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White House task force member says Washington is in the ‘yellow zone’

Workers at UW Medicine's drive-through testing facility. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The recent death of former presidential candidate and businessman Herman Cain from complications due to coronavirus is another reminder of the seriousness of this virus, especially with seniors.

Administrator Seema Verma is head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a member of the president’s coronavirus task force. She joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss the latest uptick and how things look in Washington state.

“One of the things that we’re really concerned about is that we are starting to see some uptick in cases, especially in your area. Washington is in the yellow zone for positivity, which means that we’re seeing between 5 to 10% of tests coming back positive,” she said.

“So that’s really concerning. Washington has seen stability in new cases in test positivity over the past week, but as you’re doing testing, we’re finding that we’re seeing a bit of an increase, and it’s really a warning,” she added. “… But we all have to do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus. And that’s why we’re trying to reach out to local communities, especially in Washington state. Forty percent of these new cases in Washington state are in King County, Yakima County, as well as Pierce County.”

How much of this was anticipated when reopening the economy?

“In some of the areas where we’ve had significant spread, those communities — look at Florida — they were open for a long time before they started to see an uptick in cases,” Verma said. “What we saw happening there was that it was a different issue. We started to see an uptick in cases for people under the age of 35, so there was a lot of asymptomatic spread. That population was getting infected, didn’t know it, and unfortunately, they weren’t wearing masks and they weren’t taking the precautions.”

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“I think what happened in Florida and the South is sort of an issue of complacency, but the virus is still out there and we have to all be vigilant if we want to make sure that the economy stays open. And I would argue that keeping the economy open is as important to our health as preventing the coronavirus. When the economy shut down, people were losing jobs. We hear of all kinds of people that weren’t able to access basic health care services.”

Verma says that when there is greater community risk, seniors are especially at risk, and the community needs to be vigilant to protect them.

“For the older population, when there is a community risk, they’re at risk and so everybody doing their part, washing their hands, wearing masks helps keep everybody safe. I think for the younger population, I think there’s sort of the mentality of ‘Oh, it’ll be a couple of weeks and I’ll be fine.’ The reality is we know anybody can get infected,” she said.

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“What we know is that there is a range of experiences. Some people are completely asymptomatic. There are some people that are in the hospital, they’re on ventilators, some people die, some people have mild symptoms, and we’re also hearing that some people may be sick for a couple weeks, but they see the symptoms lasting for months on end,” she added. “The reality is we don’t know how it’s going to impact us. … This is such a contagious disease none of us want to be responsible for getting somebody who’s more vulnerable sick.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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