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A Washington state county, where 31 coronavirus cases and 9 deaths have been reported, has recommended to its 2.2 million residents that they should work from home to help slow the spread of the infectious disease, and further urged everyone over 60 to stay indoors.
Public Health officials in King County on Wednesday recommended that businesses allow their employees to telecommute throughout March in an effort to reduce the amount of face-to-face contact between large numbers of people during this “critical period” in the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are encouraging employers to maximize telecommuting and to make it possible for employees who can work from home to do so,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said Wednesday. “Community groups should avoid creating large gatherings.”
An Amazon spokesperson on Tuesday said an employee who worked in a building on the company’s campus in Seattle had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.
They also recommended that residents over 60, people with underlying health conditions and weakened immune systems, and those who are pregnant stay home and avoid large gatherings “as much as possible.”
An Amazon employee who works in the company’s “Brazil” office in Seattle left work on Feb. 24 due to an illness, which the company later learned was COVID-19, according to an internal email on Tuesday.
The Brazil Building is shown on Amazon’s Seattle campus on Wednesday in Seattle.
Facebook alerted employees about an infected worker who was last in their Stadium East office on Feb. 21. The office will be closed until March 9 and employees were encouraged to work from home until the end of the month.
Microsoft is also taking steps to protect its roughly 50,000 employees in the Seattle area from coronavirus, advising all employees to work from home until March 25 in accordance with guidance from local health officials.
Public Health officials said those who are sick should stay home and call health care providers ahead of time before seeking medical attention.
While health officials are not recommending school closures at this time, the Northshore School District in King County announced Wednesday that all school sites would be closed on Thursday for up to two weeks.
The decision comes after a parent or volunteer at Woodmoor Elementary School tested “presumptively positive” for the COVID-19 virus, the school district wrote in a letter to families.
“Our job is to provide quality instruction to our students in a safe and welcoming environment, and we are no longer able to provide quality instruction and maintain an environment that is safe for our staff and students to learn as we do not have sufficient staff to safely operate our schools,” the district said.
While Washington state and Seattle have declared emergencies, giving leaders broad powers to suspend activities, they have not issued any orders to do so.
Of Washington’s 10 deaths, nine of those who died were residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle. At least 39 cases have been reported in the Seattle area, where researchers say the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks.
Fox News’ David Aaro, Alexandria Hein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.