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Expert: ‘We can’t relax our vigilance,’ despite Washington’s flattening curve

Social distancing measures continue to remain in place around Washington. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Despite relatively positive news from the latest University of Washington coronavirus predictions, health experts continue to stress that there’s still a long way to go before social distancing measures can be scaled back.

Understanding how researchers are predicting spread of coronavirus

“We can’t relax our vigilance about this,” Columbia University virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show.

The UW’s model had initially expected Washington to see over 1,400 deaths by June, a prediction that’s since been reduced to 632. It also suggests that the state has already moved past its peak demand for medical resources, evidenced by the 400 ventilators Gov. Jay Inslee recently donated to states with greater needs.

That being so, that rosier outlook is dependent on Washington state maintaining its stringent social distancing guidelines through May.

“We have to make sure that we’re continuing social distancing measures — if they’re relaxed, we could potentially see another wave of patients,” Dr. Rasmussen cautioned.

She points to cities like Hong Kong, which successfully flattened its curve early on in the outbreak, but is now seeing an uptick in new coronavirus cases thanks to an influx of travelers returning from Europe, the United States, and Southeast Asia.

A second wave of cases is a risk for any region that relaxes social distancing measures sans a vaccine for the virus. That’s especially true in the United States where widespread testing and contact tracing infrastructure has yet to take shape.

“Until [we have] widespread testing and massive scale-up of the public health system to ensure case/contact tracing, big time risk remains,” Seattle-King County Public Health’s Dr. Jeff Duchin said Monday.

The need remains for Washingtonians to remain at home, even as positive strides are made to quell its outbreak.

“Unfortunately for most of us, that social distancing is going to have to continue for a while,” Dr. Rasmussen noted last week.

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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