Jenny Schell posted a great piece at Coronavirus Blog:

Along with every crisis there are those who look to exploit the general panic that comes with it. From fake cures and tests to hoarding and price-gouging, law enforcement have seen any number of reprehensible actions taken by individuals across the country. See Department of Justice memo available on Politico, which you can find here:https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000171-128a-d911-aff1-becb9b530000. One particularly abhorrent action is intentionally exposing others to COVID-19. According to US Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, “corona virus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’ under 18 U.S.C. § 178(1),” and acts of intentional exposure “potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes.

There have already been reported instances of intentional contamination, or at least apparent intentional contamination. In Pennsylvania, a woman walked into a local grocery store and intentionally coughed on the produce, meat, and bakery sections of the store. The woman was not known to be infected, but law enforcement plans to test her just to be sure. Meanwhile, the grocery store is taking no chances—it discarded $35,000 worth of food items due to this one person’s actions. You can read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/03/26/coughing-grocery-store-coronavirus/. Kudos to that Pennsylvania grocery store for taking its customers’ safety so seriously.

There have been at least two other intentional exposure or apparent intentional exposure on the East coast: A New Jersey man intentionally coughed on a Wegman’s supermarket employee and then claimed he was infected with COVID-19. In another area of Pennsylvania, a man mocked a senior, who was recovering from pneumonia, for wearing gloves and a mask while shopping for groceries at a Karns Foods store. He then deliberately coughed near the man and told him that he had coronavirus.

While actions such as these are the exception and not the rule, for now, grocery stores should be particularly vigilant in monitoring customers’ conduct while in their stores. For consumers, disinfecting your groceries as soon as you bring them home and then washing your hands with warm soapy water can help prevent spread of the virus.

Dear Marler Clark Clients:

We first want to wish you, your family and friends health during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also want to encourage all to continue social distancing to the greatest extent possible with proper hand-washing and cleaning.  If you are ill, please self-isolate.  The goal here is to avoid overwhelming our health care system.

We also encourage you to help those less fortunate in your communities.  Marler Clark has so far donated $50,000 to area food banks and we plan to do more to help the vulnerable.

At Marler Clark, we began preparing for COVID-19 over a month ago.  All staff and lawyers were provided with home offices.  Everyone is working remotely, although we have one person on a rotating basis available in office daily for mail and other deliveries.

Since our offices are essentially paperless, we all have access to all medical records, bills, health department records and other legal documents to move your case forward.  All staff and lawyers also have access to email and voicemail, so can respond promptly to all clients’ questions or concerns. We are all connected with each other via video conferencing so we can communicate visually, and everyone can feel a bit less isolated.

The legal system has slowed.  Courts have closed for the most part.  Lawyers and insurers representing defendants are also working remotely and are therefore going to be responding slower than usual.  We are, however, committed to pushing all cases forward.

In the coming days we will be updating you personally in separate correspondence about the status of your particular case and perhaps asking for some additional information and documentation.

If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to contact me directly via email: bmarler@marlerclark.com, direct line: 1-206-346-1890 or cell: 1-206-794-5043.

Bill Marler

As of March 17, 2020, 39 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 have been reported from six states – Florida (1), Illinois (6), Iowa (3), Missouri (1), Texas (1) and Utah (27).

Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 6, 2020, to March 2, 2020. Ill people range in age from 1 to 79 years, with a median age of 28. Fifty-three percent of ill people are female. Two people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence indicate that clover sprouts are the source of this outbreak.

State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures they had in the week before their illness started. Sixteen (59%) of 27 people interviewed reported eating sprouts. This percentage is significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 8% reported eating sprouts in the week before they were interviewed. Fourteen (58%) of 24 people interviewed reported eating sprouts at a Jimmy John’s restaurant.

Jimmy John’s LLC reported that all of their restaurants stopped serving clover sprouts on February 24, 2020. Clover sprouts should no longer be available at Jimmy John’s restaurants.

FDA identified the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 in samples of Chicago Indoor Garden products that contain sprouts. On March 16, 2020, Chicago Indoor Garden recalled all products containing red clover sprouts.

FDA’s traceback investigation has shown that a common seed lot was used to grow the sprouts recalled by Chicago Indoor Garden and the sprouts that were served at Jimmy John’s locations where people sickened in the current outbreak reported eating. The same seed lot was also used to grow sprouts linked to an outbreak of the same strain of E. coli O103 infections in 2019.

And our friends are all aboard
Many more of them live next door

Today I did a mediation via Zoom.  I must admit, as a person that likes personal contact, talking by video with a former judge, insurance carriers, defense lawyers and clients, about a child that nearly died from complications of an E. coli infection, was more than a bit odd.  But, we worked our way through it and I am hopeful over the next weeks that we will get it done. I am not sure this will be our “new normal,” but it will be what is normal for the next several weeks at leas

Over the next weeks, there will be more Court hearing, depositions and mediations done by video if done at all.  We are all going to have to adjust.

We will figure out a way to adjust to make sure that our clients are cared for.

Health departments and doctor offices are going to be to focused on COVID-19 – as they should.  This is going to impact our ability to gather the vital information that we need to prove out clients’ cases.  But, we will figure out a “work-around.”

I have ordered all Marler Clark staff and lawyers to stay home.  Staff has opted to have one person join me in the office per day to answer phones and process mail.  We will order take out from one of our local restaurants to help them as best we can.

Yesterday I posted what Marler Clark is doing to help Food Banks.  We are considering what we also can do to help the homeless – suggestions are welcome.

We all need to think about how lucky some of us are and what we can do to help the more vulnerable – because, “we all live on a yellow submarine.”

Update:  We added a donation to Bainbridge Island Helpline House Food Bank last night, and over the coming days, weeks and months, we will do more to help our communities.  

Also, all Marler Clark staff are working from home except we will try having one person come in daily to deal with mail.  We have everyone set up at their homes with all equipment needed to continue to care for our clients.

Courts are closing and meetings and hearings are being cancelled.  Several food safety speeches have been cancelled or are being postponed. We are doing mediations this week scheduled in Denver and Rochester by video conferencing. Many of the Marler Clark staff will be working from home or on flexible schedules.

I think we all are feeling a bit anxious and helpless, but many of the most vulnerable are feeling fear and hunger as our economy contacts.  Over the coming weeks we will do more and I urge all to do the same.

We are donating $5,000 each to the following local area Food Banks:

• The University District Food Bank: https://www.udistrictfoodbank.org/donate/food/

• FamilyWorks Family Resource Center and Food Banks: https://familyworksseattle.org/coronavirus-response/

• North Helpline Emergency Services and Food Bank: https://www.northhelpline.org/

• Mary’s Place Seattle: https://www.marysplaceseattle.org/

• North Helpline https://www.northhelpline.org/

• Ballard Food Bank https://www.ballardfoodbank.org/

• Stanwood Camano Food Bank Services https://www.stanwoodcamanofoodbank.org/ 

• Bainbridge Island Helpline House https://www.helplinehouse.org/food-bank/

Stay safe.

Bill

Jimmy John’s LLC reported that all of its restaurants stopped serving clover sprouts on February 24, 2020. Investigators worked to trace the source of the clover sprouts served at the Jimmy John’s restaurants where sick people ate, and to determine whether other restaurants or retailers received the same clover sprouts.

FDA is now recommending that consumers not eat the following sprout-containing items from Chicago Indoor Garden, Chicago, IL, with Best By dates between December 1, 2019 and March 12, 2020: red clover (with and without non-GMO labels), sprout salad, mixed greens, and spring salad. Labels of the products are below.

The FDA’s analysis of a sample of this firm’s product identified the presence of E. coli O103. Whole Genome Sequencing of this bacteria showed that it matches the outbreak strain.

Generally, it is recommended that children, the elderly, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind.

FDA, along with CDC and state and local partners, are investigating an outbreak of 14 illnesses caused by E. coli O103 in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Utah likely linked to clover sprouts served at Jimmy John’s.

As the outbreak investigation progresses, the FDA will continue in its traceback investigation to determine where implicated sprouts have been distributed and will continue monitoring for additional illnesses associated with this outbreak.

Outbreak appears to have begun in 2016.

As of March 9, 2020, 36 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 17 states. Arizona 2, California 9, Florida 2, Hawaii 3, Indiana 1, Kentucky 1, Maryland 2, Massachusetts 2, Michigan 1, Missouri 1, Nevada 1, New Jersey 1, New York 4, North Carolina 1, Rhode Island 1, Tennessee 1, Virginia 3.

Four deaths have been reported from California, Hawaii, and New Jersey. Six cases are pregnancy-associated and two resulted in fetal loss.

Listeria samples from ill people were collected from November 23, 2016 to December 13, 2019. Ill people range in age from less than 1 to 97 years, with a median age of 67. Fifty-eight percent of ill people are female. Of 32 ill people with information available, 30 hospitalizations have been reported.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that enoki mushrooms labeled as “Product of Korea” are the likely source of this outbreak.

State and local public health officials interviewed ill people about the foods they ate in the month before they became ill. Twelve out of 22 (55%) reported eating mushrooms, including enoki, portobello, white, button, cremini, wood ear, maitake, and oyster.

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development collected mushrooms for testing from a grocery store where an ill person purchased enoki mushrooms. Two samples of enoki mushrooms yielded the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes. These mushrooms are labeled as “Product of Korea” and were distributed by Sun Hong Foods, Inc. Additional product testing is ongoing in California.

On March 9, 2020, Sun Hong Foods, Inc. recalled enoki mushrooms (UPC 7 426852 625810) labeled as “Product of Korea”. Consumers, food service operators, and retailers should not eat, serve, or sell recalled enoki mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms distributed by Sun Hong Foods, Inc. do not account for all illnesses in this outbreak. FDA is working to identify the source of the enoki mushrooms distributed by Sun Hong Foods, Inc. and determine if other distributors received the same enoki mushrooms.

CDC is concerned that enoki mushrooms labeled as “Product of Korea” may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and are advising people at higher risk – pregnant women, adults ages 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems – to avoid eating any enoki mushrooms labeled as “Product of Korea”, until investigators determine the source of contamination and if additional products are linked to illness.

According to the Seattle & King County Department of Health, with a number of viral respiratory germs circulating right now, Public Health – Seattle & King County urges King County residents to take precautions if they are ill, but not to assume it is COVID-19.

Public Health is reporting 33 new COVID-19 cases today. The official case count total in King County is now 116. In addition, three new deaths are reported, bringing the total deaths to 20.

Statewide total illnesses are 162 with 22 deaths.

I have told my staff and lawyers to stay home if ill.  I added $2,500 into each persons account to buy essentials in case people need to stay at home for an extended period of time.  I was able to secure masks and gloves for everyone at Marler Clark if needed. Everyone has also been set up in their homes with the technology that they have at their desks in the office.  Finally, I have offered for those who take public transport to pay for parking if they need to come to the office.

Get prepared – and, wash your hands.

Here is the most current thinking from the Pacific Northwest:

COVID-19 is similar to the seasonal flu (influenza) in that:

  • Both cause fever, cough, body aches, fatigue; sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Both can be mild or severe — even fatal in rare cases
  • Both can result in pneumonia
  • Both can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air from an infected person (coughing, sneezing, or even just talking)
  • Flu can be spread by an infected person for several days BEFORE their symptoms appear, and COVID-19 is believed to be spread in the same manner, but we don’t yet know for sure .

But COVID-19 is different in that:

  • COVID-19 might additionally be spread through the airborne route (i.e., through ventilation ducts and if people are breathing the same air in close proximity to an infected person**). Research is still underway.
  • COVID-19 is caused by the novel 2019 coronavirus, now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, whereas the seasonal flu is a combination/mutation of the different influenza viruses (it different each year)
  • The COVID-19 virus is very similar to SARS-CoV that spread in 2003, which is where most of our current understanding for COVID-19 is coming from.

Treatment is similar:

  • Neither virus is treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections
  • Both may be treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever
  • Severe cases may require hospitalization and support such as mechanical ventilation
  • Flu: Antiviral medications can address symptoms and sometimes shorten the duration of the illness
    COVID-19: Antiviral medications are currently being tested to see if they can address symptoms
  • Flu: A vaccine is available and effective to prevent some of the most dangerous types, or to reduce the severity, of the flu
    COVID-19: NO vaccine is available at this time, though it is in progress

Prevention:

  • Both flu and COVID-19 may be prevented by frequent, thorough hand washing (20 seconds), coughing and sneezing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when sick, and limiting contact with people who are infected (i.e., do your shopping outside of peak hours at the grocery store
  • Other tips: avoid crowded areas (public transport, malls, public events, grocery stores at peak hours, crowded gyms, other frequented establishments, etc.), frequently sanitize surfaces that come into contact with people’s hands often (door handles, tables, phones, keyboards, faucet knobs, etc.), wash hands when entering and leaving home/work/restaurants/bathrooms to limit spread, avoid touching your face (mouth, nose, and eyes) in general
  • If sick, stay home, limit contact with others (including pets), avoid coughing or sneezing onto people and things, clean surfaces often, and call a medical care provider about care and testing (do NOT go to the doctor or ER with mild symptoms unless you are in a high risk group)
  • Note: Older people and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk based on current knowledge, so protect them by staying away from them. Children are currently noted to have milder symptoms.

**NOTE ABOUT ‘CASUAL TRANSMISSION’ — I.E., COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION WITH NO KNOWN EXPOSURE TO AN INFECTED PERSON: 

  • As mentioned above, COVID-19 might be spread through the airborne route, meaning that tiny droplets remaining in the air could cause disease in others even after the ill person is no longer near.
  • There have been documented cases of asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 up to 14 days before the onset of symptoms.
  • The use of masks and gloves is controversial.  The use of such personal protective equipment is helpful in specific situations, such as when caring for a person known to be infected. If you are interested having masks and/or gloves for personal use, please talk to Chris about the proper use and precautions to take when doing so.
  • Make sure you are not the one contaminating the environment with commonsense measures such as: using disinfecting wipes on shopping cart handles, touching railings and countertops others may  touch after you, opening doors with unclean, bare hands.

Here is what I sent my staff late last week:

All, see symptoms below – if you are sick, please stay home.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html

I have asked Chris and Michelle to give me some ideas on recommendations on how to responsibly deal with this from a medical issue.  We will give you all our thoughts early next week.

All, please email to Leslie all your contact information and a close contact too.  Leslie, please share that with all.

All, please let me know if anyone needs any technology to work from home if necessary if this becomes a bigger problem.  Think about what you might need to work from home for an extended period of time.  What do you need to effectively do your job from home – computer, paper, pens, etc.?  COVID-19 is not an excuse to work from home, but I want to be prepared and sensible.

Also, let’s look at travel schedules over the coming months to see if there are alternatives.  Please shoot me your travel over the next 30-60 days.

All, take a hard look at your cases – what deadlines might be impacted by Court and other office closures, etc.  I want us to be proactive and think ahead.  I do not want deadlines missed.

Finally, not to be a “prepper,” but Kelli, please drop $2,500 (pre-tax) into everyone’s account on Monday to be used as they see fit to prepare for some disruptions.  I have not thought of exactly what those needs might be, but there are probably a few websites that have suggestions.

Here are some ideas for being prepared for home:

All medications (over the counter *ibuprofen* , allergy, cold etc and prescriptions )

All household products you will need for two weeks (toilet paper, soap, paper towels, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, etc)

Supply of water for two weeks

Food for two weeks

         ⁃        Chicken broth

         ⁃        Beans

         ⁃        Onions

         ⁃        Garlic

         ⁃        Potatoes – sweet, Yukon, etc

         ⁃        Pasta

         ⁃        Canned tomatoes

         ⁃        Steel cut oats

         ⁃        Peanut butter

         ⁃        Bread *freezer*

         ⁃        Eggs

         ⁃        Frozen meat

         ⁃        Canned fish

         ⁃        Jerky or dried meat

         ⁃        Dried nuts and fruit

         ⁃        Popcorn

         ⁃        Chocolate

         ⁃        Wine/booze of choice