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Public Health news and blog



Update on COVID-19 in King County for March 14, 2020

Summary

Public Health provides updates on testing; guidance for small group gatherings; an update on Life Care Center; and temporary and isolation and quarantine facilities. There are 60 new cases that are being announced today, bringing the confirmed case count total in King County to 388. In addition, three new deaths are reported, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 35.

Story

Testing

Although the laboratory test is becoming more broadly available, there are limitations in the health care industry’s capacity to obtain samples from people as rapidly as we would like. In addition, people do not always need to be tested for clinical care purposes since there is currently no medication to treat COVID-19.

Currently, anyone with a fever and cough should assume their illness could be COVID-19 and take steps to protect others in the community and household from the disease. If you are sick, you need to stay home and stay away from other people in your home. If you need to go into public to visit a healthcare provider, wear a mask and practice meticulous hand washing.

There are currently no restrictions for who can be tested for COVID-19 in Washington State. However, Department of Health Guidance to healthcare providers directs them to focus testing on people with COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. The guidance prioritizes testing for people at higher risk for COVID-19. While anyone can ask a provider to be tested for COVID-19, testing is provided at the provider’s discretion.

For more information on testing, visit the Washington Department of Health's document on Testing for COVID-19 (PDF).

How to hold events with fewer than 250 people

In King County, an Order from the Health Officer on March 11 prohibited events of fewer than 250 people, unless event organizers take steps to minimize risk of COVID-19. For people who are planning events for fewer than 250 people, take all of these required steps so that your event can be held:

  • Precautions for older adults and those with underlying health conditions: Specifically encourage older adults age 60 and above and those with underlying health conditions not to attend the event. Note that CDC recommends that individuals at risk of severe illness should stay at home, avoiding gatherings or other situations of potential exposures, including travel, church attendance, and social events with 10 or more people.
  • Social distancing to prevent prolonged close contact. Event organizers should ensure that the event is organized in such way to avoid close contact between people. Close contact is being within 6 feet of someone for about 10 minutes or more.
  • Health screening for event organizers including employees and volunteers at event: Have a plan to health screen event organizers, employees and volunteers just prior to participating in the event.
  • CDC guidelines identify these key symptoms to watch for: fever, cough and shortness of breath.
  • In advance, organizers should discourage attendance for any person who has these symptoms. Throughout event, event organizers should require anyone who has the symptoms to leave.

Sanitation

  • Enable strict adherence to hygiene and sanitation protocols at all events. Provide ready access to hand sanitizer and hand sanitizer stations, and actively request participants to abide by personal hygiene recommendations.
  • Clean and disinfect setting for the event. Ensure a clean and sanitary environment for the event. Have employees or volunteers ready to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, desks, and handrails.

Any event—such as weddings, dinner parties, sports team practice, choir concerts, religious services, and office meetings—that have fewer than 250 people and meet all of these requirements can be held.

More detailed guidelines are available to help event organizers: www.kingcounty.gov/covid/events

Life Care Center update

To the best of Public Health’s knowledge, all Life Care residents have been tested.

Regarding testing of employees: As part of our work on outbreak hotspots, Public Health has been coordinating with partners, including the University of Washington, to provide testing for symptomatic Life Care Center employees. The testing for symptomatic employees is offered outside the building, to eliminate the risk for infection at the Life Care facility. Testing opportunities for symptomatic staff have been provided at other locations as well.

As of Friday night, 3/13/20, 95 Life Care employees are or have been symptomatic. Of those, 47 tested positive; 24 tested negative; 1 test was inconclusive; 5 tests were pending results. In addition, approximately 15-20 staff were tested this morning (3/14/20).

First responders, medical, and care staff county-wide, including those at Life Care Center are encouraged to actively monitor themselves for symptoms per CDC guidelines.

Case updates

Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting the following confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 p.m. on 3/13/20

  • 388 confirmed cases (up 60 from yesterday)
  • 35 confirmed deaths (up 3 from yesterday)

Deaths being reported today include:

  • A woman in her 70s, died at Swedish First Hill on 3/12
  • A man in his 80s, a resident of Life Care Center, hospitalized at EvergreenHealth, died on 3/12
  • A man in his 80s, a resident of Life Care Center, died at Overlake Medical Center on 3/8

Of the 35 deaths reported in King County, 27 are associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland.

Temporary housing, isolation and quarantine facilities

King County continues to take action to create and support a range of temporary housing options for people exposed to, at risk of exposure, or becoming ill with the novel coronavirus. The majority of the County’s residents will isolate and recover in their own homes. King County is creating quarantine, isolation, and recovery sites at multiple locations throughout the county for those who cannot safely remain in their own homes without compromising the health of other family members, or do not have a home.

These actions are designed to help curb the spread of the disease, support people who are living homeless—and most importantly—preserve our local hospital beds for the most acutely ill in our communities.

King County continues to look to its own properties and facilities as critical assets and resources, and is also actively pursuing new acquisitions countywide that can serve the needs of our communities during this unprecedented health crisis. The county is re-purposing and dedicating the following three county properties:

  • King County International Airport: In a continuing effort to lower the number of people in our larger shelter locations and achieve the recommended social distancing guidelines (six feel apart), the Arrivals Hall at the King County International Airport (7277 Perimeter Road South) is being used to provide shelter for the men, typically older adults, who usually shelter at St. Martin De Porres in Seattle. This service began on 3/13/20, and last night sheltered 80 men, 55 years or older. This action will help prevent people from becoming ill in the first place.

  • Eastgate Parking Lot: A fully self-contained tent, with flooring and heat, has been purchased for use as an isolation and recovery location and will be placed on the county-owned parking lot located at 13620 Eastgate Way in Bellevue. The location will have 24/7 onsite security and health services staff. The site will be available in about a week.

  • Issaquah Motel (new acquisition): King County Facilities Management Division has finalized a lease of a motel located at 1801 12th Avenue NW in Issaquah. We are currently considering site uses that include expanding medical support for vulnerable populations or isolation for people who do not require significant social support services, as well as step-down medical care for people who do not require hospitalization to maximize available space in regional medical facilities.

King County will continue to identify or acquire properties in all parts of the county to ensure residents are supported appropriately through this health emergency.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update

As King County’s response to COVID-19 evolves, and to address community concerns, King County will continue to provide temporary housing for people who cannot self-isolate or quarantine in their own home, but will use the Kent isolation and quarantine location for people with lower level service needs. Additional site work, including construction of a surrounding fence, are underway. At this time, no one is currently staying at the Kent Central Avenue motel location. The Aurora and White Center locations are still in site preparation.

Other information

COVID-19 is spreading in King County, with hundreds of cases reported to date. We expect the case count to double every 5-7 days. A key Public Health goal is to minimize the number of people who get seriously ill at the same time, so that those who are at risk for severe illness are able to get the care they need. If too many people get very sick all at once, this will put an unmanageable burden on our health care system. If that happens, people requiring care may not be able to get it when they need it. Every King County resident has a responsibility to each other to make sure our community collectively lessens the impact of this disease.

Anyone who is sick should stay home. Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19, as well as their close contacts, should follow Public Health guidance addressing what to do if you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 or are worried that you do. Retail establishments should follow guidance for retail businesses and service operators. People who are having a medical emergency should call 9-1-1.

Public Health has many COVID-19 resources for the general public, the business community, workplaces and employers, travelers, healthcare professionals and links to information at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington state Department of Health. See our website with additional information available on the Public Health Insider.