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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.

Mar 26

COVID-19 Update: March 26, 2020

Posted on March 26, 2020 at 4:19 PM by Kari Bray

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the measures being taken to slow the spread of the illness are causing stress and raising questions in our community.

Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and bring out strong emotions in adults and children. Businesses and organizations have been required to temporarily close or modify operations. Planned events – birthday celebrations, weddings, family dinners – have been canceled or postponed to maintain social distancing.

Our community has come together in some remarkable ways to support one another. While we need to maintain physical distance, we are finding other ways to stay close – video calls; online groups, clubs or games; remote learning for our students and remote work for employees who can do so; shopping local online or ordering take-out or delivery to support shops and restaurants; donating money, time or resources where we can. 

Still, we are in the midst of a difficult time when things are changing quickly. We want to remind people that the measures put in place – staying home, temporarily closing schools and businesses, and limiting close contact with others – are extremely important to save lives. 

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.  

The emotional impact of an emergency on a person can depend on the person’s characteristics and experiences, their social and economic circumstances, and the availability of local resources. People may become more distressed if they see repeated images or hear repeated reports about the outbreak. Knowing your limits and taking care of yourself and your loved ones is essential.

Staying physically away from others is important for preventing the spread of this disease, but there’s no doubt that it creates mental and emotional hardships for many of us. We thrive better together. This is the time to do what you can to maintain emotional closeness even if you can’t be with friends, family, neighbors or coworkers in person. 

It’s also a good time to focus on what you can control. Find routines at home, make plans and set times to check in with loved ones by phone or online, get outside for a while and unplug when the news gets overwhelming. And be compassionate – most of us are in uncharted territory, adjusting to new rhythms in our work or home life and trying to stay healthy. A little bit of kindness goes a long way.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has gathered some information and resources to assist the public with navigating mental health during this stressful time. Please visit their website to learn more.  

You can also check out these online resources to see if any of them resonate with your needs.

Is my business an essential business during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order?


We have received a number of questions about whether certain types of businesses, activities or services are considered essential and can continue while the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is in effect.

To be clear, all Washingtonians who are not going out for essential business or errands are instructed to stay home at this time. Outdoor activity like walking is allowed if people social distance (maintain a six foot distance from others). Yes, you can still go grocery shopping, get take-out from a restaurant, pick up a prescription or to go to a medical appointment. No, you should not be going to a friend’s house for dinner or meeting up at the park for picnic.

For businesses or other employers who are not certain about whether they are an essential business, please follow these steps:
  1. Visit www.coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed and review the information, including the essential businesses document that is linked there. Many of the questions are address there.
  2. If your question is not addressed on that site, go to the Essential Business Inquiries web form. This form is for businesses or workers to find out if their businesses is considered essential or to request that it be added as an essential business.
  3. If your business is not included in the existing essential businesses list and you have not yet received additional guidance after submitting the form, act as though your business is not considered essential at this time. That means you and your workers should be home. Remote work can continue, but not in-person operations.

How can I help?


Thank you to everyone who has stepped up and offered help during this response. The strength of our community is showing. 

For people who are looking to donate money to community organizations and efforts that are working to mitigate the impact of this virus on the people of Snohomish County, go to www.cf-sc.org

For people who would like to volunteer or donate items, visit www.givewelllocal.org. This is a Community Needs Hub where people can post a need, post an available resource, or see all of the posted needs and resources to try to match what they have to what our community is looking for. Please do not drop off donations at local fire or police stations or at the Health District unless you have been given specific instructions to do so. The best way to make sure donations are going where they are needed most is to check the hub.

We have also received incredible support from our Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). Volunteers with the MRC have helped staff a call center to field questions about COVID-19, greeted and directed people at our drive-thru testing site, and made themselves available to help as other needs have come up throughout this response.

The MRC is recruiting volunteers. Health professionals and support people are encouraged to join. We have expedited the process to assist in the COVID-19 response. To apply to be a volunteer, complete the MRC Application Forms (PDF), sign it and then scan and email to TQuinn@snohd.org. For more information about the MRC, visit www.snohd.org/mrc
Mar 22

COVID-19 and expanded testing options: March 22, 2020

Posted on March 22, 2020 at 5:14 PM by Kari Bray

High-risk Snohomish County residents with symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including those who work in healthcare, public safety or critical infrastructure, now have another option for free testing.

Testing is by appointment only. People who do not have symptoms or do not meet the criteria will not be eligible for testing appointments.

We know that there will still be more people who want to be tested than available staff, time and test kits allow. We hear and we share these frustrations. We want to stress that a rushed or haphazard testing plan will not serve our community, and could actually hinder the response to this pandemic and strain already limited resources. As we ramp up this new option, we need to prioritize testing so that we and our partners can run this effort smoothly and be better able to expand as more resources are available.

This community based drive-thru testing site is being coordinated by the Snohomish Health District and the Medical Reserve Corps, in partnership with the City of Everett, Everett Public Schools, CHC of Snohomish County, Everett Clinic, Providence Medical Group, Swedish Medical Group, Tulalip Tribes, and Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

The testing supplies and laboratory services are made possible by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The new drive-thru site is by appointment only.

A website has been set up at https://redcap.link/Snohomish-COVID-19 where people will be asked a series of screening questions and, if they meet testing criteria, will be given an appointment time and a testing identifier number. If there are multiple people who will be coming in the same vehicle to be tested, each of them needs to answer the questions and get an individual number. Instructions on how to register are available here.

You must have an appointment, a testing identifier number and photo ID ready when you arrive at the testing site. Results should be available 3-5 days after testing and people will be notified by phone call or text message.

Testing will be in the large parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium at 3900 Broadway. Vehicles will enter going southbound on Broadway. People who are being tested will remain in their cars and there will not be testing inside any buildings at this location.

Appointments will be opened for one week at a time. For the week of March 23, we will be open Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with appointments in 15-minute time slots. We initially expect to test 180-200 people each day, but hope to expand days and/or hours soon.

At the testing site, there will be security and a check-in point. This testing is by-appointment only because that is the best way to make sure we are keeping staff, the people being tested, and the public safe and healthy. It will also help us keep things running smoothly to maximize the number of tests we can complete each day.

Medical professionals are overseeing this testing.

The Health District has coordinated with the Snohomish County Medical Reserve Corps, the Everett Clinic, Providence Medical Group, Swedish Medical Group, CHC of Snohomish County, and the Tulalip Tribes to have medical staff onsite to oversee the testing process. Health District staff and volunteers will assist with staffing for the check-in point and any additional screening, and local law enforcement is coordinating with us on security.

This is not the only testing option.

We are not replacing or eliminating other testing avenues offered by many local healthcare providers. The goal is to supplement those options and help ease some of the pressure on the existing system. People still should contact their medical provider for guidance and assessment if they have symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and/or shortness of breath. For medical emergencies, call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel that you may have COVID-19.

Not everyone needs to be tested.

You may be eligible for testing if you are:

Experiencing symptoms (cough, fever of at least 100.4, sore throat and/or shortness of breath)

AND

Working in healthcare, public safety, or critical infrastructure like grocery stores, restaurants, shelters, gas stations, public utilities, child care, or correctional facilities OR

60 years of age or older OR

Someone with underlying medical conditions or a weakened immune system OR

Currently pregnant.

You do not need to be tested if:

  • You do not currently have symptoms. Even if you are a close contact of a confirmed case, you should not be tested if you are not symptomatic. A negative test of someone who does not have symptoms does not necessarily rule out an infection.
  • You have mild symptoms, are younger than 60, and are otherwise healthy. If this applies to you, please stay home, self-isolate and take care of yourself. Contact your medical provider by phone or online and notify them as soon as possible if symptoms worsen.

We’re not done.

Initially, appointments will be available through next week, but the goal is to add more slots for the following weeks once the site is up and running. We know that slots will likely fill up quickly. If you try to get an appointment online and the landing page states that testing is full, do not proceed. Check back later or monitor social media to see if additional dates and times have been released.

This is not the end of local efforts to ensure efficient and accessible testing for those who need it. A dedicated team with representatives from a number of agencies is working at the Snohomish County Emergency Coordination Center on key issues, including the drive-thru testing, personal protective equipment and other resources for our medical providers and first responders, and putting plans in place to make sure we are prepared to continue this response.

This is not a short-term effort. Now is the time we need people to come together and take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as support those around them.

If you are sick, stay home and away from others. Review the guidance outlined in our last blog post. Even if you are feeling well, stay home and limit close contacts outside of your household if you are able. Support the efforts local businesses are taking to ensure social distancing and keep operating – order take-out or delivery, shop online options for local retailers, and participate in video or online options for group activities like work-outs or lessons.

And when it comes to testing, pay attention to symptoms if you have them and understand who is considered high-risk of severe illness or whether you fit into another priority group. Again, the website for the online screening and to make an appointment is https://redcap.link/Snohomish-COVID-19. More information also is available at www.snohd.org/drive-thru-testing.

Mar 19

What if I or someone I know has COVID-19? March 19, 2020

Posted on March 19, 2020 at 5:43 PM by Kari Bray

If you are tested for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and your results come back positive, it may be a scary and stressful time. The same is true for people who are close contacts or a confirmed case or people who experience symptoms of COVID-19. 

Most people who become ill with COVID-19 will recover with rest and care. It is important to monitor your symptoms and follow guidance from your health care provider, as well as avoid exposing other people to the illness. People who are ill with more severe symptoms may be hospitalized for care. Those who do not have severe illness should isolate at home to make sure our hospitals have the ability to respond to more critical cases.

In this blog, we want to talk more about what to do if you have symptoms, have a positive test, are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, or are the supervisor of an employee who has COVID-19.

What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing. The severity of symptoms can vary from one person to another. Most COVID-19 illnesses are not severe, but the illness can be serious and potentially fatal, particularly for high-risk populations like people 60 and older, people with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems, or pregnant women.

If you develop symptoms but have not been in close contact with a confirmed case, stay home and away from others. Contact your medical provider by phone or online. 

Not everyone who is ill needs to be tested for COVID-19, particularly people who have mild illness, are younger than 60, are otherwise healthy, and do not work in a health care setting, public safety, critical infrastructure, or live in an institutional or congregate setting such as a long-term care facility. Most people can isolate and recover at home. However, your medical provider may want to monitor your symptoms or test you for something else, like influenza. Keep in mind that, while we and other partners are working to expand COVID-19 testing options, capacity remains limited.

If you have been notified that you are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case and you experience symptoms, you should act as though you, too, have a confirmed case. Contact your medical provider by phone or online for guidance on your personal care. 

See the following section for more information on what you should do.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19 or if I am a close contact of a confirmed case and start having symptoms?
Stay home except to get medical care. You should only call 911 or go to a hospital or clinic if you need urgent care. Otherwise, tele-health is the best option. 

Separate yourself from other people or animals in your home. Try to use a separate bedroom and bathroom from others in the household. When that is not possible (such as if you need to share a bathroom), wear a medical face mask when you are in a shared space and make sure shared areas are being cleaned and sanitized frequently.

Rest and get plenty of fluids and healthy food. Take all of the steps you would to recover from other respiratory illnesses. There is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, though research and trials are in progress. Your medical provider may have additional guidance or steps to take based on your specific symptoms and health history. Remember to contact your medical provider by phone or online rather than going in person to avoid exposing others.

Always follow steps to help reduce the spread of illness:
  • Wash hands often with warm water and soap, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like doorknobs, counters or remotes. When using disinfectants, follow instructions on the product label.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue away and wash hands. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. 
  • Stay home and avoid close contact with others. 
  • Avoid sharing personal or household items like cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding.

Monitor your symptoms. Notify your medical provider as soon as possible if they worsen. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the dispatcher that you have or may have COVID-19. If possible, put on a medical face mask before emergency responders arrive.

How long do I need to be isolated?
If you have a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 and are caring for yourself at home, make sure you continue to self-isolate until:
  • Your fever (if you have one) has been gone for three full days (72 hours) without the use of fever-reducing medications AND your other symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) have improved
OR
  • Three full days (72 hours) after your symptoms (if you did not have a fever) have improved
OR
  • Seven days after symptom onset; whichever is longer.
What if I’m not sick but someone in my household is?
If you live with someone who has COVID-19 or is suspected of having COVID-19, it is crucial that you take steps to limit the spread of illness and care for your own health, as well.

The person in the household who is ill should follow all of the guidance above. Support them in doing this. Encourage them to maintain distance and self-isolate. Help with cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces in shared areas of the household. Ensure that shared spaces have good airflow by opening a window or using an air conditioner. Wash laundry and dishes thoroughly. 

The CDC has guidance for cleaning and disinfecting in households with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.

If there is a medical emergency and you call 911, tell the dispatcher that someone in the household has COVID-19.

Don’t invite or allow visitors who do not absolutely need to be there. Care for pets so the person who is ill does not. Don’t share household items like eating utensils, bedding or towels.

Monitor yourself for symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat or difficulty breathing. Call your health care provider as soon as possible if you develop symptoms, and make sure to explain not only your symptoms but also your exposure to a confirmed or suspect case.

What if an employee I supervise tells me they have COVID-19?
Take them at their word. If an employee is ill, you do not want them at the workplace. Even employees who are well should be working remotely if it is possible for them to do so.

The Snohomish Health District is contacting confirmed cases and providing a letter they can share with close contacts. However, an employee may hear of a positive test result from their medical provider before the Health District has had time to complete its disease investigation and provide that letter. Employers should not require an employee to show a letter to prove that they have COVID-19.

If an employee notifies you that they have COVID-19, ensure that you continue following all cleaning and disinfecting procedures. The CDC has environmental cleaning and disinfection guidance for facilities where there has been a suspected or confirmed case.

People who have confirmed cases are provided with the letter to notify close contacts. Additional internal communications to employees are at the employer’s discretion but must respect the medical privacy of the ill employee and should not include personal medical details, but rather focus on the measures being taken by the workplace to ensure health and safety.

Many workplaces already are temporarily closed due to orders from the Health Officer and the Governor that are currently in effect. More information on that is available in our last blog post, and a graphic with information is available online

For workplaces that are continuing operations, you do not necessarily need to close if you learn of an employee who tested positive or is a close contact of a positive case. Once again, ensure that you are maintaining illness prevention measures:
  • 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;
    • This includes where individuals are sitting and standing, with the exception of families and/or parents/caregivers with small children. 
    • Along with the 6-foot distance, social distancing includes not shaking or holding hands; not sharing commonly used items like phones, keyboards or microphones; or other situations where hands are touching shared surfaces or objects without being sanitized between people.
  • Employees are screened for coronavirus symptoms each day and excluded if symptomatic. Symptoms could include sore throat, cough or fever.
    • Employees should ensure they are fever-free and do not have symptoms like sore throat, cough or difficulty breathing before they leave home and report for work. While at work, if they develop fever (a temperature higher than 100 degrees F or subjective fever) or respiratory symptoms like a sore throat, cough, or difficulty breathing, they should immediately: 
      • self-isolate (separate themselves from others) 
      • notify their supervisor
      • go home and stay home until 7 days after symptom onset or 72 hours after symptoms resolve, whichever is longer
      • if symptoms persist or worsen, call their health care provider for further guidance. 
    • Employers in health care settings should consider measuring employee temperatures and assessing symptoms prior to starting work. For others, relying on employee reports is acceptable in most settings.
  • Proper hand hygiene and sanitation must be readily available to all attendees, customers and employees.
  • Environmental cleaning guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must be followed, including more cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces at least daily.
Closing down temporarily for additional cleaning or other measures is a business-level decision. 

If you receive questions from the media regarding a case at your workplace, you can reach out to the county’s Joint Information Center activated for the COVID-19 response: eccjic.activation@snoco.org. Do not provide personal medical information about an employee to the media.