Remember back in March when the city felt deserted? When few if any cars drove down the street? When the whole world felt as if it were covered in an invisible, deadly substance that could kill you and whomever you like making out with in an instant? When you banged on pots and pans every night at 8:00 p.m. in recognition of the sacrifices health care workers were making every single second of every single day?
Well, given the recent "explosion of COVID-19 cases," as Seattle and King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin put it during a press conference on Friday, we need to slide back into that headspace.
"The risk of acquiring COVID-19 is higher now than it has ever been locally," Dr. Duchin said. "Every day that we put off taking the necessary actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 leads to additional preventable suffering and pain."
"We don’t have to follow the pathway to pain that so many other communities are experiencing," he continued, sounding more metal than I've ever heard him sound before. "And we’ve gone too far down this pathway for my comfort already."
The news conference more or less amounted to a considered, cordial, understanding, empathetic, epidemiologically sound version of Duchin pointing to the publicly available COVID-19 data, staring directly into the camera with a rictus grin, and then just holding that pose for half an hour without blinking.
King County averaged 581 new cases per day last week, with positivity rates increasing from 2% in September to around 7% recently, Duchin said. The increased testing rate, he added, does not account for this large increase in infections.
The increases hit people of all ages, but 70% of the cases came from people between the ages of 20 and 60, with people of color still affected at disproportionally high rates.
Hospitalizations have increased 50% over the last two weeks, with "215 confirmed and suspected patients in King County hospitals, compared with around 100 for most of September and October," Duchin said.
Hospitals have activated their emergency response mechanisms to handle the surge. Contact tracing and outbreak investigative teams are "overloaded." And though death counts remain relatively low at the moment, Duchin said the death bump typically comes three weeks after the increase in cases.
We want the transmission rate well below 1, and right now its at 1.4, which means this case surge will continue to grow exponentially until hospitals overflow and the county starts pricing refrigerated trucks for use as mobile morgues.
Luckily for us, there's only a few things were really need to do immediately:
• Stop gathering indoors with people we do not already live with. Restrictions on restaurants and bars and gyms "will not be enough to turn this outbreak around," Duchin said. We need to nix the dinner parties, the brunches, the weddings, the churchy gatherings, the fucking Halloween parties, the fucking indoor Thanksgiving celebrations, and the funerals—or else there will be many more of them.
• Don't go get a COVID-19 test just so you can attend Thanksgiving. Testing centers in Seattle are packed with people doing this, and it's stressing out the system. A negative test doesn't necessarily mean you're not infected, you can get infected between the time you take the test and receive the results, and you KNOW your ass hasn't actually quarantined for 14 days.
• Wear good masks and wash hands. We're all still doing this, right?
• Narc on our faves when we catch COVID-19. Duchin said COVID-19 patients will tell contact tracers they attended a party with "10, 30, 50 others, and they'll even say that some of those people caught COVID after the party," but they won't say who threw the virus party in the first place. Ditto restaurants and gyms. That is, they'll say they've visited restaurants and gyms while they were contagious with COVID, but they won't specify the places because they worry about getting their favorite spots "in trouble." Duchin said public health officials can deliver clearer and more accurate information about outbreaks to communities if only people would be more forthcoming, but as of right now he "doesn't have a solution" for people staying tight-lipped.