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Public Health Essentials

A place to highlight the work of the Snohomish Health District as well as share health-related information and tips. Have an idea or question? Drop us a line at SHDInfo@snohd.org.

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Mar 03

COVID-19 Update: March 3, 2020

Posted on March 3, 2020 at 3:11 PM by Kari Bray

The situation around the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Snohomish County continues to change quickly. We are updating guidance and providing new information as it is available, as well as working closely with community partners like school districts, first responders and healthcare providers. 

There is a great deal of public interest and concern. We share your concerns and are approaching this as a serious public health threat. The risk to the general public of becoming ill with COVID-19 is increasing now that there is spread in the community, but is not considered to be high at this time. We are reminding people to be prepared, stay informed, and practice standard illness prevention measures. 

On March 2, we announced the first death from COVID-19 of a Snohomish County resident who had been hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland. We also announced our fourth case in the county, a presumptive positive.

Below is updated information and answers to some of the most common questions we’ve been receiving.

How many COVID-19 cases are there in Snohomish County?
As of 11 a.m. March 3, there were six confirmed or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Snohomish County. That number may change quickly. We will start providing daily updates on our website at www.snohd.org/ncov2019. Updates will be posted at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Cases that are reported after that time will generally be included in the next daily update.

The tally of confirmed or presumptive positive cases is not the full picture. There are likely additional cases who do not have symptoms or have mild symptoms, similar to a cold or the flu, and have not been identified through testing. Although this illness can be severe, the majority of cases appear to be mild or moderate.


What are the symptoms?
This is a respiratory illness. Symptoms include cough, fever, and/or difficulty breathing. The degree of severity of these symptoms varies. This disease can cause pneumonia. There have been deaths from this illness. However, most cases do not appear to be severe. People may experience symptoms similar to a cold or the flu.

How long is someone contagious?

We are still learning about this disease, which first was identified in China in December 2019. Based on our current understanding, symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, and people are believed to be most contagious when they are symptomatic. This means someone who is infected is most likely to spread the illness when they are actively coughing or sneezing.

It is possible for people to spread the illness when they have mild symptoms or no symptoms. For confirmed or presumptive positive cases who are isolated at home during recovery, they are not released from isolation until follow-up tests have come back negative at least twice, showing that the virus is not present in samples from swabs of their mouth and nose.

It is possible that an undetected case who self-isolates because they were exposed or are not feeling well could be contagious after their symptoms go away. Transmission would be less likely when they don’t have symptoms compared to when they are actively symptomatic, which is why we encourage anyone who has symptoms to stay home and avoid contacts with others.

Was there a case in a local child care?
The Health District is working with families who may have attended a child care in Marysville that is connected to a case. Children are being quarantined at home for 14 days past the last date that they attended the child care. Family members or caregivers who picked up or dropped off children are being assessed to determine their risk, and some are being asked to quarantine, as well.


What does it mean that this is now spreading in the community?
The spread of this virus in the community (unrelated to travel) is not a surprise. Efforts to contain the virus were successful in slowing community spread and allowing time to better prepare our public health and healthcare systems to respond.


The confirmation of spread in the community means a couple of things for the public.
1) We need people to increase illness prevention efforts. All of those steps we continue to emphasize are becoming more important. 
  • Wash hands even more frequently. Make sure you are doing so with warm water and soap, scrubbing all over your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Stay home and away from others if you are ill. If you or your child has symptoms like cough, fever and/or difficulty breathing, the ill person should stay away from work, school or other activities.
  • Avoid close contact with people who you know are ill or who are actively coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect the surfaces you touch most in your home or workplace. Follow instructions on the product label of the disinfectant you are using. The same disinfectants used in routine cleaning procedures are generally effective against human coronaviruses. Check the label to make sure the product is registered with the EPA and effective against human coronaviruses.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
2) Be prepared, make plans, and stay informed as this situation changes.
  • Make an emergency plan of action with your household members, relatives, and friends. 
  • Know your workplace’s sick leave policies and whether you can work remotely. We are encouraging employers who can allow telecommuting to do so or make plans to do so.
  • Decide who will pick up and watch children if schools or child cares are closed, or if children get sick. Make sure schools and child cares have updated contact information and emergency contacts for your children.
  • Have emergency supplies like nonperishable food, water, personal hygiene supplies, and medicine or other medical supplies in an accessible emergency kit – enough to last your household for at least 14 days. Include a list of emergency contacts as well as a list of medical conditions and medications for household members.
  • If the disease spreads in your community, public events, school, or other gatherings may be canceled. Please respect these decisions. This is known as social distancing, which helps reduce the spread of illness.
  • Set up a separate room in the household for someone who is sick and clean the room regularly. Clean, disposable facemasks may be useful for the individual who is sick, not for the well members of the household.
  • Know your neighbors or friends in the area and be ready to support each other during an emergency. Check in on those who live alone or have underlying health conditions and may need extra support. If you live alone, talk to your friends and family members about who would be available to check in on you if you become sick.
Should I stay home from work?
People with symptoms such as cough, fever, and/or difficulty breathing, or who have been contacted by public health because they are a close contact of a confirmed or presumptive positive case, should stay home from work. If you have specific questions about your symptoms or care, contact your medical provider. Please call ahead before showing up to a clinic or other healthcare facility.

Those who have not been contacted by public health and who do not currently have symptoms or close contact with a case should assume that their exposure is no greater than other members of the general public. They may continue to attend work and should support their workplace’s efforts to reduce the spread of illness, which may include more frequent cleaning or providing further separation between workspaces.


Should I keep my child home from school?
If your child is showing symptoms of illness, keep them home from school or child care. Call your healthcare provider for specific questions or concerns about your child’s symptoms and care. Call ahead before going into a clinic or other healthcare facility. 

We are aware that there have been multiple school closures related to coronavirus concerns. A closure at your school does not mean it is unsafe. If your child is not ill and you have not been contacted by public health officials and notified that they are a close contact of a known case, your child can return to school when it reopens. Continue to monitor messages from your school district, child care facility and the Snohomish Health District for updated guidance.

Why aren’t more schools closed?
Multiple local school districts have made the decision to close schools. These decisions were made by school district leadership. As of March 3, the schools that have closed were not instructed to do so by the Health District.

Those who are close contacts of confirmed or presumptive positive cases related to the school closures are being contacted by public health staff for further instruction. If you have not been contacted by the Health District, please assume that you are not impacted and that your risk of acquiring COVID-19 is not higher than the general population.

Closing schools when there has not been a confirmed case in a student or staff member is not currently recommended by the Snohomish Health District or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Decisions on closing schools are being made on a case-by-case basis and there is no instruction for more widespread closures at this time.

We know that school districts act out of extra special caution when they are protecting children. And the school knows its community best and is in charge of making decisions about the school.

The Snohomish Health District will continue to provide guidance to the school districts in Snohomish County and will provide support.


Why isn’t there a list of exposure locations?
Coronaviruses like COVID-19 spread primarily among close contacts. They are spread through respiratory droplets when people cough or sneeze, or by touching a surface where the virus has been and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. This is different from an airborne virus like measles, where we would release locations of general exposure.

If a case is confirmed or presumed positive in someone at a school, workplace or other facility, there may be additional communications from the affected facility to notify students, staff and families. The Health District is coordinating with local partners on providing information and guidance.


Shouldn’t we be testing more people?
While our testing capacity for COVID-19 has improved since the Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline began testing late last week, the capacity is not infinite. Tests need to be prioritized for those who are severely ill or part of a public health investigation.

It is important that people who are not ill do not go to the clinic or hospital seeking coronavirus testing. If you are ill and believe you may have been exposed to coronavirus, call ahead to your medical provider before coming in.

People who are ill only with mild symptoms also should not immediately go to a clinic, hospital or the Health District seeking coronavirus testing. Doing so displaces other patients who truly need urgent care and increases the risk of spread of respiratory infections in health care settings. Furthermore, there is little personal health value in pursuing COVID-19 testing of patients who are not severely ill or part of a public health investigation. 


What about the deaths and cases in critical condition?
While most cases of COVID-19 appear to be mild or moderate, the virus can cause serious illness. Those at greatest risk of severe illness are elderly people or people with underlying medical conditions. However, even healthy people may become severely ill.

There has been one death from COVID-19 of a Snohomish County resident, a male in his 40s who was hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland with underlying conditions.

Higher risk populations, such as those who have underlying medical conditions or those who are 60 or older, should consider avoiding crowds and public settings where exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses is more likely.

At this point, we are not recommending widespread cancellations of events or closures of schools and other facilities. Closures of specific facilities or cancellations of activities and events are being addressed on a case-by-case basis.


Where do I go with questions?
If you or a loved one is ill and you have specific questions about symptoms or care, call ahead to your healthcare provider.
If you are not ill but have questions about the current situation, stay updated with reliable sources:

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