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Bellevue modeler: ‘We must approach reopening with caution’

A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks past art by a local street artist, featuring the Space Needle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A recent report from Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM) laid out a possible roadmap for reopening King County, while warning that any such action will need to move gradually.

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“We urge strong caution and a slow and incremental approach to reopening,” the IDM’s report reads.

Its findings report that counter-balances to relaxing distancing restrictions will likely be key in avoiding another surge in new COVID-19 cases. That includes “increased testing, contact tracing to work and home, and better compliance with household quarantine.”

Essentially, as the potential for transmission of the virus increases, that will need to be mitigated by strategies that keep King County’s effective reproductive number — a numerical value indicating the number of people one person with the virus would likely infect — below 1.0.

With a robust testing, tracing, and quarantining system in place (known colloquially as “test, trace, and isolate”), the IDM estimates that the county could absorb “a two-fold increase in disease transmission potential.”

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That means a “test, trace, isolate” strategy could be used to “counteract” a moderate increase in risk King County takes on by relaxing some restrictions.

“A small increase in work and community transmission is possible while avoiding a return to exponential growth,” the IDM laid out.

That all comes as part of maintaining “the delicate balance between relaxing physical distancing and increasing countermeasures so as to keep the epidemic under control.”

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