Page updated: Monday, April 6, 2020
On April 2, Governor Jay Inslee extended the Stay Home—Stay Healthy order until May 4. The order requires every Washingtonian to stay at home, except for people who are:
PPE has been in short supply across the United States. To help get PPE to those who need it, Whatcom Unified Command uses a set of priority criteria to distribute PPE. The criteria are based on emerging response needs and guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health.
PPE requests are prioritized to make sure that our health care workers, emergency response personnel, long term health care facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and other health care facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have their requests filled first. As those requests are completed, all other resource requests are filled as supplies allow. The priority criteria can change often since they are based on emerging response needs and the supply received by Whatcom County Unified Command.
Testing availability is still very limited in our area. Not everyone needs to be tested.
We need to preserve testing for those who most need it. This includes:
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new virus called SARS-CoV-2. The most common symptoms of the disease are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Most people with COVID-19 will have mild disease but some people will get sicker and may need to be hospitalized.
The vast majority of people with novel coronavirus infection do not require medical care or hospitalization. A much smaller percentage of people get severely ill with respiratory problems like pneumonia. People most at risk for severe illness are:
Symptoms of coronavirus may include:
Often, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), but there is some indication of spread by individuals who are not exhibiting typical symptoms.
You generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. Close contact includes:
You should stay home and monitor your health for fever, cough and shortness of breath for 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. You should not go to work or school, and should avoid all public places for 14 days.
If you are sick and have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, and fever, stay home except to get medical care.
What should I do if I was in close contact with someone with COVID-19 and get sick?
If you get sick with fever, cough or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are very mild), you likely have COVID-19.
If you have conditions that may increase your risk for a serious infection (e.g. age 60 years or older, are pregnant, or have medical conditions) contact your physician’s office and tell them that you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. They may want to monitor your health more closely or test you for COVID-19.
What should I do to keep my infection from spreading to my family and other people in the community?
Stay home except to get medical care. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
If you do not have insurance:
If you do have insurance:
Whatcom County public health officials are recommending that everyone wear cloth face coverings in public places. While this isn’t a requirement, it is an additional step of protection that you should take to keep from spreading the virus to others around you in public. Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent the spread of COVID-19 without other protective measures like staying 6 feet away from people who don’t live with and washing your hands frequently.
Even if you think you are healthy, wearing a cloth face covering will help keep you from spreading the virus to others if you have it but don’t show symptoms. Cloth face coverings can block virus particles from spreading through the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes. This includes people who may have COVID-19 but still feel well and don’t show symptoms.
Face coverings are an extra level of protection, but will not protect you by themselves. Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent the spread of COVID-19 without these other protective measures:
Handwashing and social distancing are still our most effective, proven strategies to limit the spread of disease in our community. Wearing a cloth mask adds to those measures. It is not a substitute for them. Although the evidence is limited about cloth face coverings protecting you from becoming infected, cloth masks will help slow the spread to others if you are infected and have no symptoms.
Wash your hands immediately after putting on or taking off the covering. You must wash cloth face coverings frequently with detergent and hot water. Ideally, wash it after each use. Throw away any cloth face covering that no longer covers your mouth and nose, cannot stay on your face, or has holes.
Non-medical cloth face coverings are pieces of fabric that cover the nose and mouth and can be made at home. You can make these coverings with common household items. See this video from the CDC to learn how. You can also use a scarf, bandana, or another piece of fabric if you do not have a cloth mask.
When you exercise outside consider how far away you can stay from other people. Keep in mind that the heavier you are breathing, the farther away you should be from others. Wear a cloth face covering while exercising if you can’t stay six feet away from others. If it’s not possible to wear a face covering when exercising, do more to keep your distance.
This guidance is for cloth face coverings only. Do not use surgical masks or other medical grade masks such as N95 respirators because these medical supplies are currently in short supply and need to be saved for healthcare workers who are caring for patients with COVID-19.
To learn more about this recommendation, when you should wear a cloth face covering, and how to care for it, visit the Washington State Department of Health Guidance on Cloth Face Coverings.
We are working to identify and advise those people who have had close contact with confirmed cases.
Once we know this information, we reach out to each person who is a close contact to:
We also know that there are people infected with COVID-19 in our community who will not be tested, so people in our community will come in contact with COVID-19 and not be aware of it.
Identifying close contacts and informing them to stay home and monitor for symptoms is an important public health response. We make these contacts as soon as possible.
If you were a close contact of a confirmed case while they were at the hospital, you can expect to have someone from the hospital contact you. The hospital infection prevention team does the contact investigation work for hospital employees, patients and visitors. They are able to use electronic medical records to see who was in the waiting room at the same time as the confirmed case.
COVID-19 is most commonly transmitted when people have been in close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19. This means spending at least 10 minutes within 6 feet of that person. Because of this, we concentrate our case investigation activities on those people that had close contact with a confirmed case for a prolonged period of time. We work diligently to contact the individuals and the organizations that meet the close contact definition and advise them on how best to protect themselves and the community.
We get this question a lot. The main reasons are:
Though the Health Department recommends that gatherings be avoided when possible, these guidelines for children and youth while schools are closed will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
If you are not experiencing symptoms and have not been exposed to a confirmed case:
For individuals with symptoms who are confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and are directed to care for themselves at home, discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
Additional information for your household members, intimate partners, and caregivers at http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html.