FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2020
CONTACT: Heather Thomas, 425.339.8688
Updates and Reminders about COVID-19 in Snohomish County
Health District urges community to understand local rules, practice social distancing
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Community members and businesses are reminded that rules about gatherings in Snohomish County are in addition to statewide restrictions announced by Governor Inslee this week.
On March 11, Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District, issued a local Health Officer Order for Snohomish County that also prohibits gatherings of fewer than 250 people unless required measures are taken by event organizers or businesses to minimize risk.
Under this local Health Officer Order, an “event” is defined as a public gathering for business, social, or recreational activities. Those include, but aren’t limited to: community, civic, public, leisure, or sporting events and activities; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities, unless organizers take steps to minimize risk.
At this time, retail businesses and service operators such as grocery stores, drug stores, movie theaters, restaurants, and other retail establishments may continue to provide services as long as they also take all steps indicated to minimize the spread of illness.
In order to continue or remain open, business owners or event organizers must ensure that that each of these items are addressed:
- Attendees, customers and employees that are 60 or older, have underlying medical conditions, have compromised immune systems, or are pregnant have been encouraged not to attend or enter;
- Social distancing recommendations must be met. This means people are able to stay at least 6 feet from each other, aside from minimal and momentary contact at closer distances when absolutely necessary;
- 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, customers 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).
If a business or event organizer cannot ensure that all requirements are met, then they must modify, close, cancel or postpone until the prohibitions are lifted.
We encourage businesses and employers to visit our resources available online. We also have different posters available to download that you can post on doors or windows.
Additional information about the health officer’s order and the need for community participation is available in a blog published today on COVID-19 and How You Can Help.
Confirmed Cases and Close Contacts
Due to the increasing number of cases, the Snohomish Health District’s disease investigators are no longer able to contact every person who is considered a close contact of a confirmed case.
They are still contacting all confirmed cases, which includes anyone who has a positive test result as well as anyone who is a close contact of a confirmed case and develops symptoms of respiratory illness.
When someone is contacted by the Snohomish Health District because they are a confirmed case, they will received guidance from our public health staff as well as an official letter from the Snohomish Health District to provide to close contacts. This letter is the new method of notifying close contacts and provides instructions on what they need to do.
If a confirmed case identifies close contacts who are in a high-risk category, the Snohomish Health District may also reach out individually to those contacts. Those high-risk categories include: healthcare workers, first responders, and individuals who are 60 years or older, have underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems, or are pregnant.
If you receive a message by phone, email or mail stating that you are a close contact of someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, it is important that you follow the instructions. This includes quarantining at home for 14 days and monitoring for symptoms.
If you are an employer, family or friend of a COVID-19 contact, please support them in adhering to the instructions. Workplaces may also be notified by an employee that they are a confirmed case or a close contact. A table with general guidance for isolation and quarantine is available online at this link.
Quarantine requirements will have a significant impact on businesses and an individual’s daily activities. This is part of why social distancing is crucial – if employees, friends or family members have not been within 6 feet, they will likely not be considered close contacts.
This is also important as new guidelines are in place where close contacts who develop symptoms (e.g. sore throat, cough, fever or difficulty breathing) will be considered a probable case. While testing is pursued, a probable case is treated like a confirmed case. Close contacts of that new probable case must then be identified and quarantined for 14 days or until a negative test result is received.
If an employer is notified by an employee that they are a confirmed case or a close contact, the employer should work with that employee to ensure the needed support, such as sick leave benefits or remote work options. Additional notification may be sent to other employees in the workplace at the employer’s discretion, while respecting the medical privacy of the affected employee.
Workplaces should continue to follow the requirements outlined in the health officer’s order. At this time, decisions on temporarily closing locations are at the discretion of the business or organization, unless they cannot fulfill the requirements of the order or are specifically instructed to do so by the health officer.
Test demand still outpacing capability
There are currently no restrictions for who can be tested for COVID-19 in Washington State. However, Department of Health Guidance to healthcare providers directs them to focus testing on people with COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. While anyone can ask a provider to be tested for COVID-19, testing is provided at the provider’s discretion. For more information on testing, visit the Department of Health Testing for COVID-19 website.
The Snohomish Health District is reporting the following cases of COVID-19 as posted online at 2:00 p.m. today:
- 154 confirmed cases (up 21 from yesterday)
- 6 probable cases (no change from yesterday)
- 4 confirmed deaths (no change since yesterday)
Confirmed cases represent those with a positive test result. Probable cases are symptomatic close contact associated with a confirmed case.
As of March 13, the Snohomish Health District is no longer reporting suspect, pending or ruled out case numbers. As more commercial labs begin providing COVID-19 testing, the District no longer receives reports of all residents who are tested and awaiting results or who have tested negative.
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.