Edmonds mayor activates coronavirus response group
Stores mobbed; Edmonds Chamber cancels event at assisted living facility
Last updated 3/2/2020 at 5:25pm
On Monday, March 2, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson said he was taking action in response to COVID-19, the coronavirus that has spread from China around the world and which has killed six people in Washington state, including one from Snohomish County.
"Today, I am announcing the activation of the City of Edmonds COVID-19 Response Group," Nelson said in a news release.
"This group, comprised of select City staff and a hospital representative, is tasked with preparing and responding to likely impacts to our city from the coronavirus. This includes protecting the public and staff, ensuring critical City functions remain operational, and providing timely communications to the public."
Since January, Nelson said, key emergency management staff have been monitoring the crisis and have been updating the City's emergency plans and preparations.
In addition to the response group, the City's website has been updated with online resources from the Snohomish Health District. These online resources are to help mitigate the spread of the illness and to support the response efforts by sharing reliable information.
The online topics include guidance for those at high risk for serious illness, businesses and employees, and child-care providers. It also provides common questions about the coronavirus.
The Snohomish Health District and its medical professionals are the lead government agency in Snohomish County for the outbreak. Regularly updated COVID-19 information from the Snohomish Health District can be found at http://www.snohd.org/484/Novel-Coronavirus-2019.
Last week, Edmonds European travel expert Rick Steves announced that his company was temporarily suspending travel to Italy, where the COVID-19 outbreak has taken hold.
Also on Monday, the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce – citing an abundance of caution – reported that Fairwinds Brighton Court in Lynnwood has suspended all outside events on its property, including the chamber's planned networking breakfast on Wednesday.
"We hope to resume the breakfast on March 11 at a new temporary location and will keep you posted on those details," said the Edmonds Chamber in a news release. "We fully appreciate Fairwinds' concern for their residents' safety."
The Edmonds School District has not closed any of its campuses due to the virus, although closures have impacted Jackson High School in Mill Creek and Bothell High School in Bothell. In both cases, one student from each school was possibly infected, and the schools closed for deep cleaning.
On Monday, the Mukilteo School District closed Mariner High and Discovery Elementary schools after learning on Sunday that a parent of a Mariner student had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Mukilteo School District officials announced the decision to close the schools as a precaution; no other schools were closed. Although enrolled at Mariner, the student also was on the Discovery campus last week, prompting the decision to close that school as well.
In announcing the closure, the district said, "As a precaution for the health of our staff, students and their families, we are closing both Mariner High School and Discovery Elementary School today, March 2, to allow the custodial team to do some deep cleaning and disinfecting."
The district also canceled all school, athletic and other afterschool activities at Mariner and Discovery on Monday.
Caution, not panic
COVID-19 is a coronavirus that has spread from to most areas of the world and killed more than 3,000 people. As of Monday, all six people who have died from the virus were from King and Snohomish counties.
County public health officials are urging caution, but not panic. Heather Thomas, Public and Government Affairs manager for the Snohomish Health District, said neither the health district nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend closing schools when there hasn't been a confirmed case in a student or staff member.
In what has become a nationwide mantra, health officials are offering common-sense advice on how to protect yourself from catching the coronavirus.
"For 80% of cases, COVID-19 is a mild illness that does not require hospital care," Thomas said.
"We cannot eliminate COVID-19, but we can limit its spread by washing hands with soap and water frequently, avoiding touching our face (mouth, nose, eyes), staying home when sick until the illness is resolved, covering coughs and sneezes with tissue and washing hands thereafter, and staying away from others who are ill."
If infants and children get COVID-19, they most likely will have mild symptoms; however, seniors and older people with other health issues are more likely to suffer more severe symptoms that may require a visit to the doctor and possible hospitalization.
The health district has learned that the Snohomish County man who was hospitalized in Everett in January – the first person in the U.S. known to have contracted the virus – had the same strain as the man killed in Kirkland on Monday. He, too, was from Snohomish County.
Officials say the virus may have been circulating through the population for weeks before people started suffering symptoms.
Despite health officials trying to maintain calm, people have been panicking.
In Edmonds, shelves at Winco were stripped of toilet paper, disinfect and bottled water. A similar scene played out in the Costco in Shoreline, where shoppers mauled the store over the weekend in numbers normally seen during the holidays.
At the Costco across the street from Alderwood Mall on Sunday morning, a line snaked down the side of the building as people waited for the store to open. By 5 p.m. the store had sold out water, hand sanitizer, chicken and some other supplies.
Although the total number of known cases remains low in Snohomish County, health officials expect the number to rise as more people are tested and the results confirmed.
However, they're asking the public not to unnecessarily overwhelm the health care system. The Snohomish Health District said the public can help by following these precautions:
• Don't go to the emergency room unless it's 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, call your regular doctor first;
• Stay home when sick;
• Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including hand-washing, coughing into tissue or elbow, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth;
• Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check the Health District's website (www.snohd.org/ncov2019) or follow on social media.
Brian Soergel is editor of the Edmonds Beacon. Paul Archipley is publisher of Beacon Publishing.