Update from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (3/4/2020 7:52am):
Since January, my office, city departments, and I have been preparing to respond to COVID-19, and remain in close, regular contact with the Washington State Department of Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County, the King County Executive, the Governor’s Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, on Tuesday, I signed a Proclamation of Civil Emergency as part of the City of Seattle’s ongoing work to effectively support Public Health – Seattle & King County and coordinate and execute the necessary work to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.
The situation is evolving every day and, like many of you, we remain attentive to updated guidance from public health agencies including the Washington State Department of Health. I also understand the frustration of many of our residents regarding the limited testing capacity available, which we have conveyed to the state and federal government. Today, University of Washington Virology Lab announced their plans to ramp up capacity to test for COVID-19 as well. This will increase the State’s overall capacity to test people. I will keep urging this capacity to grow.
Today, Public Health – Seattle & King County issued new guidance on how to protect yourselves and your neighbors, colleagues, families and friends and help us limit the spread of COVID-19. While this is time of anxiety for many people, Public Health believes that Seattle can take steps now to slow the spread of this virus in our community.
I want to thank the first responders in Seattle and all of King County as well as the nurses and health care workers who are working extremely long days right now to keep our communities safe. The truly remarkable thing about our community here in Seattle is that when we work together, we can achieve incredible things. I’m asking the Seattle community to do that now, and help us contain a potential public health crisis.
Public Health is recommending, but not requiring, the following steps, through March to slow the spread of novel coronavirus. Public Health will continue to evaluate the situation day-by-day and keep everyone up to date about any changes to these recommendations.
Guidance for our higher risk residents, including those:
- Over 60 years of age
- With underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
- With weakened immune systems
- Who are pregnant
Public Health recommends that these residents stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, and avoid public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. This includes concert venues, conventions, sporting events, and crowded social gatherings.
Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at risk for novel coronavirus should consult with their healthcare providers.
Guidance for workplaces and businesses:
Reducing the amount of face-to-face contact between people helps reduce the spread of infectious disease. Taking these measures in the workplace can help reduce the number of workers who come into contact with coronavirus.
Public Health Seattle King County recommends that workplaces take steps to allow people to work from home. Building off the City’s strong Alternative Work Arrangement program, the City of Seattle is also developing guidance for our 12,000 City employees, which we will send to our employees shortly.
Many people have jobs where they must be in the workplace; they should continue to go to work whenever possible. But increasing the number of people who work from home will reduce the number of workers in one location will limit the opportunity for coronavirus to spread and ultimately may reduce absenteeism due to illness.
Public Health recommends that employers should:
- Maximize telecommuting options for as many employees as possible.
- Urge employees to stay home when they are sick.
- Maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits for those who are ill or who are recommended to stay home because they are high risk.
- Consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.
Guidance for event and community gatherings:
During this critical period in the outbreak, if feasible to avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings.
If you can’t avoid bringing groups of people together:
- Urge anyone who is sick to not attend.
- Encourage those who are at higher risk for COVID-19 to not attend.
- Try to find ways to give people more physical space so that they aren’t in close contact as much as possible.
- Encourage attendees to maintain good healthy habits, such as frequent hand washing.
- Clean surfaces frequently. Standard cleaning products are effective against COVID-19.
At stressful times, fear and anxiety can result in harm to people who are stigmatized because they are thought to be infected. Coronavirus does not discriminate, and neither should we.
Stay up-to-date on the work we’re doing for the people of Seattle on my blog.