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2 new coronavirus cases found in Seattle area, health officials say

caption: A map by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of where the coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is officially known, has spread in the world.
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A map by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of where the coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is officially known, has spread in the world.

Washington state is now home to two newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

The two “presumptive positives” announced by state and county health officials Friday night included a Snohomish County high school student with no recent overseas travel and a King County woman in her 50s who had recently returned to the United States from South Korea.

A presumptive positive means that the test for coronavirus returned positive but is pending confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The case of the Jackson High School student in Mill Creek was of particular concern as one of just four cases contracted within the United States. Health officials are notifying health care workers and patients who might have come into contact with the patient.

"It is concerning that this person did not travel, because it means that they acquired it in the community," said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy.

The student fell ill on Monday and was seen at two different clinics during the week. The student felt better on Friday morning and went back to school, only to learn of their test result and go straight home before the start of class.

Everett Public Schools sent families a letter on Friday evening saying that the student came into contact with a small number of other students.

Jackson High School will be closed on Monday, March 2, so that custodians may deep clean the school. Everett is ordering sanitizing stations for each school cafeteria.

The high school student came into contact with a few students while back on campus, and those students will stay home in quarantine for 14 days. The student's younger sibling attends Gateway Middle School who will also be kept home.

Related: King County health officials say don't panic about coronavirus, but be prepared.

The King County woman is currently quarantined in her home and recovering. The woman returned to Seattle on Sunday, February 23, and went to work for one day on Tuesday. She noticed symptoms at the end of her work day -- fever, cough, nausea, headache, and sore throat. Her husband called in her case to public health, given her symptoms and travel history.

Harborview health workers conducted a home visit on Thursday and the results were in on Friday afternoon, positive.

Her husband is currently showing no symptoms of the virus.

Two new cases of coronavirus were also announced in Oregon and Northern California Friday.

"We really believe at this point that it is increasing," Lofy said.

But it is increasing also because testing is increasing. Eighty percent of cases are mild, and present as a cold or mild flu, health officials said.

"Now that we are able to do more testing, we will find more," said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin of Public Health King County-Seattle.

But "we're not going to test every person who has a cold," said Dr. Chris Spitters of Snohomish County. He said testing is most useful early in the process, as doctors sort through the gray area, and later on to diagnose very sick individuals.

Washington’s first patient diagnosed with coronavirus and treated at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett is considered fully recovered.

caption: Multiple people who contracted the novel coronavirus are or will be recovering in an isolation unit at Sacred Heart.
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Multiple people who contracted the novel coronavirus are or will be recovering in an isolation unit at Sacred Heart.
Courtesy of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center

Up to five patients with the novel coronavirus were transferred to Spokane’s Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center last week, according to Northwest News Network. The patients’ severity of infection was unknown. Two were later released and were resting at home according to a statement from the state health department late Friday night.

The patients were transferred from Travis Air Force Base in California and are part of repatriation efforts, meaning they contracted the virus outside of the country.

Sacred Heart is one of 10 specialized pathogen units in the nation and the only one in the Northwest.

Related: Washington state health officials are preparing for possible coronavirus spread

State Department of Health press release:

Additional Cases of COVID-19 in Washington State

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and Snohomish Health District, are announcing two new cases of COVID-19, currently classified as “presumptive positives.” A presumptive positive is a test that comes back positive at the Public Health Laboratory and is pending confirmation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The individuals reside in both King and Snohomish Counties. In King County, a woman in her 50s with confirmed travel to Daegu, South Korea is a presumptive positive. She is currently in home isolation.

In Snohomish County, a person under the age of 18 with no travel history is also a presumptive positive. He is currently in home isolation as well. That patient visited Seattle Children’s North Clinic on Monday, Feb. 24. Snohomish County Health District is working alongside the Everett Public Schools to ensure the safety of students and staff at Jackson High School, where this student attends. Everett Public Schools is taking this very seriously and in an abundance of caution, the superintendent has decided to close Jackson High School on Monday to allow three days for deep cleaning.

While the King County case is believed to be travel-related, we don’t know how or where the new Snohomish County case was infected. We are working hard to find and identify how the patients were exposed as well as tracing people who might have been exposed to this patient.

“Now that we are able to expedite test results here at the Public Health Lab in Shoreline, we’re getting results on suspected local cases a lot faster,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “Given the extent of global spread, we expect to identify more individuals with COVID-19 in Washington. We want to emphasize the importance of practicing good health habits.”

COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious health risk in our country. Health departments at the federal, state, and local level are working together and with other partners to prepare.

Healthcare systems are getting ready to potentially see more patients than usual. Schools are receiving updated guidance on what to do to stay safe if they have cases, and what preventative measures they should take if they do not.

How can you prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Prevention starts with practicing good personal health habits: Wash your hands often with soap and water, Stay home when you’re sick, Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects. Getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, eating healthy foods, and managing your stress can help you prevent getting COVID-19 and recover from it if you do.

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