NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Pacific Northwest in the national media spotlight as outbreak worsens

It’s time for anoth­er install­ment of of our spe­cial series COVID-19 Update, bring­ing you the lat­est devel­op­ments on the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break that pub­lic health author­i­ties in the Pacif­ic North­west are work­ing dili­gent­ly to con­tain. Unlike some of the non­sense that is unfor­tu­nate­ly cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, all the infor­ma­tion you’ll find here is accu­rate and based on sound science.

There’s a lot going on, so we’ll get right to it. First, an update from Seat­tle-King Coun­ty Pub­lic Health on con­firmed cas­es and addi­tion­al deaths due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 test results have come back from the Wash­ing­ton State Pub­lic Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry con­firm­ing four addi­tion­al cas­es of COVID-19 in King Coun­ty res­i­dents. With these four new results, the total num­ber of cas­es in King Coun­ty is 14. Today’s results include 2 addi­tion­al deaths, along with an indi­vid­ual who was pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed as ill but who has now died. This brings the total num­ber of deaths in King Coun­ty from COVID-19 to five.

We have the best peo­ple in the world right here in King Coun­ty respond­ing to this cri­sis,” said Pat­ty Hayes, RN, MN, Direc­tor of Pub­lic Health – Seat­tle & King County.

“We will get through this by stay­ing informed and unit­ed. There are things each one of us can do to take con­trol and reduce the impact of this dis­ease in our community.”

The four new cas­es are in:

  • A male in his 50s, hos­pi­tal­ized at High­line Hos­pi­tal. No known expo­sures. He is in sta­ble but crit­i­cal con­di­tion. He had no under­ly­ing health conditions.
  • A male in his 70s, a res­i­dent of Life­Care, hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health in Kirk­land. The man had under­ly­ing health con­di­tions, and died 3/1/20
  • A female in her 70s, a res­i­dent of Life­Care, hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health in Kirk­land. The woman had under­ly­ing health con­di­tions, and died 3/1/20
  • A female in her 80s, a res­i­dent of Life­Care, was hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health. She is in crit­i­cal condition.
  • In addi­tion, a woman in her 80s, who was already report­ed as in crit­i­cal con­di­tion at Ever­green, has died. She died on 3/1/20

10 oth­er cas­es, already report­ed ear­li­er by Pub­lic Health, include:

  • A female in her 80s, hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health in Kirk­land. This per­son has now died, and is report­ed as such above.
  • A female in her 90s, hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health in Kirk­land. The woman has under­ly­ing health con­di­tions, and is in crit­i­cal condition
  • A male in his 70s, hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health in Kirk­land. The man has under­ly­ing health con­di­tions, and is in crit­i­cal condition
  • A male in his 70s was hos­pi­tal­ized at Ever­green­Health. He had under­ly­ing health con­di­tions and died on 2/29/20.
  • A man in his 60s, hos­pi­tal­ized at Val­ley Med­ical Cen­ter in Renton.
  • A man in 60s, hos­pi­tal­ized at Vir­ginia Mason Med­ical Center.
  • A woman in her 50s, who had trav­eled to South Korea; recov­er­ing at home
  • A woman in her 70s, who was a res­i­dent of Life­Care in Kirk­land, hos­pi­tal­ized at EvergreenHealth
  • A woman in her 40s, employed by Life­Care, who is hos­pi­tal­ized at Over­lake Med­ical Center
  • A man in his 50s, who was hos­pi­tal­ized and died at EvergreenHealth

Pub­lic Health is work­ing hard to iden­ti­fy close con­tacts of these con­firmed cas­es. These close con­tacts may include fam­i­ly mem­bers, co-work­ers, emer­gency respon­ders and oth­er con­tacts. A team of CDC offi­cials is on-the-ground work­ing with Pub­lic Health, along with the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health, our health­care sys­tem part­ners and many others.

Mean­while, down in Ore­gon, offi­cials report­ed that an indi­vid­ual in the east­ern part of the state had test­ed pos­i­tive for the coronavirus.

Ore­gon health offi­cials have iden­ti­fied a third pre­sump­tive pos­i­tive case of COVID-19 among state residents.

The third case is an adult Ore­gon res­i­dent from Umatil­la Coun­ty who is hos­pi­tal­ized in Wal­la Wal­la, Wash.

State and local health offi­cials are mov­ing quick­ly to con­tact peo­ple who may have been in close con­tact with the indi­vid­ual who test­ed as a pre­sump­tive pos­i­tive case. The third case is not linked to trav­el to a part of the world with known cas­es of COVID-19. It is con­sid­ered a case of com­mu­ni­ty transmission.

Pre­lim­i­nary reports indi­cate the Ore­gon res­i­dent attend­ed a youth bas­ket­ball game at a gym­na­si­um at West­on Mid­dle School, 205 E. Wal­lace St. in West­on, Ore., on Sat­ur­day, Feb. 29.

Under fed­er­al Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) guide­lines, oth­er spec­ta­tors who may have been in a closed envi­ron­ment with the indi­vid­ual would be con­sid­ered “low-risk” exposures.

Athena-West­on School Dis­trict offi­cials have closed the gym and will con­duct a deep clean­ing out of an abun­dance of cau­tion. The gym is phys­i­cal­ly detached from the rest of the school. Health offi­cials do not con­sid­er the sep­a­rate school build­ing to pose any risk of expo­sure. The test on the sam­ple was per­formed by Washington’s pub­lic health lab­o­ra­to­ry. The case was one of Oregon’s pend­ing cas­es. Ore­gon health offi­cials have updat­ed their case and test­ing reports on OHA’s COVID-19 web page.

Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton health experts are work­ing togeth­er to deter­mine if there are oth­er loca­tions where the indi­vid­ual may have inter­act­ed with oth­er peo­ple in recent days, after symp­toms of COVID-19 first appeared.

Health offi­cials will announce if there are any addi­tion­al loca­tions where peo­ple may been exposed, if they are determined.

Peo­ple who may have attend­ed Saturday’s bas­ket­ball game can call the fol­low­ing num­bers if they have questions.

  • Ore­gon res­i­dents can call 211.
  • Wash­ing­ton residents: 
    • Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health: 800–525-0127, press #
    • Wal­la Wal­la Coun­ty: 509–524-2647

OHA con­tin­ues to rec­om­mend all peo­ple in Ore­gon take every­day pre­cau­tions to pre­vent the spread of many res­pi­ra­to­ry ill­ness­es, includ­ing COVID-19 and influenza:

  • Cov­er your coughs and sneezes with a tis­sue and then throw the tis­sue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 sec­onds. If soap and water are not read­i­ly avail­able, use an alco­hol-based hand san­i­tiz­er that con­tains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close con­tact with peo­ple who are sick.
  • Avoid touch­ing your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and dis­in­fect sur­faces that are often touched.
  • Take care of your health over­all. Stay­ing cur­rent on your vac­ci­na­tions, includ­ing flu vac­cine, eat­ing well and exer­cis­ing all help your body stay resilient.
  • Con­sult CDC’s trav­el web­site for any trav­el advi­sories and steps to pro­tect your­self if you plan to trav­el out­side of the US.

Most peo­ple with COVID-19 have mild symp­toms. If you are feel­ing sick with mild symp­toms and do not need to see med­ical care, stay home while you recov­er. If you are sick and plan to seek care, please call before going in for care so arrange­ments can be made to pre­vent expos­ing oth­ers. For urgent med­ical needs, call 911.

To the north, pub­lic health offi­cials in British Colum­bia in Pre­mier John Hor­gan’s gov­ern­ment have extend­ed their con­do­lences and sym­pa­thies to their col­leagues south of the bor­der, and offered guid­ance for their own constituents.

VICTORIA — Adri­an Dix, Min­is­ter of Health, and Dr. Bon­nie Hen­ry, B.C.‘s provin­cial health offi­cer, have issued the fol­low­ing joint state­ment regard­ing updates on the nov­el coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) in Wash­ing­ton State:

“We send our con­do­lences to our neigh­bours in Wash­ing­ton state, espe­cial­ly to the fam­i­lies who have lost loved ones. We have offered our sup­port to Wash­ing­ton state’s pub­lic health offi­cials as we co-ordi­nate our response to COVID-19.”

“While the risk of COVID-19 spread­ing with­in British Colum­bia remains low at this time, we con­tin­ue our wide­spread test­ing by screen­ing British Columbians, as well as trav­ellers with symp­toms and their close con­tacts, to iden­ti­fy cas­es of COVID-19 early.

“Quar­an­tine offi­cers are always avail­able to sup­port the Cana­di­an Bor­der Ser­vices Agen­cy’s screen­ing con­duct­ed at land entries and air­ports. Giv­en the inten­si­ty of the out­break glob­al­ly, we ask all trav­ellers return­ing from Iran and Chi­na to self-iso­late for four­teen days upon their arrival in Cana­da. We ask all oth­er trav­ellers who are return­ing to, or vis­it­ing, B.C. from out­side Cana­da to mon­i­tor them­selves and their chil­dren close­ly for symp­toms, and if any arise, to lim­it their con­tact with oth­ers and call 811.

“The most impor­tant mea­sure any­one can take is pre­vent­ing the trans­mis­sion of res­pi­ra­to­ry ill­ness­es, includ­ing COVID-19. This includes clean­ing your hands reg­u­lar­ly, avoid­ing touch­ing your face, cough­ing or sneez­ing into your elbow sleeve, and dis­pos­ing of tis­sues appropriately.”

“It is also very impor­tant to stay home and away from oth­ers if you or mem­bers of your fam­i­ly are sick. This includes stay­ing home from work or school, and post­pon­ing vis­its to long-term care facilities.”

“Sim­i­lar to how you may need to care for some­one with influen­za, you will want to ensure you have suf­fi­cient food, med­ica­tions and sup­port in place for you and your fam­i­ly to stay home for a num­ber for days. These are the nor­mal prepa­ra­tions when some­one in your fam­i­ly is ill. There is no require­ment for British Columbians to stock­pile supplies.”

The region’s Unit­ed States fed­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives say they are close­ly mon­i­tor­ing devel­op­ments and are ready to pro­vide any help they can.

“My thoughts are with every­one in Wash­ing­ton State and around the coun­try being impact­ed by the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break, and I want to thank our tire­less work­ers who are treat­ing patients and work­ing to con­tain the spread of COVID-19,” said U.S. Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell. “I am in con­stant con­tact with our state and local offi­cials and ready to do what­ev­er I can to help.”

“I am deeply sad­dened by the news of a death in King Coun­ty today from the coro­n­avirus, and I extend my con­do­lences to his fam­i­ly and loved ones,” Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene said in a Sat­ur­day after­noon statement.

“I will con­tin­ue to active­ly mon­i­tor the spread of the virus as new cas­es are iden­ti­fied in Wash­ing­ton State and across the coun­try,” she pledged.

“I com­mend state and local health offi­cials for their front­line work mon­i­tor­ing, pre­vent­ing, and man­ag­ing this emerg­ing threat. Con­gress and the Admin­is­tra­tion need to swift­ly agree on a sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing pack­age to pro­vide these agen­cies with the crit­i­cal resources they need, includ­ing back­fill­ing funds that have already been spent com­bat­ting the coronavirus.”

Del­Bene rep­re­sents the dis­trict that is home to the Kirk­land Life­Care facil­i­ty where dozens of peo­ple are believed to have been infect­ed with COVID-19.

“I am fol­low­ing the out­break in the 9th Dis­trict and across the coun­try close­ly and will work to ensure that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pro­vides the nec­es­sary resources to sup­port state and local health offi­cials pre­vent­ing and respond­ing to out­breaks,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Smith. “I rec­og­nize that many peo­ple are alarmed, con­cerned, and won­der­ing what they should do in response to this out­break. It is crit­i­cal that we take this evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion seriously.”

Wash­ing­ton State Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee held an after­noon press con­fer­ence at the Capi­tol with Sec­re­tary of Health John Wies­man and State Super­in­ten­dent Chris Reyk­dal to dis­cuss the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our pri­or­i­ty now is to slow the spread of this dan­ger­ous virus,” Inslee said, after prais­ing the work that the Wash­ing­ton State Pub­lic Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry has been doing to process tests at its Shore­line facil­i­ty around the clock.

The Inslee admin­is­tra­tion, through Sec­re­tary of Health John Wies­man, has sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased the amount of mon­ey it is ask­ing the Leg­is­la­ture to appro­pri­ate to address COVID-19. The new ask is $100 mil­lion.

Leg­is­la­tors sig­naled that they would pro­vide the full amount requested.

“I think every­one knows at this point to take this seri­ous­ly,” said Sen­a­tor Annette Cleve­land in a state­ment. (Cleve­land chairs the Sen­ate Health Com­mit­tee.) “Every­one should also know that we have the best health experts in the coun­try work­ing on this, backed by the full sup­port of the Leg­is­la­ture. We are tak­ing all pos­si­ble steps to pro­tect the pub­lic and min­i­mize the spread of the virus.”

On the oth­er side of the rotun­da, in the House, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Eileen Cody and Joe Schmick intro­duced bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion to trans­fer fifty mil­lion dol­lars from the Rainy Day Fund (also known as the bud­get sta­bi­liza­tion account) to enable the exec­u­tive depart­men­t’s fund­ing request to be fulfilled.

House Bill 2965 [see text] autho­rizes the fund­ing trans­fer to the state dis­as­ter response account specif­i­cal­ly for coro­n­avirus response,” a release from the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus explains. “It also allows DSHS to increase nurs­ing facil­i­ty pay­ments as the depart­ment hires more nurs­es. That will move patients into nurs­ing care facil­i­ties and out of acute care cen­ters, which may be need­ed for coro­n­avirus patients, free­ing up more beds.”

“It is impor­tant that the gov­ern­ment be ready to address the pub­lic health needs from this out­break and this fund­ing is absolute­ly nec­es­sary,” said Cody, a retired nurse and Chair of House Health­care and Well­ness. “I appre­ci­ate my col­leagues are inter­est­ed in mov­ing quick­ly on this fund­ing trans­fer and I am open to adjust­ing it as need­ed so that we do not have a fund­ing shortage.”

“I think hav­ing resources read­i­ly avail­able to fight this virus is pru­dent,” said Schmick, the com­mit­tee’s Rank­ing Member.

State offi­cials are hope­ful that fed­er­al resources can be secured to cov­er the state’s COVID-19 fight­ing costs. That’s def­i­nite­ly a job for Pat­ty Mur­ray, Maria Cantwell, Suzan Del­Bene, Adam Smith, and their col­leagues in Congress.

The region’s strug­gle with COVID-19 these past few days has become a top sto­ry in the nation­al media, as this screen cap­ture of shows.

New York Times screen capture

The above-the-fold por­tion of the New York Times home­page as of the after­noon of Mon­day, March 2nd, 2020 (Click to see full size)

The New York Times pub­lished a use­ful Q&A that explains what is cur­rent­ly known about how the virus spreads and how to mit­i­gate the risk of exposure.

We expect a num­ber of fresh devel­op­ments tomor­row and will pub­lish anoth­er install­ment of COVID-19 Update here on the Cas­ca­dia Advocate.

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