Update for March 16, 2020: New state and local Orders issued to protect residents’ health from COVID-19



Today, Governor Jay Inslee ordered statewide closure of food establishments to sit-in service and the prohibition of gatherings of more than 50 people. In addition, Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, issued a parallel local Health Officer Order for King County to prohibit gatherings of fewer than 50 people unless measures are taken by event organizers to minimize risk. Dr. Duchin also ordered the closure of food establishments except for pick up and delivery. There is widespread community transmission of COVID-19, and all of us need to stay away from others in order to slow the spread of the virus and preserve the health care system’s capacity to treat people at highest need.

Public Health is reporting 68 new cases today, bringing the official case count in King County to 488. In addition, six new deaths are reported, bringing the total of confirmed deaths to 43.


Governor and Local Health Officer Orders:

Today, Governor Jay Inslee ordered a statewide prohibition of gatherings of more than 50 people and the closure of food establishments to sit-in service.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County issued a parallel local Health Officer Order in King County. Under the Health Officer’s orders, until further notice:

  • All events with 50 people or more are prohibited;
  • All events with fewer than 50 people are discouraged and prohibited unless event organizers observe the COVID-19 prevention measures;
  • All bars, dance clubs, fitness and health clubs, movie theatres, night clubs, and other social and recreational establishments are closed;
  • All restaurants and food service establishments shall cease providing dining room services but may remain open for drive-through, take-out and delivery services and must adhere to the COVID-19 Public Health – Seattle and King County Guidance for retail businesses and service operators.
  • At this time, retail businesses and service operators such as grocery stores, drug stores, and other essential services not required to be closed by the Order may continue to provide services as long as they take steps to minimize the spread of disease. Additional guidance will be issued and posted on www.kingcounty.gov/COVID.

“These orders are essential to protect our whole community from an unprecedented outbreak, especially the most vulnerable people and our health care system,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “For the younger and healthy adults, please understand your actions have consequences beyond your personal health.  Although your personal risk may be relatively low, if you don’t stay away from others, more people in our community will be infected.  This may result in the overload of the healthcare system making it hard for friends, family members and others who are vulnerable for serious illness getting the care they need when they need it.”

About events

Under this local Health Officer Order, an “event” is defined as a public gathering for business, social, or recreational activities including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, or sporting events; parades; concerts; festivals; conventions; fundraisers; and similar activities, unless event organizers take steps to minimize risk. Specifically, organizers of events of fewer than 50 people must ensure that:

  • Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions that are at increased risk of serious COVID-19 are encouraged not to attend (including employees);
  • Social distancing recommendations must be met (i.e., limit contact of people within 6 feet from each other for 10 minutes or longer);
  • Employees must be screened for coronavirus symptoms each day and excluded if symptomatic;
  • Proper hand hygiene and sanitation must be readily available to all attendees and employees; and
  • Environmental cleaning guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are followed (e.g., clean and disinfect high touch surfaces daily or more frequently).

The Health Officer’s Order goes into effect today, March 16, 2020, and has no specified end date.

Why this Health Officer Order was issued

COVID-19 is spreading in King County, with hundreds of cases having been reported to date. We expect the case count to double every 5–7 days unless these orders to stay away from others are followed diligently. Already, we can expect that anyone we come into contact with may be infected because there is wide-spread infection in our community.  

Follow the guidance for anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 and their contacts on how to prevent the spread to others.

It’s critical to minimize the number of people who get seriously ill at the same time. If too many people get sick all at once, this will put too much of a burden on our health care system. If that happens, people at highest risk – people over 60, and with underlying health conditions – may not be able to get the care they need if they get seriously ill. 

About enforcement

Our initial community mitigation strategies have been well-accepted by many, and we believe these new actions will be accepted in the same way to protect our community’s health. For the King County Order, violating a Local Health Officer Order is a misdemeanor.

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 3/15/20

  • 488 confirmed cases (up 68 from yesterday)
  • 43 confirmed deaths (up 6 from yesterday)

These additional deaths include:

  • A man in his 80s, who died on 3/15
  • A woman in her 70s, who died on 3/15
  • A man in his 80s, who died on  3/11
  • A woman in her 50s, who died 3/8 at Harborview Medical Center
  • A woman in her 70s, who died on 3/14 at Northwest Hospital
  • A woman her 90s, a resident of Redmond of Redmond Care & Rehab, who died on 3/12

Of the 43 deaths reported, 29 are confirmed to be associated with Life Care Center.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update

There is one resident of King County needing a safe place for isolation and quarantine has been admitted to the facility in Kent. Individuals can only be placed into these sites after a health professional with Public Health – Seattle & King County has determined that they need isolation or quarantine.

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