KIRKLAND — Seattle and King County on Sunday announced two more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in King County, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county to six.
The latest cases involve a man in his 60s, hospitalized in critical but stable condition at Valley Medical Center in Renton and a man in his 60s hospitalized in critical condition at Virginia Mason Medical Center. Both had underlying health conditions.
The news come one day after Gov. Jay Insleee declared a state of emergency after a hospitalized man in Kirkland died of COVID-19, the first reported death in the United States. And more than 50 people in a separate nursing facility here are sick and being tested for the virus.
Inslee directed state agencies to use “all resources necessary” to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The declaration also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.
“This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state,” the governor said in a news release Saturday. “Our state agency directors have been actively preparing since the nation’s first case appeared in Snohomish County. Washingtonians can be assured we’ve taken this threat seriously and have been working in collaboration with our health care partners to develop plans and procedures to prepare for what could likely be a world-wide pandemic.”
Health officials in Washington, Oregon and California are worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities because people are being infected by unknown means. They had not visited an area where there was an outbreak, nor apparently been in contact with anyone who had.
Among those infected is a teenage boy who attends Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek. He is doing well, officials said, but the Everett School District has closed the school through Monday to disinfect the building and buses.
The man who died was at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland and was in his 50s. He had underlying health conditions and no history of travel or contact with a known COVID-19 case, health officials said at a Seattle news conference.
Sick all week
Everett school officials learned of the Jackson High student’s diagnosis on Friday. He has a sibling who attends Gateway Middle School just east of Mill Creek, but that child has not displayed symptoms of the virus, according to the school district. The family has been asked to stay home and monitor symptoms, said Kari Bray, a spokesperson for the Snohomish Health District.
The Jackson student began to feel sick on Monday. In the past week, the high schooler visited two clinics in Snohomish County, Bray said.
According to the state Department of Health, he visited the Seattle Children’s Hospital North Clinic at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Monday.
The Jackson student stayed home most of the week but was briefly on campus Friday morning, said Kathy Reeves, a spokesperson for Everett Public Schools.
The student had just gotten to school when doctors called with the diagnosis. He didn’t go to class.
The test results from the state Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline have been forwarded to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. It’s not clear when final results will be available.
“As you can imagine, the CDC is pretty swamped,” Bray said.
On Saturday, the student’s family issued a statement through health officials, saying they “are taking this situation very seriously. Please know that we have been following all guidance and instructions from both the healthcare providers that treated our son, as well the Snohomish Health District. We understand the concerns and anxiety raised, but we ask that the community and media please respect our family’s privacy.”
Classes at Jackson are expected to resume on Tuesday. News updates will be posted at the school district website, EverettSD.org. Jackson High School students need not be tested for coronavirus unless they have symptoms, Bray said.
“Our team is still in the midst of the investigation, so we do not yet know the possible source of infection,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, the health officer for the Snohomish Health District, in a statement issued Saturday. “While we understand that this recent news can be concerning, as is the increasing number of COVID-19 cases locally and globally, we want to encourage people to remain calm, prepared, and informed.”
‘Tip of the iceberg’
Dr. Frank Riedo, medical director of infection control at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, said local hospitals are seeing people with severe coronavirus symptoms, but it’s probable that there are more cases in the community.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
In a statement, EvergreenHealth said the deceased patient “came to our facility with serious respiratory issues, and following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EvergreenHealth tested the patient for COVID-19. That test was positive. There is a second patient that also tested positive. That patient is in isolation and is receiving appropriate treatment.”
“We are working with the CDC and the Washington Department of Health to ensure that those who have come into contact with the patient are screened and tested as appropriate,” EvergreenHealth said.
Health officials Saturday also reported two cases of COVID-19 virus connected to Life Care Center of Kirkland. One is a Life Care worker, a woman in her 40s who is in satisfactory condition at a hospital, and the other is a woman in her 70s and a resident at LifeCare who is hospitalized in serious condition. Neither have traveled out of the country.
Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue said a health care worker from Life Care is a patient at the hospital. The woman was admitted to the hospital Thursday.
“In addition, over 50 individuals associated with Life Care are reportedly ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized with pneumonia or other respiratory conditions of unknown cause and are being tested for COVID-19,” Seattle and King County officials said in a news release. “Additional positive cases are expected.”
Life Care Centers of America, a Tennessee-based company, operates or manages more than 200 nursing care and other facilities in 28 states, including 15 in Washington. The Kirkland facility has banned families, volunteers and vendors as a precaution, said Ellie Basham, its executive director.
Amy Reynolds of the Washington state Department of Health said in a telephone interview: “We are dealing with an emergency evolving situation.”
83,000 sickened worldwide
“While the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 are believed to be mild, the virus can be a very serious infection that can lead to death,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health–Seattle & King County, said Saturday.
The U.S. has about 60 confirmed cases in all. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
Most infections result in mild symptoms, including coughing and fever, though some can become more serious and lead to pneumonia. Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are especially vulnerable. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. But convinced that the number of cases will grow, health agencies are ramping up efforts to identify those who might be sick.
Earlier U.S. cases include three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak; 14 people who returned from China, or their spouses, including the first known U.S. case, a Snohomish County man who was hospitalized in Everett and has since recovered; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who were flown to U.S. military bases in California and Texas for quarantining.
On Friday, Oregon confirmed its first coronavirus case, a person who works at an elementary school in the Portland area. The Lake Oswego School District sent a robocall to parents saying that Forest Hills Elementary will be closed until Wednesday so it can be deep-cleaned by maintenance workers.
School district officials said Saturday the employee had been visited in the hospital by several people before he was diagnosed. Those individuals have been asked to observe a two-week quarantine and are being closely monitored.
Washington health officials announced two other new coronavirus cases Friday night, including the Jackson High School student. The other case was a woman in King County in her 50s who had recently traveled to South Korea, authorities said. Neither patient was seriously ill.
Compiled from The Associated Press. Herald writers Stephanie Davey and Janice Podsada contributed.
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