Update on novel coronavirus, February 4

On Friday, the federal government declared the new (novel) coronavirus a public health emergency in the U.S. and announced a series of restrictions on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals entering the U.S. after trips to China, which took effect Sunday at 2 p.m. PST.

While government officials stress that the risk to the general U.S. public continues to be low at this time due to the small number of cases in the United States, the global situation continues to change rapidly. Public health officials here and around the world continue to be vigilant.

Our Public Health employees are continuing to work closely with our partners to respond to this outbreak, including detection of the virus; identifying, isolating, and testing persons under investigation; and monitoring their close contacts. King County Executive Dow Constantine thanked Public Health staff for their efforts to respond to the virus.

“Last week I had the opportunity to visit Public Health employees in the Health and Medical Area Command (HMAC) that we’ve set up here in the Chinook Building,” Executive Constantine said. “I am grateful for their dedication to the health and safety of everyone in our community, and appreciate their professionalism, expertise, and empathy during a challenging time.”

There is still much unknown about the severity of novel coronavirus, yet for the vast majority of people the immediate health risk is low at this time. This situation could change, and the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), Washington State Department of Health, and Public Health are monitoring the situation closely.

Public Health is also working to provide accurate information to the community to keep rumors and misinformation from spreading, and prevent possible stigmatization or discrimination based on ethnicity, nationality, or immigration status. You can find the latest information on the Public Health website and Public Health Insider blog, as well as at the CDC and the Washington state Department of Health.

Every one of us have an important role to play in helping to prevent colds, flu and other infections from spreading. Good health manners include:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoiding contact with people who are sick
  • staying home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others
  • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.

This can be a stressful time for many in our community. It is normal to feel concern for not only family and friends here in King County, but also for people across the world. At times like this, it is important that we support one another, and also be aware that there are resources available if you would like to speak with a counselor. King County provides two free services to employees that offer professional support and advice: the Employee Assistance Program and Making Life Easier. Both resources are free and confidential.