Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Sunday, April 5, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Monday, April 6. And click here to find the latest extended coverage of the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2; the illness it causes, COVID-19; and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world.
Nursing homes continue to be problem spots for COVID-19 outbreaks, with new clusters in Texas and a number of other states. At least 150 residents and employees in two facilities in Texas have been sickened. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus in Washington state since the disease began spreading here.
Federal inspectors found that a Kirkland nursing home didn’t respond fast enough to the COVID-19 outbreak that claimed 37 lives caused a “systemic failure” to provide care for residents. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) threatened to terminate Life Care Center’s Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement if it did not resolve the deficiencies by Sept. 16. Life Care faces a fine of $611,325.
The state Department of Health confirmed an additional 393 cases and 28 deaths from COVID-19, totaling 7,984 cases and 338 fatalities in Washington on Saturday. The bulk of the cases remain in King County, where 3,158 people have fallen ill and 208 have died. On Sunday, Tacoma announced that a woman in her 90s had died of the virus, the first confirmed coronavirus death in the city.
Throughout today, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Saturday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Sunday.
UW models suggest our curve is flattening
Our curve appears to be flattening, according to the latest analysis from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE).
The IMHE models project a daily peak of 19 deaths from COVID-19 on April 6, which would then drop to 18 deaths per day during April 7 through April 9 and decline slowly from there.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
As explained in a March 26 Seattle Times story, other coronavirus models tend to rely on the number of confirmed infections, while the UW's draw from the number of deaths in the United States and other countries — which, IMHE Director Dr. Christopher Murray says, is a more reliable way to chart the course of the pandemic.
"Our model suggests that, with social distancing, the end of the first wave of the epidemic could occur by early June," IMHE's FAQ page says. "The question of whether there will be a second wave of the epidemic will depend on what we do to avoid reintroducing COVID-19 into the population. By the end of the first wave of the epidemic, an estimated 97% of the population of the United States will still be susceptible to the disease and thus measures to avoid a second wave of the pandemic prior to vaccine availability will be necessary."
Social distancing measures, it goes on to say, could be assisted — or even replaced — with mass testing, selective quarantine and other, more data-driven, public health measures.
Washington health officials, following CDC guidance, recommend wearing cloth face coverings
As of Sunday, the Washington State Department of Health — mirroring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — recommends that residents wear cloth face masks any time they are in public and can’t guarantee they’ll be able to stay six feet away from another person.
While coverings may reduce some additional transmission, the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is through thorough hand-washing, not touching your face and staying at home as much as possible, the health department wrote Sunday in a Medium post.
“Face coverings will not work without clean hand and good social distance,” the health department wrote.
Read the full story here.
7,984 have tested positive for COVID-19 in Washington state and 338 have died
Washington's number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to nearly 8,000 statewide, including 338 deaths, according to numbers released Sunday by the state Department of Health.
In total, 7,984 people have tested positive, an increase of 393 from Saturday. The death toll climbed by 28.
Of the 91,375 tests conducted as of Friday, 91% have been negative, according to the health department.
Pence: Washington state is 'leading by example' in slowing spread of COVID-19
Vice President Mike Pence said Washington and Oregon are two states "leading by example" in taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 and commended Gov. Jay Inslee for returning 400 of the ventilators the state recently received from the federal government so they can go to other states hit harder by the novel coronavirus.
"We are beginning to see glimmers of progress," Pence said during President Donald Trump's daily briefing.
Earlier Sunday, Inslee reiterated his call for Trump to order the nation’s manufacturers to start producing more masks, face shields and testing materials. He faulted the Trump administration for what he called a lack of leadership during the pandemic, leaving states to scramble and compete with each other for such protective equipment.
“I mean, the surgeon general alluded to Pearl Harbor,” Inslee said on NBC's “Meet The Press” on Sunday. “Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘I’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships.’”
More than 40 residents, staff members test positive for COVID-19 at CRISTA Rehab & Skilled Care
More than three-dozen CRISTA Rehab & Skilled Care residents and staff members were diagnosed with COVID-19 after the Shoreline facility chose to test everyone who lived and worked in a wing where several others had tested positive for the virus.
CRISTA decided to test everyone associated with the nursing home wing, even those who didn’t have any coronavirus symptoms, “in the interest of prevention and early detection,” wrote Glen Melin, vice president for senior living, in an update on the facility’s website. In total, 26 residents and 16 employees who worked in the unit have tested positive.
Previously, the facility was only testing residents who were exhibiting symptoms per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Residents in the unit who tested negative have moved to other spots in the facility, CRISTA said. Employees who tested positive “have been removed from the workplace.”
Boeing indefinitely extends production shutdown at Washington state plants
Boeing will continue indefinitely its shutdown of local factory operations rather than reopening Wednesday as planned, it told Washington state employees Sunday via email.
“Boeing is extending the temporary suspension of operations at all Puget Sound area and Moses Lake sites until further notice,” the company told employees.
Boeing has about roughly 70,000 employees in the state. The decision affects about 30,000 of them, mostly production workers.
Read the full story here.
Tiger at New York zoo tests positive for coronavirus
A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the U.S. or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said Sunday.
The 4-year-old Malayan tiger, and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill, are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said. The first animal started showing symptoms March 27, and all are expected to recover, said the zoo, which has been closed to the public since March 16.
“We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution” and aim to “contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Paul Calle, the zoo’s chief veterinarian.
The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The USDA says there are no known cases of the virus in U.S. pets or livestock.
Read the whole story here.
Amazon confirms an employee at an Everett facility tested positive for COVID-19
Amazon confirmed a worker at its Everett distribution center has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The case marks the second infection the company has confirmed in one of its Seattle-area warehouses, and one of dozens across its U.S. fulfillment and distribution network.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed Sunday an employee at the company’s “DSE4” distribution center on Associated Boulevard in Everett tested positive. Delivery drivers pick up packages at the 92,000-square-foot facility, taking them on the final leg of their journey to customers in North Seattle and Everett.
Read the whole story here.
Washington sending more than 400 ventilators for non-coronavirus patients to New York, harder hit states
Washington will return more than 400 of the 500 ventilators it recently received from the federal government, so they can go to New York and other states harder hit by the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday.
After requesting 1,000 ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile, Washington last month received 500.
The national stockpile ventilators are not suitable for treating COVID-19 patients, state officials said. That's because those individuals generally need a higher amount of pressure support into their lungs than the ventilators from the national stockpile can provide, Jessica Baggett, a spokeswoman for the state's Joint Information Center said.
The stockpile ventilators, though, can be used for other patients, freeing up more COVID-19 compatible ventilators to help with the crisis.
All 500 ventilators from the national stockpile had been distributed to hospitals across the state, a spokeswoman said last week. Washington has also purchased more than 750 ventilators, which are expected to arrive over the next several weeks, Inslee's office said.
"I’ve said many times over the last few weeks, we are in this together," Inslee said in a prepared statement Sunday. "This should guide all of our actions at an individual and state level in the coming days and weeks."
Dr. Raquel Bono, the retired Navy vice admiral leading the state's coronavirus response, said officials made the decision after conferring with the Washington State Hospital Association. She said the state's aggressive social distancing actions have slowed the virus's growth here.
"We have seen fewer infections in our communities than anticipated," Bono said. "Our current status allows us to help others who have a more immediate need."
Tacoma suffers first coronavirus death
A Tacoma woman in her 90s has died of COVID-19, becoming the first known resident of the city to die from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the city announced.
"As a community, we have collectively suffered a heartbreaking loss, and I hope you will keep this woman and her family in your thoughts and prayers," Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said in a prepared statement. "Together, we mourn with those who mourn across the world because of this deadly virus."
Woodards urged residents to use "the personal disciplined needed" to heed Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order and limit the spread of the virus.
"Please do not underestimate the seriousness of COVID-19," Woodards said. "Make your choices today, and each day going forward, with deep personal accountability and compassion for all the neighbors whose lives you may unintentionally impact."
Coronavirus is almost certainly killing more Americans than the official numbers say
The fast-spreading novel coronavirus is almost certainly killing Americans who are not included in the nation’s growing death toll, according to public-health experts and government officials involved in the tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts only deaths in which the presence of the coronavirus is confirmed in a laboratory test. “We know that it is an underestimation,” agency spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said.
A widespread lack of access to testing in the early weeks of the U.S. outbreak means people with respiratory illnesses died without being counted, epidemiologists say. Even now, some people who die at home or in overburdened nursing homes are not being tested, according to funeral directors, medical examiners and nursing home representatives.
No COVID-19 testing at home yet, but quicker options coming
Home testing for the new coronavirus may sound like a good idea, but U.S. regulators say it’s still too risky.
They’ve stopped companies that quickly launched home-testing kits until they can show their products can accurately detect the virus.
For now, the only way Americans can get tested is at hospitals, clinics or drive-thru sites, with a doctor’s order.
But the Food and Drug Administration is aggressively pushing new options onto the market and some new tests can cut the time needed to get a result down to 15 minutes.
Inslee: It's 'ludicrous' we don't have national effort against coronavirus
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in a national TV appearance Sunday morning, lambasted the Trump administration's leadership during the coronavirus crisis.
"This is ludicrous that we do not have a national effort in this," Inslee said on Meet The Press. "I mean, the surgeon general alluded to Pearl Harbor. Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, 'I’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships.'"
Inslee has been calling on Trump to order manufacturers to switch their production to things needed to battle the pandemic, such as masks, face shields, gowns and testing equipment. But Trump has refused. Inslee has resorted to pleading with Washington manufacturers to produce the equipment.
"We don't have enough test kits by far in my state or anywhere in the United States," Inslee said Sunday. "So we governors, Republicans and Democrats, have been urging the president to do what he should, which is if he wants to be a wartime president, be a wartime president. Show some leadership. Mobilize the industrial base of the United States. That’s what we need."
Inslee said that Washington state has had some success in slowing the growth of the virus, but is "a long ways from being out of the woods."
"While the president was saying that this was not a problem and that it was a hoax, we were acting to save the lives of our citizens," Inslee said.
In their own words: Washington students share how the coronavirus pandemic has changed their lives
Losing motivation to finish school work. Learning to love new hobbies. Living with grandma instead of flying home. These are all ways that COVID-19, school closures and social distancing have altered students’ day-to-day lives.
In a collection of vignettes, we hear from nine young people in Washington state about how the pandemic has affected them. It’s given some the freedom to envision a different future and reimagine themselves. For others, it’s derailed their hopes and ambitions, at least for now. Read their stories and see their faces here.
Parents, here are some resources for teaching reading during the coronavirus school closure
If you’re trying to keep up with reading lessons at home during the coronavirus school shutdown, now is a good time to explore reading science materials with early readers. ReadWA leaders suggest these sources, which are geared toward both parents and educators. Some are free, but others cost money. Read the full story here.
On a semi-related note, if your child is more inclined to learn from Harry, Ron and Hermione, J.K. Rowling recently launched a "Virtual Wizarding World" to help keep children's minds active at home. KOMO has more on that.
How the coronavirus overwhelmed Washington state’s early efforts to contain it
Back in January, when organizers of the Sammamish Lunar New Year Celebration canceled the event over coronavirus fears, public health officials said it was unnecessary.
For more than a month, officials in Washington state assured the public that the risk was low. They were unaware that they had already lost the first battle. The virus was loose.
Even as Washington state appears to have made progress in slowing the spread of the virus, a Seattle Times reconstruction of the early response points to an underfunded public-health system that relied on a series of fragile assumptions.
Nursing homes would do their own surveillance for outbreaks, and would promptly alert authorities. Federal agencies would be ready with diagnostic test kits. Health care workers and first responders would get the protective gear they needed. And when the state’s own warehouses were empty, the federal government would step in to fill the void.
In each case, the expectations were misplaced.
Ailing Everett couple gambles on drug trial for COVID-19 cure
For 10 days last month, Josie and George Taylor lay in side-by-side isolation units in a Seattle-area hospital, tethered to oxygen and struggling to breathe as the coronavirus ravaged their lungs.
After nearly 52 years of marriage, that was the hardest thing: being apart in this moment, too weak to care for each other, each alone with their anxiety and anguish.
When a doctor approached the Taylors at their bedsides to ask if they would consent to join a study of an experimental drug to help experts learn to treat the devastating infection, each agreed.
In late March, the Taylors were discharged from EvergreenHealth Medical Center, heading home a few days apart.
The couple are among the first patients in the U.S. to recover from COVID-19 after agreeing to participate in a National Institutes of Health randomized controlled trial of remdesivir, an antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences that once aimed to treat another infectious disease, Ebola.
Despite stay-at-home orders, 6 out of 10 are on roads, and Seattle traffic hovers around 50% of typical levels
Traffic around the country has plummeted since governments began enacting stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus outbreak, but data from vehicle navigation systems and other monitors shows many of us are still out of our homes and on the road.
Nationwide, traffic analytics firms say, daily traffic remains at about 60% of normal levels, even as the vast majority of Americans tell pollsters they’re staying home more.
Washington state officials announced a stay-at-home order March 23. More than a week later, distances traveled on Seattle roads remained at about 55% of normal, according to INRIX, a Kirkland, Washington-based traffic analytics firm that crunches data from vehicle navigation systems, cell phones and other devices.
Trevor Reed, an INRIX transportation analyst, said Seattle traffic has hovered near 50% of typical levels for about two weeks.
“I think we’re hitting a floor,” he said.
Seattle’s Chinese American community is here to help fight the coronavirus: ‘We are all together’
The message from the Seattle-area Chinese American community is loud and clear — and amplified by the rush of donations to help fight the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
“We are all together, nobody is fighting alone,” said Laura Counsell, who has helped coordinate the donation of tens of thousands of masks and other personal protective equipment with her brother, Fengxi Luan, founder of the Seattle Chinese New Immigrants Center.
The Center has raised more than $70,000 and acquired 65,000 disposable face masks; 1,327 N95 masks; 4,159 KN95 masks; 1,002 face shields; and 102 protective gowns. Most of that has already been dispersed, going to 28 hospitals and clinics, five senior/nursing homes and seven police and fire stations.
How to get married during a coronavirus pandemic
Couples who had unwittingly scheduled a wedding in the time of coronavirus have postponed, rescheduled or held tiny, largely virtual celebrations. And a wedding planned for late spring 2020? That's, optimistically, a question mark.
Despite that, it’s still technically possible to get married this month. In King County, couples can apply for a marriage license from the King County Records Office (though it has to be done by mail; the office is closed for walk-in service). Though local courthouses are closed to all but emergency business, and most judges would likely decline to perform weddings during this time, some officiants may be willing to conduct a ceremony remotely, using Zoom or other teleconferencing software. (Of course, guests will have to attend remotely as well.)
But realistically, what this means for most couples is a drastic change of plans.
Catch up on the last 24 hours
President Donald Trump’s selection for the new special inspector general for pandemic recovery received praise from some oversight experts, but Democrats slammed the decision to elevate a member of his own staff.
Seattle traffic is at about 55 percent of its normal levels, similar to other states where stay-at-home orders are in place.
The novel coronavirus may be able to spread person-to-person from talking or even breathing, according to new guidance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Neighbors are sharing notes of encouragement through signs in their homes' windows and other small, but touching gestures.
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