Councilmember Rod Dembowski: New recommendations to reduce risk of spread of COVID-19

Thursday, March 5, 2020

News from King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski
March 2020

Dear Community:

On Wednesday, Public Health – Seattle and King County announced new recommendations aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. These are detailed below.

Sadly, they also confirmed 10 new cases and one additional death in King County. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 31 — tragically including a total of nine deaths. Another eight cases, including one death, have been confirmed in Snohomish County, bringing the state totals to 10 deaths and 39 confirmed cases.

This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in King County and these measures can potentially impact the spread of the disease. King County understands these actions will have a tremendous impact on the lives of people in our community. Public Health is making these recommendations in consultation with CDC based on the best information we have currently to protect the public’s health.

This outbreak has hit my district hard. Kirkland is the epicenter of the outbreak, the first school closure was in Bothell, and the first occupied quarantine site was established in Shoreline. As a past chair of the Board of Health, I want to emphasize the expertise that our department has, its capability, and my confidence in King County’s approach to responding to this emergency in a science-driven way that respects all communities in King County. No one will be asked to bear an unfair burden, but we are asking everyone to step up and support our collective effort in the spirit of One King County.

As of today, they are now recommending, but not requiring, the following steps:
  • People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. People at higher risk include:
    • People 60 and older
    • People with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
    • People who have weakened immune systems
    • People who are pregnant
  • Workplaces should enact measures that allow people who can work from home to do so. Taking these measures can help reduce the number of workers who come into contact with COVID-19 and help minimize absenteeism due to illness.
  • If you can feasibly avoid bringing large groups of people together, consider postponing events and gatherings.
  • Public Health is not recommending closing schools at this time unless there has been a confirmed case in the school. Public Health – Seattle and King County also respects an individual school’s decisions about closures or postponement of activities as each school knows the needs of their community best.
  • All people should not go out when they are sick.
  • Avoid visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities, or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you need to go, limit your time there and keep six feet away from patients.

In addition to the aforementioned new recommendations, public health officials are continuing to stress the same key messages:
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact our novel coronavirus call center: 206-477-3977.
  • The call center will be open daily from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM PT.
  • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, please call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.
When to seek medical evaluation and advice:
  • If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, call your healthcare provider. Do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.
  • If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
There are other ways members of the public can help:
  • Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your 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.
  • Stay away from people who are ill, especially if you are 60 and older or have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system.

As your councilmember, I hope to help you and your family stay informed. During an outbreak, there is a lot of uncertainty and information is changing frequently. This means I will continue to check-in via email, but I hope you will also take a moment to subscribe to Public Health’s email alerts. You can also frequent their blog at And you can join the effort to protect our community by sharing this information with family and friends on social media.

We all need to do our part to respond to this public health emergency. I ask that as King County mobilizes its response, that we come together to support our science-based, best practices as recommended by our public health professionals. Please also join me in thanking and supporting our first responders and front-line workers, including Firefighters/EMTs, police officers, nurses, health care workers, custodians, detention guards, and others who are bravely carrying out critical public service functions during this time.

If you have questions, please contact our hotline at 206-477-3977 (8am - 7pm).



Rod Dembowski, Councilmember
King County Council, District 1


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