Hilary Godwin, dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, told the Association of Washington Business that social distancing measures will help slow the spread of COVID-19. But success means that critical cases and fatalities will spread out over time and “this will be a long haul,” she warned.
“The modeling also shows us that letting up on some of these social distancing interventions too early can cause a rebound and another peak in cases,” Godwin said during the Association’s COVID-19 Business Impact Webinar, held last week with more than 1,200 viewers. “It’s important to stay the course. We are all in this together.”
Dean Godwin explained that successful social distancing will keep COVID-19 hospitalizations below the caring capacity of the medical system. Although 80% of infected persons will have mild or moderate symptoms, about 20% will need intensive care, she said.
Earlier in the webinar, Washington State Health Officer Kathy Lofy, a clinical professor of health services at UW SPH, said it was critical for businesses that remained open to set up processes to ensure employees could stay about six feet apart. “Social distancing is really the only tool we have right now to be able to slow the spread of this virus,” Lofy said. “We don’t want to be the next Italy.”
The webinar was held Monday, March 23, the same day Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
“We’re incredibly fortunate in our state to have really outstanding public health folks who have done an amazing job over the preceding weeks to help flatten the curve,” Godwin said.
The dean also described the UW’s role during the outbreak: It’s a key resource for the community in providing medical care, it has ramped up testing for COVID-19, and it is involved in the first vaccine trial in the U.S. “We’re hoping that vaccines and therapeutics become available over time so folks that don’t get infected this time will have good protection in the future,” Godwin added.
She also thanked all of the businesses in the state. “These are uncertain times and it is difficult, but we appreciate the work you are doing to maintain supply chains and make sure that basic services are available – of course, using [social distancing] precautions.”
Other panelists represented the Washington Emergency Management Division, Washington Small Business Development Center, Washington Employment Security Department, Washington State Department of Commerce, U.S. Small Business Administration and Washington Department of Labor & Industries.
The Association of Washington Business represents nearly 7,000 small and medium-sized businesses with about 700,000 employees and serves as the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturing and technology association. A recording of the webinar is available here: https://vimeo.com/400077927