Nine coronavirus deaths in Washington state, King County declares emergency

UPDATE: Another person died in Washington state and tested positive for COVID-19 days after their death. The person died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and was a resident of LifeCare Center in Kirkland, which is at the center of an outbreak in western Washington.

As of Tuesday, there have been nine deaths and 27 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state.  Click here for more information.

Previous story:

SEATTLE -- Washington state health authorities now say six people have died from coronavirus.

King County announced an emergency declaration on Monday as the number of COVID-19 cases there rose to 14, including five deaths. The sixth death was a man in his 40s from Snohomish County, just north of Seattle.

Dr. Jeff Duchin of Public Health - Seattle & King County said there were four new cases of novel coronavirus. Of those four cases, two patients have died. One patient in a previously reported case has also died, he said.

These are the new cases in King County, according to the department:

    “This disease can cause very serious disease in people, particularly people who are older and have underlying health conditions," Duchin said.

    King County Executive Dow Constantine issued an emergency declaration on Monday to allow additional resources in the effort to contain COVID-19.

    “We have moved to a new stage in the fight to contain and mitigate this outbreak. King County is aligned and organized behind this common mission, with Public Health – Seattle & King County as our lead agency,” said Executive Constantine. “We will direct all available resources to help cities, health-care facilities, businesses, and families continue life as normally as possible. But our best strategies depend on millions of residents actively following established disease prevention guidelines.”

    Constantine said the county is purchasing a motel to house coronavirus patients, and modular housing that was bought for homeless people will be repurposed for coronavirus patients to recover in isolation. Constantine didn't say where exactly the modular housing will go.

    Health officials urged people who think they have symptoms to call their doctor before going to an emergency room. They also asked the public to stop buying medical masks and to save them for first responders and front line health care workers who need them more.

    They also said they are not recommending school closures or the cancellation of large activities.

    “We have the best people in the world right here in King County responding to this crisis,” said Patty Hayes, RN, MN, Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County. “We will get through this by staying informed and united. There are things each one of us can do to take control and reduce the impact of this disease in our community.”

    10 other cases, already reported earlier by Public Health, include:

      Dr. Ettore Palazoo with EvergreenHealth said that in addition to the confirmed cases at the facility, there are 29 cases that are pending investigation.

      "We have made adjustments at the organization to allow for airborne precautions," Palazoo said. "We are in a situation where we are able to convert our entire critical care unit over to a negative pressure scenario where we can keep those patients and staff caring for the patients safe.”

      Tips from Public Health:

        Seattle skyscraper, schools close amid virus concerns

        A downtown Seattle skyscraper and about a dozen schools in the area were closed for cleaning Monday after health officials in Washington state announced a second person had died from the new coronavirus.

        Researchers said earlier the COVID-19 virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state, and experts said more cases would likely be reported in Washington, Oregon and California as testing ramps up.

        The F5 technology company said it was closing its 44-story tower in downtown Seattle after learning an employee had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. The employee tested negative but company spokesman Rob Gruening told The Seattle Times the tower was being closed out of an abundance of caution. And more than 10 schools in the Seattle area were closed for deep cleaning over virus concerns.

        Authorities in the Seattle area reported four new cases Sunday night, including the man who died. Of those new cases, two were women, one in her 80s and another in her 90s. Both were in critical condition. A man in his 70s was also in critical condition. All four were from the LifeCare nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, where health officials said 50 people are sick and being tested for the virus. On Sunday night, the International Association of Fire Fighters said 25 members who responded to calls for help at the nursing facility are being quarantined.

        Karen Goheen says her mother is currently in Life Care and says the nursing facility hasn't been providing detailed updates on residents there.

        “We’ve really got some updates kind of generalized updates that ‘hey we’re doing everything we can... But no individualized updates. We haven’t gotten any updates from the facility about how many people have tested positive," said Goheen.

        The first U.S. case was a Washington state man who had visited China, where the virus first emerged, but several recent cases in the U.S. have had no known connection to travelers. In California, two health care workers in the San Francisco Bay Area who cared for an earlier coronavirus patient were diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus on Sunday, the Alameda and Solano counties said in a joint statement. In Oregon, the state Health Authority said Sunday that a second person in the state tested positive for the virus. The person is an adult who lives with the first Oregon resident that tested positive and does not need medical attention, the authority said.

        Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington on Sunday said they had evidence the virus may have been circulating in the state for up to six weeks undetected — a finding that, if true, could mean hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the area. They posted their research online, but it was not published in a scientific journal or reviewed by other scientists.

        Trevor Bedford, an associate professor who announced the preliminary findings on the virus in Washington state, said on Twitter late Saturday that genetic similarities between the state’s first case on Jan. 20 and a case announced Friday indicated the newer case may have descended from the earlier one.

        Secretary of Health John Wiesman on Monday told Washington lawmakers that he anticipates the number of cases will increase in the days ahead.

        “This is a very dynamic situation, moving very quickly,” he told members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

        Wiesman said that $3.5 million has already been spent, with $2.3 million of that being spent by the state and the remainder by local health jurisdictions. He asked lawmakers for an additional $100 million for the current budget cycle that ends July 2021, so that the state’s public health system can adequately respond to the increasing number of cases of coronavirus in the state.

        “We want to mount a response that is the right response for Washington and one where I’m not worried about ‘do I have the money to actually mount the response we need,’” he told the panel.

        Lawmakers are nearing the end of a 60-day legislative session, and the House and Senate are currently negotiating a supplemental budget plan that they will have to pass before the Legislature adjourns March 12.