UW Emergency Management

March 6, 2020

January 21, 2020 – (TBD): UW’s response to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

When an unknown viral outbreak started in Wuhan, China in mid-December 2019, most Seattle’ites never heard of the (new) novel coronavirus or COVID-19 communicable disease.  Within a month, the virus had spread throughout the world and became a pandemic. The first COVID-19 case in the US was found in Everett on January 21, 2020.  By early March, hundreds of WA State residents were exposed and tested.  UW recalled most overseas students, researchers and global study participants.  The UW prohibited all in-person classroom teaching and exams from March 9-30, 2020 including Spring Break.  All online instruction was extended for the Spring and Summer Quarters and Commencement was impacted.  The UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD), and various Unit Response Centers were activated to support the response and recovery. The EOC was activated on March 6th in a virtual-only status to practice social distancing.

General Situation/Incident Background


The University of Washington began to address and respond to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China in December 2019.  A new coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China in December of 2019 and is currently referred to as novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Novel coronavirus is very concerning because it is new to humans and because it can cause serious infections, including pneumonia. Some initial studies suggest that social distancing measures have had an impact in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in King County, offering hope that with continued implementation of these measures, we can lower the total number of infections and deaths. In addition, continuing to follow social distancing measures could be a major factor in ensuring that healthcare systems do not become overwhelmed.  The UW’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD) first met on January 21, 2020.  Following the protocols in the Communicable Disease Outbreak Management Plan, the UW’s EH&S department initially took the operational lead in response efforts.


Emergency declarations

  • On February 29, 2020, the Washington State Governor declared a State Emergency.
  • On March 3, 2020, King County declared a County Emergency.
  • On March 13, 2020, the President declared a National Emergency.


Social distancing

King County was among the first to recommend social distancing practices in order to flatten the curve of infection. Employers have been encouraged to adopt work-from-home strategies and to cancel meetings since March 3, 2020. Practices of keeping six feet of distance as well as avoiding large events and gatherings if possible have been in effect since March 4, 2020.


Large gatherings and events

  • Large events were canceled and gatherings of over 250 people were prohibited statewide on March 11, 2020.
  • All non-essential businesses were closed, all events cancelled and gatherings of over 10-50 people prohibited on March 16, 2020.
  • All gatherings were prohibited on March 23, 2020.


School Closures

School closures have been in effect statewide since March 13, 2020 and are in effect through the end of the school year on June 19 (duration extended on April 6th). Schools are encouraged to continue to provide distance-learning options.


  • On March 19, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on non-urgent medical and dental procedures to preserve personal protective equipment for health care workers addressing COVID-19.
  • On March 23, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a Stay Home —Stay Healthy order which will be effective until May 4th (duration was extended on April 2nd). The order requires every Washingtonian to stay at home, except for people:
  • Pursuing an essential activity, like shopping for groceries or going to a medical appointment.
  • Getting takeout food. (Food deliveries also are permitted).
  • Going to work at an essential business.
  • Going outside for walks and exercise, as long as they keep 6 feet apart.


On April 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released recommendations for people in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) to wear cloth face coverings. Wearing a homemade cloth mask (or other non-medical grade mask or face covering) may provide benefits in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Members of the general public should not wear medical grade or surgical masks at this time; medical masks should be reserved for healthcare providers on the front lines.


On April 27, 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a partial reopening of some state recreational areas,

including fishing, hunting, and golf, effective May 5. State parks and state lands will be open for day use

only, and only so long as people continue to practice proper social distancing. Public gatherings, sports,

and camping remain prohibited activities.

The Extension of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order will be through May 31, Gov. Inslee & Health officials announced today. There will be new allowances for retail curbside pickup; car washes; and landscaping. Also, drive-in spiritual services can go forward with one household per vehicle.  Moving forward, there will be four phases allowing more areas of the state to re-open after each phase based on a data-driven approach. Information on that here: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need…

These phases depend on continued success in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and meeting four capabilities including:

✔️health care system readiness

✔️testing capacity

✔️ability to do contact investigations

✔️ability to protect high-risk populations.

Not every part of the state is experiencing #COVID19 the same way. County variances are allowed. Smaller counties could reopen. Counties with fewer than 50,000 residents not hit hard by #COVID19 will be able to apply to the Department of Health for a variance that will allow the county to open to the second phase. Cities and counties can also take more strict actions than what the state is mandating. That is up to them based on their public health needs and local decision making.  While state parks and state land are reopening May 5, before traveling, check with your destination. More information: https://parks.state.wa.us/1177/Novel-Cor.  Businesses are also expected to implement any additional requirements developed specifically for their industry such as those that have been established for construction.

The State is entering into…

▶️ Phase 1, with some aspects starting on May 5, 2020.  The Governor had previously allowed some construction to resume as well as reopening of some recreational activities including day use at state parks, playing golf, fishing and hunting. Officials are working with industries to develop new protocols that could soon also allow for retail curbside pickup; car washes; and landscaping and drive-in spiritual services with one household per vehicle. When COVID-19 disease burden is low and decreasing and the four capabilities described above are met, the governor will move from Phase 1 to Phase 2.

▶️    Phase 2: Additional expansions of outdoor recreation activities would be allowed, as well as small gatherings of 5 or fewer people, new construction and in-store retail purchases with health restrictions. Barber shops and salons could reopen and house cleaning services. Restaurants could reopen with 50 percent capacity and table size no larger than 5. Some professional services and offices could open up as well, even though teleworking would remain strongly encouraged. Pet care services including grooming could resume.

▶️ Phase 3: Gatherings of 50 people or less, including sports activities, would be allowed, and non-essential travel could resume. Restaurants could move up to 75 percent capacity and tables up to 10 people, and bars at 25 percent capacity; gyms and movie theaters could reopen at 50 percent capacity; retail, libraries, museums and government buildings could reopen. Recreational facilities like pools could open at 50 percent capacity. Nightclubs and entertainment venues would still not be able to reopen.

▶️ Phase 4: Would involve resuming the majority of public interactions. Gatherings of more than 50 people would be allowed, but still while practicing social distancing.

A larger version of the chart, which is also screen reader compliant, can be found at: bit.ly/3aV44Kr.