Dr. Jeff Duchin: Virus rebound could be ‘two to three times as bad’ if WA reopens too early

Apr 29, 2020, 9:38 AM | Updated: 11:08 am

Even while Washington has begun to relax some social distancing measures, Seattle-King County Public Health’s Dr. Jeff Duchin warns against fully reopening too early.

Dr. Jeff Duchin: ‘We’re not exactly where we need to be’ to reopen WA

While some have argued that smaller counties with fewer cases should be reopened earlier than more populated areas, Dr. Duchin points out that there’s little preventing cases from moving between areas.

“That’s like having a peeing section in the swimming pool — it doesn’t stay where you started,” he said in a recent webinar with Life Science Washington.

For Duchin, that means a more uniform approach to reopening Washington, that takes into account how the virus can spread county-to-county.

That being so, he notes, the state has yet to reduce its daily case numbers to the point where reopening is even feasible.

“We’re not nearly where we need to be with respect to disease suppression,” he cautioned. “We’re seeing several hundred cases a day still occur in Washington state. Here in King County, we have between between 80 and 100 cases a day on average over the last two weeks — that’s way too many.”

If the state does reopen before it’s ready, Duchin fears that the ensuing rebound could be “two to three times as bad as our initial outbreak if things get out of control.”

That’s where the need for increased testing and contact tracing comes into play. Unfortunately, the state continues to lack the necessary resources.

“We have been incredibly frustrated by the ongoing shortages of test kits,” Dr. Duchin said. “I do not believe we have the testing capacity we need equitably distributed through the community, so that all people who might want to get tested have access.”

Virologist: ‘Very dangerous’ for any state to be reopening right now

Because of that, even the daily case numbers we’ve been seeing likely don’t reflect the full extent of Washington’s outbreak.

“When we look at the results of the tests that have been done, they don’t necessarily reflect the prevalence of the disease in our community,” Duchin described. “They reflect the prevalence among those populations that have access to testing.”

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Dr. Jeff Duchin: Virus rebound could be ‘two to three times as bad’ if WA reopens too early