COVID-19 (coronavirus) has reached Issaquah, but officials are saying there is no cause for panic. Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly issued a proclamation of emergency last week and several cases now have been reported in the city.
As of March 9, Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center reported seven positive COVID-19 cases and that one resident died over the weekend after testing positive for the virus last week. A no visitor policy is in effect.
The woman was in her 80s and died March 8 after having been hospitalized at Swedish Issaquah Campus, according to Public Health – Seattle King County (PHSKC).
Three Eastside Fire and Rescue firefighters that had contact with the patient are self-quarantining and are not showing symptoms.
“Prior to the transfer and testing of this resident, we had already implemented infection control protocols to protect our residents, staff and families,” Lisa Stubenrauch, the nursing center administrator, said in a statement to the Reporter. “We are working with medical experts and state health authorities to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps and following the recommended protocols. We have asked family and visitors not to visit our facility at this time. The safety and health of our residents is our top priority as we continue to vigilantly follow infection control best practices.”
“Our hearts are heavy with grief,” a statement on the center’s website said. A page with daily updates from the center can be found online at https://www.issaquahnursing.com/coronavirus2.
The center said it had two COVID-19-positive residents in quarantine on site, three COVID-19-positive residents in quarantine off-site, and two COVID-19-positive staff in quarantine off-site. They were awaiting test results for an additional two staff in quarantine off-site.
The center is in communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) daily and working to reach out to all visitors and vendors who were at the facility between Feb. 1 and last week.
Both the CDC and PHSKC have visited the location and evaluated the center’s infection control protocols to prevent the spread of outbreak, according to the center’s website. A CDC medical director and team of doctors met with the center and is also providing further personal protective equipment.
“We are grateful for the help and support they have provided,” a statement on the center’s website said. “We were not given any recommendations or mandates to change any of the processes we are currently performing. We also were not given any mandates or recommendations to implement any new interventions.”
Previously, PHSKC had reported March 3 that two males, both in their 20s, had confirmed cases and were hospitalized at Swedish Issaquah Campus. They had an unknown source of exposure.
On March 10, the state Department of Health (DOH) reported 267 positive cases and 24 deaths in the state. Of that, 190 cases and 22 deaths were in King County.
Mayor Pauly signed a proclamation of emergency March 6 that would allow the city to access materials and items it may need during an emergency.
Pauly sat down for an interview March 9 with city administrator Wally Bobkiewicz for the city’s website and YouTube channel on March 9. They discussed the current situation with COVID-19 in Issaquah, including communication, health recommendations, local confirmed cases and the city’s response.
Pauly said the city has been working to put as much information out as soon as possible, utilizing multiple forms of communication including the city’s website, twitter and other social media. A page on the website is dedicated to COVID-19 updates: www.issaquahwa.gov/COVID19.
“We have been putting out a lot of communication in many different forms to the community to try and keep them up to date because we realize that a lack of information can create a lot of anxiety,” Pauly said.
She said the city has been working with regional partners, public health agencies and all levels of government as everyone tries to coordinate resources. She also commended her team, police, and first responders who have been working around the clock to do their jobs in the community.
“I want to give a big thank you out to them for all of their hard work that they’re doing. They’re doing a really great job,” she said.
Main city services remain operational and open. Some have limited hours, such as utility billing and permit counters, and some are completely closed, including youth basketball, passport services, concealed pistol license applications and fingerprinting services.
“All of that is subject to change, though. We’re on a day to day basis on figuring out hours and service,” Pauly said.
Large city meetings have been canceled — including board and commission meetings and this week’s city council study session — and city community events such as Coffee with a Cop have been delayed.
A full list of city event and meeting cancellations can be found on the city’s website, with a helpful outline of what’s open.
Bobkiewicz and Pauly discussed the positive cases of the virus at the center, and also the self-quarantined firefighters.
“They (the three firefighters) are asymptomatic right now, but this was with an abundance of caution. We wanted to make sure that we preserve, as best we can, our ability to respond to emergency and our emergency response force,” Pauly said.
Pauly said the city’s emergency response is at full capacity and fully equipped with personal protective equipment.
As far as how Pauly suggests residents protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus, she echoed regional recommendations.
“Kind of repetitive message, I think people are hearing it everywhere, but a lot of handwashing,” she said. “A lot of handwashing, use of sanitizer, make sure that you’re not touching your face, your mouth, your nose, your eyes. Avoid folks that you come across that appear to be sick, and stay home if you are sick, making sure also that you’re covering your mouth or nose with a tissue or your elbow if you’re coughing or sneezing.”
Her second suggestion was for people to stay informed as more updates and changes roll in.
“As soon as we get the information we’re putting it out there,” she said.
Bobkiewicz had the mayor close with a message for the community and her thoughts on the status of the city amid virus concerns.
“I think we’re well prepared, Wally. I think we’re well connected with the other emergency resources in the region. I think we’re well prepared to deal with this virus,” Pauly said. “We need the cooperation of everyone in the community. We don’t need to panic, but we do need to be careful, and we do need to be cautious, and we do need to exercise all of the social distancing and other advisories that are coming out from the King County Health department.”
More information about COVID19 can be found online at www.kingcounty.gov/covid.