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King County Issues Public Health Recommendations

3:39 AM · Mar 5, 2020

Public Health Officials in King County up in Washington State issued proactive recommendations Monday to protect their community from COVID-19. King County, with over 2 million people, is home to the largest measured Coronavirus outbreak in the United States with 29 confirmed cases and 10 deaths. King County’s recommendations could be a model that other communities follow in the weeks and months to come as the virus spreads throughout the country. Here is the full text of their recommendations as of Wednesday March 4th Public Health – Seattle & King County is taking proactive steps to protect the health of our community by making recommendations that are meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community and reduce the number of people infected. We understand these actions will have a tremendous impact on the lives of people in our community. Public Health is making these recommendations in consultation with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on the best information we have to protect the public’s health. This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in King County when such measures can potentially impact the spread of the disease. How the decision to issue these recommendations were made We recognize that we are the first in the nation to issue such recommendations, and the decision was not made lightly. Health officials weighed the potential benefits for community health along with the significant impacts that these recommendations could have on our community. In consultation with the CDC, we developed these recommendations based on the rising number of cases in our community and the importance of taking these actions now to reduce further transmission. 1. Guidance for people at higher risk for severe COVID 19 illness Public Health recommends that people at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. This includes concert venues, conventions, sporting events, and crowded social gatherings. People at higher risk include people: - Over 60 years of age - With underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes - With weakened immune systems - Who are pregnant Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at risk for novel coronavirus should consult with their healthcare providers. 2. Guidance for workplaces and businesses All employees should work from home if they are able. Employers should take steps to make it more feasible for their employees to work in ways that minimize close contact with large numbers of people. Employers should: - Maximize telecommuting options for as many employees as possible. - Urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits. - Consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time. 3. Events and community gathering considerations If you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings. If you can’t avoid bringing groups of people together: - Urge anyone who is sick to not attend. - Encourage those who are at higher risk for coronavirus to not attend. - Try to find ways to give people more physical space so that they aren’t in close contact as much as possible. - Encourage attendees to maintain good healthy habits, such as frequent hand washing. - Clean surfaces with standard cleaners. 4. Guidance for schools Public Health is not recommending closing schools at this time unless there has been a confirmed case in your school. The reason we are not recommending school closures at this time is because children have not been shown to be a high risk group for serious illness from this virus. In addition, when some schools briefly closed during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, we learned that many children still gathered in group settings and still had exposure to one another. As much as possible, children should be allowed to carry on with their education and normal activities. Public Health –Seattle & King County also respects an individual school’s decisions about closures or postponement of activities as each school knows the needs of their community best. Some children have underlying health conditions, such as weakened immune systems, that put them at higher risk. Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. 5. For people who are sick Stay home when you are sick. Do not go out in public when you are sick. Avoid medical settings in general unless necessary. If you are ill in any way call your doctor's office first before going in. 6. For general public - Even if you are not ill, avoid visiting hospitals, long term care facilities or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you do need to visit one of these facilities limit your time there and keep 6 feet away from patients. - Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first. - Stay home when sick. - Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including washing your hands with soap and water frequently, coughing into a tissue or your elbow, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. - Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are at higher risk for coronavirus. - Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects (like doorknobs and light switches). Regular household cleaners are effective. - Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you’ve just washed your hands. - Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong. - Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health's website (www.kingcounty.gov/COVID) or blog (www.publichealthinsider.com).

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