Sunday, March 1, 2020

Snow in the Mountains, A Touch of Snow in the Lowlands, and A Question about the Coronavirus

This week, our region will remain on the cold side of normal, and with the frequent passage of weather systems, the Cascades will bet plenty of snow.

We start with a healthy snowpack in the mountains, with the latest USDA snotel analysis indicating  most WAregions are above normal.

The latest European Center accumulated snowfall total through next Saturday at 10 PM suggests 1-2 feet in the central/north Cascades and even a touch of snow reaching near sea level.


In fact the UW WRF model, goes beyond that, suggesting a dusting in the south Sound.


This light snowfall would occur next Saturday, as a cold trough moves through the region (see map).  Stay tuned...lots of uncertainty that far out.  The lowland snow season is about to end over the western lowlands. Very, very rare to get snow near sea level after March 10th.


Question on the Coronavirus

I am interested in this issue for many reasons, including the big one of risk management, which weather forecasters think a lot about.  There has been nearly non-stop news on the outbreak, the stock market has plummeted, and my email inbox is full of warnings.

But there is something that I have yet to see the media or political officials say---could there be some very good news implied by the recent cases in Washington State and elsewhere?  That, in fact, the virus is generally mild for nearly everyone other the infirm/elderly and that disruption will be minimal?

Here is my logic.  There have been a number of cases in our region--folks apparently unconnected with anyone coming from China, South Korea, other hotspots.   It appears that the virus has been spreading for weeks here in the Northwest., with no real uptake in mortality and morbidity.

Might it be that this virus has already spread extensively among us?  That most folks don't even notice it or get what they thought was a cold or flu?  That only when the COVID-19 test became available, did doctors realize what is going around? 


Perhaps, the coronavirus may not be much more problematic than a very bad seasonal flu, which has a long history of fatality to elderly and compromised individuals.  Interestingly, the virus has proven to be mild or without symptoms for the young.

Just for some perspective,, there were 245 flu deaths in WA  state last winter season.   So far this year, the coronavirus has killed two in WA State.

I am not minimizing the loss of the elderly or infirm.  All steps must be taken to protect them.  But the young face a very modest risk.

Our local population is starting to go into panic mode, which was made clear to my visit to my local food store this evening, which was stripped of everything from bread (see below) to frozen foods. A number of schools have shut down temporarily.


I would be interested in feedback from blog readers that are experts in this area.




36 comments:

  1. 1 in 10 are dying in Iran who catch it based on incomplete reports. Too soon to say overreaction. Even 2% is very high.

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    1. The big threat of the virus is the posible overwhelming of our meager hospital bed availability,of roughly 4 thousand available beds nationally. At the moment the data points to a 18-20% pneumonia rate of severe cases.With out 10-20 days in ICU,most would die.
      So,if indeed true that 20%get pneumonia, then Seattle in a geometric epidemic would exhaust all available hospital beds in thhe US in about 2 weeks.Do the math,even if the pneumonia rate is much lower,bed space for pneumonia will most likely be exhausted in the next few weeks.
      That coupled with possible much worse reinfection symptoms(it seems that you can get the virus again in the same season,with out gaining immunity)to watch this closely. The data is sparse so far,so we can only watch and take reasonable protocols, remember that the governments response,or lack of is controlled by 2 main factors.Civil unrest and the stock market.That is what they will concentrate on.Its up to you to manage your selves,The government has bigger issues then your personal health,if the market tanks it will make coherent response much harder.
      The number one first step in planning for you and your family is to have a Family Pandemic Plan.All emergency professional organizations say a plan will give you a way foward,and something to rally around as we question what to do.The worst decisions are made when you are scared,with out a plan. Look up Pandemic Family Planning,it is the first step,before any other actions,this is your personal responsibility in this pandemic.It will give you a plan,before the SHTF,and peace of mind,for you and your family.

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  2. Stop saying "it's just a bad flu":

    "Claim: ‘It is no more dangerous than winter flu’
    Many individuals who get coronavirus will experience nothing worse than seasonal flu symptoms, but the overall profile of the disease, including its mortality rate, looks more serious. At the start of an outbreak the apparent mortality rate can be an overestimate if a lot of mild cases are being missed. But this week, a WHO expert suggested that this has not been the case with Covid-19. Bruce Aylward, who led an international mission to China to learn about the virus and the country’s response, said the evidence did not suggest that we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg. If borne out by further testing, this could mean that current estimates of a roughly 1% fatality rate are accurate. This would make Covid-19 about 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu, which is estimated to kill between 290,000 and 650,000 people a year globally."

    From the Guardian.

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    1. The Guardian, that says it all. Talk about a paper that exaggerates. Same person interviewed by the Globe and Mail, “What China demonstrates is that this one is not beyond control. It’s a function of your response,” said Bruce Aylward, who led an independent fact-finding mission to study the spread of the virus in China, as well as that country’s response.

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  3. Snow would be nice, I have been overly optimistic on that call all Winter, time to rein in the excessive exuberance of low level snow here in the Portland area. A thought on the circulation of the Coronavirus-19. If the 14 days incubation is true, and the patient was ill over a week, it is possible the virus gained public circulation 3 or more likely 4 weeks ago. One of our natural viral defenses is our noses and the abundance of mucus our Pacific NW climate affords each of us. Just speculation but let it snow and rain might be good for our health.

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  4. When I saw snow forecast for next Fri into Sat, I had to do a quadruple-take. And it's indeed been and looks as though it will continue to be cold (off and on) for the first couple of weeks of March.

    About the coronavirus: I 100% concur with you, and here's why. I have not had a cold or the flu for four decades. I worked for the school district at a grade school in my early 20's and was sick every single day, so I assume I built up a strong immune system.

    I'm not around people. I did, however, get some hot and sour soup in January, and the owner said her parents had recently arrived for their 3-6 mo limit to take care of her child. I can't remember which country she said they live in, and I thought nothing of it, until three days later, when I got my first cold since my 20s. I was quite ill, and it turned into a strong chest cold. I had a difficult time breathing for a couple of nights, and I was a bit scared. I stayed completely away from the community.

    I suspect the virus has been among us for much longer than we're aware (perhaps arriving via the new-ish Everett Airport). I've been hit by a lot of drunk drivers and seriously injured, and in one of the accidents, my lungs collapsed and I had double pneumonia. So when I was so sick, my concern was for my lungs.

    In addition to what people normally do, I also consumed as much hot salsa/peppers as possible. I'm convinced that it helped.

    I'm still staying away from people, even though I feel fine, and have felt fine for a couple of weeks now, but I don't want to get that again. The cough was scary, but as a boomer with rather weak lungs, I did fine.

    I suspect most people who might get it will be fine. I don't know if this was intentionally let loose on society or just how/where/when it started, but if what I had was coronavirus, I consider it easier to catch than the common cold or flu, but about on par with the symptoms of a strong chest cold.

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    1. This happened right after (literally) Trump put pressure on China not to put military members in China businesses. It's been the law for the last 30 years you have to have 3 military members and communist people's party members in your business so they will share the secrets with the government. When Norton went to China back in 2014 (well actually 2011 but they kept an American division promising not to be all Chinese but lied and shut it down in 2014) and right away we had the US Government computers be hacked without a trace.

      The US Government all uses the Enterprise version of Norton 360 and the Chinese military has the ability to get into any computer with Norton 360 now world wide. Geez I wonder how they got hacked? :) :)

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  5. I'm not an expert on these matters, but here is an article written by experts, published yesterday, that gives some perspective: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387?fbclid=IwAR3ZKHyXqCzxYBGBwhGe2P_Mr0hzlTec43omz4OMKSgTf0G7ygCg150jCPU

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  6. Re:covid-19 spread. That’s exactly what this Fred Hutch Researcher has also said based on analysis of the genomes of the two snohomish county cases:

    https://twitter.com/trvrb/status/1233970271318503426?s=20

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  7. Well, as my wife is on Chemo right now, and immune compromised, I'm sort of forced to take this seriously. If the hazard is over-hyped, but restrains people from acting stupidly, I'm ok with that.

    And given the events of the last couple of days, and the fact I learned about the first fatality via twitter, at least a full 12 hours before officials announced it, indicates the Governor, and state and local health departments are withholding information to the point of outright lying about the severity of the problem. If they are hoping to avoid a panic, that strategy may backfire in a BIG way.

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  8. Officials are in a bad spot. If they release information as they get it they'll be blasted for "scareing" us with incomplete information and conjecture for something that "isn't that bad" If they don't say anything while they wait for all fact's and data to come in the same people will blast them for "witholding vital information" and not telling all immediately.

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  9. Propensity to spread times variable death rate. Health worker infections and death rates in China seem to indicate this is a dangerous virus.

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    1. Over half of men in China smoke. I suspect that influences death rates there.

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  10. Some reasons for caution trying to extrapolate from what is happening in China.

    1). Contributing to suseptibility to viral infecton:
    Percentage of people who smoke in China much higher than US. Also terrible air pollution in many cities.
    2). People who get sick the fastest and taken to isolation/hospital likely to be less mobile and mixing with others to transmit. This would lead to natural selection of mutated virus causing milder symptoms therefore allowing more mobility and more contacts for transmission.
    3). #2 above possibly has some support from genetic analysis showing some of those tested in Seattle area have markers that were not common in China.
    4). Does anybody trust that China will give us an honest estimate of total numbers found positive and/or that any country has enough accurate test kits (first kit that went out from CDC were defective) to test every single person who might be positive? We will likely never have a good estimate of how many really are infected and therfore the estimate of case fatality rate will remain higher than what it would be if all people infected where tested.

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  11. The thing with viruses like this is they take a few years then come back with a bang! Like a ticking time bomb. They do their thing the first year then seem to go away then come back a few years (usually 2 or 3) and become resistant.

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  12. Stop predicting snow a week out. It’s irresponsible and almost always wrong!

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    1. A refreshing comment among all the coronavirus speculation

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    2. It's ok to predict things, even if their innacurate. Cliff is just saying theres a chance, not certain.

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  13. Don't be panicked, wash your hand, don't use antibacterial products, keep your toothbrush fresh and isolate people who are sick. Also, have home schooling materials available if the schools close.

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  14. The global fatality rate of known cases is 3.4% as of this weekend. Also, while most cases are mild or asymptomatic, the cases with severe illness are high at approx 15%. This can overwhelm the hospital system. In Italy, 10% of cases are among the health care workers thus far. In S. Korea, test results of a large church congregation show that 70% of asymptomatic people are in fact infected. Also the incubation period is generally long, perhaps exceeding 3 weeks, giving a long time for community spread to occur before people may become aware of infection. These ingredients give rise to a potential bad soup. The Democratic National Convention may be at risk. All schools in Japan are to be closed for at least one month, I have read. The death rate is not like Ebola, but the infection rate is high. I would underestimate the disruption this will cause. To contain it, you have to isolate the pockets, which can be draconian on a large scale. We have failed the first phase miserably. The second phase now begins.

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    1. THIS. The mortality rate is 3.4% worldwide, and specifically in Italy it's 3.3%. The seasonal flu mortality rate is 0.05-1%, but let's say 1%. That means that the coronavirus is 34x more deadly than the flu. Overall numbers mean nothing so far because this epidemic just started; ones chance of dying are what's relevant. I'm a little disappointed that Cliff is repeating this "the flu is deadlier" line when we haven't seen possibly the tip of the iceberg on the coronavirus cases.

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  15. Irresponsible? Really? Stop looking at forecasts/reading this blog if you are so offended.

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  16. One difference between the flu and Covid-19 is in terms of death rates. CDC says "9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010." - so the death rate is at or less than one tenth of one percent. Covid-19 is currently estimated between 1% and 2% (adults and elderly at a higher proportion. Kids seem to be somewhat better off with this one.)

    Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, predicts that between 40 to 70 percent of adults in the world will become infected with the coronavirus. In the U.S. we have about 200 million adults. 1% to 2% of that is a big number.

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    1. The 2% fatality rate is a percent of known cases, and so far we mostly know about people who have become sick enough to seek care. Very few people have been tested for the infection, so we don't know how many have experienced mild or no symptoms. If, as most epidemiologists are saying, a lot more people have been infected already than we have documented or even estimated, then the death rate may be much lower than 2%--even if, as is likely, some deaths attributed to influenza were really Covid-19 cases.

      On the other hand, the death rate may be higher where the disease spreads in areas impacted by other health issues and/or poor access to health care. We have a lot to learn about other complicating factors.

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    2. How do people get 2%? Do the simple math please. It's 3.4%. the WHO quotes this number of 3.4% also. # of cases/ # of deaths
      The same argument is made for the flu- most people don't report to their doctor that they have the flu, they stay at home and take Tylenol and sleep for a week.

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  17. Couple things about COVID-19 causing all the fuss: [1] This is a "novel virus" meaning its never infected humans before and no one has any immunity to it. And [2] it's not the death rate that's the problem; it's the impact on our healthcare infrastructure and front-line workers. Some epidemiologists are warning up to 70% of the population will become infected. Of that number 82% will have nothing more than the sniffles, as you stated. It's the 18% requiring treatment that's the problem. Just do the math. We have 330 million in the US. Multiply that by 70% then 18% of that. You're talking about in the several millions, just in the US. We only have close to one million hospital beds in the entire country to treat all medical conditions. The brave men and women in Wuhan China where the infection is the worst, are begging for help. In addition to the workers who were already there, around 14,000 others came to help . . . and that still isn't enough. This is the problem every nation on the planet is trying to prevent. Our hospitals and clinics will be deluged. We simply cannot cope with millions of people getting sick enough to need treatment all at the same time.

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  18. Out of 705 people who tested positive on the quarantined cruise ship (Diamond Princess), nearly 400 showed no symptoms, Japanese government officials said Monday. Those people would never have been tested unless they had been on the ship.
    But while many people appear able to shrug the virus off, it is very dangerous for the elderly or people with underlying health problems."
    That is a startling number and one confirmed with testing - 57% showed no symptoms! That is reassuring for those of us in good health, but illustrates how easily it will be spread and that is dangerous for those of us not in good health

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  19. It simply demonstrates what terrorists have known all along.. that we are a feeble and weak society of hand-wringers who are easily scared out of our wits by the slightest threat. No backbone left whatsoever.

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  20. There is a ton of misinformation and and a big lack of data concerning the mortality of the virus. Your anecdotal guessing (to sum up: "hey, an entirely unknown number of people got it in Washington and they might have been fine") doesn't add or mean much of anything. The current best info is 1% mortality (https://www.bbc.com/news/health-51674743). Admittedly based on incomplete data. But based on, well, actual data. This is 10x the mortality of a generic seasonal flu.

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  21. 1. Flu has been going on for a while, much longer duration than the coronavirus. The data in China has already proven that the death rate is much higher than the flu. It's kind of meaningless to compare #death by flu in WA to #death by coronavirus in WA so far.

    2. Sure the young’s immune system may be strong enough that the virus won't be fatal for them, but if they get infected and go to public occasions unaware of it, they will become a spreading source, and may eventually cause children/old people to die. That's really unideal.

    3. Also according to the SARS happened in early 2000, if you get infected, even if you recover from it, it's not guaranteed to be a full recovery. It will have a long lasting impact on your immune system/lung functionality and etc.

    4. I think most Americans are still too optimistic about the situation. The homeless issue in SF/Seattle and the public's health awareness are not helping at all.

    5. Super-spreaders were identified in China. One person can end up infecting 10+ people. If you don’t live with old ppl or ppl with suppressed immune system, great. However, theres no guarantee that old ppl or people with suppressed immune system won't be included in the infection chain.

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  22. On account of having planned a trip that required a one-month cancellation notice, I paid close attention to this in February. People need to understand that the "news" media have a vested interest in fomenting panic. It attracts viewers, plus it's yet another opportunity for CNN, Washington Post, NYT, MSNBC, and the broadcast networks to grind their political biases once again.

    I'd specifically draw attention to remdesivir, an experimental anti-ebola drug that was used to successfully cure the very first U.S. COVID-19 patient at the Providence Medical Center in Everett in late January and early February.

    https://www.heraldnet.com/news/first-u-s-coronavirus-patient-released-from-everett-hospital/

    This drug has been in expedited trials, both in China and in Omaha, Nebraska where some of the passengers on that Japanese cruise ship were taken. Do a Google search using the term remdesivir trials and see for yourself. It's not the only drug, but appears to be the most promising. I think we're going to see approval for broad use by the end of April or thereabouts.

    Panic buying in Seattle grocery stores? Doesn't surprise me in the least. That city, where we lived for 16 years, is more of a mess every year. Much of Seattle's citizenry is rather loosely tethered.


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  23. So far at least, this virus doesn't compare to recent outbreaks such as SARS, MERS, and H1N1. Also for point of comparison, millions of US citizens were infected with H1N1 and it was only after over one thousand had died that the Federal Government declared it to be something more serious than the garden variety flu. How quickly the MSM forgets.

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  24. There are some interesting parallels between your calls for improved weather forecasting/nowcasting infrastructure and administration, and our current needs for pandemic forecasting/nowcasting infrastructure and administration. On the bright side we are way way ahead of where we were compared to the 1918 flu and even the SARS pandemics. That we can sequence viral isolates cheaply and provide clinical assays within weeks/months of the first known case is amazing. However, we had some major missed opportunities that ultimately could cost thousands of lives. For example, in Seattle, we are lucky to have the "Seattle Flu Study" - an NIH-funded study to explore the value of having a pandemic-detection infrastructure in place. So Seattle actually has a state-of-the-art pandemic infrastructure running right now. Perfectly positioned to capture the arrival and spread of COVID-19. But because of two factors, it seems to have missed the arrival by about a month or more. First, it is prohibited by the patient privacy HIPPA law and also by its human-subjects protocols from testing for the virus and from reporting the results to the affected people and authorities. Second, no strong figure capable of making executive decisions realized the potential of commandeering the Seattle Flu Study for this purpose, and exempting them from regulations. There is some partial good news. First, the Seattle Flu Study is revising its consent forms to allow some of these things to be done. Second, they have thousands of stored samples. So they will be able to go back and retrospectively figure out what happened.

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  25. Coronavirus has been around for years and all of a sudden its dangerous?? Media, the CDC, World health organization only reports what they are told to say! I would not believe the hype of it all and just take the normal precautions one would take every year, wash your hands and learn about taking charge of your health! There are plenty of herbal concoctions and natural supplements that help a whole lot more than fear!

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  26. Cliff, the corona virus has the potential to be much worse than the common flu. The flu season ends in April due to warming temperatures and the amount of moisture in the air. The virus can not stay airborne. Hope that will be the case with corona virus as well. It would be interesting to look at molding in this regard for Washington state and nationally to determine if moisture in the air will bring an end to corona virus spreading. James

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  27. Travelgirl: do us all a favor and don’t travel. There are multiple different coronaviruses, and this one is new. That’s why it’s called a novel coronavirus. Educate yourself. You may not be at elevated risk for severe illness and death, good for you. Others are. Herbal convictions and “natural” supplements won’t save their lives; community members- OF WHICH YOU ARE ONE- acting responsibly and taking this threat seriously might.

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