Once the coronavirus ‘epicenter,’ this American city reversed course

Nearly 20 coronavirus patients came in every day. The staff was out of personal protective equipment. Even one of the doctors became seriously ill from the virus.

"It's very sober," Hanson said. "It gave us a lot of pause and said & # 39; Are we doing the right thing? & # 39;"


But that was a month ago. Now Hanson strolls past room after room with empty beds. The lights are off. The waiting room is almost empty.

Chaos has become quiet.

"We're probably 10% to 15% of what we saw with Covid at the peak," Hanson said.


Kirkland Hospital is a testimony to what has changed in Washington. Once it led the nation to death and considered a hot zone to avoid, Washington now ranks No. 8, with 870 deaths from the new coronavirus as of May 7.

How did it happen? With a unified approach, say local officials and researchers who spoke to CNN. Even before stay-home orders became part of the American vocabulary, Amazon and Microsoft, both headquartered in Washington, encouraged tens of thousands of Seattle area employees to work from home.

It wasn't a coincidence.


"We included (the tech giants) in our plans and conversations from the beginning," said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. "The first phase of getting people to telecommunicate and not get to the center really started to break the back of the virus."

It took thousands of people off Seattle's streets just three days after Washington recorded the country's first known death at a time from Covid-19 on February 29. On the same day, Washington statesman Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency.

"This was an all-point bulletin," Inslee told CNN. "And I think it was successful because it set the audience up to be willing to do things very, very quickly."

Eleven days later, Inslee banned gatherings of 250 or more in the most populous counties, and by March 13 he ordered community houses and schools to close. Restaurants followed.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan with mask on city views

"We had a uniform message from the governor to the county mayor," Durkan said. "So we talked with a voice."


& # 39; I wanted to jump up & down & # 39;

Across the country, in New York, Dr. Isaac Weisfuse feared that New York would overtake Washington as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Any virus can be in New York City in 24 to 48 hours," said the epidemiologist, marking New York's global affiliation with the world market. New York City is also one of the most densely populated cities in the country dependent on mass transit, making it a perfect place for a highly contagious virus to spread.

Weisfuse, a former deputy commissioner with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said he was concerned that warnings from the scientific community were not coming to the public enough – long before there were world episodes with more than 25,000 deaths.

"I wanted to jump up and down because I didn't really understand why there was no more crisis" with local politicians, said Weisfuse, who is also a professor at Cornell University.

Unlike Inslee, New York Prime Minister Andrew Cuomo took an optimistic approach to begin with as he sat down with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference after the first New York coronavirus case was announced 1. March.

"Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers … we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York," Cuomo said. "When you say what happened in other countries versus what happened here. We don't even think it's going to be as bad as in other countries."

Cuomo and de Blasio turned a decisive course, but the mayor was blown away to get in a final training session before the closure of theaters and gyms took effect.

"New York City politics are complicated," Weisfuse said. "It is true that these emergencies are almost like opportunities for politicians to show how crucial and how they are in control."

Coronavirus first ravaged parts of Washington state. Now there are signs of a change

On April 30, at the governor's daily press conference – now embraced by national audiences for his steady approach, Cuomo told CNN "no state moved faster from the first case to total closure."

New York's full domicile order came into effect March 22, a day before Washington State and three days after California.

Inslee said the time for the closure order was out of design, and happened after most public places were already closed.

"If you're going to lead a parade … make sure someone is behind you," Insleesaid. "And if you go too fast and the public is unwilling to accept, you have lost touch with society."

A game-changing discovery

Some floors of Hanson's emergency room at EvergreenHealth Hospital in Kirkland, Dr. Francis Riedo made the discovery that sent many of Washington's public officials and Centers for Disease Control into overdrive.

In late February, before the United States learned that Covid-19had escaped into their communities, Riedo randomly selected two patients for a coronavirus test. Neither had been out of the country or had any connection to infected countries – both tested positive.

Dr. Francis Riedo / Medical Director of Infectious Disease

It turned out that the spread of the community already happened.

"It was a moment of recognition that everything had changed," says Riedo, director of infectious disease at EvergreenHealth. "Over the next five days, we tested 42 more and found 32 more positive patients."

Many of them came from the Life Care Center down the street in Kirkland.

More than 100 cases and at least 35 deaths were eventually linked to the nursing home, and the nation watched in dismay when a macabre parade of ambulances took one patient after another to the local hospitals.

Weisfuse, the Cornell professor, said he believed it played a role in how Washingtonians reacted.

"(Washington) went through the crucible of having a really difficult break-in that was not so bad or so clear at that moment," he said.

The Life Care case was an early stumbling block in Washington's response. Not only did patients die, a third of the staff fell ill and were unable to return to work. It took more than a week for a federal government medical team to arrive and offer practical help.

The governor said the operators of the nursing home division are to blame for that.

"This company had a responsibility for the medical care of its patients," Inslee said. "And to a certain extent we couldn't just go in on day one without any coordination with them to really understand the circumstances."

A Life Care spokeswoman said that nursing homes have been kept to a different, unfair standard compared to hospitals.

"No hospital was blamed for deaths that occurred there after being hit with the virus," said Tim Killian, a spokesman for Life Care. "The virus happened to us when there was still confusion about how contagious it was and how it spread."

The nursing home struggled to get enough testing and PPE for its staff, Killian said.

EvergrenHealth nurse writes on the window what the patient needs, including chapstick

It was and continues to be a question across the country, Inslee said.

"We did not have enough PPE for nurses and many facilities, and to some extent still do not," he said.

He blames President Donald Trump because "there is only one person" who has the power to force mass production of PPE.

"I was not disappointed, I got mad for weeks." Include it. "Because we badly needed this material."

But he says the federal government has increased production and that some supplies are coming in. Washington has even been able to return some government fans since flattening the basket.

Inslee has begun to open things in its state, but at a gentle pace.

State parks are open, some construction is allowed again, and there are also limited passenger car sales. Boeing, the state's largest employer, has workers back on the line.

By May 31, the state can allow people to return to dining at restricted restaurants, and retail on the street can begin.

Science and data will dictate the pace, Inslee said.

"This is very important because when we move away from the silent social distance instrument to the smart weapon for testing, contact tracking and isolation, we must have that opportunity up and running."

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