Live blog: Coronavirus updates in Seattle area (Feb 29-March 2)
For the latest updates on the cornavirus, visit KUOW's latest updates here. This post was last updated on Monday, March 2.
*Six total coronavirus deaths reported as of Monday morning in Washington state. The dead are male and female, and range in age from 40s to 80s.
*18 confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in Washington state, according to King County officials. They are all in King and Snohomish counties.
*King County is closing on a purchase of a motel to house patients in quarantine or need to recover. The county also plans to open modular housing for this use.
*At least 10 workers from the Centers for Disease Control flew into Seattle over the weekend, headed for a nursing home where there has been an outbreak. At least 50 people reported sick.
*Public health officials say do not go to the emergency room unless essential.
MONDAY, MARCH 2
4:30 p.m. Don't lick your ballots, please.
Washington state elections officials are asking voters to NOT lick their envelopes when they mail in their presidential primary ballots. Also, voters CAN'T change votes if their preferred candidates have withdrawn. Not even those who didn't pick a party affiliation.
3:45 p.m. — King County officials discuss steps being taken to prepare homeless service providers and people experiencing homelessness amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The county’s priorities are making sure providers know how to minimize the spread of the virus, strengthening the current shelter system, and adding capacity for on-site isolation, said Leo Flor, head of the King County Department of Community and Human Services.
King County is also working to set up modular housing units for people who don't have a home to recover in isolation if they fall ill with the coronavirus.
“Many [people experiencing homelessness] have underlying health conditions, homelessness is rough on a person’s health in the first place, many spend a lot of time in congregate settings,” Flor said.
However, he noted that none of the known cases so far have been within the county's homeless population. He added that the county is trying to secure access to large stockpiles of things like hand sanitizer, soap and wipes to provide to people in camps.
Additionally, King County is setting up a hotline for people to call if they encounter someone experiencing coronavirus symptoms and get guidance on the most appropriate next steps.
King County is working in tandem with the City of Seattle to prepare human services providers amid the coronavirus outbreak.
3:36 p.m. —Workers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are here.
Gov. Jay Inslee said during a press conference Monday that a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was on the ground in King County, helping local health officials investigate the outbreak. Although he hasn't formally requested the cancellation of large events in Washington state, Inslee said this could happen in the future.
Inslee said that state officials have asked the federal government to release a variety of medical equipment from its stockpile and asserted that he was “reasonably confident that those requests will be honored.”
State officials are also in the process of evaluating surge capacity in Washington's health care system, and are reviewing multiple locations to serve as quarantine sites that provide medical care to individuals affected by coronavirus.
3:32 p.m. Snohomish County announces a new coronavirus case, a woman in her 40s, bringing the cases in that county to four total.
A man in his 40s, a resident of Snohomish County, died at EvergreenHealth community hospital. He had an underlying medical condition. He did not work at Life Care nursing facility, where there has been an apparently outbreak.
2:20 p.m. — How to make your own hand sanitizer.
1:20 p.m. —Trevor Bedford, a scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research in Seattle, just posted the latest research on the coronavirus strain that has hit the Seattle area.
On Twitter he wrote that the research indicates that there could be a few hundred current infections in the Seattle area. He wrote: “We estimate the number of current infections in this transmission chain on March 1 to be 570 with an 90% uncertainty interval of between 80 and 1500.”
Bedford said the research suggests that the Seattle area outbreak stems from the first Washington state patient, who was diagnosed on January 21 in Snohomish County. That patient, a man in his 30s who had traveled to China, was kept in isolation.
On Saturday, Bedford wrote that the Seattle Flu Study had sequenced the genome for the coronavirus case of a high school student whose positive results returned on Friday.
The student’s strain of coronavirus was related to the first case reported in Washington state. “There are some enormous implications here,” Bedford wrote on Saturday. The student and the first case were both in Snohomish County.
Bedford wrote that this suggests that coronavirus has therefore been spreading in the area for the last six weeks.
The outbreak was not detected however, he wrote, because the Centers for Disease Control was not testing people who had not traveled to China.
That means that coronavirus was spreading, but no one knew, because people who had not traveled, but who appeared to have coronavirus, were not being tested until last week.
“Please consider this to be a preliminary analysis,” Bedford wrote. “We are actively working on this and will continue to update our numbers.”
12 p.m. — A gif we made of the spread of the coronvirus outbreak globally in the last week.
11:30 a.m. — King County health officials reported a total of six presumed coronavirus deaths in Washington state during a press conference.
Officials said there have been five deaths in King County and one in Snohomish County. This marks a total of 17 reported cases of the illness in Washington state: 14 in King County and three in Snohomish County.
7:30 a.m. — A number of Western Washington schools are closed due to coronavirus concerns, including:
- Frank Love Elementary in Bothell
- Covington Elementary in Kent
- Kentwood High School in Kent
- Hazen High School in Renton
- Jackson High School in Mill Creek
- Cedar Park Christian School in Bothell
- The Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland will remain closed Monday and Tuesday
7 a.m. On Friday, Feb. 28, before the announcement of the COVID-19 outbreak and deaths in the Seattle area, Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health Seattle-King County spoke with KUOW about how people should be prepared.
Dr. Jeff Duchin discusses how to prepare for coronavirus
Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health Seattle-King County discusses how the region is preparing for cases of coronavirus.
SUNDAY, MARCH 1
5:40 p.m. The second coronavirus death was reported in King County. It marked the second death in the U.S.
Meanwhile, four new coronavirus cases—including the second death—were reported by Public Health Seattle & King County on Sunday evening.
All of these cases are linked to the Life Care Center in Kirkland, where there has been exposure to the novel coronavirus. These new cases bring the total in the county to 10.
The new confirmed cases: A woman in her 80s; a woman in her 90s; a man in his 70s; and a man in his 70s who died on Feb. 29.
Three of these patients are currently hospitalized at EvergreenHealth, a community hospital in Kirkland, and are in critical condition. All four patients had underlying health conditions.
4:30 p.m. Sound Transit responds to coronavirus concerns by placing an emphasis on cleaning vehicles and facilities "more deeply and frequently."
Cleaning will especially be focused on high-touch areas such as handrails, escalators and elevator buttons.
Any vehicles that come in contact with a "biohazard" will remain out of commission until it has been disinfected. Passengers are asked to alert a transit employee if they feel something needs attention.
3 p.m. Hazen High School in Renton announces Monday closure.
Sunday morning the district learned that a parent and Hazen student had both fallen ill with flu-like symptoms. They are awaiting their test results and remain quarantined at home.
The parent, a worker in the healthcare industry, fell ill last Sunday. The student started to feel sick Wednesday afternoon and was absent from school on Thursday and Friday, the district said.
Custodial staff will thoroughly disinfect the high school, and the district will contact students and staff who may have come into contact with the student last week.
10:07 a.m. Two new cases of coronavirus confirmed Sunday. These cases bring the county total to six.
The new cases include a man in his 60s, who was hospitalized at Valley Medical Center in Renton. The second case is another man in his 60s, who is being hospitalized at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.
Both men have underlying health issues and are in critical condition.
Recently, the U.S. Postal Service reported one of its Federal Way employees contracted coronavirus. Health officials said this person was one of the cases previously reported by King County.
9:30 a.m. Kirkland and Redmond officials report that emergency responders were placed into quarantine.
Those under quarantine are fire fighters and police officers that came into contact with patients at Life Care Center in Kirkland recently.
Kellie Stickney, city of Kirkland spokesperson, said this was done under an "abundance of caution."
She said those under quarantine include 25 Kirkland fire fighters and two Kirkland police officers.
While in Redmond, seven fire fighters are being quarantined. These seven are asymptomatic, said Lisa Maher, Redmond representative.
They will remain under quarantine for 14 days.
SATURDAY, FEB. 29
8:20 p.m. A local researcher said the coronavirus has likely been in Washington state for the past six weeks.
Trevor Bedford, scientist and associate professor at the University of Washington, compared two strains of COVID-19.
He wrote on Twitter that his analysis “strongly suggests” there has been “cryptic transmission” in the state for the past six weeks.
“I believe we're facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China,” he wrote.
5:23 p.m. Overlake Medical Center & Clinics announces that it has confirmed that one of its patients has coronavirus.
The patient is a woman in her mid-40s, a health worker at the nursing care facility in Kirkland where there may be a coronavirus outbreak. The woman was admitted to Overlake on Thursday. She is one of two people from the nursing facility who tested positive. Fifty more sick people from the facility await test results.
The Overlake hospital system says it is prepared to care for those with COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).
“Out of an abundance of caution and per Department of Health recommendations, we are testing any patient with severe, unexplained respiratory symptoms,” a press release said. “Overlake has a large number of isolation rooms and over 50 CA PR systems (protective isolation equipment) with more ordered.”
“Overlake has additional patients who have pending test results for COVID-19,” the release says. “These potential patients have been placed in isolation rooms with negative air pressure. Notably, we have no awareness that any of our cases have a high risk travel history.
“All of the additional patients have been admitted to the hospital within the last 48 hours.”
5 p.m. Kirkland resident Jaime Kennison, who lives a few blocks from LifeCare nursing facility says she is trying not to be too scared.
“We’re shocked,” she said. “I saw a couple of people at the grocery store looking for thermometers. Everyone is worried but trying not to worry.”
She said she is washing her hands more frequently. She does not think they will wear masks.
3 p.m. A panic buy at the Sammamish Safeway
Says Jane McGrane, mother of KUOW producer Clare McGrane: "I’m at my local supermarket here on Saturday, and I can’t believe the shelves are empty. They have no soap or hand sanitizer. Everybody is buying toilet roll and Lysol wipes. The Lysol shelf has about three cans left. I think it’s a bit of a panic buy."
2 p.m. A former LifeCare nurse walks by her former job in Kirkland.
Outside LifeCare in Kirkland, Hiroko Sogoh said she worked there a couple years ago as a nurse.
“It’s a typical nursing home,” she said. “I used to take care of patients like 70 to 100 years old. Some people there doing rehabilitation.”
She said she was not surprised that the virus hit the U.S. “A lot of Asian people are living here,” she said.
She was supposed to return to Japan at the end of March for a visit but canceled. “We didn’t know if we would be let back in,” she said.
She said she worried about the patients at LifeCare, who are vulnerable with diabetes and other diseases.
“Plus, with so many people living there, that’s also a concern,” Sogoh said.
At a press conference, Dr. Kathy Lofy, a state health officer, says there are six confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, including three contracted from within the state – not through travel.
This does not include the cases of people who were repatriated back to the U.S. from abroad. Up to five people were sent to Spokane Sacred Heart for observation.
1. The first case was a man in his 30s who had returned from China. He was kept in isolation in Everett and tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. The second case was a high school senior in Everett, whose test results came in on Friday. It is unknown where he contracted the virus.
3. A third woman, in her 50s, returned home to King County from South Korea and started showing symptoms after a day at work.
4. A fourth person, a man, was tested last week and died. Little is known about him other than he was in his 50s and had an underlying illness.
5 & 6. Cases number five and six come from a nursing care facility in Kirkland, Washington. One was a health worker and the other a woman in her 70s.
1 p.m. A run on masks
At Dunn Lumber in Shoreline, as President Trump was speaking about coronavirus, a steady stream of people bought up the final boxes of N95 masks.
12:30 p.m. Gov. Jay Inslee declares state of emergency and says agencies should use the resources they need to contain the outbreak.
FRIDAY, FEB. 28
7 p.m. Two cases of presumed coronavirus are announced to the public.
A high school student by Everett, Washington, north of Seattle, and a King County woman were tested during the week for coronavirus. A lab in Shoreline finds their specimens test positive for the virus. They are called "presumed" cases because they have not been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials are able to determine that the woman contracted the virus in South Korea, where she had been traveling, but they do not know how the teenager got sick. This indicates that coronavirus is in the community and spreading between people now.
Around the same time: Two patients at EvergreenHealth community hospital receive positive results for COVID-19. One of those patients, a man with an underlying condition, dies.
Another patient, a woman in her mid-40s, tests positive at Overlake hospital.
6:42 p.m. Bothell High School gets good news
From: Northshore School District
Date: February 28, 2020 at 6:42:22 PM PST
To: Northshore School District Recipients
Dear Northshore Families,
I am writing you with possibly the best news we’ve had all week. As a result of the CDC accelerating their testing process and dissemination of results, this afternoon, I have received word from our Bothell High School employee, that their family member’s coronavirus test results have come back negative….