Our local metro area now more clearly looks to have avoided the worst possibilities. Three days ago Gov. Inslee returned some ventilators to the national stockpile, and today he returned the CenturyLink Field Hospital to FEMA for redeployment to another state. We are thrilled to not be needing these resources here, and hope and pray that they can mitigate the devastation elsewhere across the country. Covid-19 is now the leading cause of death in the country, the greater NYC area remains overwhelmed, the Cook County Jail in Chicago is now the largest point source of cases, the virus has officially reached 2/3 of all rural US counties, and cases have reached 1.5 million globally.
Read on for a few quick updates, then some thoughts on what the next phase might look like, and finally a request for feedback on my proposal for a NCH phone hotline.
A few quick updates
In the last 8 days for our zip code of 98177 (containing about 20,000 people) has recorded 6 cases (from 40 to 46) and 5 deaths (from 7 to 12).
The often-updated IHME projection for WA was demonstrably incorrect a few days ago, and yesterday's projection may still be too optimistic given what we know about WA case counts and testing rates. So, we're near the statewide peak for this wave, but not over it. King County may have peaked already.
The CDC is now recommending (cloth, homemade) masks for everyone, as I predicted my previous newsletter. If you'd like to talk sewing, mask patterns, and elastic supplies, just ask in our Slack chat!
My personal advice is to wear a mask outside your house, and at the same time act like you're not wearing one. In other words, do not reduce social distancing or take any more risks because you feel safer. A cloth mask basically does not stop you from inhaling the virus - the primary aim is "source control" reducing outbound droplets. It's a collective bargain to protect each other.
The next phase
I'm not a doctor, and I'm not going to link to the various theories I've been seeing physicians debate (hemoglobin iron-knockout, thrombotic microvasculopathy) because I don't understand them myself, but my take is that:
There is no silver bullet today - not hydroxy/chloroquine nor anything else. But with a few more months, I would guess that the medical community will understand much more about how the disease works, and (fingers crossed) be able to reduce the fatality rate significantly.
- Despite China's learning, we do not yet understand this disease
- We will likely have a much better understanding within a few months
Test and Trace
We don't have a full plan for lifting the lockdowns and restarting the economy, but one key ingredient is called "contact tracing." Traditionally this is done through in-person interviews, but technology could help - while creating other dangers. It doesn't have to become Big Brother, though! Groups in Europe and MIT (among others) are working on "privacy-preserving proximity tracing" and you can read an introduction here.
NCH Phone Hotline
(Background: I've been talking about a North Crown Hill "contact directory" as a way to connect and support each other, especially our non-internet-connected neighbors - but the design wasn't sitting right in my head. There are obvious privacy issues with neighborhood-wide information sharing, but I hadn't come up with a good tree-based or cell-based model that would work well.)
I now propose to create a virtual "hotline" phone number, which anyone could call and leave a voicemail. That voicemail would then be auto-transcribed and posted in a Slack channel, where one of us could jump in to help or communicate with the caller. I'm pretty sure this is feasible with Google Voice to email to Slack, and will try a proof-of-concept, but I'd love to get feedback on the model:
This would not replace any emergency services, but could be an easy way for someone to request neighborly assistance. What do you think? Just reply to this email with any thoughts you have.
- Do you think this would work well?
- Do you see any improvements or problems?
- Would you be willing to help respond (by receiving notifications from Slack on your mobile phone) when able?
Thanks, and until next week(ish),