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Washington state health officials say 'no need to panic' about coronavirus

State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said they are currently in the "containment phase," which means keeping the virus out of the state.

SHORELINE, Wash. — Washington state will be able to test for the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, at the state health lab instead of federal labs starting Friday. 

The change will allow people being monitored for the virus to get their results faster. Several other states are considering doing the same thing. 

The Washington Department of Health said Thursday there is "no need to panic" about COVID-19 and the risk to the general public remains low.

“There is really no need to panic, we are still not seeing a significant spread here in the United States and we are learning more and more about the virus every day,” said State Health Officer Dr. Lofy. 

Dr. Lofy said they are currently in the "containment phase," which means keeping the virus out of the state.

Currently, there are 355 people under public health supervision for COVID-19, according to the Department of Health. People who are under public health supervision are those who may be at risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms. 

There still has only been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Washington state, and that person has since recovered. 

The CDC continues to post up-to-date information about COVID-19 on their website.

Dr. Lofy also said health officials held a conference call with multiple school districts in the state on Tuesday to go over guidelines for how they should react in the event the virus does spread. 

RELATED: Bothell High School closed Thursday as a precaution for COVID-19 concerns

The guidelines are pretty basic, according to Dr. Lofy, and state health officials are currently not asking school districts to do anything different than what they already do every year to limit the spread of other respiratory diseases. 

Some of the guidelines include having students and staff stay home when they're sick, frequent and proper hand washing or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hand washing is not available, advising people to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands and following the school's routine cleaning and disinfection program. 

This comes as Bothell High School closed Thursday out of an abundance of caution due to COVID-19 concerns because a high school staff member returned to work on Monday after a week of international travel.

State officials across the country are ramping up efforts to prepare for a possible outbreak of COVID-19. Governors and legislators in several states have proposed adding millions of dollars to their state budgets to combat the disease. 

Congress is also considering billions of dollars in federal funding. 

Health officials have also been checking to see whether hospitals and emergency responders are well-stocked on equipment such as face masks.

RELATED: Seattle research institute preparing for clinical trials of coronavirus vaccine

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