Last week it became clear that Seattle had become the epicenter for the coronavirus in the United States.
The medical team at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Washington, across Lake Washington from Seattle, found the virus because they were looking for it! The team took “a long shot” and sent in the samples of two critical patients they thought fit the profile for the disease, known as COVID-19. The staff had been watching the tragedy unfolding in Wuhan, China and checking the CDC website. On February 27th, the CDC began allowing for coronavirus testing of severe pneumonia even without travel to China, so they sent in their two samples immediately. Both came back a day later as positive for the coronavirus.
The team’s discovery put their hospital at the center of the nation’s first major identified outbreak of the new coronavirus. The staff refashioned their hospital to treat the patients of a this growing outbreak. Most of those who have died and were afflicted, were associated with assisted-living facility Life Care Center of Kirkland. Dr. Francis Riedo, Medical Director of Infectious Disease at EvergreenHealth, has urged the community to support the grieving families who have lost loved ones.
The novel coronavirus continues to infect people across the U.S. Evergreen hospital’s response offers lessons for other communities preparing for an outbreak that could threaten to overwhelm the nation’s health care system.
“They set up a drive-through testing center for its employees, converted part of its eighth floor into a ward for COVID-19 patients and outlasted a shortage of medical supplies that neared critical.”
“Some 65 patients at the hospital have tested positive for the virus. Not a single staffer has contracted the disease at the hospital, the doctors said. There’s no evidence of spread between patients. And at least 13 patients have been discharged from Evergreen after suffering from COVID-19.”
The key message: Some people are getting better. Sick people are still in the intensive unit, but there are people getting better. (from Seattle Times)
We are getting frequent updates from the media. The State Department of Health has confirmed 267 cases of COVID-19, including 24 deaths, in Washington, as of Tuesday afternoon. The cases now span at least 10 counties. I also learned that the govenor of Washington is about to announce a ban on large gatherings over 250 people. I had tickets to a concert at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle next week and that of course has been canceled.
I just heard that Seattle Public Schools are closing for at least two weeks starting tomorrow. Finally, the WHO World Health Organization has now declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic due to the rising cases outside of China. We should not panic, however it would be foolish to have a laissez-faire attitude regarding this world health crisis. Everyone needs to take this information very seriously and have a preparadness plan.