Experts explain why social distancing is crucial for curbing coronavirus spread

Mar 12, 2020, 6:37 AM | Updated: 6:37 am
Jeff Duchin, coronavirus, social distancing, King County, COVID variant...
Dr. Jeff Duchin, a health officer with Seattle and King County Public Health, speaks during a press conference. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, explained that the social distancing and interaction restrictions announced Wednesday for King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties are essential to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Gov. Inslee announces ban on large events in trio of Washington counties

Duchin cited research from local researcher Trevor Bedford at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as seen in the graph included below.

graph, bedford, coronavirus

On today’s date, the research presented shows there could be up to 1,000 cases of coronavirus in the community. The blue line indicates what could happen if we do implement social distancing or other community mitigation measures to “flatten that curve.”

“The various other lines show that with social distancing and community mitigation measures that would reduce social interactions by 25 percent or more, we can see meaningful reductions in both the rate at which people become ill and the total number of people that become ill in a given time frame,” Duchin explained.

The measures implemented in Washington state will be implemented over a long time, Duchin said, and people need to understand how to cope with restricted activities and a change in their normal schedule for weeks to come, possibly months. Restricting social activities allows for a decreased risk of getting ill or spreading it to others.

“It’s really critical for people to understand this is a very serious disease,” Duchin said. “Killing ten times as many people as an annual influenza outbreak is a very significant impact on our health care system and our community.”

As people become ill, social distancing measures will help to lengthen the time frame of illness, putting less stress on the system.

A recently released paper from local researchers emphasized that need, estimating that without social distancing measures, Washington state could see upwards of 25,000 coronavirus infections by April 7, eventually killing 400 people.

With a 75% increase in social distancing intervention instituted by March 10, the number of infections could instead be closer to 1,700 over that same time period, with just 30 more deaths.

“Social distancing measures are critical to slowing the progression of the COVID-19 epidemic,” the paper concludes.

The scenario where 25,000 people could get infected is based on a “baseline scenario assuming no change [in social distancing intervention] since January 15.”

“More people ill over a longer time frame allows the health care system to manage those people who need to be there,” Duchin said.

When more people are sick in a short time frame, it makes it increasingly difficult for health care professionals and the health care system as a whole to respond to the needs of the community and those who need care.

This data is consistent with what has been observed elsewhere where outbreaks have started, accelerated, and then distancing measures led to reductions in the rate of infections and the total number of infections.

“In China, for example, those communities that put those measures into place earlier did much better than those that didn’t recognize the outbreak until they were way up on that curve,” Duchin said.

Inslee pointed out that the model projects infections only until early April. It is possible that cases could double each week, reaching more than 60,000 by mid-May, with fatalities, without any action.

Researchers believe there could be hundreds of untested coronavirus cases in Washington

Health officials are stepping up now to enact measures to reduce social interaction, increase social distancing, and help protect the population from the spread of coronavirus based on these projections and examples set by other countries around the world.

Duchin acknowledged earlier in the press conference Wednesday that the outbreak can not be stopped, but it can be slowed.

Coronavirus Updates

MyNorthwest Staff

Confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths across Washington state

As of Dec. 30, state health officials say there have been 747,702 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state. The state is reporting 9,853 deaths since the pandemic began.
5 months ago
incentivizing, MyIR, 70%, vaccine...
MyNorthwest Staff

CDC: How COVID-19 vaccines work

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain how the COVID-19 vaccines work in your body.
9 months ago
Mask mandate, directives...
Nick Bowman

King County assessing need for mask mandate ‘on an ongoing basis’ as COVID cases continue to rise

A mask directive in Snohomish County takes effect Thursday, but is a similar mandate in the works elsewhere in the Puget Sound region?
9 months ago
Jay Inslee, pause, reopening, vaccine order...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

Not much point in suing over Inslee’s vaccine order, says former state Attorney General

The vaccine order from Gov. Inslee for state workers stands on pretty firm legal ground, according to former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna.
9 months ago
Proof vaccination, vaccine cards...
MyNorthwest Staff

Over 100 Seattle bars, nightclubs, restaurants now requiring proof of vaccination

With COVID-19 transmission rising, dozens of Seattle bars, clubs, and restaurants are now requiring customers to provide proof of their vaccination status.
10 months ago
Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington reopens, drought, independent...
MyNorthwest Staff

Still ‘critical’ work left to do with Washington now fully reopened

After 15 long months of COVID-19 lockdowns, countless reopening phases, and even more news conferences, Washington state officially reopens today.
11 months ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Experts explain why social distancing is crucial for curbing coronavirus spread