King County Local Services COVID-19 Update
|UPDATE FROM KING COUNTY LOCAL SERVICES:|
Thank you for taking the precautions needed to slow the spread of COVID-19 and get King County’s economy back to full strength. We know this is a very challenging time, and your efforts are essential to getting us through it.
With cases rising across the county, state, and nation, it’s more important than ever to make sure our workplaces are as safe as possible. With circumstances and guidance shifting quickly, Public Health-Seattle & King County would like to update you on several matters of importance to employers.
Public health needs your help investigating workplace outbreaks
Due to the recent spike in cases, our Workplace Investigations Team has changed its threshold for starting a worksite investigation. We used to reach out to businesses any time we learned that an employee had gone to work while contagious. Now, we will only start an investigation if five or more cases have been reported or if there is evidence of urgent COVID-19 concerns with potential for a larger outbreak.
It’s still important to report any cases that arise in your workplace, especially when you have concerns about an ongoing outbreak. For more guidance on what to do if an employee has COVID-19, see this website.
CDC tightens guidelines for essential workers
In general, anyone who has been exposed to the virus but has no symptoms should quarantine, preferably for 14 days. Throughout the pandemic, however, the CDC has made an exception to that recommendation for workers employed in critical industries. Due to the current national spike in cases, the CDC has now tightened up that exception.
Previously, essential workers who had been exposed but have no symptoms were allowed to continue working, but with “vigilant symptom monitoring.” Now the CDC and Public Health recommend that these workers should be used as “a last resort and only in limited circumstances, such as when closure of a facility may cause serious harm or danger to public health or safety.”
How has COVID-19 impacted your business? Survey now open
King County, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Greater Seattle Partners, and the City of Seattle are coordinating a regional effort to assess economic impacts related to COVID-19. This is the third round of a regional survey, which will help us understand trends in impacts faced by businesses. Information collected in this survey will help organizations, agencies, and jurisdictions develop economic recovery strategies and quantify emergency relief programs for small businesses, nonprofits, and independent workers throughout King County. This survey should take about 20 minutes to complete.
If you represent a business or nonprofit organization or are an independent worker throughout King, Snohomish, or Pierce counties, please complete this updated survey in full. King County and the Chamber will not publish individual responses, but will aggregate all responses to understand the extent of the economic damages caused by COVID-19 locally and regionally, and establish trends. Aggregate findings will be published, and survey participants will receive updates regarding the collected data.
Thank you in advance for taking time out to complete this survey by December 23 at 5 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time).
A message from Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health-Seattle & King County
COVID-19 cases are off the charts at the moment, and our hospitals are beginning to feel the pressure of increased numbers of patients. However, there is also hope on the horizon. Starting this month, based on the FDA action this week, we will begin to receive a vaccine that experts believe is extremely effective. But I need your help now, because the rollout of the vaccine will be slow, and our residents need to keep protecting themselves and their loved ones in the meantime. So, please use this great “Swiss cheese” idea (below) to help keep our work focused while our hope on the horizon emerges.
I’d love for you to send this graphic to your networks. It illustrates that no single intervention is perfect, but when many are used together we can go a very long way toward stopping the virus from infecting anyone. The virus is sneaky and very good at finding new people to infect, but we can stop the spread with our individual and collective behaviors. The more of these things you do, the less likely it is that you’ll get sick or spread the illness to others.
|This graphic is available online in lots of different languages.|
Please share this information with everyone in your networks.
Exposure notifications tool for smartphones now available
In case you missed it last week, the Washington State Department of Health announced Washington Exposure Notifications (also known as WA Notify), a new tool that works through smartphones to alert users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19—without sharing any personal information. It is completely private, and doesn’t know or track who you are or where you go. Learn how it works and how it helps, and see frequently asked questions at WAnotify.org.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updates quarantine guidelinesThe CDC has modified its quarantine guidelines for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have no symptoms. In certain circumstances, employees may now be able to reduce the length of their quarantines. Public Health recommends the following:
Stay in quarantine for 14 days after your last contact. This is the safest option.If this is not possible, stay in quarantine for 10 days after your last contact, without additional testing.If the first two options are not possible, stay in quarantine for 7 full days beginning after your last contact and if you receive a negative test result (get tested no sooner than day 5 after your last contact).This option depends on availability of testing resources and may not be recommended in some settings.
A negative test does not always mean that a person does not have the virus. If you have been exposed, it is essential to quarantine, even if you have no symptoms.
Testing and travel during the holiday season
Public Health’s COVID-19 Call Center has been receiving many questions about travel and getting tested before traveling. The Governor’s current travel advisory encourages everyone to stay home and avoid all nonessential travel. People arriving in Washington from other states or countries, including returning Washington residents, should self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
If you do have essential travel in your plans, some airlines and other states are requiring a negative COVID-19 test result before you travel. King County’s open access testing sites are not intended for this type of testing. They were set up to test people with symptoms or who have been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19, and their capacity is being strained with the current outbreak. Also, the sites do not offer rapid testing of any kind. If you need to be tested before essential travel, there are other options available. For more information about testing and travel, please see this recent Public Health Insider blog post.
Please register before going to a test site
If you have a sign or symptom of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, please get tested. King County testing sites are available to anyone who cannot get a COVID-19 test through their regular healthcare provider, regardless of their immigration status.
Due to high demand at King County test sites, we encourage everyone to register before going to the test site. To register for a test, use the highlighted “Make reservation online” link below the listing for your preferred testing location at KingCounty.gov/covid/sites. Online registration is available in English. For other languages, or if you have difficulty registering, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977 (open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.). If you need an interpreter, please tell us in English what language you need.
KING COUNTY Local Services