Officials ban gatherings of more than 250 people in Seattle and nearby counties, Wash., US, until at least March 31 due to COVID-19.

Severity: Warning Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Bellingham, Washington
  • Everett, Washington
  • Olympia, Washington
  • Pullman, Washington

This alert began 11 Mar 2020 19:33 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Preventative restrictions
  • Location(s): Seattle (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least March 31
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, limited services, event cancellations

Summary
Washington state officials have banned all gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, Wash., through at least March 31. The order impacts concerts, sporting events, and conventions among other events in multiple cities, including in Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett. Washington Governor Jay Inslee also recommended people to work from home if possible, and said authorities are considering, but not yet ordering, school closures.

As of March 10, at least 115 public and private schools had closed in Washington state, either for 24 hours to perform additional cleaning, or indefinitely. Multiple colleges and universities, including the University of Washington, Washington State University, Western Washington University, Seattle University, and Green River College, have suspended in-person classes until at least late March.

King County officials have additionally recommended that people over 60 years old, or those with weakened immune systems, underlying health conditions, and women who are pregnant, stay home and avoid large groups of people as much as possible.

Authorities are likely to increase restrictions throughout Washington state in the coming days. While there are no travel restrictions to and from the area, authorities may impose some limitations if the COVID-19 cases increase and spread in the region.

Background and Analysis
Older individuals, infants, and those with chronic illness are more susceptible to infection and are at increased risk for severe complications. Human-to-human transmission can occur, though it remains unclear how easily the virus spreads between people.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions.

Advice
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
WHO coronavirus knowledge base

US CDC: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

King County and Seattle Public Health Updates

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