SEATTLE, WA — Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the mandatory, six-week closure of all public and private K-12 schools in Washington's three largest counties, as confirmed cases of coronavirus rose to 457 in the state and two more deaths were reported, bringing the total to 31. Inslee made the announcement during a press conference Thursday.

All schools in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties must close by Tuesday, March 17, and will not reopen before Monday, April 27.

Don't miss the latest coronavirus updates from health and government officials in Washington. . The Seattle Times reports attend public and charter schools among the counties affected by the closure order.

"We cannot hide from the central truth of this moment," Inslee said. "We know that COVID-19 is at least 10 times more dangerous than the flu. Anything less than strong action amongst all of us is not appropriate or up to the task we face at this moment as a state."

Inslee said children have, so far, been less prone to contract the virus and have typically shown milder symptoms. Secretary of Health John Wiesman said only 2 percent of the cases confirmed in the state were in patients under 19 years old.

However, the governor says, public health agencies believe closing schools could represent a "significant cut" in overall infections, including among school staff members, some of whom are also in high-risk groups.

"We have reached a tipping point where the spread of this virus demands we take action," Inslee said.

School testing suspended in Washington, some make-up days likely

Chris Reykdal, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said school testing was likely to be suspended on a statewide level. Reykdal said he did not believe it would be "mathmatically possible" to make up every day missed by the closure, but some districts could attempt to catch up on some of the missed coursework through mid-to-late June.

According to the governor, the first possible weekday for schools to return in the three counties is Monday, April 27.

Expanded childcare options and nutrition programs

"We do not take these decisions lightly and I am fully aware of the various impacts this has on families and communities," Inslee said. "Today's decision has a full range of implications from learning plans and childcare, to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, just to name a few."

The governor repeated his request that all employers make every effort to allow employees to work remotely in the weeks ahead. Inslee said some schools will remain open for childcare services and must operate according to social distancing and sanitary guidance.

According to the Inslee, the state will provide no-cost childcare for first responders and health care professionals who continue to fight the outbreak on the frontlines.

During the closure, school districts will be required to operate and expand nutritional programs that help feed children, including boxed lunch distribution. Inslee said the state would work with philanthropic organizations to help assure all students who need meals receive them.

270 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in King County, 27 dead

Seattle and King County Public Health announced another death and three dozen newly confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus Thursday afternoon. Washington's most populous county now accounts for 270 of the state's confirmed illnesses and 27 of the 31 deaths linked to the virus in 12 counties. Officials said 22 of the people who died were associated with the Life Care Center, a Kirkland nursing 五福彩票6688下载.

People at high risk for complications from COVID-19 are:

  • People older than 60
  • People with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Pregnant people

The Washington Department of Health has published these fact-sheets to help residents decide what steps to take:

Who should get tested?

From Seattle and King County Public Health: "Not everybody who feels ill needs to be tested, particularly if you have mild illness. Healthcare providers determine who should be tested, based on specific symptoms. While testing is becoming more available, there are still limitations in the ability to quickly collect and process tests."