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Flattening the curve: How much longer do I have to stay home?

Nigel Turner, Health Department Director of Communicable Disease
by Nigel Turner04/14/2020 3:03 p.m.
Updated: 04/20/2020

Slow the spread. Save lives.  

Three weeks ago, Gov. Inslee told us to stay home to stay healthy. Most of you have done your part. But social distancing continues to be vital as we work to limit the spread of COVID-19

How much longer do I have to stay home? 

You may wonder how much longer you must stay home to stay safe. The answer depends on where we are on the curve of the pandemic.

We use data to understand this. We look at things like the number of new confirmed cases, the number of deaths and the number of people hospitalized. 

It’s still too early to see a clear pattern in the number of new cases or deaths, but hospitalizations have declined slightly. Modeling data from the University of Washington suggest April 5 was Washington’s peak for hospital resource use. 

Stay home stay healthy_FacebookThe weather is warming up just as we’re all getting more restless. But going out and about too much right now—beyond the essential trips for food and medical care—and gathering with people outside of your household—could lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases. 

It’s too soon to relax social distancing requirements. We need to see significant drop in new confirmed cases, deaths and people hospitalized before all of us return to our pre-pandemic lives.

How will we know?

The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pierce County continue to rise. We may be hovering at our peak, but we won’t know for sure until we see a clear downward trend in new cases for several days.

But we also know most people infected experience mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization. We will share more recovery data in the weeks ahead at tpchd.org/coronavirus on our test results page.

And earlier today, the Institute of Disease Modeling released a report that suggests physical distancing efforts are working to slow COVID-19 transmission in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

But we need to ensure the disease does not bounce back.

Measures put in place to slow the pandemic are working. The curve is flattening. Now more than ever, we must continue our commitment to proven measures that help protect our community. We must stay the course even as we see positive results.

As stated in an April 13 news release from the Governor’s office on west coast states agreement to control COVID-19 into the future, “we need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening, and we will be working in coordination to identify the best metrics to guide this.” 

We worked hard to get where we are now.

To respond quickly to protect our community, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department activated our Incident Command System in late January, well before the Governor declared a state of emergency a month later. We transitioned to unified command with Pierce County Department of Emergency on March 11. This structure allowed us to join with agencies across the county to communicate effectively, reduce redundancies and costs. Some teams responding to the pandemic are:

  • Cities and towns.
  • Fire.
  • Police.
  • Schools.
  • Emergency managers.
  • Healthcare providers.

We’re handling this emergency right. Gov. Inslee has followed public health guidance and made decisions to keep our state safer. These decisions influenced actions, and we’re confident about where we stand because of them. Relocating the CenturyLink field hospital to another state and sharing ventilators are signs of that confidence. 

None of this would be possible if we hadn’t prepared before the start of this emergency. We plan and train regularly for crises like this. All that work allowed us to spring into action well before the novel coronavirus reached Pierce County.

Now, it takes all of us to get to the finish line. We need everyone in our communities to continue to follow health guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please continue to stay home to stay healthy. 

  1. Updated: 04/20/2020
Nigel Turner, Health Department Director of Communicable Disease

by Nigel Turner

Nigel leads our work to help keep your family safe from communicable diseases.

 

We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider.