Today’s Public Health Update: There are a few updates today. First, testing capacity is expanding in high priority areas. Also, some findings are published from investigations into outbreaks at local long-term care facilities. Finally, there has been an uptick in anti-Chinese rhetoric and racism due to COVID-19 in our region.
Story: Testing capacity expands in high priority areas
Testing capacity for COVID-19 continues to expand throughout the community through the University of Washington lab, commercial laboratories, and large health care systems. Large health care systems and community clinics are increasingly offering testing for people who are symptomatic. Residents should call ahead to providers to confirm availability and testing appointments/processes.
There are still some gaps for people in the highest priority areas for testing. These include first responders, health care workers, and people in congregate settings, such as long term care facilities and shelters for persons experiencing homelessness. In some cases, the issue is limited supplies, including swabs needed for testing and packaging to transport the samples, but that situation is improving, and Public Health—Seattle & King County is helping to connect supplies to where they’re needed.
Public Health also has expanded access with a testing clinic at the Downtown Public Health Center, which serves symptomatic people living homeless and those who serve homeless populations. In addition, a Public Health mobile services team is screening illness clusters at congregate settings.
Results from investigations into King County nursing homes
After the recent COVID-19 outbreaks at long term care facilities, a team from Public Health, the Washington Department of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated what lessons could be learned. Some of their research was published today in two scientific journals, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and the New England Journal of Medicine.
They found that a number of infection control measures could be prioritized to limit the spread of the virus.
“The investigations into how the virus spread at Life Care Center and at other long-term care facilities should be useful to facilities across the country. A similar outbreak could happen at any facility,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health—Seattle & King County. “That’s why preventive measures, such as limiting visitors and excluding symptomatic staff, are so important.”
Today’s research also notes that some residents in skilled nursing facilities may not show symptoms of COVID-19 even when they are infected. That means, once a facility has confirmed a COVID-19 case, all residents should be cared for using CDC-recommended personal protective equipment (PPE), when possible, with considerations for extended use or reuse of PPE as needed.
Local leaders in the Asian Pacific Islander community speak up
Local leaders in the Asian Pacific Islander community are speaking out against racialized violence and discrimination due to COVID-19. When elders and children were targeted locally, Asian Counseling and Referral Services released a public statement on discrimination and coronavirus epidemic in a press conference with King County Public Health officials:
“…Immigrant and refugee community leaders and organizations urge everyone to know the facts about the coronavirus, not to stigmatize individuals and families from particular groups, and to speak out against bias and harassment…We encourage everyone to promote correct information about the coronavirus, its risk and transmission, and the importance of not stigmatizing a group based on background or country of origin.”
For additional information about COVID-19 and the response in King County, be sure to check our webpage: www.kingcounty.gov/covid
Public Health—Seattle & King County is reporting the following confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 p.m. on 3/26/20.
- 1828 confirmed positive cases (up 251 from yesterday)
- 125 confirmed deaths (up 6 from yesterday)
Important Note:With the launch of a new data dashboard (www.kingcounty.gov/covid/data), Public Health will no longer be listing individual deaths by age and gender in our News Release. Detailed information about demographics of those who died from COVID-19 is available on the dashboard. Be sure to click the button to filter by “positive results only” to see age and gender of deaths. A PDF is also available.
Isolation and quarantine facilities update
Isolation and quarantine is a proven public health practice for reducing the spread of disease. Examples of people who may need this assistance include people who cannot safely isolate from a family member who is elderly or medically fragile, or people experiencing homelessness. Individuals can only be placed into the King County sites after a health professional with Public Health—Seattle & King County has determined that they need isolation or quarantine.
Twelve people are currently staying in King County isolation and quarantine facilities.
[King County Creative will share updates from Public Health daily, based on the information on Public Health Insider.]