We must maintain strong social distancing, or we waste our progress and put lives at risk, leaders say
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 27, 2020) — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Thursday said a new report forecasting the current trajectory of the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state and across the country is more evidence that stay-at-home and social distancing efforts must remain in place. President Donald Trump, Fox News and right-wing commentators have begun suggesting that ending such measures and “reopening our economy” is more important than efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s more important than ever right now that we listen to the public health experts — not politicians — about what our country should do to keep families safe as this crisis continues to develop,” Murray said. “The data is clear, the worst thing we could do at this critical moment is call off the fight early, lose the progress our families and communities have fought so hard to make, and worsen and extend this crisis. People in my state and across the country have made incredible personal sacrifices to help slow the spread of this disease—now is not the time to retreat and let those efforts go to waste.”
The findings in the new report from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) offer a stark warning about prematurely ending important measures that have been implemented in the interests of public health to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Our estimated trajectory of COVID-19 deaths assumes continued and uninterrupted vigilance by the general public, hospital and health workers, and government agencies,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the IHME. “The trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. We encourage everyone to adhere to those precautions to help save lives.”
According to the new report:
► Over the next four months between 38,000 and 162,000 people in the U.S. will die from the virus under current conditions.
► Demand for ventilators and beds in US hospital intensive care units (ICUs) will far exceed capacity for COVID-19 patients as early as the second week of April.
► 41 states will need more ICU beds than they currently have available and 11 states may need to increase their ICU beds by 50% or more.
► Deaths related to the current wave of COVID-19 in the US are likely to persist into July, even assuming people strongly adhere to social distancing measures and other precautions.
Gov. Jay Inslee issued a two-week statewide stay-at-home order on March 23 to slow the spread of coronavirus. On Thursday, he suggested that although there’s new evidence that social distancing efforts may be working to slow the coronavirus spread somewhat, the stay-at-home order may need to be extended beyond two weeks.
“The reason is, we simply cannot allow this virus to explode,” Inslee said. “It’s crucial that we all maintain social distancing. … It would not be sufficient to knock down this curve (in virus spread) for two weeks and then have it come roaring back.”
The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review reports that Inslee said we are beginning to see a “glimmer of hope” that COVID-19 restrictions are working:
Calculations by Johns Hopkins released by the governor’s office suggest a slight reduction in the rate of increase for positive COVID-19 tests in Washington, especially when compared with where some states are at this point in their outbreaks.
“It’s a glimmer of hope,” Inslee said, but offered some caveats. Because of the time lag between exposure and the signs of COVID-19, and the delay for results of those tested for the disease after the symptoms appear, the data being measured on the chart isn’t current.
“Whatever we are seeing today occurred 10 to 14 days ago,” Inslee said.
But the data suggests some of the state’s mitigation strategies have been able to slow the rate of increase, particularly in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, the three hardest hit by the outbreak.
The rates are not dropping outside those three Puget Sound counties and in many areas, the state is not yet “bending the curve,” he said.
“We are not within 10,000 miles of champagne corks popping,” Inslee said.
Here is Inslee’s full press conference from Thursday: