Health officials advise people to work at home, postpone gatherings to slow spread of coronavirus

Coronavirus illustration
An artist’s conception shows microscopic coronavirus particles. (CDC Illustration)

As the coronavirus epidemic widens, public health officials in Seattle-King County are recommending that people work at home if possible — and that large gatherings of people should be postponed if feasible.

The recommendations were issued today in an advisory that also updated the statistics for the epidemic’s spread in King County. Ten new confirmed cases were reported, including one additional death. That brings the total for King County to 31 confirmed cases, including nine deaths.

North of Seattle, Snohomish County has reported two confirmed cases, including one death.

Although the COVID-19 coronavirus causes flu-like symptoms, it’s not a flu virus. The fact that there’s no vaccine or antiviral treatment currently available to fight COVID-19 means people have to rely on more basic strategies to reduce the risk of infection. Those strategies include avoiding opportunities for the virus to spread through direct contact with people who have the infection.

To reduce contact, several tech companies — including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google — have already called off or postponed events and non-essential travel. Today’s updated recommendations are likely to accelerate that trend, even though Seattle-King County Public Health emphasized that they merely recommendations rather than requirements.

“We understand these actions will have a tremendous impact on the lives of people in our community. We are making these recommendations in consultation with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] based on the best information we have currently to protect the public’s health,” the agency said. “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.”

Here’s the full list:

“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 & 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.”

Public health officials also provided these additional guidelines, which have been standard procedure for dealing with the COV-19 epidemic:

“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.

“Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health’s website ( or blog (”

If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a health care provider with questions about COVID-19, contact the Seattle-King County Public Health novel coronavirus call center: 206-477-3977. For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.

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