Seattle and King County officials announced at a press conference Monday (March 2) that there are now a total of 14 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in King County.
Five King County patients have died. One patient from Snohomish County has died.
“This is such a tragic and difficult time for these families and communities,” said Seattle and King County Public Health Director Patty Hayes.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said the county is currently in the process of purchasing a motel intended to be used for quarantine and is also working on setting up isolating modular units around the county, including Seattle. Constantine said specifics about location are not yet available, as transactions have yet to be finalized and feasibility is being determined, as of the time of publication. Confirmation likely will be made at the end of the week.
On Sunday, March 1, Constantine signed a proclamation of emergency regarding the outbreak.
He added that the county is working closely with its 39 cities to ensure an adequate local response.
State health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy also announced that the University of Washington (UW) will start testing for the virus either today (March 2) or tomorrow. That will help add to testing capacity in the state, which is limited to hundreds of tests at a site per day, Lofy said. Lofy said the state is working hard to increase testing capacity at public health labs.
Hayes clarified that the vast majority of people who will be infected with the virus will not have a severe illness. Those who are most susceptible to COVID-19 are those who are elderly and/or have preexisting conditions that have made their immune systems vulnerable.
Hayes encouraged those who are currently healthy to refrain from buying face masks to ensure that health care workers and those who have been infected have access to the devices.
Officials at the conference reiterated hygienic precautions to take, including thoroughly washing hands and avoiding crowded areas. As of the time of publication, officials are not recommending school, event and other mass closures but said that could change depending on how conditions evolve.
At the conference Lofy shared that a state call center — i.e., a coronavirus hotline — had been set up for 1-800-525-0127. The public health website, http://www.kingcounty.gov/COVID, will be updated as new information is made available.