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In recent reporting on COVID-19 outbreaks, we’ve talked about infection rates and cases remaining “stable.” But what does this stability in trends actually tell us? In short, it suggests that the collaborative effort of our community to wear masks and practice physical distancing is having a positive effect. It’s helping to prevent further increase in the spread of COVID-19 across our state. As we accept these behaviors as essential for stability, we can anticipate holding steady for the near future in our current Phase 2 of Washington state’s “Safe Start” reopening plan. For now, this is our new normal – a normal that is crucial to embrace so that we not only maintain stability, but also decrease the curve.

For those of you caring for children, this new normal also brings up questions around the mental and physical health effects on the youngest members of our community. To help address many of these concerns for children’s well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Whole U is offering a webinar at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15, featuring UW faculty clinicians from Seattle Children’s Hospital. If interested, registration is available on the Whole U site.

Updates for today:

  • UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
  • Local/National/Global Epidemiology
  • Clarification on Neck Gaiters as PPE

UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary

COVID-19 Positive Inpatient Data Aug 20

Local/National/Global Epidemiology

King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 18,130 total cases and 697 deaths as of Aug. 19. Approximately 5.5% of all tests performed are positive but the number of new positive tests has decreased over the last week (currently at 79/14 days/100,000 people). As of Thursday, Aug. 13, the effective reproductive (Re) number was estimated to be 1, which indicates that the epidemic is not getting better or worse.

Washington: The Department of Health reports 68,689 cases and 1,822 deaths as of Aug. 19. The state is updating a new methodology for reporting testing; once complete, testing results will be available again.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 5,460,429 COVID-19 cases and 171,012 deaths as of Aug. 19.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Situation Report for August 16 reports 21,294,845 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 761,779 deaths.

Clarification on Neck Gaiters as PPE

Last week, Duke University published a study on a new method to test the effectiveness of face coverings. Unfortunately, the findings on neck gaiters and bandanas were misconstrued in both media and as a topic of conversation in our personal lives. Available research actually shows that neck gaiters and bandanas are still a viable option as facial coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Contrary to reporting, they do provide more protection than not wearing a mask at all. The most amount of protection comes from masks or coverings with two layers of fabric and a snug fit, and neck gaiters can fall into this category.

With information from this report still lingering, questions or concerns may arise when patients and visitors arrive at our facilities wearing this type of facial covering. Please note that neck gaiters and bandanas are still considered protective and permissible within current UW Medicine policy for patient/visitor use. For more information, please refer to the Masking Policy and FAQs.

At UW Medicine, we are continuously working at increasing our agility toward monitoring and managing the swings of COVID-19 trends. We can think of this current trend of stability as a “dance” we’re in together – a way to describe the longer-term effort to keep the virus contained. We will be learning how to dance until we have a vaccine, a treatment, or sufficient “natural” immunity in the population. As always, I appreciate your continued commitment to progress and to the health and safety of our community.


John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine