November 8, 2020

Re- flatten the curve

I have been writing about the COVID-19 outbreak since the beginning of March, a little over 9 months ago. When I started writing, the virus had just arrived in Seattle but we had no idea how fast it was spreading, how deadly it was, or how many here were infected and spreading it. The virus was invisible and unknowing. At that time, I was afraid I could have been exposed on the bus or in clinic or in a store. Health care workers were afraid that hospitals and clinics would be overwhelmed with infections. Lucky for us, the city and state quickly shut down and started social distancing. It worked and Seattle was able to avoid the tragic surge that New York City and other places had.

We have done an excellent job of containing the outbreak, but pandemic fatigue, along with cooler, wetter weather, and other reasons, are at play and our rate of infections is rising again here in King County, Washington.

This mirrors the rise in many other parts of the country. Some places that were hot spots have declining cases, but now new hot spots have arisen. Sadly, the new hot spots are in areas where more people have resisted wearing masks. The maps of infections appear eerily similar to the voting maps of red vs blue. One study shows the difference that mask wearing made between number of cases in counties that had mask mandates compared to counties that did not have a mask mandate. Mask wearing quickly had an effect on number of cases in those areas. Easy to do, if we can get people to comply.

I understand the reluctance to have a mandate to wear masks. No one, especially Americans, like being told what to do. Except, the thing is, masks do work to prevent transmission but our leadership has failed us. Mixed messages, and in many cases, false information, have been given. Indeed, the governor of South Dakota has not been supportive of mask wearing, claiming “the virus can’t be stopped”. Sadly, many of the citizens of her state are now dying because of that false information. I have strong reactions when I read stories like this and feel the pain the families must be feeling. I know that masks and social distancing work, just from living in Seattle and seeing how we were able to shut down and control the epidemic. I hope that, as more families and friends are affected by the virus, more people will cooperate with mask wearing.

The New York Times has an excellent interactive map that helps you drill down to your county and see how it is doing. Also an excellent source of information if you want to to see if a potential site you want to visit is a hot spot.

I am watching as cases in the US are rising quickly, today we reach a new milestone. Ten million is a big number, and 240,000 deaths is larger than we should want. The numbers will continue to rise, especially in the midwest where superspreader campaign events were held, as well as places were poll helpers and vote counters could have been exposed, while performing a sacred duty for the rest of us. We are grateful for their work and I pray for their health.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and remember to flatten the curve.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

https://betsybrownmd.substack.com/p/march-3-2020

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.28.20221705v1 county use of masks

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/doctors-fear-more-death-as-dakotas-experience-virus-sorrow/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/05/graphic-tracking-coronavirus-infections-us/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html