Here are the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak and response around the Seattle region, Capitol Hill, and the Central District. See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959.
- Latest counts: The total number of King County confirmed cases of COVID-19 has crossed 50 including 10 deaths connected to the virus. The area is home to the bulk of the state and the nation’s confirmed cases. The county is calling this a “critical moment” in the “growing outbreak.”
- Who you should call: Locally, officials are encouraging residents to contact the county’s coronavirus call center between the hours of 8 AM to 7 PM: 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.
You can also call the state hotline at 800-525-0127 for general questions.
- Increased testing: Good news on the testing front will present a mixed bag as the numbers of Washington state cases is expected to jump with UW Medicine finally getting the go ahead on increased testing in the region:
Within 48 hours of receiving permission from the FDA to conduct tests on Feb. 29, the UW laboratory began processing 100 tests a day, and it expects soon to reach more than 1,000 a day. “Things are happening in a matter of hours or days that normally take weeks or months,” Jerome said today at a Seattle press conference. “It is going to help change the trajectory of this epidemic in the United States.” With no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, and no antiviral drugs to treat it, “testing is the main weapon we have against the virus,” Jerome said.
- Incubation time: A key difficulty in testing for the virus is its long incubation time. “One difficulty posed by this virus is that it has a long incubation time before it starts to cause lower respiratory tract systems,” UW Medicine’s bulletin on new testing reads. “It can be two weeks from transmission before symptoms show.”
- Drive-thru testing, too: There should be better options soon for getting diagnosed including drive-thru testing:
The University of Washington is planning to set up at least one testing facility for the general public, and possibly more. An announcement of the plan is expected within one week, said Peter McGough, medical director for UW Neighborhood Clinics. These facilities would be similar to South Korea’s “drive-thru” testing stations, where people could come for testing. This will allow for more people to get tested. Currently, testing is only being provided following Centers for Disease Control guidelines. These restrict the tests to people who have traveled to countries with known coronavirus outbreaks, or to people who have come in contact with others suffering from confirmed cases.
- Federal funding: Mayor Jenny Durkan Thursday praised Congress for approving $8.3 billion in funding to address COVID-19. “It’s critical for cities like Seattle to have resources for the emerging COVID-19 public health crisis,” she said. “I also want to thank Governor Inslee and the State legislature for approving $100 million in emergency funding. These developments from our state legislature and congress will go a long way in ensuring we’re fully prepared as the situation continues to evolve.” The bill also directs more than $1 billion toward small business relief, Durkan said.
- New recommendations: King County Public Health is recommending people at higher risk of severe illness — Over 60 years of age, with underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, with weakened immune systems, or pregnant — to “stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible.”
- ‘Working from home’: Officials are also recommending workplaces to “enact measures that allow people who can work from home to do so.” Some of the region’s largest employers including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are already allowing their workers to stay home.
- Kids and schools: The Seattle Public Schools district remains open and serving students but one area district is closing for two weeks. The Northshore district serving the Eastside area near the largest concentration of the positive COVID-19 cases is instituting a remote learning program for its 22,000 students while it closes its campuses for two weeks. “By transitioning from the classroom to the cloud, we are also giving medical/public health officials and the community time to get some critical answers regarding incubation period, level and length of contagious status, and fatality rates, as well as a communication strategy that includes all necessary partners,” superintendent Michelle Reid writes. “We want to do our part to slow the spread of this coronavirus.”County health officials are not “currently recommending that schools proactively close unless they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a staff member or student.”+Children are not known to get seriously ill from COVID-19
+Closing schools may not be effective because some children may congregate anyway, at other locations
+Many parents, such as healthcare workers, need to be at work. If these critical workers stay home with children it causes significant +impacts on the healthcare system and other institutions that are essential for our community to function
+If schools close, some children might have to stay home with alternative caregivers, such as elders, who are more vulnerable
+We don’t know how effective children are in spreading this diseaseAnother major challenge for districts going online is equity. “Some districts and schools may be in a position to maintain educational continuity using distance learning methods, and you may choose to implement these options,” Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction for Washington, writes in a memo on coronavirus guidance. “It is important to note that if educational services are being delivered to students in any form, for the district to remain open, those services must be provided to all students, including students who don’t have access to technology at home and the continuance of a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities in accordance with their Individualized Education Programs (IEP).” UPDATE 3/6/2020: The University of Washington has announced “classes at UW campuses will no longer be meeting in person thru the end of winter quarter March 20.” UPDATE x2: 12th Ave’s Seattle University has followed suit with no classes held through March 20th.
- Events and cancellations: With officials recommending avoiding large groups of people, the number of cancelled events is growing including this weekend’s planned Seattle Womxn’s March. So far, large sporting events including a planned weekend Sounders game will go on as planned. “As our organization has previously stated, nothing is more important than public safety and the wellbeing of our fans at all Sounders FC events,” the team said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “We are in continuous dialogue with regional health authorities and Major League Soccer, in addition to our network of medical experts. Because of this, we are proceeding with Saturday’s match, and Sounders FC is following the updated guidelines that were released on Wednesday by Public Health – Seattle & King County.” The Sounders are asking “at-risk members of the community and any individual who is currently sick” to “refrain from attending Saturday’s contest.” Meanwhile, Seattle Parks and Recreation has temporarily canceled programs for seniors.
- Real estate industry’s take on coronavirus: It’s interesting to see the reactions to the situation around COVID-19 across various industries. Local real estate folks also have their take on the outbreak. And, as you might expect, the take is about buying and selling opportunities. “Northwest MLS representatives who commented on last month’s activity reported little impact so far from the coronavirus (COVID-19) threat,” an industry update from the NWMLS reads. “It’s still too early to tell if the broadening effects of the coronavirus will sideline buyers,” Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate says in the bulletin. “What we do know is that news of the virus led equity markets sharply lower and this caused mortgage rates to drop significantly. Therefore, the question is whether buyers will put their search on hold until the virus has abated, or if they will decide to move forward so they don’t miss out on near historic low mortgage rates.” February’s new listings (7,786), by the way, were the highest since October, the group reports.
- Bus cleaning: Don’t know if this will make you more or less likely to ride a Metro bus:
— Peter Mongillo (@PeterMonPhotog) March 4, 2020
CHS COVID-19 Coverage
- 3/5/20: ‘EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS’ — Capitol Hill’s restaurant and nightlife economy grapples with COVID-19 worries
- 3/3/20: COVID-19 updates: Seattle ‘Civil Emergency,’ city council briefing, ‘real-time outbreak response for the Seattle epidemic’ job listings
- 3/2/20: COVID-19 updates: Weekend grocery run, county’s emergency response, patient isolation motel
- 2/29/20: With first ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 case in King County, here’s what officials are saying about spread and preparation — UPDATE: First U.S. death here