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Updates for March 28, 2020: New health officer order, COVID-19 support for shelters and people living homeless, and Public Health – Seattle & King County announces 249 new cases of COVID-19

Summary

Public Health – Seattle & King County's Health Officer re-emphasized the need to prevent new cases with a new health order and directive. With prevention activities ongoing at shelters, individual cases have been identified and responses are underway. King County will open isolation and quarantine beds in Issaquah on March 29th, in addition to facilities already operational in Kent and North Seattle. There are 249 new cases and 11 new deaths from COVID-19 today.

Story

New health officer order

The COVID-19 outbreak is ongoing in King County, with new cases and deaths reported each day. To re-emphasize the need for all King County residents to prevent new cases, Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County signed an order and directive on March 28. The order makes it mandatory for people with a positive COVID-19 test to follow isolation protocols at home or at a recovery facility; the directive requires everyone with COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing) who has a test pending to stay quarantined.

Statement by Dr. Duchin:

Many steps we are taking as a community are helping to decrease the number of people who get sick, need hospital care and who die. However, we cannot stop the outbreak completely and our community will likely remain at risk for months to come.

Through my health order and directive today, I am re-emphasizing the requirement for people who are infected with COVID-19 to follow our existing recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others in the community by staying isolated from others while ill, and to stay quarantined with symptoms while test results are pending.

Each of us need to do whatever we can to prevent others from becoming ill. Everyone—young and old, whether you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or not—should stay home and avoid all non-essential contact with others.

To protect the public, if an individual with active COVID-19 is not voluntarily remaining isolated, or if an individual who has COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing) with a test pending is not remaining self-quarantined, they may be subject to enforcement actions, which could include legal actions for involuntary detention. The order is posted on the Public Health COVID-19 website.

COVID-19 prevention support for shelters

Public Health continues to provide support for settings where there is greater risk of transmission and higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, including long-term care facilities and shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Response teams have been working with homeless service providers to reduce the potential for widespread transmission. This includes onsite assessment, infection control guidance, and connecting homeless service providers to options that reduce the number of people in any particular shelter.

To create more physical space between individuals, which can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the King County Department of Community and Human Services is renting hotel rooms across the region for people currently staying in high-capacity shelters. This is in addition to creating new spaces for people experiencing homelessness.

Positive cases in shelters

Public Health receives information about individuals who have tested positive and stayed in shelters in the following ways:

  • Disease investigators contact individuals who test positive. During follow-up, investigators assess whether an individual may have exposed others if they spent time in a shelter.

  • Public Health follows-up with hospitals and healthcare settings with positive cases and may become aware that an individual may have spent time in a shelter.

  • Public Health has started to receive positive test results through information from the Seattle Flu Study, an independent research study that conducts testing in shelters across the region.

To date, Public Health has received notification of one positive COVID-19 case among 77 tests by the Seattle Flu Study. Separate from the study, Public Health has learned of three additional shelter locations with one confirmed case each. Additional information is not being publicly released by Public Health at this time to protect the privacy of the individuals, shelter staff, and clients.

Public Health is following up with all the affected facilities to conduct a clinical assessment of their residents and ensure infection control is being followed.

Support for people living homeless with COVID-19

With more intensive testing of individuals living homeless, and more positive cases expected, King County will open isolation and quarantine beds at a former hotel in Issaquah on Sunday, March 29, in addition to facilities already operational at a Kent motel and modular units set up in North Seattle.

Individuals living homeless who test positive and need isolation will be provided transportation to one of these sites and supported in the following ways:

  • Medical personnel will provide monitoring, and social workers will ensure that any behavioral health or other services continue. The King County Facilities Management Division provides 24-hour security.

  • People at these facilities will receive meals prepared by FareStart and snacks delivered to their door. In addition, they may receive incentives including a cash value card upon discharge, so long as they have complied with all medical orders and social distancing practices.

  • Once they recover, they are provided free transportation from the site back to their city of origin.

Before staying at the facilities, individuals must read and agree to abide by directives issued by the Health Officer requiring that they remain separated from others and comply with instructions to neither leave the facility nor have visitors. If not voluntarily compliant, Public Health will take enforcement action, up to and including seeking a court order and involuntarily detaining the patient to protect the public.

King County continues to develop additional sites for isolation and quarantine to provide different settings that can serve the full spectrum of county residents who will require publicly provided isolation and quarantine.

Before all facilities are fully operational, some who test positive may also experience behavioral conditions that require additional supports that county facilities are not yet ready to provide. As possible, the Healthcare for the Homeless Network and other community programs will monitor the welfare of these county residents.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update

Isolation and quarantine is a proven public health practice for reducing the spread of disease. Examples of people who may need this assistance include people who cannot safely isolate from a family member who is elderly or medically fragile, or people experiencing homelessness. Individuals can only be placed into the King County sites after a health professional with Public Health—Seattle & King County has determined that they need isolation or quarantine.

Ten people are currently staying in King County isolation and quarantine facilities.

The number of people at King County's isolation and quarantine sites will be included in regular updates provided by Public Health. No other identifying or personal information will be provided.

Case updates

Public Health—Seattle & King County is reporting the following confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 p.m. on 3/27/20.

  • 2,077 confirmed positive cases (up 249 from yesterday)
  • 136 confirmed deaths (up 11 from yesterday)

Important note: With the launch of a new data dashboard (www.kingcounty.gov/covid/data), Public Health will no longer be listing individual deaths by age and gender in our News Release. Detailed information about demographics of those who died from COVID-19 is available on the dashboard. Be sure to click the button to filter by “positive results only” to see age and gender of deaths. A PDF is also available.