Mandatory social distancing orders may be slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the Seattle area, home to the first coronavirus death in the U.S., but the city’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, warned against complacency, saying the Puget Sound region is still “a month or two away” from relaxing isolation rules.
“What we’ve seen with this virus worldwide is, those kinds of restrictions have to continue for a period of months in order to come and start doing the types of things to reignite our economy,” Durkan said, on Yahoo Finance’s The Ticker. “We’re doing some assessment now, on what are the parts of the economy that we can fire up first, without risking the resurgence of the virus.”
Washington has emerged as a glimmer of hope in the U.S., even as the number of coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket across the country. While 37 of the first 50 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the U.S. were in the Seattle area, health officials are starting to see the epidemiological curve flattening. A new study out from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling found that early containment measures enacted in the region slowed the spread of the virus, though researchers cite more need for progress. Most notably, the study reports that the transmission rate — the number of people each infected person was spreading the virus to — declined from 2.7 to 1.4.
More than 2,300 coronavirus cases and 150 deaths have been confirmed in the Seattle King County area so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“We’re very fortunate in the Seattle area because we are a city that has a number of high tech companies and resources that many cities didn’t have access to,” Durkan said. “We were able to act within days to work with our largest employers in the city of Seattle and King County to have people telecommute as quickly as possible.”
The economic recovery will take much longer than the efforts to halt the virus outbreak, Durkan said. Home to major corporations, including Amazon (AMZN), Starbucks (SBUX), and Boeing (BA), the Seattle area saw jobless claims skyrocket nine-fold to more than 133,000 last week. Durkan said she is working closely with local businesses to help obtain financial aid stemming from the Federal Government’s $2 trillion rescue package. But, she added that it will take much more than a one-time payout to get the region’s economy back on track.
“When you have large retailers as we have centered here like Nordstrom (JWN), you worry about their vitality,” Durkan said. “We’re also home to Expedia (EXPE), which is a great company, but tourism and aviation have been devastated. Each of these companies is a small microcosm of what is going on in different sectors. That is why we have to be very smart about how we rebuild and restart this economy in every city.”
Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita