There have been 18 confirmed cases in Washington state.
There have been 18 confirmed cases in Washington state. KAREN DUCEY / GETTY IMAGES

At a press conference in Olympia on Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee and other state officials gave information on the state of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus spreading both locally and globally, and what steps the public should take to protect themselves and others.

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"Our priority now is to slow the spread of the virus," Inslee said, noting that there are 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington, including six deaths, although the number of victims could be much higher and it's possible the virus has been spreading across the state for several weeks. The bulk of those confirmed cases are in King County, which has 14 confirmed cases and five deaths, and Snohomish county, which has four confirmed cases, including one death. The state is currently prepared to test 100 patients a day at a lab in Shoreline, and UW is predicted to have similar capacity within the week.

The Governor, along with Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman, urged people to take common-sense steps to prevent the spread of illness: Wash your hands frequently, thoroughly, and for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your face; sanitize surfaces; keep distance from other people; and, if you begin to feel ill, stay home.

"Preventing future cases will require all of us to do all of these things," Gov. Inslee said. "The more of these steps you take, the better off you will be."

The Governor also noted that he is asking lawmakers to earmark $100 million in this year's budget to respond to the crisis and has asked the federal government to unlock part of its stockpile of medical equipment, including gowns and facemasks, for first responders and other healthcare workers. Officials from the CDC are currently working with local and state officials, and the state is looking for locations to quarantine and treat those with symptoms within Washington.

As my colleague Nathalie Graham reported this morning, planned conferences like ComicCon, which is scheduled to take place this coming weekend, have not been canceled, but the Governor said people should avoid large gatherings and begin to make contingency plans in the event that schools close or other events are canceled. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal also noted that school closures will be decided locally.

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When asked about his prior comments criticizing the Trump administration and its response to this crisis, Inslee said that he has been in touch with Mike Pence, who is heading the administration's response to the virus, and said, "Public officials should stick to the truth and the science... I hope that will be the case in the administration."

In all, the press conference did not result in much new information, but the message was clear: Take care of yourself, take care of your family, and prepare for disruptions in the likely case that this thing continues to spread.

Read more of our coronavirus coverage here.

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