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COVID-19 update from Public Health – Seattle & King County

Summary

This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in King County. All King County residents should follow Public Health recommendations. Together, we may potentially impact the spread of the disease in our community. Public Health – Seattle & King County announces today 20 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in King County residents. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 51, including 10 deaths.

Story

Local officials announced this week new recommendations to King County residents aimed at reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19. We made these recommendations in consultation with CDC based on the best information we have currently to protect the public's health.

Public Health urges residents to follow these recommendations:

  • People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. People at higher risk include:
    • People 60 and older
    • People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
    • People who have weakened immune systems
    • People who are pregnant
  • Workplaces should enact measures that allow people who can work from home to do so. Taking these measures can help reduce the number of workers who come into contact with people with COVID-19 and help minimize absenteeism due to illness.
    • Some people need to be at work to provide essential services of great benefit to the community. They can also take steps in their workplaces to minimize risk.
  • If you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings.
  • Public Health is not recommending closing schools at this time unless there has been a confirmed case in the school.
  • All people should not go out when they are sick.
  • Avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities, or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you need to go, limit your time there and keep six feet away from patients.
  • More detail on these measures will be available at www.kingcounty.gov/covid

Additional information about school recommendations:

Public Health is not currently recommending that schools proactively close unless they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff member or student.

This guidance may have been confusing for some families and schools because schools bring together large groups of children. School closures have significant negative impacts on our community. We will be providing additional information to schools about how to stay open safely. The considerations we have taken in our decision not to currently recommend routine closure at schools include:

  • Children are not known to get seriously ill from COVID-19
  • Closing schools may not be effective because some children may congregate anyway, at other locations
  • Many parents, such as healthcare workers, need to be at work. If these critical workers stay home with children it causes significant impacts on the healthcare system and other institutions that are essential for our community to function
  • If schools close, some children might have to stay home with alternative caregivers, such as elders, who are more vulnerable
  • We don't know how effective children are in spreading this disease

Some children and staff may be at higher risk for severe illness because of underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system. Public Health advises that those people consult with their healthcare provider to decide the best course of action.

Public Health also respects each individual school's decisions about closures, postponement of activities, or other social distancing measures – as each school knows the needs of their community best.

Public Health is continually assessing our decision not to require the widespread closure of schools. We are continually evaluating information as it becomes available to better inform our decisions about proactive schools closure.

Case update:

COVID-19 test results have come back from a variety of laboratories confirming 20 new cases of COVID-19 in King County residents including one death in a case previously reported by Public Health. This new death was in a woman in her 90s, hospitalized at EvergreenHealth. She died on 3/3/20. With these 20 new results, the total number of cases in King County is 51. The total number of deaths is ten.

As more laboratory capacity for testing comes online, more tests and results will be reported. We will no longer be routinely providing details about each case.

King County Novel Coronavirus Call Center:

  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you're a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact our novel coronavirus call center: 206-477-3977.
  • The call center will be open daily from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM PT.
  • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, please call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.

When to seek medical evaluation and advice:

  • If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, call your healthcare provider. Do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.
  • If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

In addition to the recommendations listed above, the public can help:

  1. Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first.
  2. Stay home when sick.
  3. Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including handwashing, coughing into tissue or elbow, avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
  4. Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 and older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system, or if you are pregnant.
  5. Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health's website (www.kingcounty.gov/COVID) or blog (www.publichealthinsider.com).

Remember to take every day preventive action such as washing hands, and if you are sick stay home. During an outbreak with a new virus there is a lot of uncertainty. Our guidance and advice is subject to change as we learn more. We will continue to keep you updated.