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Posts published in “Day: April 15, 2020”

Covid-19 in the Northwest


Some weeks back, when the pandemic numbers were a lot smaller, I took a look at how the Covid-19 stats were developing in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It looked a lot different then, not least because Idaho had hardly any cases. Now it has about as many as Oregon, and Oregon has a lot more than back then. So does Washington.

Based on the numbers at the Worldometer site, which seems to have some of the best and most regularly updated statistics around (not far off from the excellent Johns Hopkins site), here are some general thoughts.

Back then, Washington state was ending its reign as the state with the largest concentration of Covid-19 cases; a string of outbreaks in the Puget Sound area was making it the nation's leading hotspot. That's changed. It now ranks 13th among the states for number of cases reported, and the number of new cases and number of deaths have slowed dramatically. States like Florida and Georgia, which barely registered nationally then, have swept past the Evergreen State.

No doubt, Washington was helped a lot by early and aggressive state action aimed at blocking the expansion of the contagion. It seems to have worked. The total number of cases per million population there now stands at 1,467, which is well below the national rate of 1,845 - a remarkable turnaround. It also has one of the best rates of testing among the states. Washington should be considered one of the leading success stories in the anti-pandemic effort, at least so far.

California, the other west coast state where the illness caught on early and in a big way, also has made a lot of progress. After a brief turn as the national hotspot, it now ranks only 6th among the states for most cases - even though it's by far the most populous and got a head start in cases - and its cases per million people amount to just 642, one of the lowest rates in the country. It's a remarkable success story.

Oregon, situated between those states, has not done badly either. It never had the really big blooms as the places to the north and south, but it seems to have bent the curve a bit from fairly early on. At this writing, it has 1,633 cases, and has seen steady but not massive expansion. Its rate of cases per million people is 400, making it 6th-best in the nation.

Idaho reported its earliest cases well after Washington and Oregon did, so when I wrote about this a few weeks back there was hardly anything to discuss. since then the Gem State's raw numbers of Covid-19 cases roared upward to catch up with and at times surpass Oregon's; in the last week, the two states have moved upward closely in tandem. At the moment, Idaho reports 1,453 cases.

That's a little less than Oregon's total, but then Idaho has a far smaller population. Its per-million rate is 861, well below Washington but more than double the rate in Oregon. On a per-capita basis, it is growing Covid-19 cases faster than almost anywhere in the west, though the growth has slowed considerably since Governor Brad Little imposed statewide shelter-in-place orders.

In fact, in all three states (and in California and elsewhere too) orders of that kind seem to coincide with a flattening of the increase of cases.

The cases do seem to have popped up all over the place: A big majority of Northwest counties have at least one case. However, it's also true that the cases are heavily concentrated in a few areas. About three-fourths of Washington's cases have appeared in the Seattle-Everett-Tacoma metro areas, with large but much smaller numbers appearing around Spokane, Yakima, the Tri-Cities and Bellingham. In Oregon, almost three-fourths of the cases appear in the Portland metro area and near Salem, in four counties. In Idaho, about half of the reported cases are in the Boise area (Ada and Canyon Counties) and about two-thirds of the rest are in the Sun Valley-Ketchum area and in the communities from there to the nearest larger city, Twin Falls, to the south.

So far, then, the bulk of the cases have been concentrated in relatively few spots. That may be because other areas only caught their early cases after people began taking protective measures.

On the plus side, there are serious indications that the contagion is slowing down, in the western states at least. But that's probably only happening because of the steps, sometimes controversial steps, that have been taken so far.

The picture is much changed but resembles the contours of what we saw a month ago. Will it look the same a month from now?