Washington state health officials give coronavirus guidance: 'Don't panic, get prepared'

Health officials in Washington state gave an update on three local coronavirus cases on Saturday to provide the public with guidance on how to avoid infection and review who is most at risk of contracting the disease.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County, began by announcing three new positive cases in the state. One of the patients passed away overnight and was cited by President Trump during his White House press conference earlier in the day.

Most cases are mild and may not even require any health care, he said. However, residents should still practice more hand washing, less face touching and less social interaction whenever possible. Working remotely, staying home if you feel sick, and having a stockpile of medication and food will help contain the illness.

Those who are over the age of 60-65, along with anyone who has chronic lung issues or a weakened immune system, must be hypervigilant, as they are the ones who are most at risk. Duchin advised that pregnant women also exercise caution.

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The deceased patient is a male in his 50s, not a female as was previously thought.

The other two cases were discovered at Life Care Center, a nursing and rehabilitation facility in King County. The first patient is a health care worker in their 40s and the second is an elderly patient in their 70s. Neither of them had any known travel outside of the U.S.

The health care worker is currently in satisfactory condition, but the elderly patient is in serious condition at Evergreen Hospital. A number of other individuals at the nursing facility were experiencing respiratory issues and are being tested, while an investigation is conducted, according to Duchin.

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King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the activation of emergency operations centers to help cities coordinate their responses, and said efforts to help homeless residents find shelter and seek health care if they need it are currently underway.

King County Director of Public Health Patty Hayes stressed transparency and encouraged citizens to come together.

“We're a strong, committed bunch of folks and we are here for the community," she said. "We will stay united and informed. If we do that, we can get through this together.”

Duchin said infections are likely going to increase, but encouraged people to remain calm and take the necessary precautions to limit the chance of it spreading.

“The infection will increase over time. We know we can’t stop it. It’s here and it’s going to be here with us in the U.S. for quite a while. But we can reduce our risks," he added. “Don’t panic, get prepared.”

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coordinating with state officials and is expected to send a team of about 10 people to assist with containing, testing and identifying the virus over the next 24 hours.

Since the first cases of the disease were reported in December 2019, at least 2,800 people have died and close to 85,000 have been infected worldwide. Most of the cases, however, are in mainland China.