COVID-19 — What you need to know today

Coronavirus pandemic continues worldwide. How is it impacting King County today?

3:05 p.m.

Several of the nation’s largest internet service providers have signed a pledge with the Federal Communications Commission stating they will not disconnect service for 60 days amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

NBC reported that companies which endorsed the pledge include AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Google Fiber, Spring, Verizon and T-Mobile.

1:50 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee has told all public and private K-12 schools across the state to close by end of day Monday. The closure will last through April 27. All colleges in the state are being directed to stop in-person classes, but may continue doing online courses or move courses online.

There have been 568 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 37 deaths.

School districts in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties were told to close between March 17 and April 27 at a press conference yesterday.

“We have concluded that a county by county approach to this epidemic is not sufficient,” Inslee said.

Critical services that schools provide will continue including for nutrition and child care. The National Guard will be available to help distribute food if needed. However, Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said he hopes unions and school administrations can work together to provide those services instead.

For example, bus drivers could deliver food to students.

12:45 p.m.

President Trump declared a national emergency this afternoon. He said it would provide access to up to $50 billion, including assistance for state and local governments.

He further urged every state to set up emergency operations centers immediately. Hospitals across the nation were asked to activate their emergency preparedness plans.

Several regulations were also being waived, including laws to allow telehealth services. Hospitals will also be allowed to use more space within their facilities to be used for treatment.

11:00 a.m.

Trump is expected to declare a national emergency at noon, according to the New York Times. It will allow him to use $40 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of coronavirus across the U.S.

9:23 a.m.

Mercer Island has announced two confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The announcement was made on March 12. Both cases had been reported as suspected cases earlier in the day before confirmation was announced.

According to a press release from the city, one case is associated with Sunrise Senior Living and the second case is associated with Covenant Living at the Shores (also a home for senior citizens), both on the Island.

Both residents have been transported to Overlake Hospital in Bellevue.

“I want to assure the community that the city has taken all necessary precautions, as directed by Public Health – Seattle & King County to help keep our community safe and healthy,” city manager Jessi Bon said in a press release. “The city has had time to prepare for this moment and has enacted specific precautions to protect our first responders. Earlier this week, Fire Chief Steve Heitman made full personal protective equipment (PPE) a requirement for all personnel responding to any medical calls at Island senior care facilities.”

Both senior facilities issued statements.

“We took immediate steps to reinforce and expand our infection control procedures when we became aware of our resident’s potential COVID‐19 diagnosis. We have taken extensive precautions to prevent the spread of illness and support our residents and team members,” said a written statement from Sunrise Senior Living.

Sunrise noted that it had underwent deep cleaning, delivering meals to residents’ rooms, canceling community activities, prohibiting visitors and encouraging virtual visits. Sick team members were encouraged to self-quarantine and residents were given frequent health checks.

“Our team is working to maintain normalcy for our residents and families despite this situation,” the statement added.

Covenant noted that its resident was hospitalized for a separate medical issue when COVID-19 was recognized and confirmed.

“As an additional precaution for residents and employees, we are identifying all individuals who had contact with this resident. Those residents will be isolated and monitored for symptoms,” a Covenant written statement said. “It should be noted that as of now, none of the other residents or employees are experiencing any symptoms. This is the first and only confirmed case at Covenant Living at the Shores. As a result, this case has been reported to local and state health departments and we are working very closely with them.”

On March 5, Mayor Benson Wong signed a proclamation of emergency.

While there were no confirmed cases for Mercer Island at the time of the proclamation, the city had shut down some buildings over two suspected cases. Earlier in the week, the Mercer Island Thrift Shop was closed for disinfecting after the spouse of an employee was suspected sick. And the Luther Burbank Administration Building was closed as a city employee had a suspected case of COVID-19. The building was disinfected and resumed regular service March 6.

Following the March 12 announcement of the two confirmed cases, Mayor Wong encouraged the Island to not become complacent.

“I implore Mercer Island residents to remain calm and vigilant in helping slow the spread of the coronavirus,” he said in the March 12 press release. “Follow the directions issued by Public Health — Seattle & King County. Stay home and self-quarantine when sick. Practice excellent personal hygiene habits. And to our higher-risk populations, please stay away from people who are ill or from large groups of people. Your health and the health of our community is the city’s number one concern.”