On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, Des Moines City Manager Michael Matthias released the following statement on the city’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus:

There is a lot of news right now in the media and on the internet about Coronavirus, and I wanted to update all of you on what we as a City know and what steps we are taking to do our part in minimizing the spread of this virus.

We are monitoring the situation very closely through Seattle King County Public Health, King County Emergency Operations Center, South King Fire and Rescue, and other community partners. We are also monitoring national and global agencies including United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO). While we have concerns about potential impacts to our government operations, we are very focused on the well-being of our employees, residents, and businesses.

Our City Emergency Management group is meeting daily to review this situation, follow developments (that are changing daily) and check in with other jurisdictions to determine the most appropriate response by our City in a regional context.

First, let me take a minute to share general information about the virus and some best practices to prevent the spreading of germs (information that is good to know all the time).

What is Coronavirus? (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html)

According to the CDC, Coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness, like the common cold. Most people have a brush with these viruses at some point in their lives. They don’t usually last long, and symptoms, while not enjoyable, are familiar – runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and a general feeling of being unwell.

This particular strain, COVID-19, has had enough negative effects that it has inspired action on the CDC’s part, including a Travel Health Alert Notice recommending that travelers avoid nonessential travel to Level 3 destinations and extra precautions in Level 2 destinations.

CDC has issued the following travel guidance related to COVID-19:

CDC also recommends that all travelers reconsider cruise ship voyages into or within Asia at this time.

As you’ve likely seen in the news, this flu strain is new and complex, so we are taking precautionary measures to safeguard our workplace and all of you. They are…

Cleaning and Hygiene: 
If you visit any of our facilities, you will notice an increase in hygiene products. We have asked staff to increase the cleaning of high-touch areas to 2-3 times per day, including doorknobs, countertops, pin pads for door codes, tables and printers in departments and buildings. We are making disinfecting wipes available for this purpose and adding hand sanitizer to public areas, work areas and breakrooms.

For the foreseeable future, City staff will practice a new normal:

“As a precaution and also a reminder – avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Try limiting things like handshakes and make it a practice to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day.

Most importantly, don’t come to work if you aren’t feeling well! Sniffles, sneezes, sore throat, fever or a combination of these; just stay home. If you’re sick, you should rest, get well and take care of yourself.

If you are concerned about the possibility that you may have been exposed or may have contracted the Corona Virus (COVID-19) you should call your doctor. Do not go to the doctor’s office or the Emergency Room. Stay home to avoid spreading your illness to others. Your healthcare provider can discuss your symptoms over the phone and direct you in any additional actions that you should take.”

Our highest priorities are protecting staff and the public from infection, as well as preventing further spread of the virus. To that end, City staff have been empowered to work remotely from home if possible if the employee has any reason to believe he or she has come in contact with the virus. Additionally, the Emergency Management group has put together a policy for City staff returning from travel to areas affected by the outbreak after consultation with health officials, which can include a delayed return to City facilities until the virus’ incubation period has passed.

Stay Updated: 
As things are changing rapidly, we’ve set up a page on the City of Des Moines Web Site to keep you and the public updated on the most accurate and up-to-date information. These are sources that we have determined as reliable local and national resources such as the CDC, Seattle King County Public Health and the World Health Organization.

I know this is a lot of information, but I wanted to let you know that The City of Des Moines is taking this seriously and hope you will, too. Thank you for helping keep our community healthy and safe for all employees!

– Michael Matthias
City Manager
City of Des Moines, WA