On Wednesday, April 1, 2020, Public Health – Seattle & King County announced that non-medical masks can now be used as a supplement to fighting the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Here’s more from their announcement:

Staying home and avoiding all non-essential contact with others continues to be the most important thing all of us can do to stay healthy and keep others healthy. If you must go out, stay at least six feet apart from others at all times.

Before deciding whether to wear a mask, Public Health—Seattle & King County recommends people keep two considerations central:

    • Medical masks should be reserved for healthcare providers who are on the front lines working to protect us all. We have had shortages of those masks – and it’s critically important that our healthcare workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs.
    • Non-medical mask use (e.g., homemade fabric masks) does not replace the need to follow guidance to stay home and limit our contact with others. It does not replace frequent handwashing, avoiding touching the face, and staying away from people who are ill. These are the most important steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness.

Medical masks are needed for healthcare workers who are in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. We need our healthcare workers to be able to continue providing their services during this pandemic,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health. “For the general public, homemade fabric masks, especially if well-made and fit, may provide some benefit.”

Wearing a fabric mask can help prevent the spread of infection to others when the mask is worn by someone who already is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms. The mask will block infectious droplets from spreading when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes and, to a lesser degree, speaks.

“It is not known how much protection homemade cloth masks provide to the person wearing the mask, and this may depend on the quality of the mask and how well it fits. For this reason, homemade and fabric masks should not be considered reliable protection but may provide some benefit,” said Duchin.

To be effective, masks should be worn consistently and properly so as not to contaminate the hands or face of the user, and fabric masks should be changed when moist and washed after use. Masks that have been worn may be contaminated with infectious agents.

Everyone, even people who are young and healthy, must stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Each individual’s actions affect the health of our entire community, and what we do as a community protects us all. Stand Together, Stay Apart.

For additional information about COVID-19 and the response in King County, be sure to check www.kingcounty.gov/covid

Case updates

Public Health—Seattle & King County is reporting the following confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 through 11:59 p.m. on 3/31/20.

    • 2,496 confirmed positive cases (up 166 from Monday)
    • 164 confirmed deaths (up 14 from Monday)

Important Note: With the launch of a new data dashboard (www.kingcounty.gov/covid/data), Public Health no longer lists individual deaths by age and gender in our News Release. Detailed information about demographics of those who died from COVID-19 is available on the dashboard. Be sure to click the button to filter by “positive results only” to see age and gender of deaths.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update

Isolation and quarantine is a proven public health practice for reducing the spread of disease. Examples of people who may need this assistance include people who cannot safely isolate from a family member who is elderly or medically fragile, or people experiencing homelessness. Individuals can only be placed into the King County sites after a health professional with Public Health—Seattle & King County has determined that they need isolation or quarantine.

Twenty-three people are currently staying in King County isolation and quarantine facilities.

The number of people at King County’s isolation and quarantine sites will be included in regular updates provided by Public Health. No other identifying or personal information will be provided.

Scott Schaefer

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