Another thankfully boring day in King County. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing us gradually tick downward on all the metrics. I’m used to much noisier datasets, but we’ve become very predictable. My one huge request of King County would be to tell us how many tests we’re doing – this would be invaluable for doing some inferences about population numbers.

Our positive tests are almost horizontal now; we’re adding so few new cases each day. However many tests we’re doing, we only found 58 new positive cases yesterday. As the graphs show, this is under 1% of our cumulative load of positive tests.

Does this mean we’re almost clear of the virus in the community? Sadly, no. I can think of several reasons it’s still out there

  • some number of patients are asymptomatic and/or have very mild symptoms.
  • Some new virus is being constantly imported via travel from other states (many of which are in much worse shape)
  • some patients are in incubation, and will develop symptoms later
  • Some people who tested positive went home and infected their families, or disobeyed instructions and broke quarantine.

But the decline does surely indicate that we have less and less active virus in the community. It shows hard-won progress.

Our “curve” chart shows how far we’ve come and how rapidly we’re falling. I’ve looked at a number of states and we are by far the furthest along the curve of any I’ve seen.

The deaths data is shown next. This is also encouraging. We’ve come a long way since you had to look at the rate of change in deaths to seen the progress.

What should we expect moving forward? Here are my expectations:

  • We will probably never see zero new infections. Remember, we have a population with no immunity. Even if I could wave a magic want and kill every single virus in King County (or WA, or the USA) we’re still naked to travelers.
  • We may see deaths go even lower, but it’s also likely we’ll see explosions. This thing enters assisted living facilities and burns through the people like nobody’s business. One of these would spike our numbers. But our long term trend should gradually be low as long as our infections stay low.
  • The pressure will now build to “open up”. The governor is clearly terrified of this and his messaging continues to be cautious. He’s right.
  • Our next step will be to cautiously relieve the pressure and social distancing. Our first steps in this direction will be terrifying and I’ll watch it closely here. If we let people go to restaurants first, we’ll need to wait 10 days to see if infections rise, 3-4 weeks for deaths. Each step will take care and patience.

I am seeing some clever ideas emerge. One big question is whether we can open up schools. It occurs to me the best thing to do here is open up ONE school and see how infections rise in that area. Then if they don’t explode, we can consider more.

Volunteers to be the first to have your kids mix, mingle, and then come home?

The civil disobedience “mosh pits” in Ohio and Michigan are a disturbing trend. In the atmosphere of conspiracy theories and paranoia, people can convince of themselves any act is one of noble resistance. Leaving aside the merits of the case, it’s clear this is a kind of “uncontrolled opening up” that will undermine societal efforts at infection control.

I have no doubt we have the seeds of this here in Washington. Even without the right wing cast, there’s a lot of fear and pain and loss out there. Desperate people do desperate things. There’s even a very reasonable argument for cost/benefit analysis. But opening up in a random, unplanned way would be a disaster and could undo all the sacrifice we’ve made so far.

The looming catastrophe is made clear in a chart that’s making the rounds on the internet. Covid has very rapidly expanded on a trajectory to be the number one cause of deaths in the United States, with essentially no signs of slowing. And this is with our current social distancing regimen in place. Unplanned opening up will accelerate this dramatically.