Page updated: Friday, April 3, 2020
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new virus called SARS-CoV-2. The most common symptoms of the disease are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Most people with COVID-19 will have mild disease but some people will get sicker and may need to be hospitalized.
The vast majority of people with novel coronavirus infection do not require medical care or hospitalization. A much smaller percentage of people get severely ill with respiratory problems like pneumonia. People most at risk for severe illness are:
Symptoms of coronavirus may include:
Often, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), but there is some indication of spread by individuals who are not exhibiting typical symptoms.
On April 2, Governor Jay Inslee extended the Stay Home—Stay Healthy order until May 4. The order requires every Washingtonian to stay at home, except for people:
Whatcom Unified Command uses a set of priority criteria based on emerging response needs in conjunction with state health officer guidelines. The requests are prioritized to ensure that our health care workers, emergency response personnel, long term health care facilities (with confirmed cases of COVID-19), and other health care facilities (with confirmed cases of COVID-19) have their requests filled first. As those requests are completed, all other resource requests are analyzed and filled as they are able. The priority criteria can change often as it is based on emerging response needs.
Testing availability is still very limited in our area. Not everyone needs to be tested.
We need to preserve testing for those who most need it. This includes:
If you do not have insurance:
If you do have insurance:
You generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. Close contact includes:
You should monitor your health for fever, cough and shortness of breath during the 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. You should not go to work or school, and should avoid public places for 14 days.
If you are sick and have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, and fever, stay home except to get medical care.
What should I do if I was in close contact with someone with COVID-19 and get sick?
If you get sick with fever, cough or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are very mild), you likely have COVID-19.
If you have conditions that may increase your risk for a serious infection (e.g. age 60 years or older, are pregnant, or have medical conditions) contact your physician’s office and tell them that you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. They may want to monitor your health more closely or test you for COVID-19.
What should I do to keep my infection from spreading to my family and other people in the community?
Stay home except to get medical care. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
Guidelines regarding mask use are evolving as we learn more about COVID-19. The most recent guidance from Whatcom County Public Health Officials was published on April 4, 2020.
For updated information from the Washington State Department of Health, follow this link for recommendations relating to mask use.
We are working to identify and advise those people who have had close contact with confirmed cases.
Once we know this information, we reach out to each person who is a close contact to:
We also know that there are people infected with COVID-19 in our community who will not be tested, so people in our community will come in contact with COVID-19 and not be aware of it.
Identifying close contacts and informing them to stay home and monitor for symptoms is an important public health response. We make these contacts as soon as possible.
If you were a close contact of a confirmed case while they were at the hospital, you can expect to have someone from the hospital contact you. The hospital infection prevention team does the contact investigation work for hospital employees, patients and visitors. They are able to use electronic medical records to see who was in the waiting room at the same time as the confirmed case.
COVID-19 is most commonly transmitted when people have been in close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19. This means spending at least 10 minutes within 6 feet of that person. Because of this, we concentrate our case investigation activities on those people that had close contact with a confirmed case for a prolonged period of time. We work diligently to contact the individuals and the organizations that meet the close contact definition and advise them on how best to protect themselves and the community.
We get this question a lot. The most important reasons are that patient recoveries are not reported to us, and because that information would likely be incomplete and misleading. The reason it would be misleading is because some who become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 show little or no symptoms, and therefore are not tested in the first place. It’s likely that many people are recovering without even realizing that they’ve even been infected. If we don’t know how many have been infected, we can’t know how many have recovered, and any data we give on recovery rates would be inaccurate. This presents an additional challenge because people with little or no symptoms may transmit the virus to others without knowing it, and those people may, in turn, develop a more serious illness. This is part of the reason we’re asking everyone to stay home and stay safe, even if they don’t feel sick - because people who feel well can still cause severe illness in others. Lastly, people who know they have COVID-19 and then recover are not required to inform anyone, so we don’t know when that happens.
Though the Health Department recommends that gatherings be avoided when possible, these guidelines for children and youth while schools are closed will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
If you are not experiencing symptoms and have not been exposed to a confirmed case:
For individuals with symptoms who are confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and are directed to care for themselves at home, discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
Additional information for your household members, intimate partners, and caregivers at http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html.