What You Need To Know About The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) 

What is COVID-19? 

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. COVID-19 was first detected in China and has spread to other countries, including the United States. 

The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was announced on January 21, 2020 and was identified in Washington state. The patient had recently returned from China. The first U.S. death from COVID-19 also occurred in Washington state, on February 29, 2020. You can find more information on the total number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths on the CDC website

On January 30, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic.

On March 13, 2020 the President of the United States declared our nation to be in a state of emergency.

How at risk am I?

The immediate risk of exposure for most Americans is growing. However, those at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 include health care workers, people who have been exposed through travel, and close contacts of those who have been confirmed to have COVID-19. COVID-19 primarily spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets by means of coughing or sneezing. Please practice social distancing, work from home, and stay indoors when possible to avoid spreading this virus.


What are the Symptoms of COVID-19? 

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat, nausea, and shortness of breath similar to other respiratory infections like the common cold or the flu. Currently, the CDC believes that symptoms may appear anywhere between 2 – 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Most patients experience a mild illness.

If you are feeling ill, please contact your doctor for guidance. Public Health departments are discouraging people from rushing to the emergency room and hospitals unless it is essential to go.


How can I prevent the spread of COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, and there is no specific treatment for the virus. In most cases people with COVID-19 will recover on their own. However, the CDC recommends everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases including COVID-19 such as: 

  • Practice social distancing to 
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Staying home if you feel sick
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately dispose of the tissue in the trash
  • Cleaning and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (doorknobs, refrigerator door handles, etc.) with regular household cleaning sprays or wipes
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol)
  • If you are not sick and have yet to receive the current flu vaccine, get the current flu vaccine 

The CDC does not recommend that people who feel healthy and well wear a facemask to protect themselves from COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others, or used by health workers and people who are taking care of an ill person in close settings such as at home or in a health care facility. 

 Should I get tested for COVID-19? What is the criteria to get tested? 

If you believe you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor. The CDC has expanded their criteria for evaluating individuals to include a wider group of symptomatic people. Clinicians will use their judgement under the new guidelines to determine if a person has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether they should be tested. You can find the CDC's description of their criteria HERE.

Is there specific information for Washington state residents?

You can view up-to-date information on the disease, number of cases, deaths, and individuals under public health supervision in Washington state on the Washington State Department of Health’s website.  

The Department of Health has also set up a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, and what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1 (800) 525-0127 and press #.

You can also call your county’s public health centers or emergency lines at the following phone numbers: 

  • King County: (206) 477-3977
  • Snohomish County: (425) 339-5200
  • Skagit County: (360) 416-1500
  • Whatcom County: (360) 778-6000 

You can find more information at the following webpages: