Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)


Wisconsin and local public health officials are monitoring the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation very closely.

There is a new type of coronavirus that was first found in Wuhan, China. It has spread to other countries, and the first case was confirmed in the US in Washington on January 21, 2020. There are thousands of cases worldwide, and the World Health Organization declared it a global health emergency on January 30, 2020.

This is a rapidly evolving situation with new information every day. Visit the CDC’s Novel Coronavirus webpage  for the most up-to-date information.


What do I do if I think I’m sick from coronavirus?

If you have traveled to a foreign country within the past two weeks or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with, or under evaluation for, 2019 Novel Coronavirus, and develop coronavirus symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath):

  • Call ahead to a healthcare professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing
  • Tell them about your symptoms and that you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread
  • Avoid contact with others
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if no soap and water are available.

Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.  Find out more at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html


What is being done to keep people safe?

  • Health experts are working together to monitor the virus. 
  • Always visit the CDC’s webpage  for the most up-to-date information.
  • We plan, train, and practice for novel viruses like this coronavirus and are prepared. Our responsibilities include:
    • Monitoring travelers for symptoms
    • Ensuring isolation of any patients who are waiting for test results
    • Supplying patients with items they need to stay home for an extended period of time, such as groceries 
    • Following-up with anyone who has been in close contact with a person who has coronavirus and instructing them what to do to prevent the spread of the virus

You say you monitor people who might be at risk for coronavirus. What does that look like?

There are two forms of monitoring that we are doing:

  • The first is travel monitoring, which is for incoming travelers from a foreign countries affected with coronavirus. This information is coming to us from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. We give them instructions about symptoms to watch for and how to isolate themselves if they meet certain CDC risk criteria .
  • The second is contact monitoring, which is for people who may have had contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. We are following standard contact investigation for any communicable disease, which includes letting them know they may have been exposed, giving them information about symptoms to watch for, and making sure they isolate themselves if they meet certain CDC risk criteria .
    • If a person with confirmed coronavirus was on a plane, we also receive contact information for everyone they had close contact with. The CDC defines close contact as within six feet—approximately two seats in each direction. We receive the flight seating chart from federal partners. As outlined above: we are following standard contact investigation for any communicable disease, which includes letting them know they may have been exposed, giving them information about symptoms to watch for, and making sure they isolate themselves if they meet certain CDC risk criteria 

What is being done to make sure people with coronavirus or who are waiting for test results are staying at home?

If someone is supposed to be isolated, public health staff will make those arrangements with them. We are following up with the person who has coronavirus on a daily basis. If there are other people under investigation who need to be isolated at home, we will also be following up with them on a daily basis to monitor their symptoms and be sure they are staying home. 

One of the daily activities of a local health department is to monitor and respond to a variety of diseases. We have people and technology in place to track communicable diseases. We are applying what we do every day to this situation. We understand this is a significant concern in our community, and we are prepared to handle it. 


Why can’t we know more about individuals infected with coronavirus?

We are not sharing information about the person who has coronavirus because that is protected health information.

It’s important to avoid assumptions or stereotypes about who you think might be sick. You cannot tell if someone has a risk of spreading novel coronavirus by what they look like. For more anti-stigma resources, visit Public Health Seattle & King County’s website .