Coronavirus: Inslee encourages those with mild COVID-19 symptoms to get tested

Coronavirus: Inslee encourages those with mild COVID-19 symptoms to get tested
Gov. Jay Inslee at a news conference in Olympia on May 19, 2020.

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee said the state is broadening its testing strategy and now encouraging people with mild symptoms to get tested for the coronavirus.

Previously, those with mild symptoms were encouraged to stay home, but Inslee said Thursday that testing supplies have increased to the point where testing can be expanded.

Inslee said that increased testing was important as counties start to restart their economies under the state’s four-stage reopening plan.

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“If you think you’re sick, please get tested,” he said.

Hours after Inslee’s news conference, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced free COVID-19 testing citywide.

The free testing will be at two locations in north and south Seattle between Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, click here.

According to a news release, Durkan and University of Washington President Ana Maria Cauce signed a memorandum of agreement solidifying the partnership between the City of Seattle and UW Medicine. The joint effort is expected to increase capacity by more than 1,600 tests per day.

The latest statewide death toll as reported by the Department of Health had reached 1,138 deaths among 22,729 confirmed coronavirus cases as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the counties with the highest totals: King County has 574 deaths among 8,318 cases; Snohomish County has 150 deaths among 2,999 cases; and Pierce County has 83 deaths among 1,991 cases.

Click here to see where other counties in the state stand.

Key coronavirus updates:

Information from local officials

Inslee announced Friday that he will let the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order expire Sunday night and that the state will move to a “Safe Start” county-by-county phased reopening approach on Monday.

Under the “Safe Start” plan, each county will start Monday in their current phase. However, individual counties will be able to apply to the secretary of health to move between the phases or add new business activities.

Inslee said applications must be submitted by a county executive. If a county does not have a county executive, it must be submitted with the approval of the County Council/Commission.

Inslee said the secretary of health will evaluate each application based on how their data compares to certain targets. Click here for a complete breakdown.

An individual county’s ability to respond to outbreaks, increased deaths, health system capacity and other factors will also be considered.

The applications are reviewed by the Secretary of Health, who can approve the plans as submitted, approve with modifications or can deny the application.

Phase 1

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor: Some outdoor recreation (hunting, fishing, golf, boating, hiking).
  • Gatherings: Religious organizations can now hold outdoor services with up to 100 people. Proper social distancing should be practiced and attendees should wear face coverings.
  • Travel: Only essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: Essential businesses open, including existing construction that meets agreed-upon criteria, landscaping, automobile sales, retail (curb-side pick-up orders only), car washes, pet walkers.

Phase 2

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor: All outdoor recreation involving fewer than five people outside your household (camping, beaches, etc.)
  • Gatherings: Gather with no more than five people outside your household per week. Indoor religious gatherings can be held at 25% capacity or with less than 50 people, whichever is less.
  • Travel: Limited non-essential travel within proximity of your home.
  • Business/Employers: Remaining manufacturing, new construction, in-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), retail (In-store purchases allowed with restrictions), real estate, professional services/office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged), hair and nail salons/barbers, restaurants <50% capacity, with table sizes no larger than 5.

Phase 3

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor: Outdoor group recreational sports activities (5-50 people), recreational facilities at <50% capacity (public pools, etc.).
  • Gatherings: Allow gatherings with no more than 50 people.
  • Travel: Resume non-essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: restaurants <75% capacity/table size no larger than 10, bars at <25% capacity, movie theaters at <50% capacity, government (telework remains strongly encouraged), libraries, museums, all other business activities not yet listed except for nightclubs and events with greater than 50 people.

Phase 4

  • High-risk populations: Resume public interactions, with physical distancing
  • Outdoor: Resume all recreational activity.
  • Gatherings: Allow gatherings >50 people.
  • Travel: Continue non-essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: Nightclubs, concert venues, large sporting events, resume unrestricted staffing of worksites, but continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene.

The state is using certain metrics to evaluate when and how to lift various restrictions. The five metrics being used are: COVID 19 disease activity; testing capacity and availability; case and contact investigations; risk to vulnerable populations, and health care system readiness.

Information from the White House, federal officials

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Wednesday that he’s been wearing a face covering anytime he’s outside to protect himself and others and to set an example.

“I do it when I’m in public for the reasons that ... I want to protect myself and protect others and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing that we should be doing,” Fauci said during an interview on CNN.

Fauci noted that masks are “not 100% effective” at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, however, he said “It’s sort of (like showing) respect for another person and (having) that other person respect you.”

“You wear a mask, they wear a mask -- you protect each other,”he said.

How you can protect yourself and what to do if you think you were exposed

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Patients reportedly have mild to severe respiratory illness. These are steps health officials recommend to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact:
  • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127 and press #.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.