The Seattle area was the first in the nation to confirm a coronavirus case and was initially the hardest hit region in the country, but according to new projections provided to public officials in recent days, the pandemic appears to be slowing down in the city. While officials’ stringent social-distancing measures have likely significantly contributed to the apparent slowdown, as The New York Times notes, the measures have also “devastated businesses” in the area.
As reported by KIRO7, the Washington state Department of Health said as of midnight Saturday that the total number of deaths of people who have tested positive for COVID19 in the state currently stands at 195, while the state has recorded 4,896 confirmed cases. Some 54,000 people have been tested for the virus in the state thus far.
A vast majority of the deaths in the state have occurred in King County, where Seattle is located, and where 144 people have died and 2,161 cases have been confirmed. Dozens of those cases originated in a single nursing home. Of the first 50 deaths connected to COVID-19 in the U.S., 37 occurred in the Seattle area.
In a report on the positive, though “precarious,” situation in Seattle on Sunday, The New York Times notes that deaths in the area “are not rising as fast as they are in other states” and “hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed” in what once was the nation’s coronavirus hotbed.
“[P]reliminary statistical models provided to public officials in Washington State suggest that the spread of the virus has slowed in the Seattle area in recent days,” the Times reports, citing projections prepared by a team from the Institute for Disease Modeling. “While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.”
“The progress is precarious, and the data, which was still being analyzed and has yet to be published, is uncertain,” the Times notes. “Officials said that expansive social distancing policies will remain a key part of daily life for weeks to come. But the findings offer a measure of hope that the emergency measures that have disrupted life in much of the nation can be effective in slowing the spread of the disease.”
While the apparent slowdown in the spread of the virus suggests that the city’s drastic actions have helped save lives, the Times also presents the other side of the coin: the forced shutdowns have “devastated businesses, in particular restaurants and hotels. The Space Needle is closed. Pike Place Market’s breezeways are largely barren. As in other parts of the country, unemployment claims have soared.”
According to KIRO7, Washington state experienced “an 843% week-over-week increase in claims for unemployment benefits last week.”
City and state officials in Washington are publicly acknowledging the apparent progress on curbing the spread of the virus, but are also making clear that residents should expect continued social distancing measures of some form for multiple months.
In a recent interview, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan celebrated indications that they have “slowed the transmission” of the virus, as did Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who cited “evidence that doing the aggressive measures can have a benefit.” Like Durkan, Inslee emphasized that the progress is not enough yet to lift their stringent distancing measures for fear of a “rebound.”