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Dear neighbors,

May has been a confusing and complex month so far - at least for me, that is! I've struggled to make sense of the polarized debates in this nation and across social media. This newsletter contains:
  • My best interpretation of the way forward: please encourage people to support a suppression strategy and embrace testing, (low tech) contact tracing, and (supported) isolation.
  • Door-hangers with the NCH Community Hotline last weekend
  • Need a cloth mask? Scroll down...

The Way Forward

There's one BIG trap running rampant in our national conversation right now: "saving the economy" versus "saving lives". In truth, these things go hand-in-hand - but which prioritization strategy we use to pursue them matters very much:
  • If we prioritize the economy with less regard for public health, most people will remain fearful and protective, economic demand will remain severely depressed, and we'll see more outbreaks and lockdowns.
  • If we prioritize public health with little regard for the economy, then we do lose more jobs, homes, and lives to economic hardship.
  • If we prioritize public health first and also safe economic activity, we can save the most lives and also resume the largest possible amount of normal activity
We need to privilege health and safety, and then resume as many prudent activities as we can while keeping the disease transmission/growth rate below 1.0. The best way to suppression of the disease is an epidemiological playbook that's been used for decades:

Test, Trace, Isolate

Test: In the beginning, only severe cases were tested. Now, we have the ability to test anyone with symptoms, and some of their contacts.  Washington State is currently testing roughly 6,000 people per day, which helps, but ideally would rise to at least 20,000.

Trace: Contact tracing has been used for decades to fight smallpox, Ebola, measles, SARS, and many other diseases. In my opinion, it's looking less likely that mobile phones will play a significant role in tracing the spread of Covid-19, so forget about apps for now - it's all about calling people and asking who they have been in contact with. Washington State now has 2100 contact tracers trained, but getting them connected with counties and timely data is the current challenge.

Isolate: The words isolation and quarantine both technically refer to isolating individuals who have or might have the disease. (This is very different than stay-at-home/shelter-in-place/lockdown, which affects everyone.) Given how much Covid-19 transmission occurs within households, I believe that providing supported centralized isolation would be a big win, so that people have the ability to avoid infecting their family and housemates.

I've personally written about suppression (using TTI) as a strategy, and summarized a concrete implementation guideline that defines green/yellow/red disease prevalence zones and recommended actions for each. When you're in the red, you lock down. When you're in the green, you pursue containment. But almost the whole country (as of May 12th) is yellow - where TTI can shine in helping us suppress the spread.
So when you talk with people, please encourage them to support a suppression strategy and embrace testing, (low tech) contact tracing, and (supported) isolation. The faster we can collectively embrace these tools, the fewer lives and jobs we will lose over the coming months.

NCH Community Hotline Reminder

picture of door hangersI hope you saw this hanging on your door last Sunday - it took me about 4 hours (and 9 miles!) to cover the whole neighborhood. And yes, if you're reading this email there's no need to sign up again; it was just simpler to do every house. Cut off the bottom couple inches to pin the number to a bulletin board!

Once again, the hotline number is:

(Phone number redacted from web-accessible archive. Sign up at to get the number!)

Please feel free to call that number for any reason (except emergencies) that a friendly neighbor could be of assistance! There's no harm in asking, and no shame if it doesn't work out. Especially as contact tracing and isolation ramp up, we could play a role in supporting self-isolating neighbors by delivering supplies.

Need a Mask?

Not a sewist/sewer? Rebs on Dibble recommends Seattle-based Splash Fabric for their quality and turnaround at about $10/each. If you don't have the funds or need a simpler option, send me a Slack message or reply to this email - we have a collection of homemade masks to share!

Peace, health, and solidarity,

Community hotline phone number:

(Phone number redacted from web-accessible archive. Sign up at to get the number!)