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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Heather Thomas, 425.339.8688
March 11, 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Today, Governor Jay Inslee ordered the prohibition of gatherings of more than 250 people in Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties. In addition, Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District, issued a parallel local Health Officer Order for Snohomish County to prohibit gatherings of fewer than 250 people unless measures are taken by event organizers to minimize risk. A similar order has been imposed by Public Seattle & King County.
The Snohomish Health District is reporting 15 new cases today, bringing the official case count total in Snohomish County to 75. In addition, two new deaths are reported, bringing the total deaths to 3.
Governor and Local Health Officer Orders:
Today, Governor Jay Inslee ordered the prohibition of gatherings of more than 250 people in King County and some other western Washington counties.
Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District, issued a parallel local Health Officer Order for Snohomish County to prohibit gatherings of more than 250 people.
In addition, he ordered the prohibition of gatherings of fewer than 250 people unless measures are taken by event organizers to minimize risk.
Under this local Health Officer Order, an “event” is defined as a public gathering for business, social, or recreational activities including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities, unless event organizers take steps to minimize risk. Specifically, organizers of events of fewer than 250 people must ensure that:
· Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions that are at increased risk of serious COVID-19 are encouraged not to attend (including employees);
· Social distancing recommendations must be met (i.e., limit contact of people within 6 feet from each other for 10 minutes or longer);
· Employees must be screened for coronavirus symptoms each day and excluded if symptomatic;
· Proper hand hygiene and sanitation must be readily available to all attendees and employees; and
· Environmental cleaning guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are followed (e.g., clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily or more frequently).
At this time, retail businesses and service operators such as grocery stores, drug stores, movie theaters, restaurants, other retail establishments may continue to provide services as long as they take steps to minimize the spread of disease. Additional guidance is available in a newly posted blog on COVID-19 and Gatherings.
Schools should be planning for potential closures for extended periods of time and should be determining now how to continue to provide nutritional, medial and other services for children who need it.
The Health Officer’s Order goes into effect today, March 11, 2020, and has no specified end date.
Why this Health Officer Order was issued:
COVID-19 is spreading in Snohomish County, with hundreds of cases having been reported to date. We expect the case count to double every 5–7 days. The public health approach is focusing on community mitigation to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are asking individuals, businesses, schools, and healthcare providers to take steps to help.
We have also released guidance for anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 and their contacts on how to prevent the spread to others. The goals for using mitigation strategies for communities with local COVID-19 transmission are to protect those at higher risk, including people who:
· are over 60 years of age
· have an underlying medical condition, like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes
· have weakened immune systems
· are pregnant.
It’s critical to minimize the number of people who get seriously ill at the same time. If too many people get sick all at once, this will put too much of a burden on our health care system. If that happens, people at highest risk – people over 60, and with underlying health conditions – may not be able to get the care they need if they get seriously ill.
Most of us won’t get seriously ill. But we need to make sure those who are at risk for serious illness are able to get the care they need.
Our initial community mitigation strategies have been well-accepted, and we believe these new actions will be accepted in the same way to protect our community’s health. We don’t believe active enforcement will be necessary. For the Snohomish County Order, violating a Local Health Officer Order is a misdemeanor. Our focus will be on helping people understand the importance of avoiding gatherings of people, rather than citations. We will not be actively searching for violations, but if we receive reports of events contrary to the order, we will reach out to the organizer to educate and provide guidance.
For businesses and employers:
The Snohomish Health District is encouraging workplaces and businesses to provide options for their employees to work from home if possible. If they cannot work from home, employees should minimize their interaction with large groups of people.
People who are sick with cough and fever should not attend work until 72 hours after fever has resolved or seven (7) days after the illness began, whichever is longer. We urge employers to maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits to accommodate these measures.
The Health District continues to add number of resources for businesses and employers to its website at www.snohd.org/ncov2019. One of those items is a table that provides guidance on what to do if employees or family members/close contacts of employees are being tested.
About school closures:
The Snohomish Health District wants to make sure our schools, businesses and families are aware that extended school closures are expected to be required very soon.
Extended closures create major challenges for students and families who are experiencing homelessness or unstable housing as well as parents who cannot work from home, do not have alternate child care readily available, and cannot afford to stay home from work without jeopardizing income they need to house and feed their family.
We also need to ensure staffing of medical providers, first responders, and others who are essential to this response and other critical day-to-day work. Many of those staff would be directly impacted by school closures and the need to stay home with kids could reduce resources at a crucial time.
To accommodate that critical planning, we are asking families and businesses to prepare now. Announcements are forthcoming, and people should prepare for schools to close for several weeks or longer.
Again, additional measures are likely to be put into place in the coming days. Please continue to monitor communications from your local school district as well as from the Snohomish Health District.
The Snohomish Health District is reporting the following confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 through 3:00 p.m. on 3/11/20
Two new deaths being are being reported. Details as posted by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirms the deaths of:
· a female resident of Everett in her 80’s who died on March 10th, 2020 at a local hospital as a result of COVID19 with known pre-existing health conditions.
· a male resident of Stanwood in his 80’s who died on March 9th, 2020 at a local hospital as a result of COVID19 with known pre-existing health conditions.
The male in his 80s was a resident of Josephine Caring Communities in Stanwood, Wash.
Note to media:
Daily case counts: Starting today the Snohomish Health District’s daily announcement will be issued at approximately 2 p.m.
Please be aware, as more testing has become available, we are getting increased numbers of reports from laboratories and other facilities. It takes time to reconcile data in order to report numbers accurately.
In addition, we report case numbers, including numbers of deaths, each day that are official through 11:59 p.m. the night before. Many media are hearing directly from healthcare facilities that provide different numbers of deaths than the Snohomish Health District’s official count, and may be providing it before the Snohomish Health District has the information and has reconciled the data.
Because there are increased numbers of cases and more data flowing into the Snohomish Health District that needs to be analyzed and reconciled, we are no longer able to provide specific information about all cases as we did earlier in this outbreak. We will continue to provide details on deaths, when available, for the time being. In addition, some details about previously reported cases may be updated as data quality improves.
The health and safety of Snohomish County remains the Health District’s top priority. The community is encouraged to help prevent the spread of illness and to support the response to this outbreak by staying informed and sharing reliable information. This is a very fluid situation and information will be updated at www.snohd.org/ncov2019 and the Health District’s social media channels.