Pacific Northwest may have lowest coronavirus case rates in US, mayor's findings claim

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The two biggest metro areas in the Pacific Northwest are seeing the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the nation, according to data from the Seattle mayor’s office.

Based on findings released by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office on Monday, Seattle’s home turf, King County, is reporting 9.9 cases per 1,000 people.

Seattle’s own case rate is even lower at 7.4 per 1,000 people, Durkan’s numbers show.

In Oregon, Multnomah County’s case rate is 8.9 per 1,000 people. There are no exact numbers for cities like Portland given that states such as Oregon tracks case rates by county.

Nashville, El Paso, Memphis, Phoenix, and Houston round out the top five cities for highest case rates in the country.

Nashville and El Paso’s case rates stand at 41.8 cases per 1,000 people and 33.9 cases per 1,000 people, respectively.

Both cities are home to significantly more Black and Hispanic residents, who the CDC reports can be at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 due to such factors as occupation and housing.

“It’s the people of Seattle who have kept the case count low, by being serious about social distancing, about hygiene and washing your hands, about wearing face covers, and about getting tested,” Stephanie Formas, Durkan’s chief of staff, told the Seattle Times. “Seattle has made the commitment to protect our neighbors and to protect ourselves from the spread of COVID.”

The data does not provide a clear reason why the Pacific Northwest is faring better compared to the rest of the country.

Oregon and Washington were both quick to enact week-long stay-at-home orders this past winter and impose face mask orders for residents.

The two states have also placed restrictions on social gatherings, bars and restaurants while most schools are teaching online only.

If Durkan’s data is true, then Seattle and Portland are also maintaining low COVID-19 case rates despite seeing some of the largest protests against police brutality in the nation.

Preliminary research from a team led by Fred Hutchinson scientists Dr. Ashish Goyal, Dr. Joshua T. Schiffer, and Dr. Bryan T. Mayer suggests that many infectious people may spread the virus for shorter periods than believed.

Their model proposes that some people can spread it for as little as one or two days before coming down with symptoms. A person can still spread the virus to dozens of people in that time, the team wrote.

“The ethical thing to do as an individual is to walk around with the assumption that you’re infectious and contagious, and that it’s your responsibility to protect the public,” Schiffer said.

The Washington Department of Health reported on Sunday that the state crossed the 90,000 mark for COVID-19 cases as 2,100 people have died from the virus in the state.

In Oregon, there are more than 35,000 COVID-19 cases and 581 deaths as it anticipates doubling its testing capacity to 80,000 tests a week courtesy of 150 million new testing kits from the federal government.

John Hopkins University & Medicine reports that COVID-19 has killed more than 210,000 people in the U.S. where there are now 7.4 million reported cases of the virus.

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