March 2, 2020

Employers and communities closely monitoring as COVID-19 cases reported in Washington

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0
With six deaths and 18 total cases confirmed in the state, families and businesses are paying close attention to the novel coronavirus, which has arrived in Washington. Basic hygiene like frequent hand washing and covering coughs is the best defense against the virus, which is similar to the common cold but in a new form. And if you're sick, just stay home.

A man in King County on Friday was the first person in the United States to die of the novel coronavirus. This morning officials said that a total of six people in Washington have died of the virus. All were at a single hospital in Kirkland, with most tied directly to a nearby nursing home.

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Friday, directing agencies to use all resources needed to respond to the outbreak.

“Our priority now is to slow the spread of the virus,” Inslee said.

While health officials are working to do that, the fact is that most people who are infected will have minor symptoms or no symptoms at all. About 20 percent of those with COVID-19 will have more serious symptoms, and early estimates based on those infected in China have found a fatality rate of 1.4%. That actually might overstate the death rate, since many coronavirus cases are so mild they're not even being reported, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A genetic analysis of coronavirus infections in Washington say the similarities between the cases suggest that the virus may have been spreading in the state for up to six weeks. That likely means other people have it, possibly with symptoms so mild that they didn't know they were sick with anything other than the flu.

There are a number of fact-based online resources, including this list of workplace and employer recommendations from state Department of Health, this resource list from Gov. Inslee’s office, and this background paper from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Skagit County Public Health has this handy printable poster with basic tips on how to help fight the spread of this or any illness.

AWB would like to hear from any businesses who are having any impacts from the virus. If COVID-19 is affecting your business, please email AWB's Greg Welch describing how and what steps you’re taking as a result. Welch is the business community’s representative on the state Emergency Management Division’s response group.

The Seattle Times has a full roundup on news on the novel coronavirus, including this answer to the most common questions about the virus and this look at how to prepare for the disease (spoiler: Not sick? No need to buy any masks).

The newspaper's editorial board also advises calm and caution, with this advice for employers:

"For workplaces and institutions, that means routine environmental cleaning, reminding workers to stay away if they show signs of respiratory illness and sending sick employees home."