Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Saturday as the events unfolded. A full recap can be found here.
What you need to know:
- One person in King County has died due to a novel coronavirus infection, Public Health – Seattle & King County officials announced Saturday morning. It is the first death attributed to the virus in the United States.
- Two people connected to a Kirkland long-term care facility have tested positive, officials said Saturday afternoon. A resident in her 70s is in serious condition, and a health employee in her 40s is stable. The long-term facility in Kirkland has 108 residents and 180 employees, according to the CDC.
- At the Kirkland facility, 27 residents and 25 employees have symptoms.
- The virus that began in China has infected more than 85,000 people globally.
- King County patient is first in U.S. to die of COVID-19 as officials scramble to stem spread of novel coronavirus
- Working to quell fears, Seattle-area officials race to prepare for coronavirus outbreak
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In Kirkland, 25 firefighters and 2 police officers quarantined
Kirkland has quarantined 25 firefighters and two police officers who responded to calls at the Life Care Center in the last week, according to a press release from the city of Kirkland.
There were approximately 10 calls at the facility in the last week, a city spokesperson said. Firefighters and officers are being quarantined in a Kirkland fire station or at home, out of an "abundance of caution," the press release said.
"None of them are presenting any symptoms and we hope they will be tested and cleared soon," Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett said in the release. "In the meantime, other firefighters are covering through overtime and are continuing to respond to calls throughout the city."
Seattle pastor: If you're feeling sick, practice your faith at home
Some Seattle-area church leaders are encouraging their congregants to stay home if they're feeling ill. Rev. Jeremy Smith, pastor of Seattle First United Methodist Church, encouraged his Twitter followers Saturday night that missing church Sunday morning is not a sin — especially if they're not feeling well.
"It’s better to take care of yourself, especially if you’re feeling sick," Smith said. "Stay home, and your faith can be practiced at home."
The bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, Elaine Stanovsky, published a blog post marking the beginning of the religious season of Lent with a reminder to take "reasonable precautions" from the World Health Organization, which included putting boxes of tissue in sanctuary pews and making hand sanitizer readily available.
"Encourage everyone to observe a 4 ft distance from others," Stanovsky wrote in the post. "Maybe suggest a new gesture of greeting, like folding your hands over your heart and then opening them palms out and down toward another person — in a sign of connection, rather than palms out and up, which might indicate separation."
At Smith's congregation in Seattle, one of those precautions includes trading out the communion cup for individual glasses of grape juice.
"We normally do communion where a person is given a piece of bread, and they then dip that bread in cup, and then they ingest it as part of holy communion," Smith said in an interview. "How we’re changing it is instead of them dipping it into a cup, they are going to be given an individual serving of grape juice."
Redmond firefighters who responded to Kirkland facility quarantined
The city of Redmond has quarantined seven firefighters who responded to calls at the Life Care Center in Kirkland in the last week, according to Pattijean Hooper, emergency manager for the city of Redmond. It's standard practice for organizations that share borders to support one another for calls, so these firefighters were supporting the Kirkland Fire Department.
One of the firefighters is quarantined in Redmond's most rural fire station (which has been evacuated), Hooper said, and the rest are with their families.
Sea-Tac expecting modest impacts from new travel restrictions
Officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are expecting only modest impacts from new travel restrictions announced Saturday, although several airlines announced cutbacks in flights to affected countries.
The Trump administration’s new travel restrictions, which include screening requirements for travelers from South Korea and Italy and an entry ban on foreign citizens who have been in Iran in the last 14 days, will have modest effects at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, according to the Port of Seattle.
“We don’t have any flights to Iran and we don’t have any direct flights to Italy,” said port spokesperson Perry Cooper. Passengers from South Korea, meanwhile, will now be subject to health screening before boarding flights to the United States, Cooper said.
Several airlines have announced cutbacks on flights between Seattle and affected countries. Earlier this week, Delta said it would reduce weekly flights to South Korea from seven to five. The two other carriers offering service to South Korea — Asiana and Korean Air — have yet to yet to announce any flight reductions, said Cooper.
Lake Washington Institute of Technology says its campus will be disinfected
About 16 nursing students from Lake Washington Institute of Technology recently visited the long-term care facility Life Care Center in Kirkland, college President Amy Morrison wrote in a Saturday statement to the community.
The school’s faculty has been in contact with the students and is awaiting guidance from King County public health officials, the statement said.
“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our priority, so as a precautionary measure, we are disinfecting the college campus (Sunday),” Morrison wrote.
The college will provide more information Sunday.
'They're probably all freaking out'
Life Care Center is monitoring residents and employees for specific symptoms — fever, cough and shortness of breath — to distinguish possible cases of coronavirus from the various cold and flu-like symptoms “normal this time of year,” according to a statement released by the facility. It may send more patients to the hospital for formal testing, which is not being performed at the facility.
Nancy Butner, northwest divisional vice president of Life Care Centers of America, told The New York Times that residents inside the facility were mostly staying in their rooms and that the mood was relaxed. When reached later in the day by The Seattle Times, she said, “I wouldn’t say it’s relaxed, but it’s controlled.”
One employee at the facility, who has been out sick and plans to get tested soon himself, said he imagines his coworkers are concerned.
“They’re probably all freaking out,” he said. “Especially the ones who have young children at home.”
Family of Snohomish County teen with coronavirus releases statement
The family of the Henry M. Jackson High student confirmed to have coronavirus has released a statement through the Snohomish Health District:
"Our child became ill with flu-like symptoms on Monday morning. We took the necessary steps to have him seen by medical professionals and to be tested for the flu. We didn’t learn of the testing of COVID-19 until Friday morning, after our now symptom-free child left for school. He promptly returned home before school started. We are taking this situation very seriously. Please know that we have been following all guidance and instructions from both the healthcare providers that treated our son, as well the Snohomish Health District. We understand the concerns and anxiety raised, but we ask that the community and media please respect our family’s privacy."
At Jackson High in Mill Creek, district officials have shut down the campus for “deep disinfecting” Friday night through Monday.
The infected student, as well as a few people he had close contact with at school, have been quarantined at home. The school nurse will be in contact with all families whose students are quarantined on Monday to organize academic support while they’re out of school, said Kathy Reeves, a spokeswoman for Everett Public Schools.
Other school districts in the area also have plans in place. Bothell High School recently canceled two days of class out of an abundance of caution, after hearing one of their staff members had a family member who was showing symptoms of the virus. The family member has since tested negative for COVID-19, and the school will reopen Monday.
Sounders monitoring outbreak ahead of Sunday's home opener
The Sounders are monitoring public-health developments on the eve of their MLS opener due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Sounders are scheduled to celebrate their 2019 MLS Cup win with a match against the Chicago Fire at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Nearly 60,000 fans are expected to attend, the club already taking over parts of Pioneer Square with interactive fan attractions.
CenturyLink Field installed additional hand sanitizer stations in key areas of the stadium and sanitary wipes will be available at all concession stand locations.
CDC takes blame for Trump misidentifying coronavirus fatality as a woman
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that officials erroneously identified the man who died from coronavirus as a woman during a Saturday morning briefing with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
In a news conference, Trump said that a "wonderful woman, a medically high-risk patient, in her late 50s," had died. Washington state health officials later said that the patient is a man.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 29, 2020
What are the quarantine powers in Washington state?
What are the quarantine powers in Washington state?
Recent weeks have brought dramatic examples of actions in other nations to stop the spread of the coronavirus that have involved isolating entire cities or regions.
In the United States, the authority to impose a quarantine is a legal power that can used at multiple levels of government to combat an outbreak of a communicable illness.
State and local governments are primarily responsible for this task. But the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is charged with monitoring and responding to the spread of communicable disease across national or state borders, or if a state government is unwilling or unable to respond, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Washington, rules passed by the state Board of Health, based on state law, detail the power wielded by local health officers on the frontlines of an outbreak of contagious disease. They state that a local health officer, “at his or her sole discretion” can issue an emergency detention that causes “ a person or group of persons” to be immediately detained for a period of up to 10 days for purposes of isolation of quarantine.
That power can only be exercised after reasonable efforts are made to obtain voluntary compliance with requests for medical examination, testing and treatment, and the health officer must issue a written order detailing why the action is necessary.
For enforcement, the health officer can invoke the powers of police officers, sheriffs, and constables.
Under the rules, a health officer can also petition a Superior Court for the right to continue to enforce isolation or quarantine for a period of up to 30 days.
The court should grant the petition if it finds “clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that isolation or quarantine is necessary to prevent a serious and imminent risk to the health and safety of others.”
People who have been subject to a quarantine have a right to petition a Superior Court for release, according to the state regulations.
King County executive activates emergency operations centers
King County Executive Dow Constantine has activated an emergency operations center in response to the COVID-19 cases. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she plans to do the same for the City of Seattle. The emergency operations centers allow King County cities to coordinate responses together.
Anyone who lives and works in Seattle, or travels through the city, can sign up for Alert Seattle, the official emergency notification system that sends text messages, emails and voices messages during emergencies.
The city is using a pandemic incident framework that also was used during 2009’s H1N1 outbreak and that has been updated since then, Durkan’s office said.
Durkan is “prepared to deploy any emergency orders and/or issue additional travel guidance,” Senior Deputy Mayor Mike Fong wrote Saturday in an email to City Council members.
Interventions could potentially include cancellations of gatherings and closures of public buildings, according to a Washington State Department of Health guide shared by Durkan's office.
“We should assume that a large-scale health emergency like a serious pandemic will, for some limited but undefined time period, stress our health care, public health and other community support systems, and pose communication challenges requiring clear and accurate messages from authoritative sources and constant vigilance for misinformation,” he wrote.
Kirkland firefighters quarantined after responding to Life Care facility
"Several" Kirkland firefighters who responded to the Life Care facility in the last week have been quarantined, according to a Kirkland city spokesperson, although the city wouldn't share how many while the exact number is still under investigation.
There were approximately 10 calls at the Life Care Center facility in the last week, the city said.
"It impacted multiple crews," Kellie Stickney, a city of Kirkland spokesperson, said.
The firefighters are not quarantined in a county facility, Stickney said, but the city won't share where they're being quarantined.
Hospitals: Call before you arrive if you're feeling ill
The message from hospitals is clear: if you suspect you might be infected, call your healthcare provider before you show up. That could be a primary care physician, an online health clinic, an urgent care center or another source. If fewer patients come to hospitals, doctors can focus on the most serious cases.
“We really want people to call if they fit any of the criteria, if they’re confused if they have the flu, coronavirus, or something else,” said Susan Gregg, spokeswoman for UW Medicine.
A provider could do a triage over the phone or online, and some patients might be able to stay home: “Many of these cases appear to be mild,” Gregg added.
Also, hospitals in the UW system are deploying doctors to assess patients in their homes, she said.
U.S. sports going on as scheduled, but officials in talks with CDC
North American professional sports are going on as scheduled, but officials from the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball say they are consulting with the CDC about COVID-19. The NHL, which has teams based in Canada, is in contact with the CDC and Public Health Canada.
In Italy, South Korea and China, soccer matches have been postponed.
Oregon elementary school shuts down employee diagnosed with presumptive case
LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon — Forest Hills Elementary, a small brick school on a quiet, residential street in the Portland suburb of Lake Oswego, is shut down at least through Wednesday after an employee was diagnosed Friday evening with a presumptive case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz, speaking Saturday at a news conference, said that the step was taken “out of an abundance of caution,” and to give the opportunity for a contractor to conduct a deep cleaning of the building.
The employee in Clackamas County was last in the school Feb. 19, and became ill enough to be hospitalized. De la Cruz said that the staffer’s job did not put him in the kind of close contact with students that is believed to be necessary to transmit the virus.
But some colleagues who visited him in the hospital have been asked to stay home for a two-week period, and his case is now the focal point of an intensive public health investigation that involves Clackamas County and nearby Washington County, where the employee resides. And the district is investigating whether there has been any increase in school absences due to illness in recent weeks.
De la Cruz announced that all scheduled school events across the district were canceled. But she said that at this point in time, there is no reason to close other schools in the district on Monday.
On Saturday, the school was quiet, and the parking lot empty, with no signs of the cleaning activity that is expected to unfold in the days ahead.
For residents of the neighborhood, the news of this school’s presumptive case of the virus brought a story that has dominated international news for weeks so much close to their homes.
"I am concerned," said Mary Wood, a 50-year resident of the neighborhood, who lives across the street from the school. “My son called from Eugene (Oregon) and suggested I self-quarantine."
Wood, who is 88, said she already is keeping to her house because she is recovering from an illness.
EvergreenHealth discouraging visitors to Kirkland campus
EvergreenHealth is discouraging visitors to its Kirkland campus, where one patient who tested positive for coronavirus is currently in isolation and receiving treatment. The medical center said it is discouraging visitors "to ensure the health and safety of our patients, staff and community."
Need to go to the grocery store? It may be busy
Customers in the Seattle area are reporting long lines at some stores, such as Costco in North Seattle. While it may be tempting to run out and stock up on items like surgical masks or gloves, the CDC says that's probably unnecessary. If you're feeling well, the CDC doesn't recommend wearing a mask.
Really should have done my regular Costco run last week. I’ve never seen it like this. This is a few miles north of Seattle. pic.twitter.com/QPPXOsBFGW
— Karen Weise (@KYWeise) February 29, 2020
Video of update from county health officials
Officials from EvergreenHealth Hospital and Public Health - Seattle and King County give an update on current COVID-19 infections and the death an infection caused on February 29, 2020. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Lawmakers responding to virus outbreak
In Olympia, Washington lawmakers are budgeting new funds to respond to the virus.
The proposed state supplemental budget passed Thursday by Senate lawmakers includes $10 million, the bulk of which would go to local health districts to aid their response to the virus. Another chunk of that money would fund a dedicated call center, as well as monitoring of known cases inside the state.
Senate lawmakers also budgeted an additional $1 million to an economic development fund to help businesses whose trade is impacted. Southwest Washington is already being pinched by a trade slowdown associated with the outbreaks, said Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, in a floor speech on the budget.
“The shipment of crab to China has dropped to practically nothing, we can’t get oysters from my district there,” said Takko, who sponsored the amendment. “And it’s not just my district.”
“Hopefully this is all we need,” Takko added later. “But I am very fearful this isn’t going to be enough.”
The budget proposal passed Friday evening by House lawmakers includes $5 million for the state’s disaster-response account to help respond to the virus.
Health officials: All local cases were acquired in Seattle area
All local cases announced Saturday were acquired through "community transmission" in the Seattle area, said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. That means none of the patients had traveled overseas.
Officials declined to share what underlying health condition the patient who died had, citing patient privacy.
Inslee declares state of emergency
Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in response to the new cases. The proclamation allows state agencies to “use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to the outbreak.”
Impact on transit
King County Metro is crafting protocols and taking guidance from public health departments. There will be a heightened response to rider reports of unsanitary conditions, and buses will be pulled out of service immediately if need be. Officials are urging people with cold and flu symptoms to stay off buses.
State health officer: 'We are rapidly shifting our operations'
Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer, said if there are additional cases in Washington, officials might consider additional measures like canceling large public events, but do not yet feel that is necessary.
"We are rapidly shifting our operations here to be focused solely, primarily on dealing with this crisis," King County Executive Dow Constantine said.
King County is also exploring options for people who are homeless to rest and recover from COVID-19 away from shelter situations. Healthcare for the Homeless Network has scheduled four training across the county for human services providers to review and answer questions.
Life Care in Kirkland not allowing visitors
Life Care in Kirkland, where a resident and an employee both tested positive for coronavirus, isn't allowing any visits from family members, volunteers and vendors, Executive Director Ellie Basham said in a statement. Concerned family members or responsible parties may call our facility number at 425-823-2323 with any questions.
A 'sad day in our state'
“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement, referring to the illness caused by the virus. “Our hearts go out to their family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”
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