March 12, 2020
The University of Washington has reported two coronavirus cases in its psychiatric ward. Following the positive tests, all 22 patients were tested but results have not come back yet. It is unclear how the patients were initially infected.
The university is expecting to see an increase in COVID-19 patient in coming weeks, and is working to secure enough personal protective gear for its staff. It is also helping the state tests it’s backlog of tests.
Swedish Medical Systems also announced on Thursday afternoon that all visitor trips to their hospitals and campuses would be suspended until further notice.
King County has issued guidance to all workplaces, and specifically retail establishments, to help slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
These include encouraging staff to work from home, expanding sick leave policies and implementing distancing measures like staggering work schedules. Large work gatherings should be cancelled and all non-essential work travel should be postponed.
Additionally, there should be regular health checks on arrival each day for staff and visitors, which includes temperature readings and lung symptom screening.
Further recommendations include to stop shaking hands, cleaning hands at the door and frequently past that and disinfecting high-touch areas, among other recommendations.
The Seattle Times reported that Gov. Jay Inslee will announce the closures of all K-12 schools, public and private, in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. The closures will be from March 17 through April 24, according to the Seattle Times.
A total of 563,600 students attend public or charter schools in those three counties.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that an employee working at the department’s Tumwater campus has tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a DOH press release, the employee was last at work on March 6 and had no symptoms. Over the weekend, they began feeling unwell and followed up with their doctor. They took immediate action to isolate themselves, which drastically reduced exposure to others.
The employee will remain at home away from others until they recover. DOH leadership will stay in touch throughout the recovery process to make sure they get the care they need.
The release states that the employee and DOH leadership are working with Thurston County Public Health and Social Services on contact tracing. Thurston County is in touch with about 10 DOH employees who were considered to be close contacts. Anyone determined to have had close contact will be asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. DOH has also thoroughly cleaned and disinfected the few places the employee worked last week.
DOH has been preparing for the possibility that employees might test positive for COVID-19 or need to self-quarantine since the beginning of the response. The department will continue to follow its own guidance for employers and take every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including increasing routine cleaning and encouraging staff who can work remotely to do so.
DOH notified its employees of the situation this morning and provided resources on COVID-19 and mental health resources available for employees. DOH is asking employees and others to practice compassion and respect for the privacy of this employee and others who may be self-quarantined.
Four South King Fire and Rescue firefighters have been quarantined after potentially being exposed to the novel coronavirus. The firefighters are not showing symptoms, but may have been exposed after responding to a service call.
The firefighters will remain in quarantine for 14 days, after which time they will be released if they are not showing symptoms.
Congresswoman Kim Schrier, D-Wash., Eighth District, has introduced legislation requiring all health insurance plans to cover the full cost of COVID-19 testing for U.S. consumers.
The No Cost for COVID-19 Testing Act codifies the promises made by insurers to cover the virus at no cost to patients and fills potential gaps in coverage for people in self-insured plans. More info here.
Gov. Jay Inslee will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today to outline new guidelines for schools.
The Centers for Disease Control have given Washington state nearly $11.5 million to support COVID-19 response.
The funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriation Act, which contains $8.3 billion in response funding.
President Trump announced last night that there would be further assistance for businesses, including an employer payroll tax breaks. He announced travel to and from Europe would also be ended on Friday.