King County officials announced that they planned to buy a motel and prep modular units to offer shelter to people that may be infected with the COVID-19 virus, including people experiencing homelessness.
Advice such as avoiding contact with other people and washing one’s hands frequently is difficult for homeless people to follow. The new units will give people options to keep themselves safe while avoiding hospitals and other health care facilities that may find themselves overwhelmed as the virus spreads.
“Coronavirus is novel by name,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “It’s different, we don’t know the shape of it yet, the way it spreads, the seriousness. We need to take it most seriously and take extraordinary measures.”
Despite the concerns of conservative shock jocks, there is no known outbreak of coronavirus within the homeless population.
Recommendations that people stay at home and prepare to self-quarantine are also difficult for low-wage workers, particularly those in customer service who do not have the option to work remotely and may not have enough cash on hand to turn down shifts and stock up on emergency supplies.
At press time, nine people who contracted the virus in the state have died, the majority of which are in King County. The 27 or so known cases in Washington can be traced. Several occurred at LifeCare Center in Kirkland.
So far, the people who died from the virus were older and had underlying health conditions, although there is still much that the medical community does not know about the disease, said Jeffrey Duchin, the health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.
“It’s apparent from what’s been reported from China and what we’re seeing here locally that patients with serious illness are those who are very old with weakened immune systems due to age or underlying conditions,” Duchin said.
Health officials believe that the number of known cases will increase, especially as additional testing facilities at the University of Washington come online. The state lab is processing tests in three batches per day, so new information is coming in by the hour.
There are estimates that the disease has been circulating in Washington, mostly undetected, for weeks. At the national level, Vice President Mike Pence has been tasked with overseeing the coronavirus response.
The state has set up a call center to respond to questions about the coronavirus.
That center can be reached at 1(800) 525-0129.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
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