Page updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2020
On April 2, Governor Jay Inslee extended the Stay Home—Stay Healthy order until May 4. The order requires every Washingtonian to stay at home, except for people who are:
Stay Home, Stay Healthy is a way for all of us to reduce the general risk to ourselves and to others. It means everyone is:
Quarantine is for individuals who we know have had direct exposure to the virus by being a close contact of someone with confirmed COVID-19. Someone self-quarantining stays home and limits interactions with others, including those in the home. This is important because a person can be contagious before symptoms begin. For more information about the difference between Stay Home, Stay Healthy, self-quarantine, and self-isolation see our fact sheet.
Many city and county parks remain open to allow people who lack private outdoor space to enjoy the outdoors. It is important to keep open spaces safe places during COVID-19. Parks remain open at this time so we can stay active, but not hang out. By limiting the amount of time we spend in our open spaces we increase safe access for everyone. If you do visit a park, practice physical distancing.
For complaints about non-food businesses that violate Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, fill out the Washington State Coronavirus Reponse online form.
To report illegal activity associated with the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, for example, illegal fishing, use the online crime reporting tools from the Bellingham Police Department or the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
Only call 911 for emergency situations.
PPE has been in short supply across the United States. To help get PPE to those who need it, Whatcom Unified Command uses a set of priority criteria to distribute PPE. The criteria are based on emerging response needs and guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health.
PPE requests are prioritized to make sure that our health care workers, emergency response personnel, long term health care facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and other health care facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have their requests filled first. As those requests are completed, all other resource requests are filled as supplies allow. The priority criteria can change often since they are based on emerging response needs and the supply received by Whatcom County Unified Command.
An antibody test, also known as a serological test, looks for antibodies in the blood that tell us if a person has been exposed to a virus or bacteria. Your immune system makes antibodies when you are fighting off viruses and bacteria.
In the future, antibody testing may be able to reliably tell us several important things:
However, scientists need to study antibody testing and COVID-19 immunity further to answer some important questions:
How reliable and accurate are antibody tests? There are dozens of antibody tests being marketed in the United States that haven’t been fully validated yet. Some tests are more accurate than others, and some can’t be compared to each other. We simply don’t know at this point that those tests are giving valid information.
What kind of long-term immunity do people have to COVID-19 after an infection? There isn’t yet enough scientific information to tell us how long immunity lasts in people who have been infected. With many diseases, immunity can wane over time for various reasons. We need to study this more before we can say that an antibody test proves immunity to COVID-19 in the long run.
Right now, antibody tests can not be used to confirm whether or not someone has COVID-19. We are continuing to monitor this new science with hope that antibody testing will be another tool to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Some providers are offering COVID-19 antibody testing. Currently, COVID-19 antibody tests do not tell people that they won’t get sick again. We need a better understanding about what kind of long-term immunity people have to COVID-19. There isn’t yet enough scientific information to tell us how long immunity lasts in people who have already been infected. With many diseases, immunity can wane over time for various reasons.
Scientists need to study this more before we can know if an antibody test is actually proof of immunity to COVID-19 in the long run. There is still a lot to learn about what these tests really tell us.
At this time, we do not recommend antibody testing as a reliable way to check for immunity or recovery from COVID-19. No one should draw definite conclusions about their protection from COVID-19 based on currently available antibody tests.
While antibody testing holds a lot of potential, it doesn’t yet give us the kind of reliable information we need. Given the inaccuracies in the available tests and the uncertainty about what the test results mean for immunity, the test results are not yet a good source of information for us to base our public health decisions on. More work is needed on this kind of testing in the coming weeks and months.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new virus called SARS-CoV-2. Most people with COVID-19 will have mild disease but some people will get sicker and may need to be hospitalized.
The vast majority of people with novel coronavirus infection do not require medical care or hospitalization. A much smaller percentage of people get severely ill with respiratory problems like pneumonia. People most at risk for severe illness are:
Symptoms of coronavirus may include:
Often, with most respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest), but for COVID-19, there can be spread by individuals who are not exhibiting typical symptoms.
You generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. Close contact includes:
Close contact with someone includes the 48 hours before a person started showing symptoms. If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 you should self-quarantine and monitor your symptoms. To learn more about how to handle potential exposure, guidance from the Washington State Department of Health can be found here
You should stay home and monitor your health for fever, cough and shortness of breath for 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. You should not go to work or school, and should avoid all public places for 14 days.
If you are an essential worker you can continue to work, provided you don’t have symptoms and the following steps are taken:
Follow these steps for 14 days from the time you were exposed. If you develop symptoms, notify your employer and leave work immediately. For more information see guidance from the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health. Essential workers include state & local law enforcement; 911 call center employees; hazardous material responders; janitorial and other custodial staff; and workers in food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, informational technology, transportation, energy and government facilities.
If you are sick and have symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, and fever, stay home except to get medical care.
If you develop any of these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately:
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.
If you get sick with fever, cough or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are very mild), you likely have COVID-19.
If you have conditions that may increase your risk for a serious infection (e.g. age 60 years or older, are pregnant, or have medical conditions) contact your healthcare provider’s office and tell them that you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. They may want to monitor your health more closely or test you for COVID-19.
Stay home except to get medical care. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
So far, pregnant people do not appear to be at greater risk for illness and complications from COVID-19 than other adults. Your healthcare provider will provide specific guidance for labor, delivery, and caring for your baby if you are sick. For additional information, the Washington State Department of Health has published guidance for Pregnancy, Birth, and Caring for Your Baby with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 (also in Spanish). For more resources, visit our Topics page.
You may return to work when:
You may continue to work as long as you remain well and without symptoms, and if you take the following measures:
If you start to experience symptoms, you should go home immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
You may return to work when:
You should also:
Some healthcare workers may experience prolonged cough as a result of respiratory viral infection, which may continue after isolation has ended. Those workers should wear a face mask until their cough resolves or their health returns to normal.
You should actively monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection, but can return to work provided you:
If you start to experience symptoms, you should go home immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
Some employers may require a negative test to return to work if you have tested positive. Check with your employer to see if they have this requirement.
If you do not have insurance:
If you do have insurance:
Starting on May 22, 2020, everyone in Whatcom County is directed to wear a face covering while in most public settings, and when you are within six feet of someone who does not live with you. Read more about the face covering directive. While this isn’t a requirement, it is an additional step of protection that you should take to keep from spreading the virus to others. Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent the spread of COVID-19 without other protective measures like staying 6 feet away from people who don’t live with you and washing your hands with soap frequently.
Read the How to Properly Wear a Face Covering section of our webpage.
We’ve put together a Face Covering Use Tipsheet:
See our Why Wear a Face Covering section.
Face coverings are an extra level of protection, but will not protect you by themselves. Wearing cloth face coverings will not prevent the spread of COVID-19 without these other protective measures:
Handwashing and social distancing are still our most effective, proven strategies to limit the spread of disease in our community. Wearing a cloth mask adds to those measures. It is not a substitute for them. Although the evidence is limited about cloth face coverings protecting you from becoming infected, cloth masks will help slow the spread to others if you are infected and have no symptoms.
Wash your hands immediately after putting on or taking off the covering. You must wash cloth face coverings frequently with detergent and hot water. Ideally, wash it after each use. Throw away any cloth face covering that no longer covers your mouth and nose, cannot stay on your face, or has holes.
Non-medical cloth face coverings are pieces of fabric that cover the nose and mouth and can be made at home. You can make these coverings with common household items. See this video from the CDC to learn how. You can also use a scarf, bandana, or another piece of fabric if you do not have a cloth mask.
When you exercise outside consider how far away you can stay from other people. Keep in mind that the heavier you are breathing, the farther away you should be from others. Wear a cloth face covering while exercising if you can’t stay six feet away from others. If it’s not possible to wear a face covering when exercising, do more to keep your distance.
This guidance is for cloth face coverings only. Do not use surgical masks or other medical grade masks such as N95 respirators because these medical supplies are currently in short supply and need to be saved for healthcare workers who are caring for patients with COVID-19.
To learn more about this recommendation, when you should wear a cloth face covering, and how to care for it, visit the Washington State Department of Health Guidance on Cloth Face Coverings.
We are working to identify and advise those people who have had close contact with confirmed cases.
Once we know this information, we reach out to each person who is a close contact to:
We also know that there are people infected with COVID-19 in our community who will not be tested, so people in our community will come in contact with COVID-19 and not be aware of it.
To find out more about COVID-19 Case Investigation see our fact sheet.
Identifying close contacts and informing them to stay home and monitor for symptoms is an important public health response. We make these contacts as soon as possible.
If you were a close contact of a confirmed case while they were at the hospital, you can expect to have someone from the hospital contact you. The hospital infection prevention team does the contact investigation work for hospital employees, patients and visitors. They are able to use electronic medical records to see who was in the waiting room at the same time as the confirmed case.
COVID-19 is most commonly transmitted when people have been in close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19. This means spending at least 10 minutes within 6 feet of that person. Because of this, we concentrate our case investigation activities on those people that had close contact with a confirmed case for a prolonged period of time. We work diligently to contact the individuals and the organizations that meet the close contact definition and advise them on how best to protect themselves and the community.
We get this question a lot. The main reasons are:
Though the Health Department recommends that gatherings be avoided when possible, these guidelines for children and youth while schools are closed will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
If you are not experiencing symptoms and have not been exposed to a confirmed case:
Prevent the spread of COVID-19 by making a plan to clean and disinfect your home or business regularly.
Clean and disinfect all “high-touch” surfaces daily using an EPA-approved cleaner to kill germs. Some examples of high-touch surfaces are counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them. Use these guidelines from the CDC to know what to clean, what to disinfect, and how often.
Check out our factsheet for guidance and information
For individuals with symptoms who are confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and are directed to care for themselves at home, discontinue home isolation under the following conditions:
Additional information for your household members, intimate partners, and caregivers at http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html.
The Whatcom County Health Department is currently discussing summer camps and COVID-19’s impacts on these programs. The Health Department is following State Department of Health guidelines and the governor’s phased approach to opening the state. This is a rapidly changing situation, and we anticipate that requirements will be modified as we work through the different phases. Health and safety orders are subject to change and that events may need to be cancelled or rescheduled.
We encourage camp directors to be flexible and creative in their planning, and to consider programs of different lengths and sizes, or even a virtual camp experience. Some camps have already decided not to be open this summer. We understand frustration caused by the inability to make concrete plans, but it is important that we continue to follow public health recommendations to work through the phases as quickly and safely as possible.