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UW model suggests outbreak could peak around April 19

Mirian Fuentes (L), a medical assistant, and nurse Laurie Kuypers check paperwork during a COVID-19 screening at an appointment-only drive-up clinic set up by the UW Medical Center. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The state Department of Health is trying to figure out how to process the immense amount of testing data that has crippled its reporting system. But the Chief Science Officer with the DOH said they’re working closely with researchers.

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In fact, the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations has used Washington’s death data to model the trajectory of the outbreak.

“Their model suggests that the outbreak in Washington state will peak around April 19,” Kathy Lofy said. “This is the point when we might see the highest number of cases.”

Lofy said they’re using this data to help prepare the local health care system for an influx of patients.

While the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order that Gov. Inslee announced last Monday has been in effect for a week, Lofy said she knows many people have been at home for longer than that. And she knows it’s not easy to do.

“Since we’re not seeing exponential growth, we do believe that our social distancing measures are having some impact in slowing down the spread of the virus,” Lofy said. “It is extremely important that we all continue to stay home and stay healthy. If we don’t, we will very likely see a large increase in the number of cases.”

While we wait for the DOH’s website and reporting process to catch up to the data load, Lofy analyzed the latest case numbers. She said that through most of March about 6-7% COVID-19 tests were positive per day. But in the past few days, that number been closer to 8-9%.

“This suggested an increase in COVID-19 activity in the state,” Lofy said.

She went on to say that the outbreak looks different in different areas of the state. The number of patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 is rapidly increasing in some counties compared to others.

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DOH said negative test results for COVID-19 are overwhelming the reporting tool. It is investigating solutions, including a separate tool for negative results (93% of the data) and automating deduplication work performed manually each day.

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