TV news tents set up in front of Life Care Center of Kirkland on March 2. Samantha Pak/staff photo

TV news tents set up in front of Life Care Center of Kirkland on March 2. Samantha Pak/staff photo

Coronavirus reaches the Eastside

14 confirmed cases and six deaths as of March 2.

Eastside store shelves went bare after it was reported Feb. 29 that the first confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) death in the United States occurred in Kirkland.

Several local stores and drugstores have sold out of water, toilet paper, surgical masks, hand sanitizer and Lysol spray. People are preparing to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from the spreading virus.

“Some national suppliers have been unable to keep up with the demand and we are looking for alternatives when possible,” Ken Mahoney, senior vice president of operations for Seattle-based Bartell Drugs, said in a press release. “The most sought-after items include OTC medications, hand sanitizers, disinfectants and antibacterial sprays.”

According to the release, the local retailer is shipping more over-the-counter products to its stores after experiencing high demand due to concerns relative to COVID-19 this weekend.

As of March 2, Public Health – Seattle & King County confirmed 18 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington state. Five people have died in King County with one death in Snohomish County.

The first COVID-19 death was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions who had no history of travel or contact with a known coronavirus case, according to a press release from the Public Health – Seattle & King County. He and another patient tested positive for the virus late Feb. 28. The man died the morning of Feb. 29.

An outbreak of the virus was reported at Life Care Center of Kirkland Feb. 29. There are eight cases linked to the nursing and rehab facility.

The state Department of Health (DOH) released information regarding COVID-19 cases in the state: as of the Reporter’s March 2 print deadline, four new cases emerged.

A 50-year-old male with no underlying health conditions was hospitalized at Highline Medical Center in Burien. He is in critical condition, but so far is stable with no known exposures.

A 70-year-old male with underlying health conditions, who was a resident at Life Care Center of Kirkland, was hospitalized at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland. He died March 1.

A 70-year-old female with underlying health conditions who was a resident at Life Care Center of Kirkland was also hospitalized at EvergreenHealth. She died March 1.

An 80-year-old female who was a resident at Life Care was hospitalized at EvergreenHealth. She remains in critical condition.

Earlier COVID-19 cases include:

An 80-year-old woman who was reported to be in critical condition died at EvergreenHealth March 1.

A 90-year-old female with underlying health conditions remains in critical condition at EvergreenHealth.

A 70-year-old male with underlying health conditions is hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in critical condition.

A 70-year-old male with underlying health conditions died at EvergreenHealth Feb. 29.

A 60-year-old male was hospitalized at Renton’s Valley Medical Center.

A 60-year-old male was hospitalized at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.

A 50-year-old woman who traveled to South Korea is recovering at home.

A 70-year-old woman and resident at Life Care was hospitalized at EvergreenHealth.

A 40-year-old female employee of Life Care has been hospitalized at Overlake Medical Center.

A 50-year-old male was hospitalized and died at EvergreenHealth.

“We are working closely with health authorities following the death of a patient who tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19 (coronavirus),” EvergreenHealth said on Feb. 29 in a written statement sent by spokesperson Julia Irwin. “That patient came to our facility with serious respiratory issues, and following guidelines set by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)], EvergreenHealth tested the patient for COVID-19. That test was positive. There is a second patient that also tested positive. That patient is in isolation and is receiving appropriate treatment.”

More than 50 people at Life Care were reported ill with respiratory issues.

“We are working with the CDC and the Washington Department of Health to ensure that those who have come into contact with the patient are screened and tested as appropriate,” the hospital statement continued.

“We’re in the process of investigating this situation as an outbreak,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a press conference on Feb. 29.

Officials respond

Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington state health officials responded to the news with their own statements.

“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Inslee said. “We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”

Inslee added that the DOH, the state Department of Emergency Management and local and community health partners are strengthening preparedness and response efforts.

“I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed,” he said.

“This is a tragic loss of life and we share our heartfelt condolences with the family,” Duchin said following the first reported death. “While the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 are believed to be mild, the virus can be a very serious infection that can lead to death. Protecting the health of our community and supporting the care of health care workers is our top priority.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine said Washington is fortunate to have one of the best public health agencies in the nation.

“We are pulling all available resources into the fight against COVID-19. King County is reviewing all government operations, and we are standing up an Emergency Operations Center to respond appropriately across all agencies and public services,” he said in a release. “I urge businesses and families to plan and take precautions, referring to Public Health for best practices.”

Schools respond

Since the recent outbreak, several schools have closed for deep cleaning and disinfection. The first school to close was Bothell High School (BHS).

BHS closed for two days last week after a school employee’s family member became sick after traveling overseas.

The school was closed Feb. 27-28.

After mid-winter break ended Feb. 21, the school learned about a portion of students and staff who had traveled internationally.

One of the school’s staff members returned to work on Feb. 24 and the following day, one of their family members who was vacationing with them became sick. This individual sought treatment and was monitored and quarantined by hospital staff.

The sick family member was tested for COVID-19, and according to the Snohomish Health Department, has tested negative for the virus.

Prior to learning the test results, BHS was in contact with DOH, which relayed that staff and students were at minimal risk for COVID-19. They also stated that school closure was unnecessary.

The closure was to allow cleaning teams to thoroughly disinfect the entire facility.

Northshore School District (NSD) Superintendent Michelle Reid made the decision to close the school out of an abundance of caution. Measures were taken to clean and disinfect the entire school, particularly areas where the staff member had contact with.

BHS was also in communication with the University of Washington Department of Global Health faculty and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to learn how to combat any possible health emergencies.

On March 2, Reid decided to close Frank Love Elementary School in Bothell after a staff member showed flu-like symptoms. She also ordered all NSD schools to be closed March 3 so staff can be trained to engage students in remote learning that may take place outside the four walls of their classrooms should this become necessary in the coming days.

Further, Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWTech) students in Kirkland may have been exposed to coronavirus after visiting Life Care recently.

According to LWTech, a total of 22 students and faculty are affected: 17 nursing students, one physical therapy assistant student, and four faculty members are in self-quarantine. Of those nursing students, one was at EvergreenHealth in clinicals, and one of the faculty members had been to the Life Care to visit a family member, unrelated to college activities. Following CDC recommendations, the students and faculty are in self-quarantine for the next 14 days.

“Our faculty have been in contact with those students, as well as college administration. Currently, the college is awaiting guidance from King County Public Health in order to provide information and guidance to our faculty and students,” LWTech president Dr. Amy Morrison said in a press release on Feb. 29. “The safety of our students, faculty and staff is our priority, so as a precautionary measure, we are disinfecting the college campus [March 1].”

As of March 1, Morrison and the college’s executive cabinet announced the campus would be closed March 2 and 3 to continue disinfecting and cleaning.

“The executive cabinet and I have made the decision, with support from the Board to Trustees, out of an abundance of caution to close the LWTech campus tomorrow, March 2 and Tuesday, March 3 to continue disinfecting and cleaning the campus,” Morrison said in March 1 release. “In addition to closing the campus tomorrow and Tuesday, we are also canceling all large community and college events for the week. This includes the annual Open House scheduled for Thursday, and the employee Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion professional development training and in-service on Friday. Students, faculty and staff have been notified.”

Cities respond

Cities are working together to address the growing situation.

On March 1, the city of Redmond said seven medics were quarantined due to possible exposure after responding to Life Care. The Redmond Fire Department is fully staffed and responding to calls as normal.

The city of Kirkland will continue to operate the Emergency Operations Center in order to coordinate the response to the outbreak of coronavirus in the community.

“City staff are working around the clock to coordinate our response, including being in close communication with Public Health – Seattle & King County,” Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet said in a press release. “Our priority is to protect our community and support our firefighters and police officers during this time.”

The Kirkland fire and police departments remain fully staffed and are responding to calls as normal, the release states. The first responders are following recommended protocols as well as using CDC-recommended personal protection equipment.

“I am so grateful for the incredible dedication of our first responders,” Sweet said in the release. “Their willingness to go the extra mile to serve our community is truly inspiring. We are doing everything we can to ensure that they are supported throughout this process.”

“The city of Snoqualmie Department of Emergency Management is closely monitoring the situation and working with the King County Department of Emergency Management and Public Health,” Joan Pliego, public information officer for the city of Snoqualmie, said in a statement to the Reporter . “Our priority is to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of Snoqualmie residents, employees at local businesses, and visitors to our community. We will continue to provide information to the public and provide information resources.”

“Unfortunately, the first cases of novel coronavirus are now in King County,” Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly said in a statement to the Reporter . “Issaquah is coordinating closely with Public Health – Seattle & King County and our first responders to help keep our community prepared. We’re reinforcing that people should stay home if they are sick, wash their hands frequently and have backup plans for work and/or childcare. Meanwhile, we must all help address potential discrimination in our communities based on ethnicity or ancestry. A certain ancestry does not make a person more vulnerable to this disease. It is very clear that coronavirus doesn’t recognize race, nationality or ethnicity.”

“City of Bellevue staff continues to receive real-time updates from multiple partners including Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Center for Disease Control & Prevention,” Brad Harwood, chief communications officer for the city of Bellevue, said in a statement to the Reporter . “As we receive updated information from partner agencies, we are sharing it on our city website and social channels, and continuously assessing our need to take emergency actions, as needed.”

He added, “We strongly urge Bellevue residents to regularly check BellevueWA.gov and KingCounty.gov/health for the latest, accurate information. Residents should also take precautions to protect themselves and avoid spreading the disease. Helpful actions include washing your hands, staying home from work if you are sick, and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.”

Prevention

King County public health officials are asking the public to take the following steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. Anyone with symptoms like a cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, should contact their regular doctor first.

Stay home when sick.

Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including handwashing, coughing into tissue or elbow, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth.

CDC and state health officials continue to advise that the community should not go out and purchase face masks unless they are caring for someone who is sick. Masks should be reserved for hospital staff who are directly treating COVID-19 positive patients. In addition, the CDC also advises handwashing over the use of hand sanitizer when necessary.

Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health’s website www.kingcounty.gov/COVID.

Reporters Hannah Saunders, Jake Berg contributed to this article.


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