COVID-19 coronavirus virus: what you can do
Vice President Mike Pence came to Washington state on Thursday, March 5 to discuss the state response to COVID-19’s spread. To his left is Gov. Jay Inslee.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The response to COVID-19 is robust, but the advice remains the same as any flu-season: wash hands, cover coughs and sneezes, stay away from others when ill, and sanitize often-touched surfaces.
Public health officials say “most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own by drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and taking pain and fever medications.” As with the flu, some people “develop pneumonia and require medical care or hospitalization,” a King County public health document states.
Dr. Chris Spitters, the interim health officer for the Snohomish Health District, recommends adding a 72-hour waiting period after symptoms from a respiratory illness pass, to avoid potentially spreading COVID-19. The new ailment making its way around the globe is in the coronavirus family. It is a respiratory illness that causes cough and fever and may cause breathing difficulties. It has killed one in Snohomish County who had underlying health conditions and there are 26 confirmed and presumptive cases as of Sunday, March 8, the Snohomish Health District reports.
Symptoms of COVID-19 have been mild for 80 percent of those infected, officials state. For the remaining 20 percent, the risk seems to be highest for people over age 60 and individuals with underlying health conditions. Pregnant women are listed as a concern as well, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website discusses only unknown risks.
The one Snohomish County man who died after contracting COVID-19 had underlying medical conditions. The patients identified in January recovered fully. One woman in her 50s was hospitalized: she has underlying health conditions. As of last week, 80 percent of those sickened had mild symptoms that did not require hospitalization.
No vaccine is available yet for COVID-19 but at least two are in the works: one that could be used to treat those who are already sick, and a second that could be used to prevent it. The latter is scheduled for testing in Seattle with an unknown start date, according to the National Institute of Health. The Phase I clinical trial will test safety and desired outcome and will be based at Kaiser Permanente in Seattle. The NIH estimates “at least a year” before a vaccine will be ready for the general public.
Spitters said a broad-spectrum anti-viral called remdesivir is being tested for effectiveness, and in serious cases is being administered by hospitals under a compassionate-use protocol. That means it is not yet widely available and is not proven to work, but no other treatment is available so the FDA allows use for specific illness.
Remdesivir is not being used for mild to moderate cases, but can be offered under medical oversight for the serious cases.
The regional response to the COVID-19 included temporary closure of Monroe Schools for sanitizing last week, after two students were tested for the virus. Tests came back negative and schools reopened on Friday, March 6. The closure came after Snohomish County declared a state of emergency. The Snohomish City Council in its regular meeting discussed setting parameters for leadership to attend remotely if someone became ill due to COVID-19, and as a protocol for future outbreaks. Grocery shelves all over the county were cleared of sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, and other cleanliness items.
Prevention priorities are the same as for every flu season:
• Clean hands: Wash hands for a 20-second duration with soap and warm water after touching surfaces, when returning home from a public place, and before eating or touching mouth, nose or eyes. If a hand-washing station is unavailable, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good choice as well.
• Clean surfaces: Disinfect areas that are frequently touched, such as doorknobs, table surfaces, phones, and TV remotes.
• Contain germs: Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw out the tissue and wash hands. If symptoms arise that match those of COVID-19, practice social distancing by staying home from work or school, and other public spaces.
• Serious symptoms merit medical advice: those include high fevers that do not reduce with anti-inflammatories, breathing difficulty, and lack of improvement and a cough that does not resolve after about two weeks. Call before going into the clinic.
• Fevers: A high fever for an adult is 102 to 103. For infants and children under the age of three months, a high fever is 100.4: if that occurs in children, call a doctor and determine any medication types and doses from that call.
Remember even over-the-counter medications can lead to overdose. Acetaminophen is included in multiple prescription and over-the-counter drugs and overdosing can be fatal.
One difference in the advice for the COVID-19 virus is that people should stay home for 72 hours after symptoms have passed, Spitters said. The highest risk for spreading the virus is when coughing and sneezing symptoms are active, because they spread droplets that contain the virus. Those droplets, if transferred to the nose, mouth or eyes of another person, can cause illness.
It takes about three hours for the COVID-19 virus to die if it is on a doorknob or other surface, Spitters said.
The uptick in monitoring for COVID-19 has to do with a lack of data, which leaves medical professionals and researchers with a still unknown risk. Data is being collected as people become ill, and most recover.
Most people will not be tested for COVID-19, as test kits are a limited resource and are reserved for those hospitalized or working directly in contact with patients, Spitters said. Some will not be counted officially, as mild symptoms do not demand medical care.
Virus test fees waived by order
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued an emergency order to Washington state health insurers requiring them to waive copays and deductibles for any consumer requiring testing (www.doh.wa.gov) for coronavirus (COVID-19).
Insurers also must:
• Allow a one-time early refill for prescription drugs.
• Suspend any prior authorization requirement for treatment or testing of COVID-19.
In addition, if an insurer does not have enough medical providers in its network to provide testing and treatment for COVID-19, it must allow enrollees to be treated by another provider within a reasonable distance at no additional cost.
The order applies to all state-regulated health insurance plans and short-term limited duration medical plans until May 4.
“Consumers are rightly concerned about prevention, testing and possible treatment,” Kreidler said.
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