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Newsletter: An update on COVID-19 (the coronavirus)

This newsletter was sent to WA-10 constituents on Thursday, March 5th. If you'd like to recieve regular updates like this, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter.

The health and safety of your family is my top priority.

Earlier today, Congress passed an $8.3 billion spending package to fund a robust response to COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. I'm closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in King and Snohomish counties. We are not aware of any confirmed cases in Mason, Pierce, or Thurston counties. I want to share the following resources with you to answer questions you may have about the virus.

For updates on the latest developments on COVID-19 in Washington state, I encourage you to check the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) website.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 a respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. The virus primarily spreads person-to-person through respiratory droplets by means of coughing or sneezing.

According to DOH, the risk of exposure is increasing for people who live in communities in Washington state with reported spread of COVID-19, though the risk is still relatively low. As you may know, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was identified in Washington state on January 21, 2020, and the first death from COVID-19 in the United States also occurred in Washington state this past week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DOH are monitoring the situation very closely.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the DOH, symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Most patients experience mild symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath

How can I prevent the spread of COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, and there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for the virus—in most cases, people with COVID-19 will recover on their own. Nonetheless, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends everyday preventative actions to help prevent exposure:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid travel to countries with travel health notices related to COVID-19. Information about travel to specific countries can be found on the CDC’s website.

To help prevent the spread of the virus to others, the CDC recommends that facemasks should only be used by certain individuals, including people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and health care workers. For more information, visit the CDC’s website.

What should I do if I’m experiencing symptoms?

Remember the guidance coming from the CDC and the DOH: If you’re sick with mild symptoms and don’t have an underlying chronic condition, stay home. If symptoms worsen or you have trouble breathing, call your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will work with the DOH and CDC to determine whether you need to be tested for COVID-19.

Preparing for the spread of COVID-19:

As our health care agencies continue monitoring the virus in Washington state, facilities you rely on, such as schools and elder care facilities, may experience disruption out of an abundance of caution. Be sure to talk with your loved ones to prepare for potential or unexpected changes to your daily routine.

As new information emerges, please remember that the risk of COVID-19 is not at all connected with race, ethnicity or nationality. You should not make determinations of your risk of catching COVID-19 based on race or country of origin, and be sure to respect the privacy of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Sharing accurate information during a time of heightened concern is one of the best things we can do to keep rumors and misinformation from spreading—the CDC website is an excellent source of information.

What Congress must do:

First and foremost, this is a public health emergency. To contain and mitigate COVID-19, we have activated our public health infrastructure at the federal, state, and local levels. We must continue to deploy the best science to “block and tackle” the virus.

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion package to support and bolster these efforts. This critical first step:

  • Provides $950 million to support state public health agencies to expedite COVID-19 testing, infection control at the local level, and other public health preparedness and response activities
  • Reimburses state health agencies (such as DOH) that have been responding to COVID-19
  • Promotes public research for the development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine and ensures that any vaccine developed using taxpayer funds must be affordable and accessible

I was proud to support this measure on the House floor earlier today, and I’m pleased that it passed by a wide, bipartisan margin of 415-2. I hope the package reaches the President’s desk as quickly as possible and is swiftly signed into law.

Beyond the immediate public health response, we must also acknowledge that COVID-19 will have significant impacts across our region and economy. Already, global supply chains have been weakened, and U.S. exporters have been impacted.  If the virus continues to spread in the U.S., experts predict it will take a toll on our economy. Congress must address these economic impacts with strong fiscal stimulus to ensure businesses can stay open and families have food on the table. I am pleased that today’s package included $1 billion in loan subsidies for small businesses that have been affected. I will continue to closely monitor the economic impacts of COVID-19 and work with my colleagues to advance legislation that insulates the economy from any potential disruption.

Additional resources:

You can find updated information on COVID-19 and cases in Washington state on the DOH website.

The DOH has also set up a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington, please call 1 (800) 525-0127 and press #.


Denny Heck