Only thing I noticed plundered on North Broadway was the Purell aisle. pic.twitter.com/AZJxMBjOyg
— josh (@joshc) March 2, 2020
With the likelihood that the virus has already spread widely across the area, King County officials are declaring a state of emergency in response to COVID-19. Meanwhile, store shelves across Capitol Hill are being restocked after customers wiped out stocks of certain essentials including canned goods and hand sanitizer over the weekend.
The declaration follows a statewide declaration from Gov. Jay Inslee after the deaths of six people in the state with the virus and a growing count of confirmed cases.
King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Monday announcement and the state declaration opens officials “to use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to the outbreak” and marks a new level of activity for public departments charged with helping cities and counties handle the spread of virus that can cause fever, cough, nausea, headache, and sore throat and that can lead to death in populations with compromised immune systems including the elderly. The county says it is also purchasing a motel and will “repurpose” other public properties “to be used to isolate patients in recovery as well as those in active treatment” as part of its response.
The City of Seattle, meanwhile, has mostly been in information mode so far:
The City remains in close coordination with the Centers for Disease Control, the Washington State Department of Health and Public Health – Seattle & King County, following the guidance of these agencies leading on the COVID-19 response. While as of today there has been one confirmed case at a hospital in Seattle, authorities continue to emphasize that everyone take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This is a quickly evolving situation, please follow public health for the most up to date information.
There were reports of at least one patient in the city’s hospitals testing positive for the virus. More will surely follow.
District 3 representative Kshama Sawant has called on Constantine and Mayor Jenny Durkan to “immediately use emergency funds so anyone w respiratory illness can visit a doctor without fear of medical bills” —
Insurance companies or employers should cover all copays and other out-of-pocket costs, with the city or county providing support as needed. This should be advertised widely so that anyone with a respiratory illness knows they can get care at no cost to themselves. We also must demand that in addition to fully complying with City and State labor laws, all employers provide guaranteed paid sick leave as necessary, and maximum flexibility for employees to work from home.
“One city or one county alone cannot create Medicare for All, but we can take emergency measures here to ensure that cost is not a barrier for our community to get the care they need in this immediate crisis and to avoid further spreading of the virus,” Sawant writes.
Testing restrictions have emerged as a point of criticism in the federal response to the outbreak. The Seattle Times reports that national testing “has only been available for six weeks and that initial guidelines limited the number of people tested to those who had traveled to China.” The state has only been testing for a few days, the Times reports. Seattle Times coverage of coronavirus is being made available for free outside the paper’s paywall to help keep people informed on the latest developments.
Officials, meanwhile, 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.”
CHS reported here on King County recommendations for small business owners and how best to prepare for the likelihood of employees becoming ill or being unable to work.
Most other aspects of Seattle life remain on track. Sound Transit and King County Metro have not announced any changes in operations:
Metro crews are cleaning buses and water taxis daily. In the event of an unsanitary condition, our continuing practice is to remove a bus from service for crews to conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfecting before it returns to service. If you see something that needs attention please alert your driver, a transit employee, or relay the four-digit bus number to customer service staff at 206-553-3000, or via Twitter @kcmetrobus. Just as important as cleaning buses, we are asking people who are out in the public – at work, schools, grocery stores, events – and needing to travel by public transportation to please follow the direction of Public Health officials.
And there have been no closures announced related to Seattle Public Schools campuses.
Area grocery stores were hit hard by a round of buying over the weekend as neighbors stocked up on essentials like toilet paper and non-perishables.
— Public Health – Seattle & King County (@KCPubHealth) March 2, 2020
Stll, there are signs that things are not business as usual including the closure of the F5 Tower in downtown Seattle for cleaning after an employee had contact with a coronavirus patient.
City officials are encouraging people to sign up for AlertSeattle, the city’s official emergency notification system.
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