SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday expanded school closures and prohibited large gatherings across all of Washington in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus while health officials reported at least five new deaths and more than 560 people positive tests.
“I don’t take these decisions lightly,” Inslee said at a news conference. “We’re doing this for the health of all Washingtonians.”
Meanwhile, King County health officials reported five new COVID-19 deaths.
Snohomish County reported one new fatality Friday, a woman in her 70s, for a total of four. There are 133 confirmed cases in the county.
In all, 36 are dead statewide.
As of Friday, more than 6,000 people have been tested and 568 were positive in 19 counties, Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer, told The Associated Press. Even with thousands of tests being done, Lofy said it’s not enough.
“We should be doing more testing in Washington,” Lofy said. “We’re doing everything we can to increase testing capacity.”
While more test kits are becoming available for the labs, she said they’re starting to run short on some of the materials to take the samples from people, including the swabs and the liquid the swabs go in.
Inslee said the virus is spreading rapidly across the state so he issued an executive order to close all K-12 public and private schools from March 17 to April 24. He had previously closed schools in the three counties with the highest numbers of cases: King, Pierce and Snohomish. Online learning would continue at colleges and universities, he said.
Inslee also expanded the order to prohibit gatherings and events of more than 250 people to cover the entire state.
King County has the highest death rate, 32, with 25 of those fatalities at the Life Care Center in Kirkland. Other nursing homes in the county also reported deaths. Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Redmond Care and Rehab and Ida Culver House lost residents to the disease.At least 10 long-term care facilities in the Seattle area have reported positive cases.
Most of the people who have died were in their 70s through 90s. One man in his 40s and two others in their 50s and two in their 60s died from COVID-19.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover within a few weeks.
King County opened an isolation site at a motel in Kent. Authorities said a homeless person awaiting COVID-19 test results voluntarily checked in, but disregarded instructions and left Friday morning. Another person tested negative and left the motel. The county said people can only be placed at special quarantine sites at Kent in Washington after a public health officials had determined they must be isolated.