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Officials investigate 'possible outbreak' of coronavirus at Washington state nursing facility

Those who tested positive and died of coronavirus were elderly patients who already had underlying health concerns.

KIRKLAND, Wash. — A possible outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, is being investigated at a Kirkland nursing home facility.

At least nine people connected to the Life Care Center of Kirkland have tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. 

Presumptively positive means their tests came back positive from the Washington state health lab, but still must be confirmed by the federal labs. 

Four people from Life Care Center have died.

Most of those who tested positive are elderly and already had underlying health conditions. 

On Friday, there were over 50 individuals associated with Life Care Center who are showing respiratory symptoms or who have been hospitalized with pneumonia and are being tested for COVID-19, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health Seattle & King County. 

RELATED: What to know about coronavirus after 2 deaths, at least 13 cases in Washington

Public Health officials are investigating this as a possible outbreak of COVID-19 at Life Care Center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sending a team of epidemiologists to King County to support local health experts as they work to identify and test new cases related to this possible outbreak.

“While the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 are believed to be mild, the virus can be a very serious infection that can lead to death. Protecting the health of our community and supporting the care of health care workers is our top priority," said Duchin.

Twenty-five firefighters from Fire Station 21 in Kirkland who helped ill patients at Life Care Center are now under quarantine as well as a precaution. Two Kirkland police officers who responded to Life Care Center are also under quarantine. 

The city's fire chief decided to make the call out of an abundance of caution. 

Signs on the door of Fire Station 21 said no one should enter on Saturday and that the building itself was also under quarantine. City of Kirkland spokesperson Kellie Stickney said the firefighters are either staying home or in an undisclosed location. 

Stickney added that the chief has already been in contact with neighboring jurisdictions about filling the staffing hole, in the event of an emergency. It’s not clear how long the quarantine will last.

People trying to visit family members at Life Care Center on Saturday were turned away due to the outbreak. 

"As a precaution, all visits to the facility from families, volunteers or vendors are not allowed,” said officials with Life Care Center.

"They just said no visitors today for the safety of the patients and the people coming in," said Leslie Lund, who was trying to visit her brother Saturday. "I know they'll do the best they can to contain it."

Redmond Police Department quarantined seven of its medics Sunday who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Police said the Redmond Fire Department is fully staffed and responding to calls as normal.

Sixteen students from the Lake Washington Institute of Technology visited the Life Care Center of Kirkland late last week. As a precaution, officials are disinfecting the college campus this weekend. 

"Our faculty have been in contact with those students, as well as college administration. Currently, the college is awaiting guidance from King County Public Health in order to provide information and guidance to our faculty and students," said Dr. Amy Morrison, president of the college.

RELATED: 2 new coronavirus cases confirmed in Snohomish, King counties

What are coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization. Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to DOH.

Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.

A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, and what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

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