March 6, 2020
For Immediate Release
Thomas Locke, MD, MPH, Jefferson County Health Officer
Jefferson County Public Health
360-385-9400 Main Clinic
COVID-19 Update for Jefferson County
Situation Report: As anticipated, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the causative agent of the disease known as COVID-19, continues its worldwide spread including Washington State. The Washington State Public Health Lab has now reported the first case of a Jefferson County resident with confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This Jefferson County resident is a male in his 60’s who received care at a Seattle-area hospital. He has been discharged from the hospital and is recovering at home. Initial exposure to COVID-19 was likely during a visit to a family member in Kirkland, WA, where community-level transmission is occurring. This individual spent time in Jefferson and Clallam County during the early stages of his illness. Potential contacts are being notified and advised about what precautions they should take. We do not believe this case represents evidence of community-level transmission of COVID-19 on the Olympic Peninsula.
Symptoms of CoVid-19: Most people who have CoVid-19 have very mild common cold-like symptoms or may have no signs of illness at all. About 20% have more severe influenza-like illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Of these, some will develop severe illness requiring hospitalization and advanced medical care. There is no antiviral medication available to treat CoVid-19. Several drugs are being tried experimentally for hospitalized patients. Treatment for the non-critically ill involves rest, fluids, and symptomatic treatment (fever reducers, cough medicines). Most people can be treated at home and recover within the first 1-2 weeks.
Public Health Response: We are learning more about the SARS-CoV-2 virus with each passing day. We know that it is spread the same way as the influenza virus (what is known as “droplet transmission”) and that many people who become infected have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. These two factors make complete containment of the virus virtually impossible. It is very important that we slow the spread of this infection in our communities and make strenuous efforts to protect those at greatest risk of COVID-19 complications: people over age 60, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. Individuals with known COVID-19 infection who do not need hospitalization are being isolated in their homes for the duration of their illness. Individuals who have had significant exposures to confirmed COVID-19 cases during the infectious period are being placed in a modified home quarantine for 14 days after their last exposure. These people should not go to work or school and should avoid public places for the duration of their quarantine. If illness does not develop in this two-week period, infection is highly unlikely.
Detailed recommendations have been developed by the Washington State Department of Health for:
These guidelines are available on the Jefferson County Public Health website (Jeffersoncountypublichealth.org) and on the WA State Department of Health website (DOH.WA.GOV). All Jefferson County residents are urged to visit these websites on a regular basis for up-to-date information on the spread of COVID-19 in Washington State and precautions to be taken to avoid infection. Jefferson County residents should also inform themselves concerning the recommendations that individuals at high risk for COVID-19 complications (60 years of age and older, pregnancy, or chronic medical conditions) avoid public gatherings and certain other activities in the Seattle area.
Testing for CoVid-19: Access to timely testing for COVID-19 is still severely limited but is improving day by day. The Washington State Public Health Lab is running at maximum capacity and has a backlog of 3 days or longer for test results. The test that confirmed Jefferson County’s first resident with COVID-19 was performed on a specimen submitted on Monday, March 2. On March 5, the University of Washington Laboratory began testing for COVID-19 and has the ability to perform a much higher volume of tests than the Public Health Lab. Commercial laboratories are expected to have the capacity to perform this test sometime next week. Testing should not be done on people who have no symptoms of respiratory disease. The test is only useful in evaluation of suspect COVID-19 illness.
Community Response: Communicable disease pandemics require active participation of all community members. These are our current recommendations:
Do not go to the emergency room unless it is essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you are experiencing symptoms like cough, fever, and other respiratory problems, contact your regular health care provider for advice. In many cases, you will not need to be seen and home self-care will be your best option.
Stay home if you are sick. Children should not be sent to school; adults should not go to work if they are ill.
Practice optimal person hygiene habits, including coughing into tissue or the elbow and avoidance of touching your eyes, nose, or mouth unless your hands are freshly washed or sanitized. Washing your hands before touching and eating food is also important.
Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 years of age or older or have an underlying health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system.
Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check the Jefferson Public Health Website (Jeffersoncountypublichealth.org), Washington State Department of Health (DOH.WA.Gov), and Public Health-Seattle King County (kingcounty.gov/COVID) on a daily basis for updates.
The Big Picture: The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading in Washington State. Most confirmed cases have been in King and Snohomish County. A Grant County case was announced on 3/5 and more cases will be found throughout the State as testing capacity increases. The great majority of people who experience this infection will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, will recover, and will likely be immune from further infection. Those who become more seriously ill will need medical care. We will be challenged to provide this care, reserving hospital resources for the sickest and mobilizing families and neighbors to take care of most people in a home setting (as we do with influenza every year). After a period of months, this outbreak will pass. Quelling rumors, avoiding panic, working together as a community to support and protect each other is more important than ever. Jefferson County Public Health serves a wide range of community members and has a lead role in coordinating Pandemic Response in Jefferson County. We are working diligently to mobilize a community response to the CoVid-19 outbreak and I am confident that, as a community, we will successfully meet the many challenges that lay ahead. Stay informed, practice good infection prevention practices, and get to know your neighbors. They may need your help or you may need theirs in the weeks and months ahead.
Jefferson County Public Health
Always Working for a Safer and Healthier Community