Gov. Inslee warns against ending social distancing too early

Apr 15, 2020, 4:25 PM | Updated: 4:25 pm
Gov. Inslee...
Gov. Inslee on Wednesday. (TVW)

Gov. Inslee is taking every opportunity to warn Washingtonians that it’s too early to consider ending social distancing across the state. He’s pushing that message, despite a bend in the curve.

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The Stay Home, Stay Healthy order remains in effect until May 4.

However, the governor said a transition can be considered when two things exist, and they have to exist together.

“First, social distancing has to be successful enough that we are sure the curve won’t go up again. We have to reduce the number people who are actively infected in the state of Washington.”

The second stage of the effort is the individualized effort where we test people rapidly, treat them rapidly.

Inslee has likened this approach to a fire brigade. A person with symptoms should be able to call, get tested, get isolated, and contact trace. Health officials have said the state will need a dramatic increase in contact tracing and testing.

“Both of those things have to exist before we can push the go button for this true transition,” Inslee said. “I wish I could tell you when that transition point will be.”

The governor pointed to several graphs showing what would happen if we dropped social distancing today and last week. County health officials worry that if social distancing policies are lifted too early or in haste, transmission rates will increase and the number of cases will rebound.

Inslee and health officials point to a new report from Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling that says the state’s social distancing measures are working as intended, but still must continue to remain in place.

In King County, the effective reproduction number — essentially a numerical measure of how quickly the virus is spreading person-to-person — has now dropped below one, estimated to be around 0.73 (with 95% confidence from the report). That number was up around 2.7 in late February, and 1.4 in mid-March.

County health officials agree ‘there’s still a long way to go’

The IDM saw similar trends in both Snohomish and Pierce Counties, although “changes in Pierce County lagged” behind.

“The more work we do today, the faster that transition point will come,” Inlsee said.

Before closing out his news conference on Wednesday, Inslee said the state is seeing a number of people who don’t have health insurance. He made a plug for WaHealthPlanFinder.org. He also touted Washington’s relationship with federal agencies.

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Gov. Inslee warns against ending social distancing too early