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How do COVID-19 deaths compare to flu deaths in Washington state?

Doctors tell me that six feet rule is designed to put a up a roadblock for transmission and now masks can help.

A questioning the six feet rule, asked, “So, if this thing is airborne, why the 6ft rule? And if you're stuck in a building with crappy ventilation how are you not going to get it?

“Good question,” said UW Medicine Infectious Diseases Dr. Paul Pottinger. “We think by far the most likely way to catch this infection—this Covid-19—coronavirus infection is actually when you get close to other people who are sick.

That’s why Dr. Pottinger says its crucial to maintain the 6 feet rule to keep anything airborne and droplets at a safe distance.

“Can it be spread airborne?” said Dr. Pottinger. “Well, we think it’s almost always spread by small droplets—snot, spit, respiratory secretions when someone is coughing or sneezing. You can find it in the air in smaller droplet.”

So what about ventilation?

“If you have to go outside or go to work in an area where there is poor ventilation and you’re very closely packed in with other people that’s a problem,” said Dr. Pottinger.

Dr. Pottinger says in that situation, he would advise people to try and change the set-up of their environment.

“If you cannot change that and you are still in close contact with other people, who you don’t know, within 6 feet, indoors, that might be a situation where you would consider wearing a mask—a simple cloth or surgical mask to protect yourself from catching droplets from other people and also to protect others from you,” said Dr. Pottinger.

Another question: Many of you have been asking KOMO News to talk about flu deaths and compare it to COVID-19.

This question came from a KOMO News viewer asking about flu.

“Will you please also announce the total cases and deaths for the regular WA winter 2020 seasonal flu?

The seasonal flu is being ignored and I think it is important to compare and contrast the seasonal flu with COVID-19 virus.”

Here are the latest flu numbers from the Washington State Health Department.

Officials reported 91 flu deaths in Washington in the 2019-2020 flu season, which started in October , Latest Washington News while 291 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Washington since this January.

How contagious is the flu compared to COVID-19?

Infectious disease scientists at Fred Hutch say the R-0 “R-Naught” is used to estimate how many other people one sick person is likely to infect.

Researchers say the ‘R-Naught’ for flu is about 1.3 while the ‘R-Naught for Covid-19 is between 2.5 to 3.5

That means one person sick with the flu can infect 1 person, but those who have the coronavirus in their system, can infect 2-3 people.

Fred hutch infectious diseases Dr. Steve Pergam explained.

“Importantly, it’s higher than flu. And so, we know that it’s more contagious,” said Dr. Pergam. “And part of the reason it’s more contagious is probably the virus, how it works. It’s pretty sticky, it has the ability to spread by touching surfaces like flu does.”

However, Dr. Pergam says what’s more challenging with the spread of Covid-19 is there is no vaccine, but the flu has a vaccine and some pre-existing protection.

“Your immune system is used to seeing flu on a regular basis and you have some ability to fight it,” said Dr. Pergam. “This particular virus is absolutely brand new and different so it’s one thing that our systems have not seen and don’t have the ability to respond to.”

Another Question: Now that the CDC is changing its recommendations about face masks for the general public in the Covid-19 outbreak, what has changed?

The U.S. Surgeon General confirmed a lot of people's concerns about coronavirus spreading before symptoms showing up.

So now health officials say when you’re going to the grocery store or pharmacy, you should probably wear a mask.

“I want to unpack the evolution of our guidance for masks because it has been confusing to the American people,” said U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

For weeks, our top health officials have been urging Americans not to buy masks in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The surgeon general says the CDC, the World Health Organization and his office originally recommended against the general public wearing masks, saying, “because based on the best evidence available at the time, it was not deemed that would have a significant or not on whether a healthy person wearing a mask would contract COVID-19,” said Dr. Adams.

The surgeon general says health officials always recommended people with symptoms to wear masks so they don’t spread the virus to other people. Press Release Distribution Service But now the CDC is recommending face coverings for all Americans—because more people are not showing symptoms who have the virus.

“What has changed in our recommendation? Well it’s important to know we now know from recent studies that a significant portion of people with coronavirus lack symptoms—what we call asymptomatic,” said Dr. Adams. “And even those who eventually become pre-symptomatic—meaning that they will develop symptoms in the future— can transmit the virus to others before they show symptoms.”

In light of this new evidence, the CDC says the mask guideline is voluntary.

“This means the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity. For example, coughing, speaking and sneezing,” said Adams.

The surgeon general added that’s why social distancing and the 6 feet rule are critical in saving people’s lives.

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