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King County’s ‘excellent’ response in early fight against coronavirus

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County, addresses a news conference Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

King County started out as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. That being so, there were also benefits the region had in being forced to respond to the crisis early.

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“There’s an advantage to being first in line,” Eric Holdeman, the former Director of King County Disaster Management, told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

With Seattle-King County Public Health taking early precautions in its bid to slow the spread of the virus, the region was uniquely prepared in the days that followed the start of the outbreak.

“That got time available,” Holdeman pointed out. “Overall, nationally, (we’ve) been too little/too late, but King County has been excellent.”

“The City of Seattle Emergency Operation Center started tracking this very early on when those first cases were detected, and the Health Department and them were connected at the hip all along,” he added.

King County and Seattle have also had other marked advantages over other regions, including the Northwest Healthcare Response Network, which has been working to coordinate resources among local hospitals.

“You don’t find that in other places in the United States,” Holdeman said.

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Even with all that, though, there’s still a long way to go for both the local and national responses to coronavirus. That was evident in a letter sent out to emergency managers by FEMA National Administrator Peter Gaynor, the first such letter Holdeman’s ever seen in his 31-year career.

The letter warns emergency managers in every corner of the U.S. to gear up in the likely event of a continued surge in cases, while detailing information the federal government needs in order to distribute supplies.

Through all that, King County has managed to make progress in recent days in reducing the spread of the virus. Holdeman hopes that a worst-case scenario can be avoided as a result.

“There’s an indication that maybe all the sheltering in place and doing that early helped bend the curve here, and it might not be as bad,” he said. “And maybe we can avoid what New York is going to experience in the next 10 days to two weeks, which is going to look like Italy and look like Spain.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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