As Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all public and private schools in three Puget Sound counties to close Thursday due to the coronavirus, cancelations for local sports events, community functions and reduced services at libraries were already pouring into The Chronicle’s inboxes.
Lewis County had yet to have a confirmed case of COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon, but the closures have been announced out of an abundance of caution, and after much consideration.
To a healthy person, that might sound silly. You may even think the novel coronavirus and the illness COVID-19 is a hoax, or that it’s being blown out of proportion by the media.
But this isn’t fake news.
A study conducted by the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center released a paper Wednesday reporting that, without “social distancing” measures — working from home, avoiding gatherings of people, etc. — there could be 25,000 infections in King and Snohomish counties by April 7, with 400 deaths, The Seattle Times reported.
Think that’s bad? In Italy, 400 people have died from COVID-19 in the past few days.
According to the New York Times, Italy has had more than 11,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases just in the past week. The total cases in that country now tops 15,000.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported Italy saw 196 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, for a total of 827. On Thursday, the death toll jumped again to well over 1,000. Hospitals and medical workers have been overwhelmed and are running out of space for patients in need of intensive care.
A similarly explosive infection rate was seen much closer to home, at the Life Care Center in Kirkland.
At least 19 residents of Life Care have died of the coronavirus since the first diagnosis, The Seattle Times reported, and as of March 7, 70 of 180 employees at the facility reported COVID-19 symptoms.
Officials in the U.S. have noted that an increase in testing capabilities will likely lead to a drop in the rate of deaths due to the virus. They may be correct, but it’s important to note that it’s not so much the deadliness of COVID-19 that’s the threat — though it is deadly. It’s the speed at which the virus spreads.
Among the many concerns is the potential for outpacing the resources of our hospitals and medical facilities. By taking precautions, we can help slow the spread in a way that could keep hospital beds available for those facing severe symptoms.
Even if most people have mild symptoms, as public health officials have stressed, that leaves those in our community with chronic health issues, lung disease, asthma or the immunocompromised — such as cancer patients.
So over the next few weeks, follow the advice of medical professionals:
• Stay home — Especially if you’re not feeling well. Practice social distancing and go out only when you need to.
• Stay healthy — Wash your hands and sanitize, sanitize sanitize.
• Stay calm — Please don’t buy out your local grocery store’s stock of hand sanitizer, masks or, of all things, toilet paper. Take what you need and leave the rest.
• And stay informed — starting this week, coverage of COVID-19 will be available at no cost at Chronline.com.