On Jan. 21, well over two months ago, Seattle became the first city in the U.S. to have a confirmed case of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, after a man who had recently returned from Wuhan, China, tested positive. By March 1, the city had become the center of the U.S. outbreak after the virus tore through a long-term nursing facility and dozens of residents died.
To combat the spread, Seattle was one of the first U.S. cities to close down offices and restaurants and tell residents to stay home, and new, early data shows that the rate of spread is declining, a sign that the restrictive measures are working.
According to researchers at the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington, new cases and deaths are going up at a far slower rate than other cities, The New York Times reported. At the start of March, one infected person was passing COVID-19 on to an average of 2.7 other people. Now, at the end of the month after social distancing measures were put into place, that average is down to 1.4.
The researchers analyzed COVID-19 test results, deaths, mobile phone use and car traffic, among other factors, to reach their findings. As of Monday, Seattle and King County has 2,159 cases of COVID-19 and 141 deaths, according to Public Health Seattle and King County. The city has done a significant amount of testing, and of the 16,280 people tested, 14,121 came back negative.
However, they emphasize that the data is still new, and it does not mean that Seattle should loosen its restrictions on residents.
“The threat of a rebound that could overwhelm the health care system remains, and will remain for the foreseeable future, if we let up too soon,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, the Health Officer for Public Health Seattle and King County, told the Times.
And while Seattle is seeing promising changes in the rate of spread, more rural areas of Washington are beginning to see their first cases. There are currently 4,896 COVID-19 cases in the state, the seventh-most nationwide, and 207 people have died.
“There is evidence that doing the aggressive measures can have a benefit,” Gov. Jay Inslee said, according to the Times. But, he added, the state is not “within 1,000 miles of declaring victory.”
“It would be grossly irresponsible to stop these measures now,” he said.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
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