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Testing recommended for anyone with mild COVID-19 symptoms; decreased cases in long-term care facilities shows importance of aggressive response

Summary

Anyone with mild symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible to reduce its spread through the community – and testing locations are available throughout King County. Also, lower numbers of COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities point to the importance of public health measures in reducing the spread of the virus in these settings.

Story

To prevent COVID-19 from spreading to family, friends, and the community, Public Health – Seattle & King County recommends that anyone with symptoms or who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 be tested right away.

Previously, due to supply shortages, health officials prioritized testing for people most at risk for severe illness – including healthcare providers and first responders.

Now, the Washington State Department of Health has expanded the criteria for who should be tested, and supplies of testing kits and personal protective equipment are increasing.

With more healthcare providers offering testing, we now recommend that anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 be tested," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

"Testing as soon as possible after symptoms develop is important to both ensure timely medical care when necessary and to stop COVID-19 from spreading," he said. "It also allows people who test positive and their close contacts to more quickly separate themselves from others in the household and the community to prevent spreading the infection."

Anyone who is experiencing even mild COVID-like symptoms should isolate themselves away from others and call their healthcare provider.

The most concerning symptoms are cough or shortness of breath, but anyone with two or more of the following symptoms should also be evaluated for a test: Fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell.

Most testing is conducted through primary care providers. If you need to be tested and don't have a provider who can do the test, please don't delay. Call the King County COVID-19 call center, which is open 7 days a week 8 AM – 7 PM, at 206-477-3977. More information on Public Health's testing site and at Public Health Insider's testing blog post.

Impact of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities

Locally and nationally, the biggest outbreaks have been in long-term care facilities, which house and care for more than 12,000 people in King County.

To date, more than 300 people living in skilled nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family homes have died, a toll that represents more than 60 percent of all COVID-19 related deaths in King County thus far. Advanced age, underlying health conditions and living in close contact between residents and staff combine to put this population at high risk.

Public Health efforts have focused on reducing transmission of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities through infection control guidance and testing. In the month of March, there were 748 positive cases of COVID-19. That number has since dropped to 72 cases thus far in May. This downward trend suggests that a public health response in partnership with long-term care facilities can have a large impact in reducing the spread of illness.

Data about cases and deaths in long-term care facilities is available at Public Health’s Long-term Care Data dashboard.

SCAN surveillance paused

The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) has paused testing of home-based, self-collected samples for COVID-19. A partnership between Seattle Flu Study partners and Public Health - Seattle & King County, SCAN has been operating since March 23 in King County under the authorization of the Washington State Department of Health, in order learn more about the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

The FDA has issued new guidance requiring separate approval in order to return results from the tests to individuals. The SCAN team has been in ongoing conversations with the FDA and hopes to have approval soon. See the full statement from the SCAN team.

Case updates

Daily totals for new COVID-19 cases and deaths are available on Public Health's Data Dashboard webpage, which updates as soon as data are available, typically between 1-3 p.m.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update

Isolation and quarantine is a proven public health practice for reducing the spread of disease.

Thirty-five people are currently staying in King County isolation, quarantine and recovery facilities. The number of residents at King County's isolation and quarantine sites is included in regular updates provided by Public Health. No other identifying or personal information will be provided.

Additional information

  • Information about COVID-19 and the response in King County, be sure to check our webpage: www.kingcounty.gov/covid
  • Public Health publishes new information frequently through the Public Health Insider blog – please consider becoming a subscriber by choosing the option to "Follow Blog Via Email."