Researchers believe there could be hundreds of untested coronavirus cases in Washington
Mar 11, 2020, 8:01 AM
Using data from outbreak screening and viral sequencing from the University of Washington’s virology lab, researchers have been able to determine that the state could have close to 1,100 cases of coronavirus, a large majority of which have yet to be tested for.
That comes with a “90% uncertainty interval between 210 and 2,800 infections,” given the difficulty of estimating the virus’ spread without more widespread testing in Washington.
“This points to a growing outbreak of (COVID-19) in the greater Seattle area,” warned Fred Hutchinson scientist Trevor Bedford. “If steps are not taken to increase social distancing as recommended by (King County Public Health) and (the Washington State Department of Health), I fully expect cases to keep climbing.”
This approach by @famulare_mike estimates 1100 active infections on March 10 (90% uncertainty interval between 210 and 2800 infections). 4/12
— Trevor Bedford (@trvrb) March 10, 2020
As of Wednesday morning, there were more than 200 confirmed cases of coronavirus in at least eight counties, and 24 deaths in three counties.
Testing for coronavirus continues to be slow in Washington state, too. Even with testing restrictions supposedly being lifted recently, it remains limited to those with underlying conditions and only the most extreme symptoms.
“We still have limited capacity to run these tests right now,” the Washington State Department of Health admitted over the weekend. “Testing may become more readily available in the future, but, for now, if you have mild symptoms (cough, fever), you need to stay home.”
That’s despite advice from some health experts, who cite increased testing and contact tracing as one of the best ways to track and contain the illness.
“The key to stopping an epidemic is contact tracing, and finding those infected as soon as possible, not three or four weeks after the fact, like the first few cases [in Washington],” Dr. Eric Ding told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show last week.