Coronavirus forum brings experts together at UW

SEATTLE — Health experts held a coronavirus and disease preparedness forum on Wednesday night. The speakers were from the University of Washington, Washington State Department of Health and area hospitals.

Discussion panels included how the coronavirus spreads and causes disease, the response to coronavirus and future outbreaks and work that is currently underway to bring antidotes and vaccines.

“I think people just get intrigued by the new virus that’s out and about, especially when it’s impacting global communities as opposed to just the U.S.” said Vidhi Singh, student at UW.

Dr. George Diaz of Providence Regional Medical Center treated the first case of coronavirus in the U.S.

He said medical staff training that has been implemented since the 2015 Ebola outbreak paid off.

“We had been working on this sort of monthly, like a fire drill, for the past five years,” said Dr. Diaz. “Two weeks before our first patient arrived, we did a full hospital-wide drill where we sort of set off all the pagers, brought everybody together and ran through sort of all the plans and protocols we have in place to receive a patient like this.”

Diaz said one of the floors at the medical facility in Everett is prepared to treat up to 60 people should there be a coronavirus outbreak locally.

A speaker from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said the virus is dangerous one. In his experience, he said it is the fastest moving and threatening one he has seen in the last two decades.

As of Wednesday night, the virus has claimed the lives of about 2,000 people who were mainly in China where the outbreak started. The number of cases continues to grow, with upwards of 80,000 confirmed cases globally.

“I think there’s a lot of cultural barriers that need to be explored and respected,” said Nandita Somaya, student at UW. “A lot of what is happening is a lot of different ethnicities are being targeted, which is unheard of and shouldn’t be happening.”

The risk to the general public in the U.S. continues to be low, but it’s a deadly virus that health experts will continue monitoring.