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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 05

COVID-19 Update: March 5, 2020

Posted on March 5, 2020 at 2:41 PM by Kari Bray

The Snohomish Health District today announced new recommendations to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus disease – or COVID-19 – in our community. The recommendations come a day after Dr. Chris Spitters, the interim health officer for the Snohomish Health District, declared a public health emergency for Snohomish County. The emergency declaration is intended to make it easier for the Health District to work with partners and use the best available strategies to keep our community safe and healthy. 

We need this flexibility to respond to COVID-19. This situation continues to evolve rapidly.

As of our 11 a.m. update on case counts, Snohomish County had 13 confirmed or presumptive positive cases as well as two probable cases. Numbers from the Washington State Department of Health were updated after this and show 18 positive cases in Snohomish County. The higher number of cases will be reflected in our next update at 4 p.m. In addition, our disease investigators are awaiting test results for 37 suspect cases.

This is a key time to take action. Prevention strategies right now can make a large impact in slowing the increase in cases in the short run and ultimately reducing the total number of cases. 

Our recommendations are based on our best understanding of this new disease, and with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Washington State Department of Health, and our colleagues at other local health agencies.

These steps will require coordination. They may cause difficulty for many in our community. We are recommending these steps, but we are not requiring them at this time. While we encourage people to follow this guidance, the steps outlined below are not mandates.

Gatherings
We know that COVID-19 spreads among close contacts, and that reducing close contact with others can help reduce the spread of this disease. This is a prevention strategy used for many other illnesses. It’s called social distancing.

For social distancing to be most effective, it must be combined with other illness prevention steps. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after having physical contact with others, being in public places or health care facilities, when leaving work or school and upon returning home.  
  • Stay home when you are sick. It is crucial that those who are ill with fever or symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath stay home and away from others. 
  • Stay away from other sick people.
  • If someone else at work is sick with a cough or cold, make this known to someone in charge so that person can be asked to leave.  
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw it away, and then wash your hands. 
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with a disinfectant.

As of March 5, we are recommending that people avoid non-essential gathering in large groups to the extent possible. We are loosely defining “large groups” as meetings, events or spaces with 50 or more people. Realistically, there is no magic number. People need to balance the risks to their individual health and to the community against the benefits of or need for a gathering.


When it comes to gatherings, the larger the group, the higher the risk of spreading illness. And the closer the contact to others, the higher the risk of spreading illness.

For people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, extra precautions should be taken. Those at higher risk include 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.
If you have questions about whether you or your child is at higher risk from COVID-19, ask your health care provider.

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.

Schools
The Health District continues to be in close communication with school districts in Snohomish County. We know that closures have a large impact on students, staff, and families, and require a lot of coordination.

As of March 5, the Snohomish Health District is not requiring school closures. However, we all have a common interest in preventing transmission of COVID-19 and other infections in schools. While closures are not required, school district leadership may make their own decisions to close schools. We will continue to work with them to determine the best measures, including potential school closures, and to support school officials in making the best decisions for their students and families. 

Our school districts have been great partners in identifying the right next steps for the health and safety of our community. Watch for further communication from your local school district as well as from the Health District. If our recommendations change and we look at targeted or widespread school closures, we will let you know quickly.

What to do if you’re ill
If you have cold or flu symptoms, especially cough or fever, it is important that you stay home and away from others. If you have questions about specific symptoms or care, contact your health care provider. Call ahead to your provider before going into a clinic or other health care facility.

For those who have symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, contacting your regular medical provider is the best thing to do unless you have an urgent need that requires immediate care. Most cough and cold illnesses can be cared for at home, with advice from a health care provider over the telephone if needed. 

Please do not go to emergency rooms or urgent care clinics if your illness is mild and can be managed at home. These facilities need to have the ability to serve those who are in most critical need. We also want to limit unnecessary visits to protect health care providers and other patients from catching infections.

Even if you are feeling well, avoid visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities or nursing homes. If it is necessary to visit someone there, check on the facility’s rules for visitors before showing up, limit your time there, and stay at least 6 feet away from patients at all times. 

Updates on testing for COVID-19
There are now expanded options for coronavirus testing in Washington. People still need to contact their medical provider if they are ill in order to be evaluated for testing. It is not necessary for everyone with cold-like symptoms to be tested for the new coronavirus.

The University of Washington is now offering the same COVID-19 test as the state Public Health Lab. Health care providers can request testing through the university lab. Information on how to do this was sent to providers on Tuesday. It was the latest in a series of health alerts we have been sending to our medical community about COVID-19.

Those who are being tested for COVID-19 are to remain isolated at home while results are pending. Others who live with them but are not ill will only be required to quarantine if the test results are positive or if they develop symptoms.

Tracking data on COVID-19
The number of COVID-19 cases in Snohomish County is expected to change frequently. We are now providing twice daily updates on our website, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

It takes our disease investigators time to look into cases, and details on specific cases are not available right away. 

With the expanded testing options, the Health District is no longer coordinating on every COVID-19 test requested for a Snohomish County resident. This means we are no longer able to confirm to employers or schools whether a specific employee or student is being tested. 

We are notified of positive test results, and that is when our disease investigators begin their work. Close contacts of a positive case are notified by public health to quarantine for 14 days while monitoring for symptoms.

If there is a case in someone at a school, workplace or other facility, there may be additional communication from the affected facility to notify students, staff and families. The Health District is coordinating with local partners to help provide accurate information and guidance.

What’s next?
Information continues to change frequently. We know that people are worried about this new disease. 

The illness is mild or moderate in 80% of cases. People may notice symptoms similar to the common cold or the flu. Though the disease is new, it is caused by a respiratory virus. We have proven methods to help prevent the spread of these kinds of illnesses. This is the time to use them. It is also the time to stay calm, stay informed, be prepared, and think of others.

The new recommendations around social distancing can help us slow the spread of this disease. Everyone can help support these efforts.

Continue to monitor for the latest guidance at www.snohd.org/ncov2019. Other reliable sources of information include:

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