Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Tuesday, April 7, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Wednesday, April 8. 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.
Health experts are cautiously reporting that things could start to look up here. Researchers at the University of Washington are painting a much more optimistic picture for Washington state, lowering death projections and suggesting hospitalizations may have already peaked. But they caution that could change dramatically if we don’t maintain strict distancing measures, including closing nonessential businesses, halting in-person gatherings and keeping school campuses closed through the end of the academic year.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Washington continues to grow, though at a slower rate. Washington state now has 8,682 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 394 fatalities, State Health Officer Kathy Lofy said Tuesday afternoon.
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 Monday 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 Tuesday.
2 more Washington inmates inside Monroe prison test positive for coronavirus
Two more inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC) have tested positive for COVID-19, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Tuesday.
The two individuals -- a 68-year-old man and a 28-year-old man -- were previously housed in the minimum-security unit, which is where the state's first inmate with COVID-19 was held.
The DOC announced the first case Monday, noting that after showing symptoms of infection, the inmate was taken to a local hospital for examination and testing, which came back positive. He was returned to MCC and placed in a single-person cell, where he'll receive appropriate treatment, the agency said.
After prison medical officials started mapping out staff and inmates who may have come into contact with the first infected inmate, the two other men were transferred to an isolation unit Sunday. Their tests came back positive Tuesday.
The 111 incarcerated men still in the minimum-security unit are in protective isolation or quarantine as a preventative measure, a DOC statement said.
The facility also made housing moves within the unit to "further protect the most vulnerable individuals," the statement said, and all individuals in that unit have received surgical masks.
MCC stopped all transfers in and out of the facility as of Tuesday morning.
Seattle-area small businesses applying for federal coronavirus loans see potential and problems
Like many Seattle-area small businesses trying to ride out the coronavirus pandemic, Justin Cline is having serious doubts about the federal government’s $349 billion small-business bailout.
Cline, co-founder of Full Tilt Ice Cream, is eager to tap a loan program through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to rehire the roughly two dozen laid-off staff at his five retail outlets as soon as public health officials give the all-clear.
But though he has applied for SBA loans, he doesn’t know whether his loan application has been approved or when any funds might show up. He’s been told the same by other local business owners.
Cline’s experiences would probably be familiar to many of the roughly 160,000 small-business owners in the Seattle metro area and nearly 600,000 statewide, who may have been hoping for a lifeline from the SBA.
Under Congress’s newly enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the SBA has been granted extraordinary resources to help save an economy deeply injured by the coronavirus. But so far, that rescue has been marred by host of internal problems and a rocky roll-out.
Singer-songwriter John Prine dies from coronavirus complications
John Prine, the ingenious singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and scores of other indelible tunes, died Tuesday at the age of 73.
His family announced his death from complications from the coronavirus.
Winner of a lifetime achievement Grammy earlier this year, Prine was a virtuoso of the soul, if not the body. He sang his conversational lyrics in a voice roughened by a hard-luck life, particularly after throat cancer left him with a disfigured jaw.
In 2017, Rolling Stone proclaimed him “The Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, vows to donate $1 billion to fight the novel coronavirus
Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter and Square, said Tuesday that he planned to donate $1 billion, or just under a third of his total wealth, to relief programs related to the novel coronavirus, in one of the more significant efforts by a tech billionaire to fight the pandemic.
Dorsey said he would put 28% of his wealth, in the form of shares in his mobile payments company Square, into a limited liability company that he had created, called Start Small. Start Small would make grants to beneficiaries, he said, with the expenditures to be recorded in a publicly accessible Google document.
“Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime,” Dorsey said in a series of tweets announcing his plans. “I hope this inspires others to do something similar.”
Washington has already spent 60% of $200 million budgeted to fight coronavirus; 84 million PPEs on order
OLYMPIA – Washington lawmakers may have to be called back for a special legislative session in the coming months to help with the coronavirus response and economic recovery, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.
Washington has already distributed 60% of the coronavirus response money— $120 million out of $200 million — that state lawmakers had budgeted last month.
Legislators authorized the use of that money from the state’s rainy day fundson March 12, the final day of this year’s legislative session.
Between coronavirus response and additional economic aid likely needed to kick-start the economy in the coming months, Inslee said, he would probably have to call a special legislative session at some point.
Seattle Symphony furloughs three-quarters of its staff, including musicians
Like many other arts organization in the country, Seattle Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has instituted temporary layoffs, leaving a 58-person staff from its usual roster of 250 employees.
Its 88 musicians, whose salaries make up roughly 60 percent of SSO’s payroll budget, have agreed to go on temporary furlough between April 13 and June 1.
Seattle mayor orders pause on public works projects to update health and safety plans
Seattle will suspend all work on public infrastructure projects Thursday and Friday so the city and its contractors can “implement rigorous social distancing requirements and update health and safety plans” related to the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday.
Although public works projects, such as West Seattle Bridge repairs, are allowed to continue under the statewide stay-at-home order that Gov. Jay Inslee recently extended through May 4, “it is also imperative” that workers are being protected at job sites, Durkan said in a news release.
“Our foremost priority is the safety of our essential workers,” she said. The mayor’s office didn’t say whether any particular incidents or complaints had led to the suspension.
Along with the West Seattle Bridge repairs, the Seattle Department of Transportation has 20 to 30 active capital projects, said Lorelei Williams, deputy director for capital projects delivery.
The suspension also will halt work at affordable-housing construction sites, among other projects.
Construction work on KeyArena at Seattle Center is exempt from the order because the contractor Mortenson voluntarily shut down March 26 and March 27 "for a full clean of the site, and to implement a detailed project response plan," said Michael Harder, vice president and general manager at Mortenson.
It's unclear whether the convention center project will shut down, development manager Matt Griffin said in an email.
The city’s contractors were notified Tuesday about the suspension, Durkan’s release said. Seattle is asking contractors to use the time to make sure their city-approved health and safety plans “reflect the most recent guidance regarding jobsite health screenings, personal protection equipment, social distancing, worker hygiene, worksite sanitation measures, decontamination measures following an incident and employee training,” according to the release.
Seattle authorities will review the updated plans and will provide additional training to construction-management teams, the release said. Work will resume Saturday, though projects with inadequate health and safety plans may be suspended for longer, according to the release.
The Washington State Department of Transportation announced March 26 it would suspend most construction work after Inslee’s stay-at-home order. Sound Transit said Monday it would halt “almost all” construction work.
Community Transit will cut more bus service
Community Transit will further reduce service in response to the local coronavirus outbreak.
The Snohomish County agency will cut service by about 30%, up from 25% as previously announced. Reductions will begin Monday.
Slashes to service come as ridership has fallen 71% compared to February and follow increased reductions to service from King County Metro and Sound Transit.
Cuts are aimed at bus routes that “are seeing little or no ridership at certain times of the day,” said CEO Emmett Heath in a news release. There will be longer gaps between trips.
All trips on Route 247 will be canceled. Routes 107, 227, 412, 435, and 821 will be reduced to one trip in each direction.
Most commuter routes to downtown Seattle will not change. Service to the University of Washington will see large cuts because of low ridership.
Buses will continue to operate a regular Saturday and Sunday schedule.
More details will be shared later this week at communitytransit.org/reducedservice.
Trump’s aggressive advocacy of malaria drug for treating coronavirus divides medical community
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made a rare appearance in the Situation Room on Sunday as his pandemic task force was meeting, determined to talk about the anti-malaria medicine he has aggressively promoted lately as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.
Once again, according to a person briefed on the session, the experts warned against overselling a drug yet to be proved a safe remedy, particularly for heart patients.
Day after day, the salesman turned president has encouraged coronavirus patients to try hydroxychloroquine with all of the enthusiasm of a real estate developer.
Bolstered by his trade adviser, a television doctor, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor, Trump has seized on the drug as a miracle cure for the virus that has killed thousands and paralyzed American life. Along the way, he has prompted an international debate about a drug many doctors in New York and elsewhere have been trying in desperation even without conclusive scientific studies.
Trump might ultimately be right, and physicians report anecdotal evidence that has provided hope. But it remains far from certain, and the president’s assertiveness in pressing the case over the advice of advisers like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, has driven a wedge inside his coronavirus task force and has raised questions about his motives.
If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.
State confirms 8,682 confirmed people have tested positive for COVID-19, 394 have died
OLYMPIA – Washington state now has 8,682 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 394 fatalities, State Health Officer Kathy Lofy said Tuesday afternoon.
Lofy made the remarks in a news briefing Tuesday by the state Department of Health.
Olympia transit agency will halt regular service, require reservations
Olympia-based Intercity Transit will stop running its regular bus service and require riders to instead make reservations in an attempt to reduce travel during the coronavirus outbreak.
Intercity Transit, which serves Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Yelm, will ask riders to limit their trips to essential needs like going to the grocery store, attending medical appointments and traveling to essential jobs, the agency announced Tuesday. Starting Monday, reservations will be required at least two days before a trip.
The switch will "allow us to better adhere to social distancing recommendations, continue providing critical transportation to our community and best protect our customers and our employees,” the agency said.
Regular service will be suspended until further notice and reassessed closer to the end date of Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home order, which is set to last through May 4, Intercity Transit said.
For people experiencing homelessness, service providers can coordinate with Intercity Transit on their clients' behalf, an agency spokesperson told The Olympian.
Riders can reserve a trip starting Wednesday by calling 360-786-1881 or emailing DALDispatch@intercitytransit.com.
Former UW basketball star Isaiah Thomas donating meals to UW Medical Center
Isaiah Thomas is doing his part to fight a pandemic — with pizza.
The Tacoma native and former University of Washington basketball star will donate more than 1,000 meals to employees at UW Medical Center’s Harborview, Montlake and Northwest locations “that have been greatly impacted by COVID-19,” according to a news release. There were to be 500 to 600 meals from Pagliacci Pizza delivered Tuesday as well as April 14.
In a video to UW Medical Center employees that surfaced on social media, the two-time NBA All-Star guard said, “Hey everyone, this is Isaiah Thomas. I want to thank all the doctors, nurses and cleaning staff at UW Medicine for all that you do to try to help (fight) this virus. My family and I appreciate you and want you to know that we couldn’t get through this without you. So thank you.”
As Washingtonians drive less, insurance commissioner recommends that insurers refund auto insurance premiums
As Washingtonians decrease their time behind the wheel under Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, state insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler on Tuesday encouraged Washington insurers to refund auto insurance premiums.
In a news release, Kreidler cited Inslee’s stay-at-home order and recent remarks that car traffic on state roads has decreased over the previous month by 50% or more. Such a reduction results in a lowered risk of traffic accidents.
“Some insurers have already stepped up to refund premiums to their policyholders,” Kreidler said in the news release. These include Liberty Mutual, American Family Insurance and Allstate. “I encourage other insurers to consider doing the same during the pandemic,” he said. “It’s another way the industry can help consumers during a time of great need financially and otherwise.”
Seattle University makes SAT, ACT optional
Seattle University will make standardized tests like the ACT and SAT optional for students applying for freshman admission for fall 2021.
The university says it started studying the issue last December, before the coronavirus pandemic forced the SAT and ACT to cancel some testing sessions this spring. However, administrators also said that going test-optional “will further the university’s ability to work with students on the long-term impacts of the pandemic and their educational aspirations.”
A growing number of universities have made SAT and ACT tests optional over the years, out of concerns that the tests reinforce inequality in education. “The use of standardized testing as an admissions requirement is based on long-held, but biased, assumptions about their predictive power,” said Provost Shane P. Martin in a statement about the decision to make tests optional.
The College Board, which administers the SAT, has a test scheduled for the first week in June, but says that it is “working with test centers and we’ll decide whether we can safely hold that administration as soon as it’s feasible, given the evolving public health situation."
According to Seattle U., more than 1,060 higher education institutions have adopted test-optional policies.
Kirkland Small Business Relief Fund seeks applicants from affected businesses; deadline is today
Tuesday, April 7, is the last day for Kirkland-based small businesses and not-for-profit organizations to apply for grants between $1,000 to $5,000 to offset the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kirkland Small Business Relief Fund is accepting applications from commercial businesses or small not-for-profits that have fewer than 25 full-time-equivalent employees, a current business license number with the City of Kirkland and can demonstrate negative financial impact, according to the City of Kirkland.
The businesses or organizations should be open or intend to reopen when the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted.
The relief fund was created with $250,000 donated from Google.org, Google’s charity branch. Money will be distributed equally among applicants who qualify for the grants.
Applicants should have their Kirkland business license number and reported gross revenues from Jan. 1 to March 31 in 2019 and 2020 on hand before starting the submission, which is available here.
Yakima doctors plead with residents to stay home
Doctors at Yakima's only hospital pleaded with residents on Tuesday to continue to stay home, saying the valley has had success in slowing the spread of the new coronavirus, but there's still a risk of their facilities being overrun with patients.
Yakima County has 346 confirmed COVID-19 cases — fourth most in the state, after King, Pierce and Snohomish — and 12 deaths, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
In late March, the leadership of Virginia Mason Memorial, the only hospital remaining in Yakima, asked the county's citizens to stay home, in advance of Gov. Jay Inslee's statewide order to do so. At the time, they said the hospital would be overwhelmed with patients within weeks if residents didn't act.
"We need your help now more than ever and we strongly urge you to continue to stay home and stay apart," Carol Peet, CEO of Virginia Mason Memorial, said. "We expect these next few weeks to be the worst of the pandemic for us here in the Yakima Valley."
Peet was followed by a parade of doctors and nurses, eight in all, some speaking English, some Spanish, all with the same message.
"Stay home and stay apart," said Dr. Marty Brueggemann, chief medical officer for the hospital. "We cannot stop COVID-19, there is no vaccine and there is no treatment. We need you to keep up your isolation efforts to help slow the spread."
The hospital's efforts have been hampered by Jason White, a conservative Yakima City Council member, who has been telling citizens to ignore the advice of public health officials.
On his Facebook page, White has promoted conspiracy theories about forced immunizations and the World Health Organization and urged residents to "get back to work."
Trump chooses own watchdog for $2.2 trillion package, spurning recommended veteran
President Donald Trump has sidelined the inspector general who was tapped to chair a special oversight board of the $2.2 trillion economic package intended to help businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Glenn Fine, the acting Defense Department inspector general and a veteran watchdog, had been selected by peers last month for the oversight position.
But Trump has instead nominated a replacement inspector general at the Pentagon and appointed an acting one to serve in Fine’s place, according to an email from a Defense Department official obtained by The Associated Press.
That means Fine will no longer serve on the oversight board, which was created by Congress to be the nexus of oversight for coronavirus funding. He will instead revert to the position of principal deputy inspector general.
Read the story here.
'Liberty' rebellion in Idaho threatens coronavirus orders
Inside an old factory building north of Boise, a few dozen people gathered last week to hear from Ammon Bundy, the man who once led an armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge.
The meeting, which appeared to violate orders by Gov. Brad Little of Idaho to avoid group gatherings, was an assertion of what Bundy said was a constitutional right to peacefully assemble. But Bundy said he also hoped to create a network of people ready to come to the aid of those facing closure of their businesses or other interference from the government as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
“If it gets bad enough, and our rights are infringed upon enough, we can physically stand in defense in whatever way we need to,” Bundy told the meeting. “But we hope we don’t have to get there.”
In a state with pockets of deep wariness about both big government and mainstream medicine, the sweeping restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus have run into outright rebellion in some parts of Idaho, which is facing its own worrying spike in coronavirus cases.
The dissent has left local medical workers pleading with Idahoans to heed the message that has helped contain the coronavirus elsewhere: Stay home. Don’t gather in groups. And, perhaps most challenging: Trust us.
“Don’t take legal advice from a doctor,” said Dr. Benjamin Good, an emergency medicine physician affiliated with Bonner General Health. “And don’t take medical advice from a sheriff.”
Read the story here.
Truckers warn supply chain in jeopardy if they don't get better coronavirus protection
America’s supply chain could be threatened if truckers don't get some help, some industry officials and drivers are warning.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, truckers are driving into COVID-19 hot spots with no protective equipment, testing capabilities or ways to self-quarantine or seek treatment if they become sick, the industry insiders said.
“HELP — MAYDAY — 9-1-1,” are the words in all caps across the top of a letter the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent to President Donald Trump on Friday.
“Urgent and immediate action is demanded to safeguard our nation’s supply chain,” said the letter, signed by Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Missouri-based organization. “Small-business truckers and professional drivers are the vital link to it all, putting their lives on the line for the good of the nation.”
Read the story here.
Boeing urged by Washington’s congressional delegation to take bailout money, pay workers
The seven Democrats in Washington state’s congressional delegation wrote to Boeing CEO David Calhoun on Monday, urging him to take federal bailout money “to safeguard thousands of jobs at Boeing in Washington state and across the country.”
The letter noted that while Boeing had pressed for the nation’s aviation and aerospace sectors to be included in the government rescue program to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus epidemic, “we are disappointed to read reports that you are now considering forgoing the relief Boeing requested.”
“We are especially troubled by this development given your recently announced decision to indefinitely suspend operations at Puget Sound and Moses Lake area facilities, require employees who are unable to telework to use earned vacation and/or sick leave or to seek unemployment, and implement a vague voluntary layoff program,” the seven wrote.
They also asked Calhoun whether he would “ensure complete support for the Boeing Company workforce by eliminating layoffs, maintaining full compensation and benefits levels and returning hours to appropriate employee levels when medically safe.”
The state’s three Republican U.S. representatives did not sign the letter.
Read the story here.
More COVID-19 deaths in areas with more pollution, U.S. study finds
Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are far more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country, according to a new nationwide study that offers the first clear link between long-term exposure to pollution and COVID-19 death rates.
In an analysis of 3,080 U.S. counties, researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that higher levels of the tiny, dangerous particles in air known as PM 2.5 were associated with higher death rates from the disease.
For weeks, public health officials have surmised a link between dirty air and death or serious illness from COVID-19, which is caused by the virus named SARS-CoV-2. The Harvard analysis is the first nationwide study to show a statistical link, revealing a “large overlap” between COVID-19 deaths and other diseases associated with long-term exposure to fine particulate matter.
“The results of this paper suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution increases vulnerability to experiencing the most severe COVID-19 outcomes,” the authors wrote.
Read the story here.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
"We’re all scared": Friction and frustration plagued Valley Medical Center as COVID-19's sudden arrival left staff and administrators scrambling, according to emails, internal documents and interviews with more than a dozen Valley Medical Center employees. Confusion sometimes reigned, and now a rift has grown between management and workers who say they've been left unprotected.
Schools throughout the state will remain closed through the end of the academic year, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday, adding that “it’s just too deadly” to send kids back into classrooms right now. Here's what all of this means for students, teachers and families across our region.
Grocery workers are dying of COVID-19, unprotected from the public they're serving. This is likely to make it harder to find people willing to work on the front lines as stores and online grocery services struggle to scale way up. Adding to the challenges, truckers are warning that the supply chain will be in jeopardy if they can't get better protection.
"Communities are flying blind." Routine access to coronavirus tests may be months away, and the gaps are hammering cities' ability to respond as experts trace why this became such a nationwide debacle.
A Bellingham hospital says it ousted ER doctor Ming Lin because his public warnings about workplace coronavirus concerns were like "yelling fire in a crowded theater." This escalates a global spat over workplace safety and the rights of health-care workers.
The coronavirus outbreak has only made life harder for Sergio Patiño, who lives with his seven dogs in an RV and a truck. His health is declining, and the usual places he goes for water, laundry and hygiene are hard to access during the pandemic. Patiño, 70, is among more than 2,000 people who live in their vehicles in King County. Many of them have largely been left to fend for themselves.
Sound Transit says it's halted nearly all construction work on its light-rail expansions. Some sites remain open, and that's raising concerns.
REI is furloughing many workers without pay as it keeps its 162 stores shut. The CEO and board will go without pay, too.
Coronavirus patients may benefit from the blood of the recovered, a pilot study has found, offering a touch of hope for a treatment with a long history.
Americans risked being "defenseless" against a coronavirus crisis that could endanger millions of lives, a top adviser warned White House officials in January. It was the same time period when President Donald Trump was playing down the dangers.
Are you wearing your face mask properly? Many people aren’t, coronavirus experts say.
You have more time to file your taxes, so should you wait? Among the factors to consider: whether you qualify for a stimulus check.
How is the pandemic affecting you?What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.
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