So far, the impact of the coronavirus in Kent and Covington has been limited to two school closures for two days and a message from Kent Mayor Dana Ralph that “we are not seeing a need for a lot of the panic that is there.”
Ralph addressed the issue during her report Tuesday night to the City Council.
“I want to talk about what is on everybody’s mind, on every news channel, on every Facebook and Twitter feed and that’s the coronavirus,” Ralph said. “I want to assure everyone in the city of Kent that the health and well-being of our residents is absolutely paramount to us.”
Ralph said her office is working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Health as well as Public Health – Seattle & King County to stay updated about the coronavirus As of Wednesday morning, 10 people (nine in King County, one in Snohomish County) had died in the state from COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health website.
“We are seeing a lot of fear and anxiety over this and I want to assure you we are taking guidance from the health professionals and we are not seeing a need for a lot of the panic that is there,” Ralph said.
Ralph said communication from the city will run through her office and the city’s Emergency Management Department and be available on the city’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, providing links to the organizations putting out official notices.
“If things were to change, our social media feeds are the best place to get that information along with general media,” the mayor said.
Ralph emphasized the primary tips for residents.
“The best way to keep yourself safe is to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands,” she said. “If you cough or sneeze use your elbow or a tissue. Avoid contact with sick people and if you are sick stay home and help protect others that way.”
The city of Covington posted the following message on its website:
“The city continues to closely monitor the coronavirus situation and is keeping in close contact with our local agency partners at the school district, public health department, emergency management department and MulitCare (Covington Medical Center).”
Two schools closed
The Kent School District closed Kentwood High School and Covington Elementary on Monday and Tuesday so custodial staff could do a thorough cleaning and disinfecting after a Kentwood parent of two students experienced flu-like symptoms and was waiting to be tested for the virus, according to Superintendent Calvin Watts.
The schools reopened on Wednesday.
“King County Public Health has determined the self-quarantined Kentwood family is not experiencing any further COVID-19 symptoms,” Watts posted Tuesday on the district website. “There is no confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus in Kent School District at this time.”
The parent was at a health care center recently where other positive cases have been confirmed and then became sick with flu-like symptoms last week, Watts said. The students did attend school and activities last week and are not symptomatic at this time. Another member of this same family works at Covington Elementary and is also not showing any flu-like symptoms but did attend work all last week.
Watts also posted several notices as part of his message:
• As new information emerges, please remember that the risk of novel coronavirus is not at all connected with race, ethnicity or nationality.
• Most students are healthy and are not at risk for complications from COVID-19.
• Medically vulnerable and people over 60 are most at risk from COVID-19.
• Closing schools is not currently recommended by King County Public Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• School closures are communicated through several communication channels, learn more on the district website.
• Kent School District is following all state Department of Health and King County public health guidelines and not canceling assemblies, sporting events or other gatherings at this time.
• Public Health will contact key school personnel, such as the school nurse, principal or district leadership if there is a confirmed case involving a Kent student or staff member.
“We understand that each family situation is different,” Watts said. “Your family is the ultimate decision maker about what steps to take to keep your family safe. Please contact your school to report an absence or if you have questions about make-up work from missed school.”