Some Seattle-area schools closed as more states hit with COVID-19

Late yesterday officials in the Seattle area took more steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, including closing all schools in the Northshore school district near Seattle for at least 14 days and providing online instruction for more than 23,000 students, the Seattle Times reported.

At least 26 schools in the district have reports of exposed students, and administrators reported a high absenteeism rate—about 20%—on Wednesday as parents kept their children home out of fear over the spreading disease.

The Seattle Times in a separate story reported that affected counties King and Snohomish have 70 cases, including 11 deaths. Total cases rose by 31 since yesterday.

Many Washington state cases are linked to the Life Care long-term care facility outbreak in Kirkland, Washington. The latest death was in a woman in her 90s who was treated at EverGreenHealth in Kirkland.

Public health officials in King County issued new recommendations intended to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, including advising people 60 and older, pregnant women, and those with underlying health conditions to avoid public gatherings. The county said workplaces should encourage working from home if feasible, but it stopped short of making a recommendation to close all schools.

Neighboring Snohomish County officials, in a press conference today, also recommended limiting mass gatherings and advised people to stay home if sick. Officials said buses in the county are being sanitized today, and two senior centers are closed. Officials encouraged telecommuting, but also said school closing would not be declare until it was clear such closing would interrupt transmission.

This week Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are some of the major Seattle companies to announce work-from-home policies for staff.

New York, California report more infections

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said today on Twitter that New York has 11 more cases than yesterday, raising the state's total to 22. The new cases include 8 in Westchester County—the site of at least two family clusters—2 cases in New York City, and 1 case in Nassau County.

"With these new cases we are doing the same thing as we have done with the other cases: Tracking down people who have had contact with the known positive coronavirus cases," Cuomo tweeted. "We are trying to contain as much as possible the spread of each case we find—but we expect more cases."

At least one of two presumptive positives announced in New Jersey are related to the Westchester County cluster, according to local media reports.

San Francisco announced its first two cases, both involving community spread. The patients, a man in his 90s and a woman in her 40s, are both hospitalized and unrelated to each other.

Last night California declared a state of emergency as the Grand Princess cruise ship was being held off the San Francisco coast after a passenger who had been aboard the ship last month died, and 21 other passengers were showing symptoms. The boat traveled to California from Hawaii.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said officials were delivering test kits to the ship, and samples will return to California for testing via helicopters.

Tennessee, Texas note first local cases

Tennessee announced its first case this morning, in Nashville, involving a man who is being treated at home. The patient was a frequent traveler and became sick after returning from Boston.

Texas also reported its first case not involving repatriated Americans. The patient is a resident of Fort Bend County who recently returned from travel abroad and is isolated at a hospital. The Texas Department of State Health Services said the risk to most Texans is still low.

According to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracker, the United States has 215 COVID-19 cases in 18 states, including 12 deaths.

Budget ready for Trump to sign; Pence visits 3M

Today the US Senate approved an $8.3 billion budget package for the coronavirus response, and the bill is expected to be signed by President Trump tomorrow.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also said today it intends to buy 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months for the Strategic National Stockpile.

"Through guaranteed orders, this acquisition encourages manufacturers to immediately increase production of N95s for use by health care professionals," HHS said in a press statement. "These guaranteed orders offer reassurance to manufacturers that they will not be left with excess supplies if private sector orders are cancelled once the COVID-19 response subsides. Manufacturers typically avoid ramping up production without such a guarantee."

Today Vice President Mike Pence visited 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, which produces N95s.

"At the president's direction we're going to continue to lean into this," he told reporters, referring to the federal response to the virus.

Finally today, Scott Becker, the CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) tweeted that 67 public health labs are verified and testing across the country, up from 8 a week ago.

"By early next week, large commercial labs such [as] Quest and @LABCORP will also be online, as well as more and more high complexity clinical labs in healthcare settings," he wrote. "Testing capacity is greatly expanded. Many thanks to all the partners. We are all in this together."

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