SEATTLE, WA — King County declared a state of emergency Monday morning, as the number of deaths linked to the new coronavirus in Washington grew to six. Officials said four deaths and eight COVID-19 infections were among patients who were residents at a Kirkland senior housing facility.
EvergreenHealth announced three patient deaths Monday, and King County Public Health said four additional illnesses have been confirmed in the county since Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 18 in Washington state. Health officials said the latest deaths included a patient whose illness was previously announced.
According to the state Department of Health, Snohomish County has confirmed four COVID-19 cases, including the initial diagnosis of the first known case in the U.S. in January. He has since been deemed “fully recovered.”
EvergreenHealth said all six patients who have died in Washington were treated at the Kirkland hospital. Five of the patients were King County residents, and one patient was from Snohomish County. Four of the people who died were residents at a LifeCare senior facility in Kirkland.
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During a news briefing Monday morning, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced an emergency declaration that allows the county to take “extraordinary measures” to help contain the virus’s spread, including waiving some bureaucratic barriers and authorizing overtime pay for many county employees.
Constantine said the county was wrapping up a deal to buy a motel in the area where a large number of patients can be treated and monitored in isolation. Constantine said the county would also deploy modular units to house patients as needs require.
“We have moved to a new stage in the fight to contain and mitigate this outbreak,” Constantine said. “We will direct all available resources to help cities, health-care facilities, businesses, and families continue life as normally as possible.”
Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer, said no cases have been confirmed in other counties but acknowledged it was possible the virus was spreading elsewhere.
Lofy said Department of Health employees were testing 200 specimens per day at a public health lab in Shoreline, allowing them to get updated results by the hour. The University of Washington will begin processing samples Tuesday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dozens of infections have been confirmed in 10 states, with more than two dozen cases linked to “person-to-person spread.”
While health officials acknowledge that most patients will see mild or moderate symptoms, the likelihood of a widespread outbreak is expected to place a notable strain on hospitals, clinics and health agencies throughout the state.
“We’re going to be probably seeing more cases of coronavirus than we see of influenza over the coming weeks to months,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for King County Public Health. “At some point, we’re going to be shifting our approach from counting every case to focusing on outbreaks — perhaps cases that occur at hospitals — and we won’t be able to do the kind of individual case follow-up and case management that we’re doing early on, during this so-called ‘containment phase.'”
“This disease will pose a significant challenge to the health care delivery system across the country and across the world,” Duchin said.
Health officials say those most at-risk for life-threatening complications include elderly patients with weakened immune systems, and people with underlying, chronic health conditions.
“We know that the vast majority of people who are going to be infected by this virus will not have [a] serious illness,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health. “But [for] those who do: our health care workers will do and are doing everything to help manage patients in need.”
“We face this challenge now but I want you to know that that I feel we have the best people in the world here in King County to respond to it,” Hayes said.
Four new cases in King County:
10 earlier cases, already reported by King County Public Health:
Public Health guidance on virus prevention:
Monitor the latest information on COVID-19 in Washington and across the United States:
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