“As your United States Representative – and as your 7th District neighbor – I am deeply committed to ensuring your health and safety. Given the number of inquiries my office has received about the coronavirus, I want to give you the latest updates on the disease and federal, state, and local response efforts and share resources to keep you and your loved ones safe, healthy, and informed.
Updates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Federal health officials have emphasized that while the virus is a serious public health threat, the risk to the American public remains low at this time. Practicing caution when feeling sick and regularly washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water are still the best recommendations for staying healthy.
On Friday, January 31st, HHS declared a national public health emergency to aid the nation’s health care community in responding to 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19). This simply allows the federal government to deploy additional resources to meet urgent needs.
Updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The goal of the ongoing U.S. public health response is to prevent sustained spread of coronavirus in this country. Federal and local health authorities are monitoring people who have displayed symptoms and have a travel history that puts them at risk. The vast majority of these people have tested negative. As of February 18, 2020, there have been only 15 confirmed cases in the United States, and only two confirmed cases of person-to-person spread of the coronavirus. Both cases of person-to-person spread of the virus were between very close contacts, such as family members. Previously, all confirmed U.S. cases had been associated with travel to Wuhan, China. At this time, the virus is NOT spreading in the United States.
U.S. health officials have obtained emergency approval to roll out a test for the coronavirus that can be used by hospitals and state health authorities for faster analysis of samples. The test kits are being sent to select U.S. and international laboratories, including the Washington State Public Health Laboratory in Shoreline.
Updates from the U.S. State Department
The U.S. State Department has raised their Travel Advisory for China to “Level 4: Do Not Travel.” Those currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means. Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China. All flights from China to the United States have been redirected to eleven airports throughout the country, including SeaTac Airport.
Under the temporary emergency measure, foreign nationals, excluding immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, will be denied entry into the United States if they have been in China in the past 14 days. U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident and immediate family member travelers who have been in Hubei province during the past two weeks will be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Travelers returning from elsewhere in China will be subject to screening and self-quarantine for two weeks while being monitored. If your loved ones are in mainland China or are otherwise affected by this issue, please contact my casework team at (206) 674-0040 or at email@example.com.
Updates from the Washington State Department of Health
Novel coronavirus case in Washington: On January 21st, the first case of novel coronavirus in the U.S. was identified as a 35-year-old man from Snohomish County who had recently returned from Wuhan, China. He contacted health care providers on January 19th and was admitted and held in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. He was monitored closely and remained in satisfactory condition. He was discharged, is now in isolation at home, and continues to be monitored by the Snohomish Health District.
Testing and monitoring of local travelers: State and local health authorities are monitoring people who have displayed symptoms and have a travel or contact history that puts them at risk. The vast majority of these people have tested negative. In Washington State, there has been only one confirmed case, as mentioned above. 24 people have tested negative and 712 people are under public health monitoring.
Local quarantine facilities: In response to new federal measures around controlling the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus, the Washington State Department of Health has been working to identify several suitable locations for a quarantine site for travelers from Hubei Province, China who are not able to self-quarantine at home. The Department of Health has identified two potential quarantine sites for these travelers: the North Bend Fire Training Academy and state-owned property behind the Washington State Public Health Laboratory in Shoreline, which is located in the 7th Congressional District.
The Shoreline property is spacious and secure, and there is no risk to the public. People staying there would be housed in mobile homes and regularly monitored and cared for by staff as part of a multi-agency partnership who would also deliver wraparound services like food, laundry, and other needs. Fencing would be established for both the privacy and safety of anyone staying inside. Only healthy people who have traveled from Hubei Province, China would be sent to this quarantine location. If anyone in quarantine became ill with symptoms consistent with novel coronavirus, they would be evaluated and removed from the site.
Below is a list of Do’s and Don’ts from the CDC:
What You Should Do
- Avoid close contact with sick people;
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible;
- Stay home if you are sick;
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol;
- If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have traveled to China or were in close contact with someone with coronavirus in the 14 days before you began to feel sick, seek medical care. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
What You Should Not Do
- Do not travel to China.
- Do not use facemasks. CDC does not recommend the use of facemasks for the general public to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
- Do not show prejudice to people of Asian descent because of fear of this new virus. Do not assume that someone of Asian descent is more likely to have coronavirus.
Experts have been working hard to understand this new strain of coronavirus. Because new information is coming out every day, please visit the sites below to stay up to date.
The CDC provides updates on the virus and safety information for the public and healthcare professionals.
The Washington Department of Health provides updates on the virus within our state and has established a call center to address questions from the public on the 2019 novel coronavirus: 1-800-525-0127. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington State regarding how the mandatory quarantine works, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call the hotline and press #. If you’re sick and you’ve traveled to China recently, immediately call your health provider and visit their office as soon as possible. Additionally, call your local health department to make them aware.
Our local health departments, Snohomish Health District and Seattle King County Public Health, provide updates on the disease’s spread within their counties and frequently asked questions for the general public, schools, workplaces and employers, travelers, and healthcare professions. Public fact sheets are available in English, Amharic, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Khmer, Korean, Russian, Somali, Thai and Vietnamese.
The State Department provides a list of travel advisories for those who are planning to fly outside of the United States. I highly encourage you or anyone you know who is abroad or has plans to travel abroad to register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment (STEP) Program so that you receive important information about safety conditions in your destination country and help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency.
The health and safety of you and your loved ones is of the utmost importance. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call my Seattle office at (206) 674-0040. If your loved ones are in mainland China or are otherwise affected by this issue, please contact my casework team at the number above or at firstname.lastname@example.org.