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COVID-19 outbreak, Seattle
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‘Zero chance’ Washington outbreak is reversed without changes to policies, warns DOH

A nurse works inside a patient's room in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The latest report from the Washington Department of Health warns that the state’s current COVID-19 outbreak could reach a critical level if more preventative measures aren’t enacted.

Bellevue modeler warns of ‘catastrophic outcomes’ with cases rising

“Washington state is in the early stages of an exponential statewide outbreak that has zero chance of being reversed without changes to our collective behavior and policies to support that change,” reads the DOH’s report — a collaboration with Fred Hutchinson and Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling.

That’s due to rising transmission rates across the state, particularly in Eastern Washington. At the time of the DOH’s last report, Eastern Washington’s effective reproductive rate — the number of people a single person with the virus will likely infect — sat around 1.20. That number is now closer to 1.41, with “exponential growth” in Spokane that “shows no signs of slowing.”

In Western Washington, hospitalizations are now starting to increase as well, “and continue to grow across all age groups” in Eastern Washington.

“As transmission moves from younger adults into older more vulnerable populations, we expect new hospitalizations and eventually deaths to trend up across the state,” the DOH warns.

On the state’s current trajectory, the Department of Health does not expect schools will be able to reopen safely this fall barring increased mitigation efforts in the coming months. That would necessitate “enhanced compliance” with mask-wearing, adherence to distancing policies, and further restricting large gatherings.

“This is a matter of utmost urgency as we have seen from the beginning of the pandemic that measures enacted sooner have vastly greater efficacy,” the report continues.

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Similar surges in cases and deaths are occurring across the United States, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

“Finally we’re now seeing that turn into a surge in deaths, not just in Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, but it’s spreading into a number of other states,” the IHME told CNN.

The IHME now predicts that on its current trajectory, Washington could see as many as 3,170 COVID-19 deaths by November. Combined across the United States, the IHME model predicts a possible death toll of over 224,000 people by that same time.

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