An Update on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Friends – 

This weekend, we were saddened to learn of the first death from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) here in Washington, and that more cases have been confirmed in our region and across the country. Sadly, a second death was recently confirmed in King County, with additional hospitalizations. In addition to praying for those who have already been impacted by this, I am monitoring this situation closely and working with our local health departments and practitioners to ensure they have the resources necessary to respond to this situation. 

Last week, I met with Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman who briefed me on steps being taken to protect the health and safety of those in our region. And on Saturday, Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency calling on state agencies to “use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to the outbreak.” 

On Friday, I participated in a briefing for Members of Congress by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s important that you know that – according to the CDC – the vast majority of those around the world who have taken ill from COVID-19 have mild symptoms with fever and cough. However, a small percentage of cases are severe and can lead to pneumonia, particularly in elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions. 

Congress is working to see that the federal government has the resources needed to combat this virus and keep Americans safe. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’m fighting to advance a robust emergency funding package that fully addresses the scale and seriousness of this public health crisis by advocating for funding to ensure that vaccines, once developed, are affordable and available to all who need them; and, that state and local governments are reimbursed for costs incurred while assisting the federal response to the COVID-19 outbreak. I anticipate that Congress will advance this supplemental funding bill this week. 

I have already heard from a number of local employers that have been negatively impacted by this situation. For example, some of our region’s shellfish growers and manufacturers that export substantially to China have taken a big hit. With that in mind, I’ve been leading an effort in Congress in hopes of making special Small Business Administration loans available for small businesses impacted by the outbreak. Stay tuned.

My office has received a number of calls and questions about COVID-19. Please know that you can continue to reach out to my team and me for help. In addition, the Washington State Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public. If you have questions about what is happening in Washington, how the virus is spread, or what to do if you have symptoms, please call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

Remember, you can play a part in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. It starts with practicing good personal health habits:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Stay home when you’re sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects

I encourage you to review more information about COVID-19 from the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health

I’m committed to keeping you informed and updated. As always, I’m honored to represent you. 


Derek Kilmer


What are the symptoms?

People who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have reported symptoms that may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days following exposure to the virus.

Patients with COVID-19 have experienced mild-to-severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their health care provider immediately.

Who is at risk for COVID-19?

Currently, the risk to the general public is low. At this time, there are a small number of individual cases in the U.S. To minimize the risk of spread, health officials are working with health care providers to promptly identify and evaluate any suspected cases.

Travelers to and from certain areas of the world may be at increased risk. Although COVID-19 originated geographically in Wuhan, China, the disease is not specific to any ethnic group. Chinese ancestry – or any other ancestry – does not make a person more vulnerable to this illness. I encourage everyone to take a quick moment to read this informative piece from Secretary Wiesman and the Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs about how we can and should work together to reduce stigma during outbreaks such as COVID-19.

How can I help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

According to the CDC, there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.



For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website.

For information specific to health care, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.

The Washington Department of Health has a call center to answer questions about the virus. Call (800) 525-0127 and press #. As a reminder, you should visit their website to track the investigation and to see information for school nurses and administrators and employers.