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.
1 year 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.
1 year 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?
2 years 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.
2 years 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.
2 years 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.
2 years ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Experts explain why social distancing is crucial for curbing coronavirus spread