SEATTLE - On Wednesday, the way of life for Washingtonians drastically changed.
And moving forward, we could expect more "profoundly disturbing" changes, Gov. Jay Inslee said at a news conference Wednesday.
One thing health experts are stressing is social distancing. It’s the one way to slow down COVID-19 as cases are on the trajectory to skyrocket.
State leaders say drastic measures are needed now to avoid turning into another Italy, a country under lock down and in chaos. The health care system there is so overrun doctors are having to make tough decisions on who gets treatment.
Inslee banned gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties. It’s an unprecedented move but King County is going even further, asking people not to go to gatherings with less than 250 people if they can help it. They say anyone with underlying health conditions and older people should avoid crowds altogether and limit social interactions.
King County Executive Dow Constantine told Q13 News on Wednesday that the restrictions on gatherings of less than 250 people should be taken seriously. They do not apply to family gatherings, retail and businesses. But Public Health Seattle & King County says gatherings of less than 250 will have requirements starting on Wednesday.
Event organizers will have to implement social distancing, sanitation, and health screenings.
“I truly believe that this outbreak will be the most transformative and consequential event that we’ve had in this region and in this country,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said.
Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health – Seattle & King County used a chart to show how fast the cases are multiplying.
The state says if we continue to live life as normal, we can expect 60,000 cases of COVID-19 by May. As of Wednesday there were more than 360 confirmed cases in Washington.
“This is a very serious disease, killing 10 times as many people as annual influenza outbreak,” Dr. Duchin said.
Inslee also emphasized that we can no longer compare COVID-19 to the flu. He read a message to reporters he obtained from someone in Italy.
“Stop saying this is the flu or severe flu. Please come and see our intensive care units in Northern Italy. People can’t breathe, and we don’t have a place to put them,” Inslee said.
For people who are not taking the warnings seriously, Inslee had a strong message.
“The penalty is you might be killing your granddad if you don’t do it. I am serious,” he said.
There are no penalties or enforcement measures as of yet. For now they are hoping people will listen and act on their own.
Many people who contract the virus may have mild symptoms or be asymptomatic but can still transmit the virus.
“Regardless of what we do the healthcare system will be very stressed. The actions we take now can lessen the pressure on the system,” Dr. Duchin said.