Seattle, Washington health officials are putting together plans that could include ordering involuntary isolation, quarantines, cancellation of major public events and complete regional shutdowns and travel bans like we are seeing in Italy.
The news comes just hours after New York deployed the National Guard and set up a 1-mile containment zone around New Rochelle, NY.
Patty Hayes, director of Public Health for Seattle & King County, outlined the potential next steps the government could take in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus at a Seattle City Council meeting.
Hayes shared a Washington State Department of Health chart that showed five different levels of actions that officials might take. Gov. Jay Inslee suggested Sunday on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” that the state’s response could involve “reducing the number of social activities that are going on.”
The Chart outlined a five-level response:
Level 1 involves asking residents to take precautions like:
- increasing handwashing
- social Distancing
- staying at home when sick.
Level 2 involves:
- voluntary isolation of sick people
- voluntary quarantines of people who have contacted those who are sick.
Level 3 involves:
- involuntary isolation of sick people
- involuntary quarantines of people who have contacted those who are sick.
Level 4 includes:
- cancellation of major public events and large gatherings.
- closures of schools, childcare facilities, workplaces, and public buildings.
Level 5 includes:
- restriction of non-emergency travel outside of your home
- establishment of a cordon sanitaire (a guarded line preventing anyone from leaving the area infected by disease).
“We’ve moved into the second level … We are at the ready to institute the third level,” Hayes said. “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant … But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”
“The Level 4 is the one where we’re really in a lot of conversations with all our other public-health colleagues and the CDC,” Hayes said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I think we’re going to have more information for you this week on that.”
Today, at the White House Coronavirus Response Team press conference, Vice President Pence was asked about quarantines and school closures. He indicated that they were talking to officials in Seattle and said new CDC guidelines for places where community spread of Coronavirus was active, like in Washington, New York, and Florida, would be announced on Wednesday.
When talking about level five measures, Hayes said, “We are hoping to never have to get to that point here, by all the strategies we’re taking.”
Here is the entire Seattle-King County Public Health & City of Seattle meeting:
Preparedness Resource: How to Prepare for Possible Coronavirus Quarintines
From the very beginning we have warned that the reaction to this virus and the panic that it will cause will likely be more dangerous than the actual outbreak. We’ve seen mass panic and supply shortages at stores throughout the country, and now we are starting to see National Guard deployments and lockdowns in communities in the United States.
While we don’t know the true extent of the dangers of this virus, some have suggested it’s actually not that high, we do know how people and governments are starting to react to it, and it’s not good.
In the past when we talked about the possibilities of things like quarantines and martial law people would often laugh it off as a conspiracy theory, but after seeing what happened in China, Italy, and now in New York, I think we need to be prepared for the very real possibility that local, state and even entire regions may be caught up in a quarantines, where your movement is severely restricted – possibly by force and martial law.