The first known death from coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States occurred at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland this past weekend. This tragic loss of life thrust our community into the national spotlight, with the Washington Post calling Kirkland “the epicenter of coronavirus response.”
(Editor’s note: This piece was submitted to the Reporter March 2, before a Feb. 26 death at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle had been confirmed to be related to coronavirus.)
In response to the many challenges we now face, the city’s top priority is to protect our community and our employees. This responsibility is the foundation of everything we do as a government.
The city’s first responders and other personnel are acting quickly, effectively and with great courage to do everything possible to make sure our community is safe and healthy. The city’s Emergency Operations Center continues to collaborate closely with Public Health – Seattle & King County, the Washington State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our neighboring cities to coordinate seamless communication and needed support to our community and city personnel.
To provide maximum flexibility and resources to respond to COVID-19, on Feb. 29, the city proclaimed a state of emergency in Kirkland. This followed a proclamation of emergency by the governor earlier that day. To ensure city personnel are adhering to the latest medical information and advice, staff are following the guidance of the CDC and Public Health – Seattle & King County on all issues regarding safety and virus transmission. At the recommendation of Public Health, 27 firefighters and two police officers have been quarantined in an abundance of caution. However, let us assure you that our first responders in the fire and police departments remain fully staffed and are responding to calls as normal. They have CDC-recommended personal protection equipment and are following all recommended protocols to protect themselves and keep our community safe.
This work is the highest priority of the city and will continue for as long as needed.
In this time of uncertainty, it is important that we remember our community’s values of being safe, inclusive and welcoming. We are all in this together and we all have a role to play. The most important thing community members can do right now is heed Public Health – Seattle & King County’s recommendations and take specific individual actions to reduce the spread for the virus, including:
More hand washing; less face touching. Regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds will decrease risk that the virus is transmitted.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Cover mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
Avoid contact with people who are sick.
Stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
Be prepared at home:
Have a plan to care for family members should they get sick or schools/offices be closed.
Know workplace telecommute options and school/daycare policies.
Stock up on food supplies and prescription medications now to avoid leaving home if you or someone in your household becomes infected.
Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first.
Besides the risk-reducing actions outlined above, it is critical to remember that misinformation about coronavirus can create fear and hostility that hurts people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy. No race, nationality or ethnicity is more likely to have COVID-19. Speak up if you hear, see or read harassment and avoid spreading misinformation.
Finally, information is changing frequently about this outbreak of COVID-19, and the city recommends checking Public Health – Seattle & King County’s website (www.kingcounty.gov/COVID), or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov) and Washington State Department of Health (www.doh.wa.gov/emergencies/coronavirus) for the most up-to-date information.
We do not yet know where this outbreak of COVID-19 in Kirkland will take us. All we can do is remain the calm, compassionate and courageous community we are, despite any challenges that may come. Kirkland is one of the best cities in America to live, work, and play. Now is our opportunity to demonstrate this to ourselves and the world.
Penny Sweet is the mayor of Kirkland and Kurt Triplett is the city manager of Kirkland.