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By Deborah Bloom
OLYMPIA, Wash., March 10 (Reuters) - Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday said he was considering mandatory measures to prevent an increase in coronavirus cases that could reach 64,000 in the state within eight weeks unless "real action" was taken.
Inslee said epidemiologists were telling him there were likely currently as many as 500 to 2,000 coronavirus cases in Washington, and given the rate of spread of the highly contagious respiratory illness, the number could double every 5 to 8 days.
Washington state has so far reported 162 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus with 22 deaths, but experts believe the number of actual cases is much higher.
"Whether it's 500 today or 1,500 or 2,000, that just goes to a very large number, very quickly." Inslee said.
Asked by reporters whether he was considering mandatory measures to slow the spread, Inslee said he would not be surprised if he had some news on that in the next few days.
"The number of people who are infected in an epidemic like this will double in the state of Washington unless we take some real action here," Inslee told reporters.
"If there are 1,000 people infected today, in seven to eight weeks there could be 64,000 people infected in the state of Washington if we don't somehow slow down this epidemic," Inslee said. (Reporting By Deborah Bloom in Olympia, Washington, additional reporting and writing by Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot)