Coronavirus reaches Federal Way as USPS employee tests positive

The total number of cases in King County reaches 10 with two deaths.

UPDATE: 5:45 p.m. Sunday, March 1

A U.S. Postal Service employee at a Federal Way distribution center has tested positive for the coronavirus.

A USPS spokesperson confirmed with the Mirror the employee works at the Seattle Network Distribution Center at 34301 9th Ave. S. in Federal Way.

According to Public Health Seattle and King County, the person was one of the four King County cases already reported. The woman in her 50s had traveled to South Korea and is recovering at home, according to Public Health.

The incident was not mail-related, according to USPS.

“The employees at the facility primarily work with automated equipment that sorts packages and bundles of mail,” according to a statement from USPS, which noted the company will continue to closely monitor the coronavirus situation. “There are no customer interactions at this facility. In consultation with the Seattle and King County Public Health Department, we have been informed the current risk to other employees is low.”

The USPS’s Network Distribution Center (NDC) in Federal Way does not process any letter mail, stated Ernie Swanson of USPS in an email to the Mirror. “It only processes parcels and bundles of marketing mail.”

Facility employees rarely come into direct contact with the mail.

“We do not believe any mail at the NDC has been infected,” Swanson noted, adding that the mail leaves the NDC and is transported to post offices around the Northwest for delivery to customers. ”We do not believe customers that receive parcels that were processed at the NDC are at risk of contracting the coronavirus.”

After the first death from coronavirus was reported out of King County, Public Health confirmed four more cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in King County to 10.

On Sunday evening, March 1, four more cases were confirmed out of a senior living facility near Kirkland. One of the cases was fatal, bringing the total number of deaths from Covid-19 to two.

The new cases included a female in her 80s, hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland. The woman has underlying health conditions, and is in critical condition. A female in her 90s, hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland. The woman has underlying health conditions, and is in critical condition. A male in his 70s, hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland. The man has underlying health conditions, and is in critical condition. A male in his 70s was hospitalized at EvergreenHealth. He had underlying health conditions and died on Saturday, Feb. 29.

As the coronavirus has now reached Federal Way and as the number of cases in King County is expected to rise, Mayor Jim Ferrell stated the city is already ramping up its efforts to educate residents about the coronavirus.

“The City of Federal Way is collaborating with King County Department of Health, in addition to our community partners such as Federal Way Public Schools and South King Fire and Rescue as this situation evolves,” Ferrell stated. “We hosted a public community meeting at City Hall [Saturday] with these partners to prepare residents for the anticipated spread of COVID-19 and will have the video and handouts from that meeting on City’s website on Monday, in addition to airing on Channel 21.”

Washington Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first presumed coronavirus-related death in the United States on Saturday, Feb. 29, according to a release.

Two people were brought to the EvergreenHealth in Kirkland late Friday night (Feb. 28). One person died Saturday morning (Feb. 29). The cause must be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but the deceased patient and a second patient tested positive at the hospital.

The individual who died was a male in his 50s with underlying health conditions who had no history of travel or contact with a known coronavirus case, according to a press release from Public Health.

“We are working closely with health authorities following the death of a patient who tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19 (coronavirus),” EvergreenHealth said in a written statement sent by spokesperson Julia Irwin. “That patient came to our facility with serious respiratory issues, and following guidelines set by the CDC, EvergreenHealth tested the patient for COVID-19. That test was positive. There is a second patient that also tested positive. That patient is in isolation and is receiving appropriate treatment.”

Additional precautions are being taken.

“We are working with the CDC and the Washington Department of Health to ensure that those who have come into contact with the patient are screened and tested as appropriate,” the hospital statement said.

In the afternoon on Feb. 29, Seattle & King County Public Health announced three cases of coronavirus had been confirmed, including the deceased male.

On Sunday morning, March 1, two more cases were confirmed. A male in his 60s is hospitalized at Valley Medical Center in Renton. The man has underlying health conditions, and is in critical but stable condition. Another male in his 60s is hospitalized at Virginia Mason Medical Center. The man has underlying health conditions, and his status is critical.

Two of the confirmed cases are associated with LifeCare nursing facility in Kirkland, the Public Health press release noted, including a health care worker at the facility and a resident of the facility.

The worker is a female in her 40s, currently in satisfactory condition and being treated at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue and has no known travel outside the U.S. The resident is in her 70s and is in serious condition at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland.

More than 50 people at LifeCare are ill with respiratory issues.

“Additional positive cases are expected,” the press release noted.

Public Health is currently working with LifeCare to provide care for ill patients while protecting uninfected patients.

The CDC is sending a team of epidemiologists to King County to support efforts to identify, isolate and test all of those who may be at risk because of the new cases, according to a release. Public Health is at the very beginning stages of its investigation and new details and information was expected to emerge over the next days and weeks.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington State health officials responded to the news with their own statements.

“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Inslee said. “We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”

Inslee added that the DOH, the Washington State Department of Emergency Management and local and community health partners are strengthening preparedness and response efforts.

“I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed,” he said.

“This is a tragic loss of life and we share our heartfelt condolences with the family,” Duchin said. “While the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 are believed to be mild, the virus can be a very serious infection that can lead to death. Protecting the health of our community and supporting the care of health care workers is our top priority.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine said Washington is fortunate to have one of the best public health agencies in the nation.

“We are pulling all available resources into the fight against COVID-19. King County is reviewing all government operations, and we are standing up an Emergency Operations Center to respond appropriately across all agencies and public services,” he said in a release. “I urge businesses and families to plan and take precautions, referring to Public Health for best practices.”

Two other diagnosed coronavirus cases in King and Snohomish counties were announced Friday evening. One is a student at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, the other is a woman in her 50s who had traveled to South Korea. Both tested positive for coronavirus and are now in isolation.

King County public health officials are asking the public to take the following steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

Do not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, contact your regular doctor first.

Stay home when sick

Practice excellent personal hygiene habits, including handwashing, coughing into tissue or elbow, avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.

Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Check and subscribe to Public Health’s website (www.kingcounty.gov/COVID) or blog (www.kingcounty.gov).


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