Novel coronavirus information

March 15, 2020

Five UW community members recently tested positive for COVID-19

Today, we are reporting the following positive tests for COVID-19 that UW Environmental Health & Safety learned of recently, all of them from individuals associated with the UW’s Seattle campus:

  1. A student employee who last came to work on February 27. The student has not been on campus since developing symptoms on March 1.
  2. The student’s roommate, also a UW student, who also has not been on campus since developing symptoms.
  3. A student who traveled out of state notified the University they had tested positive after arriving to their destination.
  4. A graduate student, last on campus March 4, who stayed at home after developing symptoms on March 9. Two roommates of this student are also experiencing symptoms and are also saying at home.
  5. An employee reported symptoms last week and is staying at home. The employee has not been on campus since developing symptoms.

These individuals are doing well as they recover in isolation, and we wish them well. Anyone known to have been in close contact with them is directed to self-isolate and monitor symptoms for 14 days per public health guidance.

UW Environmental Health & Safety has been in direct contact with these individuals and has been coordinating with Public Health – Seattle King County. Based on the information gathered, the risk of transmission for the general UW community from these individual cases is considered to be low. However, community transmission of the COVID-19 virus continues to increase locally, in our region and in the United States. Social distancing is vital to slowing this outbreak – don’t gather in groups and maintain 6 feet of distance from other people when you have to be in public.

For more information about COVID-19, including what do to if you are sick or have symptoms, see the University’s COVID-19 website. As a reminder, most people with COVID-19 infection develop mild to moderate illness without the need for medical care. Those who are older and/or have underlying health issues are at higher risk for developing more serious illness. The most important things each of us can do to limit the spread of illness are to:

  • Maintain social distancing – don’t gather in groups and keep 6 feet of distance from other people when you have to be in public.
  • Stay home when you are sick and avoid close contact with others.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for a least 20 seconds. If water is not available, use hand sanitizer, with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage.

We know it is upsetting to hear about people in our community who are experiencing this illness. Our hearts and support go out to each of them, and to their friends, loved ones and campus communities. While there is anxiety and sadness, there is also resilience and steadfast determination as we come together to reduce the impacts of COVID-19.

Additionally, as UW School of Public Health Dean Hilary Godwin pointed out, an increase in confirmed cases is in part a reflection of our region’s ongoing efforts to test more people. This expanding testing capacity means that patients, especially the most vulnerable, will get the care they need and public health agencies will have important information to help protect the broader community.

Given increased testing and interventions, more cases can be expected as community spread of COVID-19 continues. Information about future confirmed cases among UW community members will continue to be sent to units and personnel known to be directly affected, and case counts will be maintained on the University’s COVID-19 website.

As President Ana Mari Cauce stated in a recent message, the strength, resilience and compassion of the UW community across all three of our campuses will help us navigate this difficult and ever-evolving situation. It’s important that we support one another and make decisions that help us limit the spread of this virus and protect those most vulnerable to it.

Geoffrey S. Gottlieb, M.D. Ph.D.
Interim Chair, UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases
Medical Director, UW Environmental Health & Safety Department
Professor of Medicine – Infectious Diseases
Adjunct Professor of Global Health
Center for Emerging & Re-emerging Infectious Diseases