Chances are, COVID-19 is on your mind as we head into the last day of February. It’s dominating the news, said to be the catalyst of one of the worst stock market slumps in history, and resulting in the cancellation of many public gatherings and corporate travel plans. At NPI, we believe it’s always best to have accurate, up to date, and scientifically vetted information readily accessible.
So, here’s a roundup of news from today pertaining to new cases of the novel coronavirus and what states are doing to combat the disease.
We begin with some breaking news from public health authorities. The following is a news release from the State Department of Health.
For context, we’re running it in its entirety.
OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON – The Washington State Department of Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and Snohomish Health District, are announcing two new cases of COVID-19, currently classified as “presumptive positives.”
A presumptive positive is a test that comes back positive at the Public Health Laboratory and is pending confirmation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)
The individuals reside in both King and Snohomish Counties. In King County, a woman in her 50s with confirmed travel to Daegu, South Korea is a presumptive positive. She is currently in home isolation.
In Snohomish County, a person under the age of eighteen with no travel history is also a presumptive positive. He is currently in home isolation as well. That patient visited Seattle Children’s North Clinic on Monday, February 24th, 2020.
Snohomish County Health District is working alongside the Everett Public Schools to ensure the safety of students and staff at Jackson High School, where this student attends. Everett Public Schools is taking this very seriously and in an abundance of caution, the superintendent has decided to close Jackson High School on Monday to allow three days for deep cleaning.
While the King County case is believed to be travel-related, we don’t know how or where the new Snohomish County case was infected. We are working hard to find and identify how the patients were exposed as well as tracing people who might have been exposed to this patient.
“Now that we are able to expedite test results here at the Public Health Lab in Shoreline, we’re getting results on suspected local cases a lot faster,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy.
“Given the extent of global spread, we expect to identify more individuals with COVID-19 in Washington. We want to emphasize the importance of practicing good health habits.”
COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious health risk in our country. Health departments at the federal, state, and local level are working together and with other partners to prepare.
Healthcare systems are getting ready to potentially see more patients than usual. Schools are receiving updated guidance on what to do to stay safe if they have cases, and what preventative measures they should take if they do not.
How can you prevent the spread of COVID-19?
- Prevention starts with practicing good personal health habits: Wash your hands often with soap and water,
- Stay home when you’re sick,
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue,
- Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.
- Getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, eating healthy foods, and managing your stress can help you prevent getting COVID-19 and recover from it if you do.
DOH has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington state please call 1–800-525‑0127 and press #.
Officials say the patient, an adult, is employed at a school in Clackamas County and may have exposed students and staff there. The school district’s planning to close the school to allow public health officials to complete their investigation, including contacting employees there and family of children to inform them of their exposure and let them know next steps.
Both the Oregon case announced earlier today and one of the new Washington cases of COVID-19 concern individuals who are believed to have been exposed to the disease here in the Pacific Northwest, as opposed to abroad.
Prior to the announcement of the Oregon case, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced the formation of a statewide response team to mobilize the full resources of the Beaver State against COVID-19.
Governor Brown’s news release detailing this effort is reproduced below.
SALEM, OREGON — Governor Kate Brown today convened a Coronavirus Response Team tasked with coordinating state and local agencies and health authorities in preparation for response to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
The team will build on the work of the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) coronavirus incident management team to prepare Oregon to respond to any potential outbreaks of the disease.
“Let me be clear, as of today there are zero confirmed cases of coronavirus in Oregon, and the risk to Oregonians of contracting the coronavirus remains low,” said Governor Brown.
“However, in an escalating global health crisis, we must make sure we are as ready and informed as we can be.”
“The purpose of the Coronavirus Response Team is to ensure we are taking every precaution necessary, in coordination with local health authorities, hospitals, community health partners, and school districts, to make sure that Oregon is fully prepared to respond to any outbreaks of the coronavirus and that Oregonians know how they can keep their families safe.”
The Coronavirus Response Team will meet regularly to coordinate coronavirus response and preparation, to update the Governor as the international situation develops, and make recommendations to the Governor to safeguard public health.
Since the first reported cases of COVID-19 overseas, state agencies have taken a number of actions to prepare in Oregon:State agencies are reviewing readiness plans to ensure state government is able to maintain a continuity of operations and services in the event that coronavirus impacts agency operations.
State, county, and tribal health officials are monitoring people who may have come into contact with the disease or traveled to mainland China for symptoms like coughing or fever during the two weeks after they return, providing health education, and are prepared to link people with appropriate health care if symptoms develop.
Starting this week, OHA is providing weekly public updates about how many people are being monitored in Oregon, as well as sharing updates about how Oregon families can help prevent the spread of coronavirus on OHA’s COVID-19 website.
Oregon hospitals and health providers have scaled up their preparedness efforts, and OHA is conducting ongoing outreach to health facilities to support training and preparedness, as well as monitoring health care availability and needs.
“Oregon has proven its resiliency in preparing for and responding to Ebola, H1N1 influenza, Zika, and other global public health threats,” said OHA Director Pat Allen.
“Each time, Oregon’s public health and health care systems and their partners have found ways to strengthen our collective response. If the coronavirus comes to Oregon, we will be ready.”
Public awareness is key to preventing the spread of coronavirus. Just as with flu season, containing coronavirus starts with everyone –– at home, in the workplace, and at school –– practicing good hygiene through regular handwashing, proper covering of coughs and sneezes, routine cleaning of workspaces, kitchens, and bathrooms, and staying home when sick or symptomatic.
Tips for preventing the spread of the coronavirus include:
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces people often touch.
- Consult travel advisories if you plan to travel outside of the U.S.
- Take care of your health overall. Staying current on your vaccinations, including flu vaccine, eating well and exercising all help your body stay resilient.
As with earthquakes and other natural disasters, it’s important for all Oregonian families to be Two Weeks Ready, with an ample supply of food, water, prescription medications, pet food, sanitation supplies, and anything else they would need to shelter in place for an extended period of time if it becomes necessary.
Public health authorities stress that people ought to follow their regular schedules and routines to the extent possible. There is no need to panic.
However, everyone should adopt a stringent handwashing regimen and get into the habit of regularly wiping down surfaces, including electronic devices.