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King County leaders address 'harmful misperceptions' about coronavirus

Public Health and King County leaders gathered Friday to discuss the latest response to the coronavirus and dispel what they called "harmful misperceptions."

SEATTLE — Seattle and King County leaders gathered together Friday to dispel what they called "harmful misperceptions" surrounding the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Leaders from Public Health - Seattle & King County, King County Executive Dow Constantine, representatives from King County and City of Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Commissions, and local health and school district officials attended the press conference. 

Public Health - Seattle & King County Director Patty Hayes emphasized that coronavirus is not limited to one community.

"Your race and ethnicity does not put you at any additional risk," said Hayes. "We need to be forceful in saying no discrimination will be tolerated." 

Eastside resident, Devin Cabanilla, spoke at the press conference, describing a discriminatory experience. He said his wife is Korean-American and their 8-year-old son, who had concerns about the coronavirus, wanted to wear a surgical mask during a shopping trip to Costco. 

Cabanilla said while they were there, his son and wife approached a person offering samples inside the store.

"The lady there got kind of alarmed. She started by asking if they came from China. Then after that, she told them to step away because she was concerned about getting infected," said Cabanilla.

The person offering samples is employed by Club Demonstration Services, who has since apologized. Cabanilla said Costco management also apologized. 

But representatives from International Community Health Services and King County Commission for Refugees and Immigrants said stories like Cabanilla's are becoming more common as misinformation about the coronavirus spreads. 

“There is no reason to assume that everyone wearing a mask is sick or has the coronavirus," officials said. 

Leaders explained that wearing masks is quite common in some Asian cultures, and it doesn't automatically mean someone is sick. 

Public Health Director Hayes reiterated that the current risk for the public to contract the novel coronavirus remains low.

"There are zero people in King County who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and the risk to the general public is low," said Hayes. 

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin with Public Health - Seattle & King County said the best way to protect yourself from the coronavirus is by washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, staying home if you are sick, and if you have traveled to China recently to check in with your doctor if you have concerns about developing symptoms. 

Currently, in Washington state, a total of 24 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus. Of those tests, 20 came back negative, three tests are still pending, and only one came back positive for coronavirus, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

A Snohomish County man was the first U.S. patient to be diagnosed with coronavirus. He has since been released from the hospital, but is in isolation at home and being monitored by public health workers. 

A total of 20 people are currently under public health staff supervision to monitor for any coronavirus related symptoms. 

President Trump signed a proclamation on January 31 with new temporary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. 

The measure went into effect on February 2. It states any U.S. citizen returning to the U.S. who has been in Hubei Province, China, in the previous 14 days will be subject to health screening and up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they are provided proper medical care, should they need it. 

The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China. 

Sea-Tac International Airport is one of 11 airports that have established quarantine sites to help screen travelers for the coronavirus. 

The Department of Social and Health Services also announced Friday it would establish a quarantine area in Shoreline for individuals who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. 

The Department of Health will put up to five RVs on the unused campus space of Fircrest School, which serves people with developmental disabilities. Officials said the quarantine location is more than 200 yards away from the nearest Fircrest building and this poses zero health risks to others.

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