Doing what we can do minimize COVID-19 spread and protect ourselves

Last week, we advised that a person with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was in multiple King County buildings in downtown Seattle. Public Health – Seattle & King County worked to identify where there may have been exposure, and workspaces that might benefit from additional cleaning received additional cleaning, as have workspaces across the county. Importantly, employees should not assume that any public spaces are without risk.

It is essential that we protect people’s identities in a public health emergency for a number of reasons. Experts in public health and bioethics say that far from helping society, a decision to reveal the identities of people who have contracted the coronavirus would be a disaster with far-reaching ramifications. Health privacy laws (HIPAA) strictly protect confidentiality. People won’t seek medical care if they feel that their privacy will be compromised, and that compromises the ability of health officials to respond to the outbreak. Health officials are responsible for contact tracing and any notifications medically necessary. While we are taking appropriate actions, we are being careful not to announce particular buildings or spaces to avoid identifying individuals and to ensure people don’t assume that other spaces are without risk.

As testing capacity for COVID-19 has increased and more results have come in, it has become clear that this virus is now common in our community, and we will see many more positive tests. We all need to assume public spaces in our community have been exposed, and that we have already or can be exposed to the virus if out in public spaces.

We must focus on what we need to do to minimize our risk of contracting and spreading the virus, and follow Public Health and King County advice about avoiding public spaces, practicing excellent personal hygiene habits, staying home when sick, and taking extra precautions if we are at higher risk of illness. We have also taken measures to limit the number of county employees who need to come to work, by encouraging telecommuting wherever possible; and as mentioned above, have increased our cleaning protocols.

If you believe that you need to utilize leave to be away from the workplace, please contact your Human Resources Manager. For medical questions, please contact your medical provider or take advantage of telehealth resources. If you are stressed or just want to talk to someone, the Employee Assistance Program and Making Life Easier (login: King County) can be helpful. Both resources are free and confidential.

This is a challenging situation for our community. The health and wellbeing of our employees and customers is paramount. As public servants, we are all working to ensure that our community continues to receive the services that it counts on us to deliver, while doing everything that we can to minimize the spread of this virus.