The Washington State Department of Health announced Friday night the first “presumptive positive” case of COVID-19 in King County as officials have stepped up efforts to inform the public on how to try to slow the spread of the virus.
UPDATE 12:55 PM: The first death associated with the virus in the United States has been reported at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland. Several additional cases are being investigated at Kirkland’s Life Care Center nursing facility.
Meanwhile, county officials have released guidance for businesses on how to prepare for ill workers and the effects of “social distancing” and “absenteeism” that will follow in the wake of any disruptions to services like schools or transit.
Officials say the King County case “appears to be travel-related” — “a woman in her 50s with confirmed travel to Daegu, South Korea is a presumptive positive,” the state announcement reads. The woman is currently in home isolation.
KUOW has more details on the case:
The woman returned to Seattle on Sunday, February 23, and went to work for one day on Tuesday. She noticed symptoms at the end of her work day — fever, cough, nausea, headache, and sore throat. Her husband called in her case to public health, given her symptoms and travel history.
Officials are still trying to track down the path of a second case involving a Snohomish County high schooler. “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,” officials said. “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.”
The teen patient visited Seattle Children’s North Clinic on Monday. The student’s Jackson High School in Everett was closed “to allow three days for deep cleaning.”
The impact for the area from actions like school closures could be especially challenging.
In 2009, Seattle Public Schools officials backed off early required closures. During the H1N1 outbreak, Capitol Hill’s Stevens Elementary was one of three district schools that suffered a closure early in the wave of concern about the flu virus. Officials eventually decided to “no longer recommend that schools close when there are just a few ‘probable’ or ‘confirmed’ cases of H1N1 at a school.”
King County health officials have released updated information and guidelines in preparation for increased area concerns over COVID-19:
- Prepare now: Public Health recommends that organizations and individuals prepare now in order to reduce the number of illnesses and negative effects that could occur in our community.
- Travel and illness: People who are traveling should be aware of the impacted countries, and if they become ill after traveling, call a doctor or hospital.
- Discrimination based on ethnicity or ancestry will make the situation worse. Having Chinese ancestry – or any other ancestry – does not make a person more vulnerable to this illness. Coronavirus doesn’t recognize race, nationality nor ethnicity.
- Additional updates are available from the federal CDC and Washington Dept. of Health
Officials are encouraging the public to especially consider older family, friends, and neighbors. “Plan ways to care for those at greater risk for serious illness and hospitalization, like anyone 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions,” county officials write. “Infection can worsen their health conditions, and services they rely on may not be available.”
The county has also released updated guidelines (PDF) for business owners to help prepare and respond to any spread of the virus. “Though global by definition, pandemics have local impacts,” they write. “Pandemics can cause absenteeism, alter patterns of business and travel, interrupt supply chains, and affect the daily operations of your business.”
You can learn more on the county’s Coronavirus COVID-19 resources and information page.
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