, to CS-types, are on the whole useless.

        Thus you get the Elon Musks of the world: someone who made a fortune with the right product at the right time, but who, on the whole, can legitimately be described as a f&%$ing moron who, drunk on the idea of his own genius, thinks any half-formed idea that drops out of his jaws is pure gold.

        Bob, your comments about are pure, unadulterated Musk.

        My longgggggggg point here: you may want to shut those jaws, as your comment smells of the garbage it is.

      • LOL, yeah, because whenever a medical issue comes up in my life the first person I think of as most qualified in making a diagnosis is someone with an “advanced degree” in computation theory and design of software systems.

        How does your degree, @Bob, give you insight into the world of epidemiology or public health in general? How about we leave the public health-based decisions to those elected officials who are working with people that have advanced medical/health related degrees?

      • A friend who has also worked in tech for 25+ years once said to me:

        “The problems with software engineers is that they think that, because they understand one complex thing — writing code — they also think they automatically other complex things. And they don’t.”

      • Or rather:

        25+ years once said to me:

        “The problems with software engineers is that they think that, because they understand one complex thing — writing code — they also think they automatically understand other complex things. And they don’t.”

      • Are we all done with the ad hominem attacks? Good.

        Because no one has challenged the substance of my comment. Which would be hard, because it is purely factual.

        So really ad hominem attacks are all you have left to defend your pro-lockdown narrative. As demonstrated. Thanks!

      • Nah, it’s actually closer to Brandolini’s Bullshit Asymmetry Principle: “The amount of effort necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”


      • But Eli, you have put absolutely no effort into refuting my original comment. No effort whatsoever!

        No doubt because it’s hard to refute statements of easily verifiable facts. Which leaves you only with insults. Thus the facts are on my side and the bullshit entirely on yours, Eli.

        In defense of my profession, computer scientists could hardly have done worse than epidemiologists, whose models for COVID deaths and mortality rate were off by one or two orders of magnitude! Remember the millions dying in the US? Fauci et al were terrible at modelling coronavirus. But they were freaking AWESOME at setting off the greatest loss of jobs in US history. Brah-vo!

      • Exactly! Because you’re giving us an invitation to waste 10X the time you’re burning — when the weather is beautiful.

        I think we all have better things to do.

        Enjoy your weekend.

    • Anyone who thinks public health authorities are the final word needs a refresher on canonical dietary advice over the past 30 years.

      Based on my experiences, I’d say the rate of really thoughtful people in CS easily rivals any other field. Really remarkable people are rare in *any* field; just less rare in some than others (say, politics).

      Any advice is only as good as the person interpreting it. Most people are pretty lazy, intellectually.

    • Bob, what you said makes sense.. but it only makes sense because the “fear mongering by city” have kept our hospitals census to acceptable levels. It’s easy to look back when things are alright, but if there was no “fear mongering by city” and all hell broke loose, you’d sing a different tune. It’s easy to sit behind a computer and bash leadership, maybe it’s time to run for office?

      • “The ‘fear mongering by city’ have kept our hospitals census to acceptable levels.”

        Prove it. It’s easy to make such a claim but hard to show it’s true.

        And we have a successful counter-example: Sweden, who relied on voluntary social distancing rather than lockdown. Their hospitals were never overwhelmed.

      • Bob,

        “Prove it. It’s easy to make such a claim but hard to show it’s true.”

        It’s already been shown.

    • One more thing LOL.

      “But so what? Studies show that 98.5% of those infected are only mildly affected if not entirely asymptomatic. Most who are hospitalized fully recover. COVID’s morality rate is on the same order as flu. Hospitals have not been overwhelmed. It is not the plague.”

      1.5% of 7,600,000 (population of WA State) = 114,000. not sure if our health care workers/hospitals can keep up with the demand. Bob, you’re probably good at coding, but it’s good to stay in your lane.

      • Only 1.5% of those infected by coronavirus get sick. And only a small minority of those who get sick need to be hospitalized. Most who are hospitalized fully recover.

        As noted in my original comment, serological studies in the US, Sweden, and Denmark show coronavirus infection to be vastly more widespread than given by confirmed cases. Because mortality rate for coronavirus is found by dividing deaths by number of coronavirus infected, hugely increasing the known number of infected hugely decreases the mortality rate of COVID, making it comparable to flu. Which is not to understate flu’s or COVID’s lethality—flu kills hundreds of thousands a year.

        But coronavirus not the plague. It’s not necessary to crater the economy and throw millions out of work to mitigate the pandemic’s effects. Lockdown is unnecessary. As Sweden demonstrates, voluntary social distancing is adequate to flatten the curve below healthcare system capacity.

      • Your missing the point. He said 1.5 of those who get infected. By calculating the whole population of wa like u did u are assuming that every single person in the state is infected

      • Test What: “Your [sic] missing the point. He said 1.5 of those who get infected. By calculating the whole population of wa like u did u are assuming that every single person in the state is infected”

        Yes.. you have to assume that, this is such a fast spreading disease. 719 New Cases yesterday in WA State w/ SIP.

      • Eric, perhaps you are unfamiliar with the method of the serological testing.

        To determine the percentage of NYC residents who have been exposed to coronavirus, it is not necessary to test every resident of NYC for antibodies. Scientists need only test a sufficiently large and representative sample of the city’s population for antibodies.

        That testing reveals that 21% of NYC residents have been infected with coronavirus at some time.

        I hope that helps.

    • Any of you hard working nurses want to chime in. This gentleman thinks your hospitals and clinics were not overwhelmed. It must be your imagination working all those hours and sacrificing your family life.

  2. The interesting question is once we reach the end of the PUA money unemployment for most will drop to below living wage $800ish month.

    So come end of July either we unlock, or someone has to print some more money, or people are going to be fighting for scraps from the trash cans.

    • Yes, I think that is true. But perhaps the data are corrected for the increased testing? I’m not enough of a statistician to know the answer.

  3. I am fine with reopening as long as the virus only knocks off the old and the weak in the families of those who are dead set on reopening.

  4. So many questions…

    Pulled from cdc emerging infectious disease periodical

    “Although R0 might appear to be a simple measure that can be used to determine infectious disease transmission dynamics and the threats that new outbreaks pose to the public health, the definition, calculation, and interpretation of R0 are anything but simple. R0remains a valuable epidemiologic concept, but the expanded use of R0 in both the scientific literature and the popular press appears to have enabled some misunderstandings to propagate. R0 is an estimate of contagiousness that is a function of human behavior and biological characteristics of pathogens. R0 is not a measure of the severity of an infectious disease or the rapidity of a pathogen’s spread through a population. R0 values are nearly always estimated from mathematical models, and the estimated values are dependent on numerous decisions made in the modeling process. The contagiousness of different historic, emerging, and reemerging infectious agents cannot be fairly compared without recalculating R0 with the same modeling assumptions. Some of the R0 values commonly reported in the literature for past epidemics might not be valid for outbreaks of the same infectious disease today.

    R0 can be misrepresented, misinterpreted, and misapplied in a variety of ways that distort the metric’s true meaning and value. Because of these various sources of confusion, R0 must be applied and discussed with caution in research and practice. This epidemiologic construct will only remain valuable and relevant when used and interpreted correctly.”

    There is a reason why so many ro values have such a wide range.
    Influenza is listed as 0.9-2.1 on bme medicine .

    Sars had a range of 2-5 in many publications. And yet someone we are basing our decisions on a few decimal points. Why?

    This is a novel virus so data about it is constantly evolving on the fly. This is happening in real life where extraneous variables would make a statitian cry trying to account for all of them. They do not have some quantum computer hidden in their pockets and crystal balls for eyes.

    Then theres the huge discrepancy you would get just by how u calculated the ro in first place since there are many different methods to calculate it. Plug in same stats, get different final numbers based on what adjustments you have made to the math model used to calculate it. Why is something so theoretical being used as a main decision maker?

    Why on a very good day of testing are we still around 6000 tests a day when months ago we were told 20000 no problem.

    On the wa data dashboard why is it are there so many obvious 5 day up 2 day down occasions over the past 3 months in the testing table 5/6? It looks like testing isn’t important on the weekends…

  5. Yes, we need to move to a testing and contact tracing strategy. It’s been 9 weeks, where are we with that?

    Really hope the plan doesn’t involve waiting for the Trump administration to do something.

    • Inslee said on Friday that they their first shipment of supplies from the administration, 37k swabs, is on it’s way. Too little too late but that doesn’t stop him from opening some things up despite the fact that we haven’t met the criteria set by the lead scientists in the county. It’s every person for themselves now.

  6. Couple thoughts:

    1. I wish we could tell if the upticks were primarily among Republicans who refuse to adopt lockdown/social distancing guidelines or if it’s simply impossible to really avoid this virus and we’re all going to get it, no matter what we do.

    2. On the efficacy (or not) of having antibodies: wouldn’t it already be abundantly clear in Wuhan and other places that people were getting sick again and again? I don’t understand how we can still be saying “jury’s out” on this. I mean, that many people can’t just be that lucky…right?

  7. Selfish people simply will not stop congregating, so the stay home order is unenforceable and breaking us all financially. We have 4% of the world’s population and 32% of world’s known Covid 19 cases. Our testing is for shit, there is no mass public outcry for us to get our PPE and testing crisis in order. We’re screwed.

  8. That’s some random conclusions of cause and effect you draw there. Your saying since a small % of the population didn’t want to social distance our economy has tanked because of them? More like our economy tanked because we like the rest of the world were flying blind and decided to go the delayed semi lockdown route. That terminated jobs and stopped people from making money to spend, and going to places to spend it.

    You say “We have 4% of the world’s population and 32% of world’s known Covid 19 cases.” Those two figures mean nothing if not put into better context. Most countries have feebly tested. % of world’s cases is not % of world infected. India for example almost 20% of world population has done roughly 1.5 million tests vs usa 8.5 million. Not saying out testing response isn’t feeble, because it is, but we could have done a lot worse. My point is covid is everywhere some places get hyped up because of more testing.

    As for us being “screwed” I hope not. I hope common sense will prevail people adapt to the new data coming in. Every day that goes by the ifr goes down which is a positive thing.

  9. Hey let’s not beat up on Bob because he is strongly opinionated and ignorant of medical facts,,,I ve lost 8 people I knew personally,could not go to their funeral,,this state is the portal where it started in the US. My opinion shut it all down for 30 more days,,get off the streets driving and highways,,mandatory mask and gloves to buy food. My friends are dead,gone.And you really think opening up will work now,,?
    It’s called Novel because it’s new,,and nobody has figured out how to treat it.

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