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.
Today, COVID-19 updates arrived at a rapid fire pace, and not just from public agencies, but from companies and nonprofits and churches too. SARS-CoV‑2 is on everybody’s minds. It is now so firmly planted in the local consciousness that the Seattle Times has established a section on its homepage titled “Coronavirus”.
Today, the Pacific Northwest was visited by Vice President Mike Pence, who Donald Trump has unwisely put in charge of the regime’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Pence arrived at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) on a United States Air Force Boeing C‑32 at around half past three in the afternoon, and was greeted by Governor Jay Inslee as he reached the bottom of the airstairs.
Inslee is no longer shaking hands with people due to COVID-19 and is instead encouraging people to substitute handshakes with elbow bumps.
He did this with Pence.
Afterwards, Pence met with a delegation of state, local, and federal elected leaders from Washington State to discuss the joint inter-agency government response to COVID-19. Most members of Congress were there along with Inslee.
This meeting was followed by a press conference.
Pence was flanked by Governor Jay Inslee and, unusually, the state’s entire United States House delegation with the notable exception of Denny Heck.
You can see in this still all of the House members lined up from left to right.
Let’s continue our roundup with a welcome announcement from Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s office.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency order to Washington state health insurers requiring them to waive copays and deductibles for any consumer requiring testing for coronavirus (COVID-19). Insurers also must:
- Allow a one-time early refill for prescription drugs.
- Suspend any prior authorization requirement for treatment or testing of COVID-19.
In addition, if an insurer does not have enough medical providers in its network to provide testing and treatment for COVID-19, it must allow enrollees to be treated by another provider within a reasonable distance at no additional cost. The order is effective immediately and applies to all state-regulated health insurance plans and short-term limited duration medical plans until May 4th, 2020.
“Consumers are rightly concerned about prevention, testing and possible treatment,” Kreidler said. “My emergency order provides guidance to health insurers and should help reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to protect them.”
Kreidler is using powers granted to him following the recent statewide emergency that Gov. Jay Inslee declared to protect Washington residents against the spread of the coronavirus.
When the governor issues an emergency proclamation, the commissioner can issue an emergency order related to health care coverage to ensure access to care.
The order lasts sixty days and can be extended by the commissioner for an additional thirty days, as long as the governor’s emergency proclamation remains in effect. Kreidler urged state residents without health insurance to contact the Washington Health Benefit Exchange to determine if they qualify for free health coverage or a special enrollment for individual health insurance.
Kreidler also appeared at a news conference with Governor Jay Inslee at the Capitol to advise Washingtonians of the issuance of the order. The news conference can be watched on demand courtesy of TVW.
A few hours later, Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement warning Washingtonians to be on the lookout for predatory scams.
“Scammers often prey on fear. As the COVID-19 outbreak and response continue, Washingtonians may see people advertising products or services they claim treat or cure the disease. There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 at this time. Any claims that a product or service can cure, kill, or destroy COVID-19 are probably false, and should be reported to our office.”
To file a complaint, visit the AGO’s website.
And now here’s the latest bulletin from Seattle-King County Public Health.
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 nineties, hospitalized at EvergreenHealth. She died on 3/3/20. With these twenty new results, the total number of cases in King County is fifty-one. 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 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.
King County has also issued new guidance for public gatherings.
- 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.
Meanwhile, north of the Canadian border, they’ve got more COVID-19 cases.
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 British Columbia:
“We are announcing eight new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 21 cases in British Columbia. The individuals are in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions and were confirmed positive based on BC Centre for Disease Control testing.”
“Cases 14, 15, 16 and 17 are close contacts of case 10. They are a man in his twenties, a man in his thirties, a woman in her fifties and a woman in her sixties.”
“Cases 18 and 19 are a woman in her fifties and a man in his sixties who reside in a single household. They recently returned from Iran.”
“Case 20 is a woman in her fifties who frequently travels to Metro Vancouver from the Seattle, Washington area. She is staying with family in the Fraser Health region.”
“Case 21 is a woman in her fifties with no recent travel history who resides in the Fraser Health region.”
“Four B.C. patients have now fully recovered and one patient remains in critical condition in care at hospital. The remaining individuals with COVID-19 are in isolation at home with support and monitoring from public health teams.”
“Public health teams continue to identify and notify close contacts of all active cases. They will be supported to self-isolate for fourteen days and are being monitored for symptoms.”
“We are continuing widespread testing by screening British Columbians and travellers with symptoms, along with their close contacts, to identify cases of COVID-19 and take immediate action as we have seen today.”
To the south, Oregon reported no new COVID-19 cases.
” Tonight we are not reporting test results due to a large volume of samples submitted to the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory,” state officials explained. “We will share results tomorrow.”
Regarding new guidelines for testing, the agency said:
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, OHA [Oregon Health Authority] has relied on CDC guidance about who to test for the virus, which includes focusing on individuals experiencing symptoms of the virus — fever, cough, shortness of breath — and who either traveled from mainland China or had close contact with a confirmed case in the fourteen days before they became sick.
Today, the CDC expanded that testing guidance to give clinicians more discretion to determine whether to seek testing for COVID-19 for patients. That guidance encourages clinicians to use their judgment in deciding whether a patient has signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and whether that patient needs to be tested.
OHA is adapting the new CDC guidance by encouraging clinicians to pursue COVID-19 testing when evaluation of hospitalized patients who test negative for influenza indicates likelihood of viral pneumonia.
OHA guidance will also provide a streamlined process for clinicians to request a test from the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory. This includes creating an online form for OHA epidemiologists to electronically approve testing requests if the clinician’s patient meets the testing criteria.
Finally, the Seattle Times has a several good stories about how the novel coronavirus is affecting life around these parts. Read this story to understand why Northshore School District is closing all of its facilities for two weeks and shifting to a remote learning setup. Read this story to find out how local churches are changing their liturgical services to keep people safe. And read this story to learn how upcoming sporting events could be affected by COVID-19.