It’s time for another installment of of our special series COVID-19 Update, bringing you the latest developments on the novel coronavirus outbreak that public health authorities here and throughout the country are working diligently to mitigate.
Unlike some of the nonsense that is unfortunately circulating on social media, all the information you’ll find here is accurate and based on sound science.
Governors: Stay at home — that’s an order
Most Pacific Northwesterners are now under orders to stay at home and be safe from COVID-19 unless they need to obtain food for their households or get exercise. Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Oregon Governor Kate Brown today issued so-called “stay at home” orders that build on their earlier orders prohibiting large public gatherings, closing schools, and closing restaurants and bars.
The governors had been under increasing pressure to act after many Pacific Northwesterners failed to take seriously the guidance of public health authorities to practice physical distancing. Crowds have recently been observed by reporters and police at beaches such as Alki, trails like the one that goes to Rattlesnake Ridge, and basketball courts in public parks. Though the governors pleaded with people to stop irresponsibly congregating, too many people still failed to listen.
And so new orders have been issued.
“We’ve been very clear on the need for everyone to stay home,” Governor Inslee said in an evening address from his office. “And, while most Washingtonians are doing their part, some still don’t grasp the seriousness of this pandemic.”
“We encourage all Washingtonians to follow the new guidance of Governor Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman. The guidance in Stay Home, Stay Healthy is critical to limiting the spread of COVID-19 and helping flatten the curve of infections. Our behavior could mean life or death for Washingtonians,” said legislative leaders in an unusual joint statement.
The statement was attributed to Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D‑Spokane), Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins (D‑Tacoma), Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler (R‑Ritzville) and House Minority Leader JT Wilcox (R‑Yelm) .
“We have already lost Washingtonians to this virus. We grieve with their families and stand alongside the people who are currently battling this illness.”
“We recognize the impact these decisions have on businesses, families, and individuals across the state. There is no way to overstate the challenge facing our state and our nation. The weeks and months to come will test our will, our values and our courage but our state is resilient. We will get through this.”
“We must work together, support each other and stay positive,” the legislative leaders added. “Ultimately we will emerge from this challenge more united than ever, prepared to build an even stronger Washington.”
Since many businesses have already closed down — from gyms to barbershops to restaurant dining rooms — you might be wondering what’s left to close. The new orders continue to have carve-outs for what are considered essential businesses.
But there are fewer exceptions.
The new orders prohibit gatherings large and small of all kinds: public and private. That means weddings, funerals, family reunions, birthday celebrations, dinner parties, sleepovers, the works. All are prohibited through at least April 6th, 2020.
And any business that does not meet the tighter definition of an “essential business” must suspend operations by the end of the day on Wednesday unless it can conduct its business virtually with employees working from home.
Read Inslee’s proclamation:
The restrictions announced in Oregon are similar.
Read Governor Kate Brown’s proclamation:
Why is all this necessary?
Donald Trump and other fools who don’t understand public health have questioned the increasingly restrictive orders being issued by governors like Jay Inslee, Kate Brown, Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, Phil Murphy, JB Pritzker, and Ned Lamont, which are resulting in a shutdown of civic life and economic activity.
For example, Trump tweeted:
We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the fifteen day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go! (Posted to Trump’s Twitter account, March 22nd, 2020)
Physical distancing is not a cure for the novel coronavirus, but rather a means of mitigating a deadly pandemic. The reason SARS-CoV‑2 is called a “novel” coronavirus is because it’s new. Human bodies haven’t encountered this virus before and don’t have an immunity to it. That’s why it is such a threat.
The governors who issued the stay at home orders want to protect their constituents from being infected and killed by the virus. They issued the stay-at-home orders because keeping people apart is the key to preventing massive loss of life.
To understand how a virus like COVID-19 can wipe out families and communities with increasing speed, you have to understand the concept of exponential growth.
Exponential growth, as defined by Dictionary.com, means the “growth of a system in which the amount being added to the system is proportional to the amount already present: the bigger the system is, the greater the increase.”
Exponential growth explains why it’s taking less and less time for the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to double.
Without physical distancing, the number of people who will contract the virus, get sick, and possibly die will skyrocket in a very short amount of time.
This graphic from Gary Warshaw and Signer Lab explains what physical distancing can do for us (the original title of the graph used the term social distancing, which NPI no longer uses, because it is a misnomer).
You can click the image to see a larger version.
Prefer a video explanation? Watch this:
You may have also heard references to “flattening the curve”. That refers specifically to the benefit physical distancing can have on our healthcare system. If people do not practice physical distancing, the results will be disastrous. Hospitals, doctors, nurses, and first responders will not be able to help everyone who falls ill.
This graph illustrates the concept of “flattening the curve”:
People who scoff at staying home and complying with the stay-at-home orders either do not appreciate the destruction that a pandemic can cause, ripping apart families and communities, or mistakenly think that keeping our broken economic system going is more important than saving lives.
The truth is that broken economies can be repaired — an economy is just the sum of human endeavors — but lives lost are irreplaceable. Once someone has died, they can’t be brought back, at least not in this dimension.
“Humans invented this convention called ‘the economy’ merely to measure what we do. And we are expected to pledge loyalty and obedience to it. The emperor isn’t just he naked he’s merely a set of ones and zeroes. The only there there is us.”
Anat is correct.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those ideals matter more than any company’s short term profits, or anybody’s 401(k).
Again, economies can be rebuilt. God is capable of raising the dead according to many faith traditions, but human beings are not.
We can’t get our parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends back once they’re gone.
Yes, there are millions of people out there who will be hurting economically because of COVID-19. Let’s help them. But helping them doesn’t mean giving big corporations a blank check. We’ve done that before, and look where it got us.
More deaths, more cases in Washington State
There are now 2,221 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington State. One hundred and ten people have died from the disease.
31,712 individuals have tested negative.
King County has the most cases.
Here’s the latest from Seattle-King County Public Health:
Public Health—Seattle & King County is reporting the following confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 p.m. on 3/22/20.
- 1170 confirmed cases (up 130 from yesterday)
- 87 confirmed deaths (up 12 from yesterday)
These additional deaths include:
- A woman in his seventies, who died on March 21st
- A man in his seventies, who died on March 21st at EvergreenHealth
- A man in his eighties who died on March 22nd at EvergreenHealth
- A man in his eighties, who died on March 22nd at Swedish Issaquah
- A woman in her seventies, who died on March 22nd
- A woman in her nineties. who died on March 22nd
- A man in his seventies, who died on March 22nd
- A woman in her nineties, who died on March 22nd
- A woman in her sixties, who died on March 22nd at Swedish Cherry Hill
- A man in his sixties, who died on March 21st at Swedish Cherry Hill
- A man in his sixties who died on March 22nd at University of Washington Medical Center
- A man in his sixties who died on March 22nd at Virginia Mason
Of the 87 deaths reported, 37 are confirmed to be associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland.
In Whatcom County, there are a significant number of deaths and cases associated with Shuksan Healthcare Center.
More cases in Oregon
The Beaver State also reported more cases today.
Oregon Health Authority reported 30 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 191, as of 8:00 AM today. The COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Clackamas (2), Hood River (1), Linn (1), Marion (8), Multnomah (2), Polk (2), Washington (14).
More cases in British Columbia
North of the border, the number of novel coronavirus cases is also increasing.
VICTORIA — The COVID-19 situation in British Columbia is continually evolving and the information below is current as of 10 a.m. on Monday, March 23, 2020.
- Total confirmed cases in B.C.: 472
- New cases since March 21, 2020: 48
- Hospitalized cases: 33
- Intensive care: 14
- Deaths: 13
- Recovered: 100
Confirmed cases by region:
- Vancouver Coastal Health: 248
- Fraser Health: 150
- Island Health: 39
- Interior Health: 30
- Northern Health: 5
- NEW: Testing capacity has increased to approximately 3,000 tests per day.
- 17,912 individuals tested as of March 20, 2020.
- Testing is available for all who need it, but not everyone requires a test.
- If you have no symptoms, mild symptoms or you are a returning traveler self-isolating at home, you do not require a test.
- For each of these situations, the public health advice remains the same, regardless of test results: self-isolate for 14 days to monitor for the development of symptoms or until your symptoms are completely gone.
- Those who have severe illness, require hospitalization, are residents of long-term care facilities or are health-care workers will continue to be tested.
- Anyone part of an active investigation or outbreak cluster will be tested so they can be appropriately monitored.
- If symptoms appear, call your health-care provider, call 811 for guidance or check your symptoms online.
COVID-19 fallout: News roundup
- Alaska Airlines is cutting 200 flights a day, parking 30 jets, as coronavirus reduces air travel
- Trump extends Real ID deadline amid coronavirus crisis
- Thieves swipe coronavirus donations from Boise restaurant. Police need help finding loot
- How will Anchorage’s ‘hunker down’ coronavirus order work? Here’s the city’s FAQ.
COVID-19 Update will return with a new installment tomorrow.