Health Advisory: COVID-19 Updates for Providers

stethoscope lying on EKG

Requested actions

Responding to a pandemic like COVID-19 takes an emotional toll on providers. Take these actions to reduce secondary traumatic stress (STS).

  • Acknowledge STS can impact anyone helping others during a traumatic event.
  • Recognize the symptoms—physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
  • Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the pandemic.
  • Create a menu of self care activities you enjoy—like connecting with friends and family, exercising or reading a book.
  • Take a break from media coverage of the pandemic.
  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that the pandemic is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak.
  • Learn more tips for taking care of yourself.


Providers, including emergency departments, should call  (360) 414-5599 x 6431 during business hours, (360) 636-9595 after hours to report COVID-19 cases in the following people:

  • Healthcare personnel (e.g., EMS, medical, nursing, any healthcare facility employee).
  • Lives or works in a long-term care facility, senior living center, permanent supportive housing or similar congregate setting (shelter, correctional facility) housing people at high risk for severe outcomes.
  • Public safety personnel (e.g., law enforcement, fire fighter).
  • Anyone who died with COVID-19.

Situation update

  • Providers caring for patients with COVID-19 are highly susceptible to developing the illness. Using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring are at elevated risk of exposure.

Personal protective equipment

Facemasks are an acceptable alternative when the local and regional supplies of respirators cannot meet the demand. Updated PPE recommendations for caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19.

Collecting specimens

  • Collect and test a single upper respiratory nasopharyngeal swab (NP).
  • Collect specimens as soon as a PUI is identified, regardless of the time of symptom onset.Updated guidelines for clinical specimens.
  • We recommend establishing designated sites for respiratory illness evaluation and testing. Consider an outdoor, covered drive-through clinic.

COVID-19 testing

Where can patients and staff get tested?

Patients are encouraged to call their provider’s office to learn about the testing option that’s best for them. Many testing sites require online registration and screening prior to testing.

  • MultiCare offers a free e-visit to anyone with COVID-19 symptoms. Through MultiCare Virtual Care providers help patients navigate to the next appropriate step. On the payment screen, entering promo code “COVID19” reduces the e-visit charge to $0.
  • CHI Franciscan also offers a free virtual visit for COVID-19 evaluation. Patients can schedule a Franciscan Virtual Urgent Care visit and use discount code “COVID-19” to reduce the virtual visit charge to $0.
  • Kaiser Permanente patients are encouraged to call their provider’s office to learn about the testing option that’s best for them.

Where should specimens go for testing?

  • Washington commercial labs, including LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, can test nearly 2,000 specimens per day.
  • University of Washington Virology Lab could test 2,200 specimens per day as of March 12. They are working to increase to 5,000 specimens per day. They prioritize specimens from hospitalized patients, healthcare workers and first responders.
  • Washington State Public Health Lab can test more than 200 specimens a day with 48-hour turnaround as of March 14. See DOH Guidance. Only send specimens for:
    • Healthcare personnel.
    • Public safety personnel (e.g., law enforcement, EMS, firefighters).
    • Patients in an illness cluster.
    • Patients who live in a facility or group housing.
    • Patients without health insurance.
  • Although the lab test is becoming more broadly available, public health and healthcare systems have limited capacity to obtain samples from people as rapidly as we would like.
  • People do not always need to be tested for clinical care purposes because there is currently no medication to treat COVID-19. Anyone with a fever and cough should assume their illness could be COVID-19 and take steps to protect others in their household and community. If you are sick, stay home and away from other people in your home. If you need to go out to visit a healthcare provider, wear a mask and frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds.

Guidance for healthcare workers

  • Instruct employees to check for any signs of illness before reporting to work each day. If sick, they must immediately notify their supervisor.
  • Healthcare workers with a high or medium risk exposure to COVID-19 should check their temperature twice a day. If they develop fever (measured temperature >100.0°F or subjective fever) OR respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they must immediately self-isolate and notify their supervisor.
  • Asymptomatic healthcare workers with an exposure to COVID-19 may continue to work after alternate staffing options have been exhausted, and in consultation with their occupational health program. They should check their temperature twice a day. If they develop any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they must immediately cease patient care activities, don a facemask and notify their supervisor or occupational health services.
  • Instruct healthcare workers who develop fever, cough or shortness of breath and have no known exposure to COVID-19 to not return to work until 3 days after fever resolves or 7 days after symptom onset, whichever is longer.
  • Ensure your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance, and employees know about the policies.
  • Develop and review your facility’s emergency plan. COVID-19 could lead to staff absenteeism. Prepare alternative staffing plans to ensure as many staff are available as possible.
  • See updated guidance for healthcare workers and first responders returning to work.

Patient communication

Share these educational materials with patients.

Contacting the Health Department

  • Confirmed cases can be reported to us via fax to our secure fax line (360) 425-7531. To report by phone, call (360) 414-5599 x 6431 during business hours, (360) 636-9595 after hours.

Additional resources