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Bellevue ER doctor: Coronavirus cases are leveling off

Dr. Eric Shipley was at the center of the initial coronavirus outbreak. Today the Overlake Medical Center doctor is optimistic that the storm is clearing.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The director of emergency operations at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, the center of the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. six weeks ago, says it appears the crisis is leveling off.

Dr. Eric Shipley himself finds it hard to believe.

"The initial tsunami came, and we kept looking for that next wave. And we keep looking each day. But each day you don’t see it," he said. "Three to four weeks ago I was 'cautiously optimistic.' Today, I am much more optimistic."

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Shipley says ER visits are down 30%, and currently, there is plenty of room for other patients with non-coronavirus related ailments who appear to be avoiding the hospital for fear of COVID-19.

"At the start of the outbreak, we had 10 nursing homes with COVID positive patients, and we expected every one of those to erupt, like we did at Life Center in Kirkland," said Shipley. "We didn't see that."

He credits nursing homes with quickly isolating COVID-19 patients and preventing another major outbreak.

Also, faster testing for the virus is making a big difference.

"It's been huge. We went from a five-day wait for testing (results), which is brutal, to testing in 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is such a big deal," he said.

RELATED: Coronavirus forecast: Deaths per day in Washington state may have already peaked

The UW models widely used by doctors like Shipley point to a possible April 11 peak day for hospital resource use in Washington.

"I think Washington should be the model for predicting, and now the model for how do we exit from this storm," he said.