Skagit County, WA– The first case of COVID-19 or Coronavirus Disease 2019 has been confirmed in Skagit County, Washington. According to Skagit County Public Health, they were notified today of the first positive case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19. The patient is a female in her 40’s and is at home on isolation. The individual appears to have acquired COVID-19 through community transmission.
Skagit County Public Health is working with local response partners to identify and contact all those who may have come in close contact with this case. These individuals will be guided to quarantine and monitor themselves for fever and respiratory symptoms for 14 days following their last exposure.
It is likely that more cases will be confirmed in our area in the future. Skagit County Public Health, together with its healthcare, emergency management and law enforcement partners, has been working aggressively to respond to this threat. However, help from everyone is needed at this time to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and reduce the number of people impacted.
What is a Coronavirus? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and other, such as Caine or feline coronavirus, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This was initially suspected to have occurred for the new coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in more than 100 locations internationally, including the United States. The new virus has been named “SARS-COV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “Coronavirus disease 2019,” abbreviated COVID-19. On January 30th, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committed of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). On January 31st, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19. The new COVID-19 coronavirus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-COV and SARS-COV. All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal. Early on, many of the patients at the epicenter of the outbreak had some sort of link to a large seafood and live animal market in China, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.
Who is at the highest Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19? According to early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started and what we’ve seen happening in the United States, older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, Diabetes and Lung Disease are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.
What are the Symptoms? Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed Coronavirus disease 2019 cases. Common Symptoms usually include, Fever, Cough, Shortness of breath, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, chills, nausea or vomiting, dry cough, fatigue, sputum production, diarrhea, nasal congestion and breathing difficulties. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor. In some of the more severe COVID-19 cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute (sudden) respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. The CDC says the public should be aware of the Emergency Warning Signs of COVID-19. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, seek medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face.
How Does Covid-19 Spread? The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact of 6 feet or less with one another through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
How easily does the Virus Spread? Covid-19 appears to be spreading easily and sustainably in the communities (community spread) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
Can Someone spread the virus without being sick? Yes. While people are thought to be “most contagious” when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. There have been reports of this occurring with this new Covid-19 coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads according to the CDC.
How as a community can we prevent the spread of Covid-19? Everyone has a role to play in getting ready and staying healthy. Americans should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Other way to prevent illness is to avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of a facemask is also crucial for health workers, first responders and those taking care of someone who is ill at home or in a health care facility.
What to do if you get sick? Stay home and call your doctor. Call your healthcare provider and let them know about your symptoms. Tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help them take care of you and keep other people from getting infected or exposed. If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home. Follow the CDC instructions for how to take care of yourself at home. Know when to get emergency help. Get medical attention immediately if you have any of the emergency warning signs. Skagit Regional Health has made virtual visits through their telehealth system, MyEClinc, Free for anyone in Washington experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19. Patients experiencing symptoms like cough, fever or other respiratory problems can call or video chat with a board-certified provider 24/7 without leaving their home. Patients can use the coupon code COVID19 while requesting a visit to waive the $40 session fee. Lear more about their free MyEClinic visits on their blog post by clicking here. Additional updates from Skagit Regional Health can be found on their website by visiting www.skagitregionalhealth.org/updates
Is Skagit Regional Health Testing Patients for COVID-19? Yes. Skagit Regional Health staff are performing COVID-19 tests for patients at their facilities who meet the CDC testing criteria. Test results are typically back from the lab in 24 to 48 hours.
What are local Hospitals Doing? On Monday, March 5th, 2020, in accordance with their emergency response plan, Skagit Regional Health constructed tents outside their Emergency Departments at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon and Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington. These tents can be used as an extension of the Emergency Department if they hospitals receive a sudden influx of patients due to the COVID-19 virus. Skagit Reginal Health noted that it is important for them to be ready to safely and appropriately respond to an alert on short notice. As of Monday, March 9th, 2020, Skagit Regional Health is taking action to limit access, limit visitors, and screen patients and visitors entering Skagit Valley Hospital and surrounding facilities in Mount Vernon. The hospital is taking this step as they have seen an increase in respiratory illnesses in the community and an uptick in the number of patients who have test results for COVID-19 pending. They are continuing to perform tests in accordance with CDC guidelines. Public Access to Skagit Valley Hospital will be limited and screen of patients and visitors will be provided at the following entrances. Emergency Department 24/7. Diagnostic Imaging Entrance, Kincaid Entrance and Eagle Entrance will be limited to 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Public access to Skagit Regional Clinics in Mount Vernon will also be changing. Riverbend Main Entrance will be open from 6:45 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Patients must use the main entrance to access Urgent Care and other clinics in the building. Mount Vernon Clinic: Founders Building entrance on Kincaid Street and the Maynard Johnson entrance on Broadway will open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Patients will be allowed 1-2 essential visitors. Family and friends are encouraged to stay in touch with patients via Facetime or other social media video apps to help limit the possible spread of the virus. For more information from Skagit Regional Health, click here.
On March 6th, 2020, PeaceHealth United General Medical Center in Sedro-Woolley, PeaceHealth Island Medical Center and PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham took steps to help protect patients, employees and visitors from the COVID-19 virus. They implemented a 1-2 essential visitors per day rule. Visit www.peacehealth.org/news for more information.
For updated information on the COVID-19 Virus, follow the Center For Disease Control on Facebook
This is an emerging outbreak with rapidly evolving information. Updates will be made as new information emerges on the DOH website and the Skagit County Public Health website. Please note the Skagit County Public Health website will receive an update shortly, and Public Health will use this website to communicate case updates going forward.
The Washington State Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington State, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127.