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 nytimes.com shows.
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.