Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Wednesday as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Thursday. Click here to find 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.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday morning announced a ban on events with more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties throughout March and possibly beyond.

This will affect sporting events, concerts, large weddings and more.

Officials continue to confirm cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, around Washington state. In total, 29 people in Washington state are known to have died from the disease. Many people who can work or learn from home are doing so as the government encourages “social distancing.”

Public health officials today announced 99 new cases statewide, and 5 new deaths — four in King County, one in Snohomish County.

Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Tuesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

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Live updates:

Without "social distancing," 400 could die from coronavirus in Western Washington by April 7, study suggests

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, during a news conference in Seattle. In efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Inslee announced a ban on large public gatherings in three counties in the metro Seattle area.  The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World  Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (Stephen Brashear / The Associated Press)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, during a news conference in Seattle. In efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Inslee announced a ban on large public gatherings in three counties in the metro Seattle area. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (Stephen Brashear / The Associated Press)

New modeling suggests that if the spread of the novel coronavirus is not slowed, there could be 25,000 infections in King and Snohomish counties by April 7, with 400 of those people likely to die.

Researchers at The Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center released a working paper on March 10 using research from around the world on coronavirus, and local research from the flu — including a study of how much school cancellations around 2019’s “Snowpocalypse” reduced spread of the flu.

This modeling is apparently one of the factors Gov. Jay Inslee and other local leaders consulted before instituting one of the harshest emergency responses in state history.

Read more here.

—Scott Greenstone
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Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan discusses Trump and Inslee's coronavirus decisions on CNN

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan thinks President Trump should have declared a national emergency Wednesday to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic, she said in a Wednesday night CNN interview.

“I was really hoping the president would have declared an emergency so that FEMA could respond to communities like ours that are going to need that kind of help,” the mayor said on the show “CNN Tonight,” referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “That’s what we need, is solid leadership.”

Durkan told host Don Lemon that Seattle’s response to the coronavirus outbreak was initially -- and continues to be -- “really hampered” by a lack of testing.

“People who needed the test didn’t get it and didn’t get the health care they needed,” she said. “We as leaders did not understand or appreciate how far this had spread in our community, and we still don’t.”

The mayor applauded Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement Wednesday of a ban on large public gatherings, saying she expects the move to save lives.

Modeling by Seattle’s “amazing research scientists” estimated that the region, without a large-event ban, was on track for more than 25,000 cases and 400 deaths, Durkan told Lemon, referring to a report from the Institute for Disease Modeling.

“I’ve been talking to mayors across the country," she said, "and I’ve been telling them, ‘Act conservatively. Just because you don’t have the numbers through testing, you have to assume it’s there.'”

Seattle is “in for a really long haul,” the mayor said, adding, “It’s going to be hard. Our way of life is going to change. We will know people who get sick. Our health care system is going to get tested.”

—Daniel Beekman

Inside the day Seattle Public Schools decided to close because of the coronavirus

The novel coronavirus has brought Washington’s largest school district to a reluctant halt.

For nearly two weeks, as more than 115 other schools across the state announced closures, Seattle Public Schools superintendent Denise Juneau said it was her goal to keep city schools open for as long as possible to avoid cutting off important social services to students. 

But in the 24 hours before she decided to close the district’s schools for a minimum of two weeks, the situation had reached a tipping point.

Here's what went into district leaders' choice, and what the district still needs to figure out.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

Issaquah Nursing reports five more positive cases of coronavirus

Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center announced five new cases had tested positive for coronavirus, on top of five residents and two staff who have tested positive. One resident of the nursing home also died of COVID-19, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County, on Sunday, March 8.

That same day, public health officials tested several residents for COVID-19, the nursing home said in a post on their website.

"We appreciate the many kind messages and encouraging notes we have received from the community," the post said. "Thank you for lifting our spirits."

—Scott Greenstone
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Trump delays tax deadline for people and businesses

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday night that he will instruct the Treasury Department to allow individuals and businesses negatively affected by the coronavirus to defer their tax payments beyond the April 15 filing deadline.

In an address from the Oval Office, Trump said he would use his emergency authority to allow individual taxpayers and businesses to defer paying their taxes by next month’s deadline if they have suffered adverse effects from the spreading virus.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress earlier Wednesday that the payment delay would have the effect of putting more than $200 billion back into the economy that would otherwise go to paying taxes next month. He did not indicate what the new deadline would be.

Mnuchin told reporters that the delay would cover “virtually all Americans other than the super-rich.”

He said the delay would not apply to large corporations or very wealthy taxpayers but he did not offer any specific income or asset thresholds that would be needed to qualify for the delay.

Mnuchin told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the administration could grant the tax delay without having to go to Congress for approval.

Mnuchin said the delay would allow individuals to not pay their taxes by the April 15 deadline. The IRS would also waive interest payments or other penalties for missing the deadline. Under current IRS rules, taxpayers can get an automatic extension on filing their tax returns but they are required to pay tax on the estimated amount they will owe when they do file.

—Associated Press

Edmonds School District closes next week until April 10

Edmonds School District will shut down Monday for nearly a month at least, superintendent Dr. Kristine McDuffy said in an email to families Wednesday.

The Monday closure is designed to give students, families and staff time to prepare for the closure, and take home any personal items they'll need. Friday is a "planned non-student day" according to an email Duffy sent to staff Wednesday night, so Thursday is the last day students will be in the buildings before the closure.

"We know that closing our schools will impact our most vulnerable families and we recognize that working families depend on the consistency and predictability of supports and services our schools offer," Duffy said in the email. "We also understand many daycares follow school district closures and may now implement a similar long-term closure."

Edmonds School District hopes to reopen after April 10, Duffy wrote in the email.

—Scott Greenstone

Washington landlord groups call for halting evictions for 30 days

Washington’s major landlord groups say there should be a 30-day emergency halt to the enforcement of evictions in King County, due to the novel coronavirus.

The Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHA), which has more than 5,100 landlords, called for the move in a blog post Wednesday. The Washington Multi-Family Housing Association (WMFHA) also supports the idea, spokesman Zach Knowling said.

The landlord groups want eviction filings to continue but are suggesting that the enforcement of evictions be delayed. Their recommendation is aimed at King County because that’s where the virus has had the greatest impact, the RHA post said.

“The rental housing industry is recommending a 30-day hold on writs of restitution for King County residents,” the post said.

The writs are issued in eviction cases when courts rule in favor of landlords. RHA and WMFHA are calling on landlords to not submit the writs to the sheriff’s office and on the sheriff’s office to not enforce the writs, Knowling said.

“This hold would prevent physical evictions during the emergency period. Importantly, it would still allow unlawful detainer proceedings to continue but prevent the physical eviction and keep people in their homes,” the blog post said.

“Decisions to cancel or postpone public events or institute building closures are done in the interest of public health” but can also cause people to lose income and jobs, the post said. “Housing providers are committed to supporting residents who are impacted … and need assistance with their housing costs.”

RHA also is encouraging its members to talk to tenants, work with them on payment plans and waive late fees and waive administrative costs for at least 30 days.

The landlord group is working with Seattle, King County and the Legislature on other emergency measures and expects more than $1 million in state funds to be appropriated this week, the post said.

A number of labor and advocacy organizations requested an evictions moratorium over the weekend and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant called for a moratorium Wednesday.

—Daniel Beekman
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Tulalip Tribes closes several reservation facilities after resident tests positive

A Tulalip resident has tested positive for coronavirus, the Tulalip Tribes said Wednesday, and several reservation facilities are closed for the week so the buildings can be sanitized.

The Tulalip Early Learning Academy, Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, Homework Support and Tulalip Youth Center are closed, tribal officials said in a video posted on Tulalip News. Some Tulalip staff members are working from home, so some services may be limited, Chairwoman Teri Gobin said. The fire and police departments remain fully staffed.

The highest priority, Gobin said in the video, is that the community’s elders are looked after. She encouraged tribal members to call their neighbors and ensure that those in vulnerable groups limit their public exposure.

“Our elders are most vulnerable,” she said. “The important thing is to make sure elders are OK.”

—Paige Cornwell

Seattle chef Tom Douglas is closing his restaurants temporarily as sales decline up to 90 percent

Tom Douglas, one of Seattle’s most well known chefs, will temporarily close all his 13 restaurants effective Sunday, his spokesperson said Wednesday evening.

Sales at Douglas’ restaurants have declined up to 90 percent since the coronavirus outbreak, and spokesperson Madeline Dow Pennington said Wednesday night that executives have “spent hours over the last two days analyzing every single model to keep our team whole, and unfortunately this is the only outcome that made the most sense.”

Effective after dinner service on March 15, all 13 restaurants will close, but management hopes to reopen within  “eight to 12 weeks” if the market condition improves, Pennington said.

Read more here.

—Tan Vinh

Sen. Cantwell closes D.C. office as staffer tests positive for COVID-19

A staff member in Sen. Maria Cantwell’s Washington, D.C., office has tested positive for COVID-19.

The senator closed that office this week for deep cleaning and staff will be teleworking. The individual has been in isolation since showing symptoms.

Cantwell’s Seattle and Washington, D.C., offices will "continue to serve her constituents remotely," according to a press release.

The staffer who tested positive for COVID-19 has had no known contact with the senator or other members of Congress. The senator is requesting that testing be done on any other staffers who have been in contact with the individual and show symptoms.

—Jim Brunner
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NBA suspending season until further notice after Wednesday night’s games

The NBA announced it has suspended its season following Wednesday night's games after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus.

The Athletic first reported that Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive but was feeling strong enough to play. The test result was reported shortly before the Jazz tipped off against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, leading to the game's postponement.

A statement from the league read:

"The NBA announced that a player on the Utah Jazz has preliminary tested positive for COVID-19. The test result was reported shortly prior to tip-off of tonight’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, tonight’s game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena.

The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic."

—Associated Press / The Seattle Times

Tom Hanks says he and wife Rita Wilson have tested positive for coronavirus

Actor Tom Hanks said in a statement Wednesday that he and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, have tested positive for the new coronavirus. The actor has been in Australia to film a movie.

“Hello, folks. Rita and I are down here in Australia. We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches. Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers, too,” Hanks' statement said. "To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus, and were found to be positive.”

Hanks and Wilson will be observed and isolated for as long as public health requires, the statement said.

“Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated,” he said.

—Scott Greenstone

Jury trials canceled at Seattle Municipal Court

Seattle Municipal Court has suspended jury trials and postponed all contested ticket hearings through at least April 9, the court announced Wednesday in a news release.

Jurors summoned in the coming weeks will be contacted to reschedule, the release said. People who have hearings to contest parking and traffic tickets in Courtroom 301 and Courtroom 302 will be notified by mail that their cases have been postponed. Hearings in Courtroom 201 are being set for adjudication by mail.

Defendants with upcoming hearings on criminal matters can contact their attorneys to request that their cases be postponed, the release said. The court will grant "agreed continuance requests" on out-of-custody matters for nonmandatory hearings scheduled through April 8.

More information is available here.

—Daniel Beekman
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Will schools have to make up days they're about to miss?

When Washington is in a state of emergency, as it is now, school districts can apply to waive missed school days instead of making them up.

But even with a waiver, a district legally can't provide fewer than 1,027 hours of instruction, according to the state education department.

Most school districts have cushion in their schedules so that they are well above that average, even if they miss a few days.

But with longer-term closures, they'll have to take other measures: eliminating early release days, tacking on days to the end of the school year, "any other means legally provided" that a school board determines.

Read more about how school closures are affecting Washington state here.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

President Trump announces intent to suspend travel from Europe, push economic relief for workers and small businesses

In an address to the nation Wednesday night, President Donald Trump announced his intent to suspend all travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days, as well as exercising his presidential authority to help small businesses and workers affected by COVID-19.

The travel suspension goes into effect Friday night, and the president indicated it would also extend to cargo.

"Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we're discussing," Trump said in his address.

There will be some exemptions, the president said, for Americans who have undergone "appropriate screenings."

Trump also said he's urged leaders of the health insurance industry to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments and extend insurance coverage to those treatments.

He also "strongly" advised that nursing homes suspend all "medically unnecessary" visits.

Trump said the U.S. will will defer tax payments for some individual and business filers for three months to lessen the impacts of the virus outbreak. He said the Small Business Administration will also make low-interest loans available to businesses to help them weather the storm.

“This just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world,” he said.

—Scott Greenstone & The Associated Press

President Trump addresses the nation about coronavirus response

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Medical examiner releases names of two Kirkland people who possibly died from COVID-19

The King County Medical Examiner's Office on Wednesday released the names of two people who have died from or possibly from COVID-19 in Kirkland.

Louise Weatherill, 85, died March 4 from viral pneumonia due to COVID-19. Her son, Mike Weatherill, told The Seattle Times last week that his mother, a resident of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, fell ill on March 2 and died two days later.

The medical examiner also identified Phillip Rodenberg, 83, who died Feb. 28 in Kirkland from coronary artery disease and possible COVID-19. It is unknown if he was also a resident of the care facility at the epicenter of the virus' outbreak in Washington.

Mike Weatherill’s mother was a resident at Life Care Center of Kirkland, the long-term care facility at the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak in the United States. She died Wednesday, March 4. (Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)

—Sara Jean Green

Alt-weekly The Stranger says event cancellations have "virtually eliminated" 90 percent of revenue

Seattle-based alt-weekly The Stranger – which makes 90% of its revenue from events and associated ads and ticket sales – sent a plea to readers for donations Wednesday, after Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on events of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

The spread of coronavirus has "virtually eliminated" all events revenue, it wrote.

“We pride ourselves on having navigated many storms in the world of independent local media,” the email to readers said, “but this time is different.”

King County Sheriff: Don't call 911 to report gatherings of 250 or more

The King County Sheriff's Office says it wants to remind residents that they shouldn't call 911 or the sheriff's office non-emergency number to report gatherings of more than 250 people. Large gatherings are banned as part of an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

No one has made any such calls yet, according to Sgt. Ryan Abbott with the county sheriff.

"Usually we get a bunch of people that are concerned — pandemonium sets in and people freak out," Abbott said. "We’re not going to be responding to investigate these complaints, nor taking any enforcement actions."

Instead, concerns about public gatherings should be directed to public health's coronavirus email, coronavirus@kingcounty.gov.

—Paige Cornwell, Scott Greenstone
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Woodland Park Zoo will temporarily close

Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle will temporarily close to the public following Gov. Jay Inslee's bans on large public gatherings, the zoo said in a press release. It will tentatively remain closed through March 31.

Operations staff, including animal care teams, will continue working at the zoo. All other employees will work from home or receive paid leave if their job can't be done remotely. The zoo has a surplus of food and medical supplies for its animals.

—Taylor Blatchford

Outside Life Care Center, a show of support from neighbors

Tricia LaVoice (left) ties ribbon around trees outside Life Care Center in Kirkland. (Paige Cornwell / Seattle Times)
Tricia LaVoice (left) ties ribbon around trees outside Life Care Center in Kirkland. (Paige Cornwell / Seattle Times)

Tricia LaVoice wanted to help the nurses and residents inside Life Care Center of Kirkland, so she called the facility and asked what the employees — some of whom have worked 18-hour shifts — needed.

Coffee and donuts, they told her. So Wednesday morning, she brought coffee and donuts.

But she also wanted to help the residents inside, so she spent Wednesday afternoon wrapping blue ribbons with flowers around trees in front of Life Care Center. That way, she said as she perched on a small ladder next to a tree, residents can look outside and see something pretty.

As LaVoice was working, a neighbor stopped by and asked if she could help, too.

"We want them to know that we're thinking of them," said LaVoice, who lives in Kirkland. "That's a part of healing — showing love."

—Paige Cornwell

New York-based late-night shows to suspend live audience tapings over coronavirus threat

Late night is going to be a little quieter very soon.

In a coordinated move announced Wednesday, late-night shows produced out of New York City announced they would soon begin taping without live, in-studio audiences out of concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

Read more here.

—LA Times
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Worried about child care during school closures? Here are resources

For families wondering about child care during long-term school closures, Child Care Aware of Washington offers a central database of local providers licensed by the state.

Families can call the nonprofit’s hotline (800-446-1114) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday or search its online database at anytime for child care options in their area.

Child Care Aware has tried to maintain a list of child care programs that have or will close amid concerns of the novel coronavirus, but spokesperson Marcia Jacobs noted there are more than 3,500 programs across Washington state. It is also reaching out to providers to see who has additional capacity and would be able to provide services for families whose children would normally be in school. She said home-based licensed child care facilities often have more flexibility in who they can serve.

The Boys & Girls Club of King County also will fill in some of the need for families.

Lorraine Montez, director of marketing and communications, said the organization will keep its sites open and offer full-day care for children if parents need to work at home or at their work sites. The number of children who can attend each club varies depending on location. It will soon work out details about cost, hours and capacity.

—Neal Morton, Anne Hillman

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau announces school closure due to coronavirus

Seattle Public Schools will close for a minimum of two weeks starting Thursday. (Anne Hillman / The Seattle Times)

Cruise industry, under pressure from Trump administration, hands in new coronavirus response plan

Responding to a directive from the federal government, the beleaguered cruise industry has crafted a coronavirus response plan that will keep more people off its ships.

Passengers who are 70 and older will be required to produce a doctor’s note attesting that they are healthy enough to take a cruise, according to a person familiar with the plan who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.

That person said keeping the most vulnerable population off ships was a priority of the Trump administration. About 14 percent of cruise passengers in 2018 – about 4 million people – were 70 or older, an industry report showed.

Read the full story here.

—Washington Post
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Museum of Flight temporarily suspends public operations

Conforming to guidelines set by King County and the State of Washington to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and in keeping with the community’s best interest, the Museum is joining other area attractions in temporarily closing its campus and the Museum’s Restoration Center and Reserve Collection, located on Paine Field in Everett, to the public after 5 p.m. today.

No date for reopening has been set. Employees will have the option to telecommute during this period and the building will continue to stay open as a work place for employees who wish to work on site.

Visitors, educators and students are encouraged to check museumofflight.org for updated information and announcements, and to follow the Museum on social media as it will continue to engage with the public during the temporary physical closure. All tickets purchased prior to this closure will be honored at a later date.

The Museum will offer opportunities for virtual tours, social media and for otherwise engaging with the Museum during the closure.

—Dominic Gates

Bellevue School District to close schools as coronavirus safeguard until at least March 27

The Bellevue School District will close its schools beginning Friday, March 13, until at least March 27, officials announced Wednesday afternoon. The district is one of the largest in the state and joins Seattle Public Schools and Lake Washington School District, among others, that announced similar plans Wednesday.

“Across our district we are experiencing staff shortages that have interrupted our ability to provide high quality instruction to each and every one of our students,” officials posted on the Bellevue School District website.

No one in the school-district community has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials said. Health officials from Public Health - Seattle & King County posted guidance on Wednesday recommending that schools without a confirmed COVID-19 case remain open.

“However, we are watching the outbreak closely and may determine that closures are necessary,” public-health officials wrote.

—Hannah Furfaro

Amazon gives sick or quarantined employees up to 14 days of pay

Amazon said it would give employees who are sick or quarantined due to the coronavirus up to 14 days of pay. The global policy, announced Wednesday, applies to full- and part-time employees.

Some of the hundreds of thousands of employees and contract workers who gather, package and deliver Amazon orders to customers had worried they would be forced to choose between working while sick and getting paid under the company’s usual policy.

Amazon also created a $25 million fund for contractors, Amazon Flex drivers and seasonal workers who become ill with COVID-19 or are placed in quarantine.

Read more here.

—Ben Romano
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Washington state trooper says there's less traffic, but still collisions

Fewer people have been driving on state highways, Washington State Trooper Rick Johnson said.

Travel times that could take more than an hour on a typical weekday during peak commuting hours have been nearly slashed in half. , according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“I can’t remember in my 28 years as an officer, it being this light,” he said.

Over the years, traffic has grown partially because of an economy and real estate market that has pushed people into more affordable homes farther away from their office locations, he said.

However, Johnson said, with fewer cars on the road, there is more opportunity to speed because there is less bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“We’re not noticing as big of backups, but we’re still getting collisions.” he said. “There are still cars — still humans — on the road.”

Drivers should continue to obey the speed limit and follow safe traveling procedures, he said.

—Michelle Baruchman

Four more deaths announced in King County

Four more people have died in King County from COVID-19, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County, which announced 44 new confirmed cases Wednesday.

Three of the people who died were residents at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, while the fourth was a resident of Redmond Care and Rehabilitation Center, according to Public Health. They died between March 3 and March 10.

The state is now reporting a total of 366 cases, including 29 deaths. All but three people who died have been linked to nursing homes or other residential or care communities.

In King County, which has seen 26 deaths, 22 are linked to Life Care Center, and the following facilities are each reporting that one resident died: Redmond Care & Rehabilitation Center, Issaquah Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and the Ida Culver House in Seattle.

Snohomish County also announced Wednesday that a resident of a Stanwood care home died, bringing the number of coronavirus deaths in the county to two. An additional death was previously reported in Grant County.

State and local health officials are catching up with an influx of reported cases and deaths, which means their numbers are likely an undercount. Officials expect the number of cases to jump as more tests are conducted.

—Asia Fields

Sounders will take a chartered flight to their next game and prepare for changes

The Sounders have postponed their March 21 match against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field in compliance with a mandate from Gov. Jay Inslee to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But the team is still flying to Houston via chartered flight as if it'll play its scheduled game against the Dynamo on Saturday.

“We are going to be as much as humanly possible in lock-step with the health authorities and what they recommend as the guiding principle,” said Garth Lagerwey, Sounders general manager and president of soccer. “(The ban) is an initial period of 30 days. Right now, the most important thing is to be calm here. We are taking measures out of an abundance of caution and we are trying to keep everybody as absolutely safe as we can. We want to flatten the curve of the spread of this disease.”

—Jayda Evans
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Shoreline Public Schools closes every campus through at least March 27

Following the lead of the Seattle and Lake Washington school districts, Shoreline Public Schools announced it would close every campus starting Thursday and through at least March 27.

“As this situation changes by the hour, it has become clear that we cannot continue to address this issue with isolated, short-term closure of our schools,” Superintendent Rebecca Miner told families and school staff in an email sent Wednesday.

The closure will include all out-of-district transportation and athletic practices and competitions, Miner said. But school offices will stay open Thursday so families and employees can retrieve medication or “other essential personal items” once campuses close.

The district will provide meals for students from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each weekday at its central kitchen, located inside Hamlin Park near 15th Avenue Northeast, and Shorewood High School at 17300 Fremont Ave. N.

Families can expect additional information on child-care options once they’re finalized, Miner said.

“This is not a decision I have made lightly or without considerable thought and consideration,” she said. “I recognize and understand the impact this will have on our families, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

Shoreline schools enroll about 10,000 students.

—Neal Morton

More than half of Life Care Center residents test positive for COVID-19

Life Care Center in Kirkland received five additional positive results, bringing the total number of cases among its 120 original residents to 63.

This includes residents still in the facility, residents who have been hospitalized and those who died. There are five test results pending; the rest were negative or inconclusive, press liaison Timothy Killian said Wednesday.

More than a third of Life Care’s 180 employees are showing COVID-19 symptoms, and 30 have been tested at offsite locations. Those results have not been returned.

Staffing continues to be the biggest issue, Killian said. Life Care would like to bring in additional workers but hasn’t been able to do so yet. Nurses, he said, can only “give 18 hour days for so long.”

Tim Killian, Public Information Liaison for Life Care, gives an update on residents and staff at the facility on March 11 as workers arrive to clean the building. (Paige Cornwell / The Seattle Times)

—Paige Cornwell

CDC issues sweeping guidance to combat coronavirus in Seattle area

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for the Seattle area on Wednesday, in line with Gov. Jay Inslee's orders to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus through the region.

The agency recommended dozens of actions, including limiting large gatherings, extending school spring breaks for two weeks, canceling nonessential travel and restricting all visitors from health care facilities, with exceptions for end-of-life visits.

Schools, the agency said, should limit all classroom mixing, give regular health checks to students and staff, and consider "distance learning" if feasible.

Assisted-living facilities should suspend all visitor access and arrange for phone or video-conferencing so family members can talk with relatives, the CDC said.

Health care facilities should cancel all nonurgent procedures and consider suspending new admissions, the CDC said.

The agency issued the new recommendations for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It also issued a separate set of coronavirus mitigation recommendations for Santa Clara County, California.

"Substantial interventions" are necessary, the CDC said, "to minimize morbidity and mortality caused by COVID-19."

—David Gutman
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Coronavirus concerns force spectators out of NCAA tournaments

The NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments will be played in nearly empty arenas because of concerns about the novel coronavirus, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced Wednesday afternoon amid swelling recommendations and orders from public officials, one of the most significant public actions in the face of the outbreak in the United States.

The games, which begin Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, will be played "with only essential staff and limited family attendance," Emmert said in a release.

"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how covid-19 is progressing in the United States," Emmert said in a statement. "This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes. We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families. Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed."

The decision came the day after National Institutes of Health official Anthony Fauci told a congressional hearing that large gatherings should be prohibited and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said his state, which will host multiple tournament sites, would turn a strong recommendation not to hold indoor sporting events with spectators into an order.

The NCAA last week formed an advisory panel of experts and epidemiologists, and Wednesday it recommended playing tournament games without spectators. The NCAA's outlook evolved rapidly. In an interview Saturday on CBS, NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said the NCAA is "definitively planning on running the tournament at all 14 sites with fans from the First Four in Dayton to the Final Four in Atlanta."

Three days later, it dramatically altered its most lucrative and marquee event.

—Washington Post

Amazon talking with local public health leaders on how Amazon Care infrastructure might help fight coronavirus

Amazon is discussing with local public health leaders how its Amazon Care infrastructure — a medical system begun this year for employees in the Seattle area — can be used to support the region's coronavirus response, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.

Amazon made Amazon Care available to Seattle-area employees in February. The spokesperson said the application of the service being discussed would extend beyond Amazon employees.

Amazon Care offers on-demand consultations — either text chat or video — with medical professionals through an app. It can also dispatch nurses to employees’ homes for in-person exams, tests or treatment.

Another aspect of the service, called Care Courier, could be particularly relevant as public health officials and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contemplate home test kits for COVID-19. Amazon’s website says, “Your Care Courier can deliver Amazon Care prescribed medications to you at your home or office.”

Scott Dowell, leader of the Gates Foundation’s coronavirus response, said the goal is to have home test kits delivered within two hours of being requested.

—Ben Romano and Sandi Doughton

Gov. Inslee's office welcomes $14 million from feds for coronavirus response

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced $14.2 million in federal money for Washington state to help respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

The money is part of a $560 million round of funding for state and local governments across the country, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

Of Washington's share, $2.75 million already has been delivered, while the remaining $11.45 million is new money that will be sent in the coming days.

Casey Katims, federal liaison for Gov. Jay Inslee's office, said in an interview the money is "a welcome contribution," and will help cover the expanding public health response to the coronavirus, on which the state already has spent more than $3.3 million — in addition to costs for local governments.

The CDC money will help pay for expenses including staffing, epidemiology, monitoring of the disease's spread, and lab equipment. "We have made significant investments at the state and local level ... this funding will make a meaningful difference in helping us continue to do that work," Katims said.

Katims said the governor and congressional delegation are working to secure additional federal money from the $8.3 billion supplemental spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week.

In a news release, CDC Director Robert Redfield said the federal money delivered to state, local and tribal governments will "continue to support their efforts to increase public health capacity where it's needed most."

—Jim Brunner

Lake Washington schools to close for two weeks

The state’s second-largest school district, Lake Washington on the Eastside, announced it would close for at least two weeks starting Thursday and through March 27.

The district will reevaluate additional closures during the closure, according to a news release.

Lake Washington schools enroll nearly 32,000 students across 33 campuses.

“In light of the current information shared today by our elected officials, we believe it is time to plan for alternative ways to serve our community and families,” the district said in its release.

“This is not an easy decision, and our plans moving forward require additional planning and preparation,” the district said.

On Thursday and Friday, the district plans to make child care available to families who cannot stay home or who work in the health care industry or as first responders, according to the release. It will also provide meals for children at school sites and supports for learning at home.

—Neal Morton

Thurston County reports first confirmed case of COVID-19

Thurston County reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 Wednesday, in a resident in their 50s.

Thurston County Public Health and Social Services is working to identify and contact all those who may have come in contact with the confirmed case, the agency said in a statement.

“We want people to understand that while the risk to the public is increasing, the most important things we can do is encourage people to wash their hands often and well, stay home if they’re sick, and call ahead to their health care provider if they have symptoms and know have been exposed to someone with COVID-19,” said Schelli Slaughter, director of the Thurston County public health agency.

—Diana Samuels

Mariners opening day will be impacted by virus

In light of Gov. Jay Inslee's decision to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people, the Mariners have discussed several contingency plans for their opening homestand of the 2020 season, including playing on the road or in an empty stadium.

The games were scheduled to start on Major League Baseball’s opening day on March 26 and conclude on April 1, featuring a four-game series with the Texas Rangers followed by a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins.

Inslee’s decision did not catch the team by a surprise. The organization had prepared for this as a logical step in the city and state’s fight against the pandemic, they said.

 

—Ryan Divish

Tribes and their casinos not affected by governor's ban on large gatherings, expert says

The state does not have regulatory jurisdiction over Indian Country in Washington State, according to Robert Anderson, professor and director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington. "This does not apply to Indian tribes," Anderson said of restrictions placed on gatherings of more than 250 people announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday.

The reason is because tribes are separate sovereign entities that predate the establishment of states. As such, they are not subject to state regulatory authority except as Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court has delegated jurisdiction.

"Tribes can make their own rules," Anderson said. "That is what sovereignty means."

Tribal casinos are run by tribal governments and generate money for tribal government programs.

The Puyallup, Tulalip, Lummi and Snoqualmie casinos remain open for business, as do others.

W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe and chairman of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, the trade association of tribal casinos, said his tribe's casino was open as usual but business had declined. Elderly people make up a significant portion of the clientele and business has fallen off, Allen said.

—Lynda Mapes

Seattle sports teams ready to adjust on the fly to Gov's large crowd restrictions

Seattle-area teams have been forced to adjust on the fly to Gov. Jay Inslee's restrictions on gatherings of over 250 people.

The Seattle Dragons plan to continue with their scheduled game on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Wildcats at CenturyLink Field but play without fans in attendance. The game will be broadcast on TV and fans will be offered a refund or credit toward another XFL Seattle game, the league said.

Meanwhile, the Sounders FC announced today they will postpone a scheduled match on March 21 at CenturyLink Field vs. Dallas FC.

A statement from the team read: “Throughout this process, Sounders FC has stated that nothing is more important than public safety and the well being of our fans. With that in mind, we respect the difficult decision that has been made today, and our club will continue following the guidelines set forth by our public health authorities and government agencies.”

—Sean Quinton

Seattle Public Schools to close for two weeks starting Thursday

Seattle Public Schools will close for a minimum of two weeks starting tomorrow, according to an email sent to school administrators Wednesday.

The email said the decision was made after conferring with county and school officials. It instructs principals to treat the closure as if they are going on spring break, and lists some guidance for going forward.

"We know you do not have time to do everything and we trust that you will do your best given the circumstances,” the email said.

The announcement comes after the district’s early efforts to stay open, in an effort to make sure children don’t suddenly see a loss in services.

But since then, on Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee hinted that schools should be making contingency closure plans, in light of his restrictions on gatherings of over 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

During a March 11 press conference, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered schools across the state to immediately begin contingency planning for potential closures in the next several days.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

Cruise season to start two weeks late due to coronavirus, says Port of Seattle Wednesday

Cruise-ship season will start at least two weeks late due to coronavirus concerns, the Port of Seattle announced today.

The first two cruise sailings of 2020 have been canceled, including the Grand Princess' April 1 port call.  That ship has been the site of two coronavirus outbreaks over the past month, and was held off the coast of California over the weekend after the latest outbreak was confirmed last Thursday.

Two other Princess Cruises vessels were briefly held at sea earlier this week after onboarding staff from the Grand Princess; those staff tested negative for the disease.

“This region is in a public health emergency,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck in a statement. “The health, safety and well being of our residents is our top priority.”

The other canceled sailing is the April 5 port call of Celebrity Eclipse. Now, the first cruise ship scheduled to dock in Seattle will be Holland America's Eurodam on April 15.

However, even that could be pushed back, depending on the spread of the virus. The Port said in a statement that it would work with public health officials, cruise lines and local leaders to "continue to evaluate the public health landscape ... (to) determine the appropriate start to the cruise season."

— Katherine Khashimova Long

Inslee takes strongest action to date against spread of coronavirus

During a March 11 press conference, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a halt to all gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a halt Wednesday to all gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and ordered schools across the state to immediately begin contingency planning for potential closures in the next several days.

The moves mark the strongest action the state has taken to date to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Puget Sound region, which has become the epicenter of a burgeoning national crisis.

Flanked by the leaders of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett and of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, Inslee said he was ordering the cancellation of large church services, sporting events, concerts, festivals and conventions.

—David Gutman

WSU joins other universities moving classes online

Washington State University’s five campuses are moving their classes online starting March 23, the day students return from spring break.

This marks the latest in a string of announcements from universities and community colleges across the state that have moved classes, final exams – or both – online.

Residential, dining and health care facilities at the university’s Pullman campus will remain open. Officials said campuses will also remain open at the university’s other four locations. Read the university’s announcement here.

—Hannah Furfaro

COVID-19 claims second Snohomish County victim

A second person has died in Snohomish County of COVID-19, County Executive Dave Somers said in a Wednesday news conference.

Snohomish Health District spokeswoman Heather Thomas confirmed the death  and said more information would be coming soon.

Thomas said the victim has been identified as a man in his 80s associated with Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood.

The county saw its first death from novel coronavirus on March 2, when a man in his 40s with underlying health conditions died at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland.

—Asia Fields

Mariners forced to adjust to ban on large gatherings

Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement comes as the Mariners prepare to open their season against the Texas Rangers, which was scheduled for March 26 at T-Mobile Park. The Mariners and Major League Baseball have discussed contingency plans for their opening homestand. Among the options discussed are playing the games in Arizona, Texas and Minnesota and playing in an empty stadium, MLB sources said.

The Mariners released a statement Wednesday:

“Following Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement this morning that he is banning large group events through March, the Seattle Mariners are working with the Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner on alternative plans for our games that were scheduled for the end of March at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

Read the full story here.

—Ryan Divish

Start planning for closures, Inslee tells school districts

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee advised school districts to begin contingency planning over the next few days in case they are ordered to close.

The announcement came during a news conference today as part of Inslee’s restrictions on gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the state’s most drastic step in its effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

He added that he will be speaking to school superintendents in those counties.

“We are giving intense thought in what we can do in terms of our children,” Inslee said.

Thus far, district leaders and county health officials have been making calls on whether to close schools as a precaution.

He added that he will be speaking to school superintendents in those three counties.

“We are giving intense thought in what we can do in terms of our children,” Inslee said.

 

—Dahlia Bazzaz

Starbucks to expand emergency pay for workers affected by coronavirus

Starbucks will expand emergency pay for staff affected by the coronavirus in its U.S. stores, the latest major company to adjust paid leave policies in response to the worsening outbreak.

The “catastrophe pay” will be available to employees, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms, for up to 14 days, the coffee chain said in a memo seen by Bloomberg News. Starbucks will also offer “additional pay replacement” for as much as 26 weeks to employees unable to return to work after that period, it said.

Starbucks joins Walmart, Darden Restaurants and McDonald’s in rolling out policies aimed at allaying employee concerns about not showing up to work if they’re sick or fearful of catching the rapidly spreading virus and propagating it. The challenge is more acute in the restaurant and retail industries because they rely heavily on workers to staff their stores, which can’t be done remotely.

Starbucks confirmed last week a barista in one of its Seattle stores had been diagnosed with coronavirus and would self-quarantine at home. Staff who were in contact with that barista have already been told to stay at home and are receiving catastrophe pay.

—Bloomberg

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray joins 32 other Dems asking for guidance on how schools should handle COVID-19

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., joined 32 other Democratic senators asking the federal Education Department for guidance on how schools and colleges should handle potential closures due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Murray, the ranking member of the Senate’s education committee, signed a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, asking her for a response no later than March 24.

So far, more than 100 schools in Washington, including two in Seattle, have closed over coronavirus concerns since late last month. (The Seattle Times has compiled a list of coronavirus-related K-12 and college closures here.

“We do not yet know the scale at which K-12 schools and IHEs across the country may need to close in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19,” the senators wrote in the letter, referencing the disease caused by the coronavirus and institutions of higher education (IHE).

“But we urge you to do everything you can to ensure you are continuing to prepare stakeholders for a variety of scenarios,” the letter added. “To date, over a dozen countries have shut down schools nationwide, and the number grows each day.”

The group of senators specifically asked DeVos to provide guidance on more than a dozen items, including how schools can continue feeding students who rely on meals on campus, how online learning impacts students without computers or access to the internet at home and students with disabilities, and how schools should provide mental health services remotely.

—Neal Morton

WATCH: To slow virus' spread, Inslee orders ban on events of more than 250 people in three counties

Gov. Inslee just ordered that events with more than 250 people -- including sporting events, conventions, concerts and more -- are prohibited in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties throughout March and possibly beyond.

"This is not a time to be going out into public in close contact," Inslee said. "It's just too dangerous."

People need to stop saying this virus is just like the flu or not a big deal, Inslee said. By mid-May, he said, Washington could have 60,000 infected residents.

Read Inslee's full proclamation here.

The order doesn't shut down airports or transportation systems, Inslee said. But it does affect large social gatherings of more than 250 people, such as weddings, he said.

"You might be killing your granddad if you don't do it," he said. "I'm serious."

Asked why 250 was chosen as the limit, Inslee said that while there's no "magic number," he followed the recommendations of scientists and the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) that gatherings of 250 or fewer can be managed easier.

People who can work from home should, he said, noting that many companies have already recommended their workers do so.

These measures will be "profoundly disturbing to a lot of the ways we live our lives today," but are necessary, he said. "We're going to have to change our lives in ways that are uncomfortable to save our community."

While children tend to be at lower risk from COVID-19, they can transmit the virus, and "we are giving intense thought" to how to protect children, Inslee said. He asked school administrators to "immediately begin contingency planning for potential school closures in the next several days." More guidance on schools is expected to come in the next few days.

In addition, King County will be restricting some events with fewer than 250 people if they don't meet certain public health guidelines, county executive Dow Constantine announced.

Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County, said those requirements will include that people at particular risk -- people 60 or older and people with underlying health conditions  -- don't attend, that people don't get within six feet of each other if at all possible, that proper hand hygiene and sanitation are available to all attendees, and that CDC cleaning guidelines are followed in the event space.

That order doesn't affect retail or family gatherings, he said. The county will provide guidance for places like restaurants and grocery stores, he said, and enforcement will be "by complaint."

But "business must and should continue," Constantine said.

Duchin called this an "unprecedented" public health emergency. "The number of cases doubles every several days" and clusters have emerged in nursing homes, where people are particularly at risk.

Duchin said this is "the infectious disease equivalent of a major earthquake," wherein the aftermath lasts weeks or months. But "life has to go on."

Public officials — including Inslee, Duchin, the mayors of Seattle, Everett and Tacoma and executives for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties — are speaking now. Watch the live stream here:

"This demands a response consistent with the nature of the threat," Inslee said.

Inslee said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about these actions this morning.

Inslee said he hopes Washington's steps will provide an example for other places in the U.S. in stemming their outbreaks.

—Gina Cole

COVID-19 declared "pandemic" by World Health Organization

The World Health Organization on Wednesday officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, expressing increasing alarm about mounting infections.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who heads the U.N. agency, said the WHO is “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity” of the outbreak. He also expressed concern about “the alarming levels of inaction.”

“We have, therefore, made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he said at a briefing in Geneva.

“All countries can still change the course of this pandemic. If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response,” Tedros said.

—Associated Press

Use rubbing alcohol or Clorox wipes - not bleach - to clean phones

Beyond our faces, what do we touch all the time? Our phones.

While the coronavirus most frequently spreads among close contacts via respiratory droplets, and transmission to persons from contaminated surfaces has not been documented, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health officials encourage cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces because the virus can remain viable for hours to days on a variety of materials.

This includes your cellphone.

Cleaning, the CDC specified, refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities, and it does not kill germs, but removing them lowers the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to using chemicals to kill germs.

The agency recommends using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.

Apple said its products  can be gently cleaned with 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes or Clorox disinfecting wipes, but not bleach.

 

—Chicago Tribune

WATCH LIVE: Inslee announces new restrictions to slow spread of coronavirus

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to speak at 10:15 a.m. about restrictions intended to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Watch the live stream here:

—Gina Cole

Coronavirus adds layer of fear for people prone to panic

The stress of a new thing to worry about can exacerbate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or trigger more frequent panic attacks in the millions of people who are prone to them, according to mental health experts.

It can be especially rough for the about 5 percent of adults annually who have illness anxiety disorder, formerly known as hypochondria, and are predisposed to fear disease. A recent poll showed that more than two-thirds of Americans were “somewhat” or “very” concerned about a U.S. epidemic.

“It started as soon as the news that there was a new thing in the environment hit — a new virus,” said Shane Owens, a psychologist in Long Island, who specializes in treating anxiety, told The Washington Post. “They came in almost immediately feeling the false alarms of this and starting to see things in the environment that they saw as threatening.”

The story offers tips for reducing fear:

— Maintain your routines as much as possible.

— Avoid crowds, but don’t isolate yourself.

— Sleep, because it’s good for your immune system.

— Eat healthy food; don’t stress-eat junk.

— Don’t drink too much alcohol — or coffee.

— Exercise: It’s calming and may boost immune function.

— Get news only from reliable sources (such as the one you’re reading right now) and don’t become absorbed in the coverage for long periods of time.

— Take breaks. Play a game. Watch a movie (but not “Contagion”). Take a yoga class. Try a meditation app. Anything that will get your focus off the blather.

Local leaders support Gov. Jay Inslee's ban on large gatherings

Some Seattle-area elected officials expressed support for Gov. Jay Inslee's plan after news broke Tuesday night that Inslee would ban large public gatherings, such as sports events and concerts, during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“The transmission rate, the fatality rate, and the fact that the only effective strategy is extreme social distancing all make a strong argument for drastically -- and immediately -- changing our behavior,” Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said in a statement.

“The consequences of these decisions will be significant. We have to continue to work together, and in new ways, so the most vulnerable do not bear the weight, as they usually do in time of crisis,” said Herbold, who added that she wasn’t involved in the conversations leading up to the governor’s decision.

Metropolitan King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who represents the Eastside, described the situation as “really challenging.” She also wasn’t involved in the discussions about whether to ban large gatherings.

“I respect that we have to escalate our response in order to slow down the spread of the virus so that we don’t have a situation like they’re having in Italy,” Balducci said. “But the things we have to do are hard and they’re going to impact a lot of people … The economic impacts are real.”

She added, “It’s a once-in-my-lifetime event. I hope it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for all of us.”

In a statement, Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said Washington’s elected officials must act “with one purpose: to protect the health of the community and front line workers.”

“That includes maintaining protections for civil liberties, housing and care for our most vulnerable and acting swiftly to implement public health prevention and containment strategies,” she said. “I appreciate all that Gov. Inslee is putting into action.”

—Dan Beekman

Teachers and students at some South End Seattle schools plan "sick out" to protest district's coronavirus policy

About 30 staff members and many students at Seattle's Franklin High School were planning to call in sick Wednesday to protest Seattle Public Schools' response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to KUOW.

Participants say they're upset that the district is keeping most South End schools open Wednesday after a staff member at Aki Kurose Middle School tested positive for COVID-19.

While Aki Kurose has been closed, district officials have chosen not to close Franklin, Mercer Middle School and Rainier Beach High School where the district said there had been potential exposure to the virus. Cleveland STEM High School was closed on Wednesday for disinfection and will reopen Thursday, KUOW reported.

"A lot of their talking points have been 'we don't want to close for equity reasons, kids won't have access to the same education.' And they're absolutely right that that is true. But there is also equity in closing. We need to be protecting the health of our students,"  Franklin teacher Olivia Geffner told the radio station.

In South Seattle schools, which include many low-income students and children from immigrant and refugee families, many students live with their extended families, including elderly relatives, Geffner said. Health care disparities mean many in the community could have a hard time seeking testing and treatment for COVID-19, she said.

KUOW reported that Franklin student body president Jacquelyn Jimenez Romero posted a call on Instagram for students to call in sick Wednesday.

"This has become a matter of racial equity and social justice," Romero wrote.

—KUOW

Morning losses deepen on Wall Street as wild swings continue

Stocks are sinking sharply again Wednesday, nearly wiping out a huge rally from a day earlier as Wall Street continues to reel from worries about the coronavirus. Losses deepened as the morning progressed.

Another big central bank made an emergency cut to interest rates in hopes of blunting the economic pain caused by COVID-19, which economists call the global economy’s biggest threat. But investors are still waiting for details promised by President Donald Trump on potential aid for the economy through tax breaks and other relief.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Seattle businesses, government leaders set aside differences to team up on coronavirus response

Business leaders have been talking regularly since March 1 with local government and public health officials to ensure they’re getting the latest coronavirus information, and coordinating their response. Challenge Seattle, a group led by former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and including most of the region’s largest employers, coordinated the calls. Others are being hosted by the Association of Washington Business.

They get an early look at forthcoming public health recommendations, such as last week’s work-from-home guidance, and offer feedback and questions.

The communication and collaboration among businesses and local government leaders who don’t always see eye to eye on other issues have helped smooth the response to the region’s coronavirus crisis. Businesses that may otherwise compete for employees or customer contracts are sharing information to help each other.

“The crisis has really brought us all together, and disagreements in the past, or competition, have all been set aside,” Gregoire said.

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Romano

How to watch Inslee's announcement this morning

The Seattle press conference in which Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people will be live-streamed here at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday.

Inslee, who recently declared a state of emergency, will be joined by the county executives of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, as well as the mayors of Seattle, Everett and Tacoma.

The move is aimed at sports, concerts and other cultural events. It would not affect retail stores, according to a source involved in conversations with the governor’s office but who has not been cleared to discuss the issue.

Chris Reykdal, Washington’s superintendent of public instruction, said Tuesday evening he doesn’t expect Inslee’s announcement to shut down public schools. But, he added, people shouldn't be surprised if Inslee discusses the possibility of preparing for schools to close as the numbers of cases grows.

Donations to Food Lifeline decline just as they're most needed

More than half of the people in the Puget Sound region who depend on hunger relief from Food Lifeline are children, who may be without food when schools are closed, and seniors, who may have limited incomes and are most vulnerable to serious cases of COVID-19.

The coronavirus outbreak has made it hard for the organization to fulfill its mission, Food Lifeline said in a news statement this week. Donations, which they say account for 85% of the food they source each year, have declined dramatically. But the need for food has increased.

The organization has been asking for monetary donations to close the gap. A $30 contribution, it says, can feed a family of four for four days with nutritious prepacked food boxes. And $100, it says, can source more than 1,000 pounds of produce.

"Access to healthy food is already challenging for low-income seniors, and is now exacerbated by a need to limit interactions with others due to their increased risk of COVID-19 infection," officials with Food Lifeline said.

—Christine Clarridge

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday morning is expected to announce restrictions on gatherings of more than 250 people. The governor's action, his most drastic yet to slow the spread of the coronavirus, is expected to apply to sporting events, concerts and more in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Inslee's announcement at 10:15 a.m. will likely have huge ripple effects for the Mariners, the Sounders, school athletics, local arts groups and more. You'll want to bookmark our updating lists of canceled events and school closures, which have swelled to include two Seattle public schools.

Do you have COVID-19 … or just allergies? Know how to tell them apart.

Inside a hospital on the front lines: Workers at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland "knew our lives had changed" when they realized they were perched at the spearpoint of the nation’s first major outbreak of the new coronavirus. Read about the intense weeks inside, and watch the video.

"It's just everywhere already." This is the story of a Seattle infectious disease expert who realized her worst fear had come true as delays in testing set back the U.S. response.

Confirmed cases statewide have surpassed 260, including 24 deaths. Ten nursing homes and other residential or care communities in King County have had cases of the virus, health officials say.

Should older adults stay home? Health experts are sharing guidelines on staying safe.

King County has approved more than $28 million to help build and operate four isolation and quarantine sites.

Several Seattle restaurants are closing due to the outbreak, after their owners decided “there is no light at the end of the tunnel.” And Dick’s Drive-In is asking customers not to pay with cash, when possible, to avoid spreading the virus.

The virus poses a threat to everyone. Here are public health officials' recommendations in several languages.

Inslee's decision is a blow to athletes, but it's the right call, columnist Larry Stone writes.

As virus clusters swell around the U.S. and New York turns an entire city into a containment zone, many Americans have been avoiding handshakes and large gatherings. President Donald Trump is busy doing the opposite.

Tax day may be delayed because of the virus.

"The epicenter ... is Europe." Italy's infections have surpassed 10,000, and deaths are soaring among the aging population.

Alaska and Southwest airlines are preparing to cut flights amid the "breathtaking" decline in air travel.

Drive-thru coronavirus tests are happening for some local workers. Here’s how that looks.

Possibly the hottest job amid the Seattle-area outbreak: professional biohazard cleaners, who are swamped.

What about your pets? There's no evidence they can get infected, but take some steps in case you get sick. And you have to laugh at the solution one pet store is suggesting to help people prevent the virus from spreading.

—Kris Higginson

How is this outbreak 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.

Do you have questions about the novel coronavirus?

Ask your question in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. You can see questions we've already answered on this FAQ. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.