Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Friday as the events unfolded. 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.
The Puget Sound region is adjusting to a new normal as most people practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Schools are closed, large gatherings are banned, businesses are struggling and an already-strained health care system has been pushed to its limits.
More cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, are confirmed every day. The Washington State Department of Health announced 111 new cases Friday, bringing the state total to 568. In total, 37 people in Washington state are known to have died from the disease. The bulk of cases remain in King County, which has seen 328 people fall ill and 32 of them die.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday 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 Friday afternoon.
The White House says Google is building a coronavirus testing website, but details are fuzzy
The White House is turning to Google to build a new screening website for anyone wanting information on how to get tested for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Friday. However, there are some discrepancies between the White House and Google versions of what the site will be able to do, where it will do it, and when.
The site will actually be built by Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet that focuses on research and development around health issues, the company confirmed.
Scarcity of coronavirus testing continues to stymie Washington as disease spreads
Despite Seattle’s unwelcome role as the U.S. epicenter of a pandemic, panicked local residents consistently complain that they can’t get tested. Behind the complaints are delays in making reliable tests available, red tape that has slowed labs from testing and a bottleneck of test orders within an overburdened health care system, hindering a clearer understanding of the fast-spreading virus, public health officials say.
A botched roll-out of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention diagnostic tests early last month allowed an outbreak to spread undetected for weeks in Washington before fixes came and politicians vowed to ramp up testing capacities nationwide.
At least four labs now testing in Washington are capable of assessing several thousands of specimens a day, as federal regulations and criteria have been eased to increase testing capacities. President Donald Trump announced Friday that the government is partnering with private companies to increase capacity even further, including potential drive-through testing sites.
But the delayed response, coupled with hospitals and physicians already swamped and reluctant or unable to order tests, continues to turn back those who want to be tested.
Read the full story here.
Seattle Children's limits visitors to 2 primary caregivers per patient
Seattle Children's Hospital, which is canceling all elective surgeries beginning Monday, has decided to limit visitors to a maximum of two primary caregivers for each patient to slow the spread of the virus, the medical center tweeted Friday.
Every one else, including siblings of any age, may not visit, according to the Seattle Children's website.
"Limiting the number of people who enter our building helps us limit the spread of the virus," the website said.
King County Metro sees 45% drop in passengers
King County Metro is reporting a 45% decrease in ridership since March 2, compared to the same timeframe last year.
The drop of about 185,000 riders comes as public officials have recommended social distancing measures, including encouraging employers to allow staff to work from home, when possible, in an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Routes 7, 36, 40, 44, 70, and 120 saw the largest drops along with the Rapid Ride A, C, D and E lines.
— Michelle Baruchman (@mlbaruchman) March 14, 2020
In a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said he is encouraging transportation systems “to do everything they can to manage the coronavirus,” including adding more buses to routes to allow extra space for passengers on buses.
Metro will continue to operate bus service as scheduled at this time, said Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer.
“We’re operating service as scheduled with the workforce we have available,” Switzer said. “If workforce becomes an issue, we will take steps to revise service, though how that unfolds depends on the continued effects of the virus in our community."
King County Water Taxi ridership also dropped, by 61%, data shows. Metro Access, a paratransit service for people with disabilities, saw 51% fewer riders.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues, transit ridership could continue to decline.
“We expect ridership could continue to decrease due to COVID-19 as people take actions to limit the spread of the virus, including recommended limits on travel and increases in telecommuting, closure of schools and some public locations in our community,” according to Metro’s blog post.
House to vote on coronavirus relief legislation, which offers paid sick leave
For Washingtonians whose lives are increasingly upended by the coronavirus, some help should soon be arriving from the other Washington.
The mounting pressures of the outbreak have forged some significant bipartisan agreements, including an economic assistance package offering paid sick leave. The legislation is expected to be voted on Friday evening after an intense day of negotiations that involved House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“This is a big deal,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor. “We have people who are in quarantine and can’t do work for 14 days and are wondering how they will pay their bills.”
The legislation offers paid sick and family leave. Those covered, according to Kilmer, include people diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness, people who have to take time off work due to the need to quarantine, and parents who have to stay home to take care of children due to a school closure triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.
A draft of the bill calls for an emergency paid leave benefit for a 30-day period equal to two-thirds of an individual’s monthly earnings up to $4,000.
The benefit would be reduced – dollar for dollar – by what the individual could collect in state or private paid leave.
Other parts of the legislation would expand food assistance for vulnerable children and families, and add additional funding to states.
Earlier this month, Kilmer pushed for a provision in legislation signed by President Trump that makes $1 billion in loan subsidies available to small businesses, trade-dependent manufacturers and other enterprises that have wracked up losses due to the virus.
Seattle mayor to issue moratorium on residential evictions in wake of coronavirus outbreak
Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan plans to sign an emergency order temporarily halting residential evictions, she said Friday. She didn't immediately share details about how exactly the order would work.
Durkan announced the step in a news release reacting to President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency, indicating the federal move would pave the way for her to take more aggressive measures.
"I will be taking additional actions in the coming days focused on more relief for our workers and individuals hardest hit by this emergency, including a moratorium on residential evictions. We cannot let individuals lose their homes or go hungry at this critical time," she said in a statement.
As the virus has spread, advocates have said eviction hearings are causing at-risk people to venture into public spaces or lose their cases by not showing up. They've said more people are going to be struggling with rent payments soon, because the pandemic has caused so many businesses to close and cut back.
A number of Washington labor and community organizations began calling for a moratorium on eviction filings and enforcements since last week. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant urged the same in Seattle, sponsoring a petition that she said drew several thousand signatures. Two landlord groups earlier this week recommended that their members hold off on asking the sheriff's office to enforce evictions in King County.
In a news release Friday, Washington Community Action Network urged all Washington courts to suspend evictions, noting some people who are evicted become homeless. Multiple other states have suspended evictions, the organization said.
"It is absolutely appalling that our court system is putting lives at risk during this outbreak," the release said. "Pushing a renter into homelessness during a pandemic, isn’t just a health risk to the individual, but to the entire community around them."
The Washington state Supreme Court hasn't issued an statewide orders related to evictions during the pandemic, spokeswoman Wendy Ferrell said in an email. But an order issue by Chief Justice Debra Stephens last week has given local courts the ability to take emergency steps, Ferrell said.
Read the full story here.
Seattle Uber, Lyft drivers say their earnings are plummeting amid the coronavirus outbreak, and there’s little help in sight
The coronavirus outbreak has brought with it a swift economic fallout, emptying office buildings, obliterating hourly workers’ scheduled shifts and shuttering restaurants. Politicians have announced some economic help, including support for small businesses and new unemployment rules for employees.
Lost somewhere in the middle are tens of thousands of Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers in King County, classified as independent contractors, who appear to qualify neither for new business grant programs nor unemployment payments.
“It’s a luxury to be able to stay home and quarantine,” Uber and Lyft driver Julie Davis said Friday. “But this is our business. This is how we make money, and we’re struggling.”
Read the full story here.
How to clean the bundle of germs on your phone in era of coronavirus
You’re washing your hands countless times a day to try to ward off the coronavirus.
You should also wash that extension of your hand and breeding ground for germs — your phone. Tests done by scientists show that the virus can live for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
But cleaning your phone improperly can damage it. You want to avoid getting moisture inside it or scratching the surface. Don’t spray cleaners directly on it, don’t dunk the phone in cleaning solutions, don’t spray it with compressed-air devices used to clean keyboards and avoid rubbing it with abrasive materials. And don't charge it as you clean.
Village Theatre lays off about 70 people
Village Theatre, known for its performances of musicals at locations in Issaquah and Everett, has laid off close to 70 people in its casts, crews and orchestras after having to close two shows.
The news came as part of an email appeal for donations in which the theater said its projected operating loss due to state and county restrictions on gatherings is $700,000. "If this mandate continues through April, our loss will increase to over a million dollars — through May that number will be over $2.2 million," the theater said in its email.
Seattle restaurateur Ethan Stowell lays off large portion of his staff due to coronavirus
The new coronavirus outbreak has made it tough going for restaurants in the Seattle area. In a week filled with restaurant closures, acclaimed chef Ethan Stowell said Friday night that he has laid off about 40 percent of his workforce.
About 125 to 150 servers, dishwashers, cooks and hosts at his 15 restaurants in Seattle were given notice, Stowell said.
Stowell said he has met with as many employees at each restaurant as possible to give them the bad news in person.
“It is tough. The last couple of days have been the toughest of my career. A lot of tears man. You don’t’ like to lay anybody off. Even if it is the best option at the time, it feels awful,” Stowell said in a phone interview about an hour after his last round of staff meetings.
Stowell said sales were down around 25% at his neighborhood restaurants in Ballard, Queen Anne and Capitol Hill.
Read the full story here.
The Stranger temporarily lays off 18 employees, halts print newspaper
The Stranger, Seattle's alternative biweekly newspaper, has temporarily laid off 18 employees and suspended its print production as a result of coronavirus impacts, according to a statement Friday from the publication.
"This is an unbelievably sad day," said Laurie Saito, The Stranger's publisher, in the statement."But during these exceedingly difficult and unprecedented times, we have gotten donations from almost 3,000 donors. They are one of the big reasons we can continue producing journalism about the city."
The staff cuts came from "virtually every department," including sales, ad design, editorial design, production, distribution, accounting, calendar and editorial, the newspaper said.
"Ninety percent of The Stranger's revenue comes from people being able to gather in public—in rock clubs, theaters, museums, restaurants, bars, etc. — and many of our advertisers are shutting down operations as social-distancing measures go into effect across the region," the statement said.
The Stranger noted that it's never had to do mass layoffs before or halted its print edition, except one week in 2017 when the newspaper switched to its biweekly system.
Some staffers who were affected volunteered to be part of the layoffs, the statement said.
"It is impossible to imagine The Stranger without any of these people, much less all of them leaving at the same time," the statement said. "Remaining managers at the company are taking a significant pay cut."
The newspaper said that although staff doesn't know when they'll return to normal operations, they're planning to temporarily expand coverage on Slog, their blog, to include weekends.
UW confirms another student case of COVID-19
The University of Washington confirmed another student case of COVID-19 Friday afternoon.
The student, who lives in the on-campus dorm Lander Hall, was tested on Thursday, and the university received results Friday, said UW spokesman Victor Balta. The student is "doing well" and recovering in isolation, Balta said.
Anyone known to be in close contact with the student is self-isolating and monitoring their condition for two weeks.
The UW has since cleaned the apartment, rooms and common areas of Lander Hall, and other on-campus areas the student was in since showing symptoms on Wednesday.
"The risk of transmission for the general UW community from this case is considered to be low," Balta said. "However, community transmission of the COVID-19 virus continues to increase locally, in our region and in the United States."
The university announced its first student case of COVID-19 on Thursday, in a graduate student.
Albertsons seeks 2,000 workers in Western Washington
Grocery giant Albertsons said it has more than 2,000 immediate job openings at Safeway and Albertsons stores and a distribution center in Western Washington as it staffs up to serve surging demand for grocery delivery and online order pickup amid the spread of COVID-19.
The hiring push comes amid widespread job cuts in other sectors of the economy as restaurants, entertainment venues, hotels, airlines and other businesses adjust to a dramatic drop in business as people isolate themselves, cancel travel and work from home amid the disease outbreak.
Grocery stores, however, have been thronged with shoppers preparing for extended periods of social distancing. Other people are turning more frequently to grocery delivery and pickup services, which brick-and-mortar grocers have started offering in recent years to compete with online retailers such as Amazon.
“While we always have openings in most of our stores, we have seen significant increase in demand for home delivery and ‘Drive Up & Go,’” Safeway spokesperson Sara Osborne said via email.
She added that the company is anticipating its own employees – numbering 20,000 in Washington – may need to miss work to quarantine themselves, or to care for sick family members or children who are home from school.
The company is hiring both full- and part-time positions for in-store employees, delivery drivers, personal shoppers and workers at its Auburn distribution center. It directed would-be applicants to apply online or contact individual store managers.
Albertsons has stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under several different names. Its Safeway-Albertsons Seattle Division has 222 stores in Washington, Idaho and Alaska.
Events at State Capitol canceled in efforts to slow spread of coronavirus
OLYMPIA – All events at the Capitol campus that require a permit have been canceled through April 24 to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the state Department of Enterprise Services.
The agency, which oversees the Capitol campus, also recommended that people participating in smaller, nonpermitted free-speech activities follow state health social-distancing guidelines.
In the meantime, the state Secretary of State’s Office announced it would “suspend public access to critical in-person services until further notice” at its various locations.
The office will continue to operate, despite the closures, according to a news release.
The decision will close off from the public access to the Washington State Archives, the state libraries, the division that handles corporations and charities, and the state elections office.
The Secretary of State’s Office will still process filings for election initiatives and referenda through its executive office in the Capitol building. More information about the closures can be found here.
SIFF suspends all screenings and events due to outbreak
The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is suspending all screenings and events "until conditions improve sufficiently," the nonprofit said in an announcement Friday.
SIFF will close its three cinemas — SIFF Cinema Egyptian, SIFF Cinema Uptown and SIFF Film Center — beginning Friday.
Staff have been temporarily furloughed.
The Seattle International Film Festival, set to run from May 14 to June 7, is still scheduled at this time.
For patrons who have already purchased tickets to canceled or postponed screenings, SIFF recommends:
- Considering your ticket purchase a donation
- Contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about a refund or other options
"We remain committed to the safety and best interests of our staff and audience members, and we will continue to share updates in the days and weeks ahead," the statement said.
MLB suspends all spring training activities due to coronavirus, allows players to travel home if desired
In yet another example of how fast the situation can change surrounding sports and the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, Major League Baseball made a complete reversal of a policy expressed less than 24 hours before, announcing that all spring training camps were to come a halt and that players could return to their homes for the time being.
Read the full story here.
Man who left Kent quarantine facility does not have coronavirus
A man who unexpectedly left an emergency quarantine facility at a Kent motel on Friday morning has tested negative for COVID-19.
The man's departure wreaked hours of havoc, as Kent officials said the man's decision to leave confirmed their fears about the quarantine facility's placement in their city. At the time, officials were still waiting on the man's test results. On Friday evening, the city of Kent posted on their Facebook page that he had tested negative.
"We are both happy and relieved," the post read. "However, the situation our community faced earlier reinforces our need to hear a plan from the county to guarantee the safety and security of the Kent community including the patients they house at the quarantine facility."
The city of Kent attempted to block the county’s use of the motel as an emergency quarantine shelter in court, but was twice overruled by a court commissioner within the last week.
Man who died in Kansas was resident of facility owned by same company as Life Care in Kirkland
A man who died of new coronavirus in Kansas City, Kan., earlier this week was a resident at Life Care Center of Kansas City, which is owned by the same company as Life Care Center of Kirkland.
Life Care is a national chain that operates or manages more than 200 nursing, rehabilitation, Alzheimer’s and senior living facilities in 20 states. The man was not connected with Life Care Center of Kirkland, where more than 60 residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
The man had been discharged to Life Care Center of Kansas City from a hospital on Feb. 25. He was taken to an emergency room for an unrelated medical issue on March 7. He was treated and released back to the facility the same day.
He was found unresponsive in his room Tuesday, Life Care Center of Kansas City said in a statement, but did not show any symptoms of respiratory illness. He died Wednesday at the hospital.
A COVID-19 test conducted after he died came back positive, Life Care Center said.
There have been six cases of coronavirus in Kansas, according to the state’s Department of Health and Environment. Gov. Laura Kelly issued an emergency declaration Thursday in response to the outbreak.
Washington state leaders react to Trump’s coronavirus emergency declaration, Seattle-area
Moments after President Trump declared a national emergency to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington residents grappling with the pandemic should benefit from the federal action.
At a White House news conference, Trump said the move would open up as much as $50 billion in funding to help state and local governments respond to the coronavirus outbreak, including increased testing. But with the White House providing few details Friday, it's unclear at this point exactly what federal help may be on the way to Washington and how much.
Inslee spoke to Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday and asked him to press Trump on the matter, the governor said at a news conference in Olympia after the president's announcement.
"I asked (Pence) to urge the president to make such a declaration, and it is hopeful to the state of Washington, because it will make some Medicare and Medicaid benefits eligible where they would not be eligible," said Inslee, who expanded his own emergency declaration Friday by ordering the closure of all K-12 schools in Washington and by halting in-person instruction at colleges and universities. "It helps with public message, as well, to let all Americans know how serious the challenge is."
The virus has swept the nation, and the world, with highest concentration of deaths in the U.S. here in Washington. As of Friday the state announced there have been 568 cases and a total of 37 deaths, with the bulk of the cases in King County.
Hundreds of businesses have closed since the outbreak, some temporarily, and companies have urged their employees to work from home.
Read the full story here.
Tech company Weekdays to pair child care providers with nearby families
Working families around the state are in need of last minute childcare now that schools will be closed for six weeks. A new technology company, called Weekdays, helps pair vetted in-home childcare providers with nearby families. Think of it as Lyft for childcare.
During the six-week-long school closure, the company is waiving all fees and working with providers, such as parents, educators, and nannies, to set up “home pods” of three or fewer children. Weekdays founder Shauna Causey said it’s the safest way to do it given current coronavirus concerns. They are focused on providing care for families where the adults have to continue working.
The company vets potential providers in two ways — a federal database or a quicker background check — and lets parents choose the option they prefer. Some providers are licensed; others are license-exempt because of the duration of the services.
The Department of Children, Youth and Families did not comment directly on this program, but said in a written statement they are “exploring creative solutions in licensing to accommodate emergent situations focusing on...developing additional capacity by collaborating with the community partners and stakeholders.”
If you are in need of child care or can provide services, you can reach Weekdays by texting 425-200-5127.
Comcast offers free WiFi hotspots and eliminates data caps nationwide in response to coronavirus outbreak
Comcast, one of the state's top internet providers, announced Friday it would eliminate data caps for its customers and open free public WiFi hotspots throughout the country, as part of its response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the internet – for education, work, and personal health reasons,” said Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson in a Friday statement. "Our employees also live and work in virtually every community we serve, and we all share the same belief that it’s our Company’s responsibility to step up and help out.”
The company will implement the new policies for the next 60 days, the statement said.
In addition to offering free Xfinity WiFi hotspots and upgrading customers to unlimited data plans, Comcast is also promising not to disconnect a customer's internet services or issue late fees if a customer can't pay their bills during this time.
Read the full story here.
WIAA says worker at Tacoma basketball tournament has tested positive for COVID-19
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association says a tournament worker at a state basketball tournament in Tacoma has tested positive for COVID-19.
"The WIAA has been in contact with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) and, because the individual became symptomatic after the tournament, the situation has been deemed by health officials to be a low risk for those involved with the event," a WIAA statement said.
The worker started showing symptoms on Monday. Health officials determined that the earliest the worker might have been contagious was Saturday, March 7, the statement said.
King County expects 'hundreds or thousands' of people who can’t isolate at home to need quarantine facilities
King County officials expect “hundreds or thousands of people” who will need to use emergency quarantine facilities because they are not able to isolate at home or do not have a home.
Hours after a homeless man awaiting COVID-19 test results walked away from one of those facilities in Kent on Friday morning, King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) Director Leo Flor warned that officials were expecting far more people to need those emergency units.
DCHS, Flor said, did not have the ability to compel someone to stay in a facility, though he said that fencing had begun at the site and that the county was discussing staffing changes.
The big issue, Flor said, is a shortage of available staff.
“It's an analogue to the same problem that we know that the medical system is having right now,” Flor said. “What we see very clearly right now is that we need more staff and we are seeking staff from additional regions outside of our own to come in and supplement our system.”
Seattle farmer's markets suspended through mid-April
All Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets will be suspended through April 13, in keeping with an order from the office of Mayor Jenny Durkan.
“With support from the city and our stakeholders it is our goal to welcome you all safely back into the markets as soon as possible,” said Jennifer Antos, executive director of Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets.
In the meantime, Antos and her staff are looking for “creative solutions” so that farmers, food producers and shoppers who rely on the markets, and programs like Fresh Bucks, may keep their access to healthful food.
Customers who are interested in arranging for deliveries or pickups at neighborhood drop points from more than 200 market farmers and vendors can fill out a form.
And supporters can donate to the Good Farmer Fund, which, since 2008, has provided more than $250,000 in relief to small farms.
“Our goal is to ensure that farmers markets and vendors survive this unforeseen disruption in their businesses,” Antos said, “and are able to continue to bring healthy food and vitality into Seattle neighborhoods. There is work to do, and in the spirit of community, our interconnectedness and feeding neighbors during good times and bad, you are all needed.”
Some homeless shelter providers say they're unsure what to do if a resident has coronavirus
As elected officials in Seattle and King County push to create new shelter and quarantine space for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak, some homeless service providers say they're still in the dark about what to do if a resident develops symptoms or tests positive for the disease.
At The Sophia Way shelter in Bellevue, just six miles south of the skilled nursing facility where 22 people have died of COVID-19, people are sick but aren't able to access coronavirus testing, said executive director Alisa Chatinsky.
"The county has been talking to us, trying to get hotels to isolate people," said Chatinsky, whose organization works with women experiencing homelessness, one-third of whom are over the age of 55. "But because we’re not testing, how do we know if they have COVID or a cold or a flu or what? That has not happened yet."
At the ROOTS young adult shelter in the University District, young adults are able to access testing, said program manager Kat Ousley. The Seattle Flu Study has set up shop in the shelter and is testing shelter residents six days a week.
But what happens if someone tests positive? Ousley doesn't know. It hasn't happened yet.
"I think we're all a little frustrated with the guidance or lack of guidance," Ousley said. "For instance, if we find out tonight one of our guests tests positive for COVID-19, we have no real guidance for what to do with that information."
Public Health - Seattle & King County has been organizing weekly calls for shelter providers, and the county has set up a coronavirus call center. The county has also purchased a motel and is deploying modular units to quarantine or isolate people. But some shelter providers still say they're not sure about how to get their residents inside those quarantine units if it becomes necessary to do so.
"[I’d like] continued clarity on how we respond if a young person is symptomatic in our space and where do we direct them," said Rob Stewart, executive director of New Horizons, a service provider that works with youth experiencing homelessness. "I think things are being stood up right now. As we wait, we are waiting with everybody else for that.”
There is a COVID-19 hotline in King County, different from the statewide general information line, said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. That line – at 206-477-3977 – is available for people in the county and believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 or a healthcare provider with COVID-19 questions.
King County is also currently working on building protocols for how to handle cases involving the homeless population.
“Part of the problem is for all people, we don’t have enough testing. We don’t have enough isolation, quarantine and recovery sites. We don’t have enough shelter to begin with. … And now the libraries are closed, and now the community centers are closed,” Eisinger said. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s in motion and people are working super hard.”
Alex Jones ordered to stop selling sham anti-coronavirus toothpaste
The New York state attorney general has issued a cease-and-desist order to Alex Jones, the conservative radio host, who has made false claims on his website that his diet supplements and toothpaste could be used to fight the coronavirus.
Jones, according to the attorney general, made a series of claims: That his products could act as a “stopgate” against the virus, that his Superblue brand of toothpaste “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.”
There are no products, vaccines or drugs approved to treat or cure the virus.
As the disease spreads across the United States, so too has online misinformation and the marketing of fraudulent products that claim to prevent the coronavirus, presenting government officials with a new frontier in their escalating fight against the outbreak.
King County Library System shuts down
King County Library System announced a system-wide closure, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday. The closure will be in effect until at least April 13. All due dates on check-out materials will be automatically extended to April 30, and KCLS is waiving all late fees accrued in March and April.
More information: kcls.org
Food, mental health support and more: Resources to support the community during the coronavirus outbreak
Families rely on schools for more than just education. With the mandated closure of schools in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, families will need supplemental resources, like food and health care. Community members and local organizations are stepping up to fill in the gaps.
The Seattle Times' Education Lab team is compiling, and consistently updating, a list of resources available to families during this time.
Clark County public health officials confirm 2 more COVID-19 cases
Two more COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Clark County, marking the county's second and third cases, public health officials announced Friday.
The two patients are a married couple — a man and a woman — both in their 80s. One of them lives in a “small adult family home” and the other is staying at Van Mall Retirement, an assisted living community in Vancouver, Washington. While they lived in separate facilities, they were in close contact, a statement from the Clark County Public Health said.
They were transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center this week and remain hospitalized.
Clark County Public Health reported its first positive case last week, a man in his 70s.
King County Superior Court postpones criminal jury trials until April 24
King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Jim Rogers on Friday ordered all jury trials be postponed until April 24, and suspended the issuance of jury summons starting Monday, in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Rogers' emergency order notes about 200 prospective jurors respond to summons every Monday through Wednesday at the courthouse in downtown Seattle, with another 150 appearing those days at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. During jury selection, 35 to 50 jurors are seated together during questioning by attorneys, and at any given time, there are 10 to 30 trials going on between the two courthouses.
"Social distancing during jury selection and jury trials is nearly impossible," the order says.
The order acknowledges that criminal defendants have a right to a speedy trial but says that, as of Friday, the danger of the virus is too great.
"It constitutes an unavoidable circumstance beyond the control of the court and the parties," Rogers' order states.
Life Care asks for help getting staff tested
With few updates on the number of Life Care Center employees’ COVID-19 tests being conducted or tests results being returned, Life Care press liaison Timothy Killian on Friday called for a more coordinated effort among agencies to allow for all of the Kirkland facilities’ 180 employees to be tested.
Only about 30 employees have been tested for the new coronavirus, though twice that number are showing symptoms.
All residents have been tested and Life Care has received all but five results for them.
Employees who are working are responsible for reporting their own symptoms, Killian said. They are not being screened at the facility.
“We would like to get more employees tested,” he said. “We would appreciate any and all help.”
Gov. Inslee orders all Washington schools closed
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he is mandating the closure of all Washington schools from March 17 through at least April 24.
He added that he was going to “restrict activities” at colleges, saying there would be no in-person courses through that date. Labs and clinics, he said, can continue if social distancing is imposed.
In the same announcement, he made his existing efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus even more drastic, expanding his restriction on meetings of over 250 to the entire state. Inslee also announced he would expand visitor restrictions he placed earlier this week on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to also include adult family homes.
The move comes one day after Inslee said he was using an executive order to mandate K-12 school closures in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties for those same dates. Dormitories, food service, research facilities and medical clinics can remain open, too.
Officials confirm 568 people in Washington have tested positive for COVID-19; 37 of them have died
Officials have confirmed that 568 people in Washington state have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and that 37 of those people have died.
The numbers released Friday by the state Department of Health include 111 more cases and six more deaths from the day before.
Cases have now been confirmed in 15 counties, with Columbia and Yakima counties now reporting cases.
The bulk remain in King County, which has seen 328 people fall ill and 32 of them die. Of those who died, 25 were residents of Life Care Center of Kirkland, and at least three were residents of other nursing homes or care communities.
Public Health – Seattle & King County said it expects the number of cases to double every five to seven days as the disease spreads, though the agency hopes residents will help slow the spread through social distancing measures and by staying home when sick. These measures will also help alleviate the burden on hospitals.
The count of cases has also increased because of more capacity for testing in the state.
Worker at WWU dormitory job site tests positive for coronavirus
A construction worker at a dormitory job site on the campus of Western Washington University has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the school.
The worker lives in Snohomish County and has been commuting to work at the site of the former Highland Hall on Western’s Bellingham campus, the school said in a news statement. The worker was at the Silver Reef Casino Resort Buffet on Tuesday between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., according to joint statement from the Lummi Indian Business Council and the Whatcom County Health Department.
The worker is complying with self-isolation standards, and work at the job site has been placed on hold, the release from WWU states.
“At this time, it appears that any exposure on campus was limited only to the fenced construction site,” the release states. “Three Western employees who regularly interact with workers at the site are in self-quarantine.”
The job site is in the Ridgeway Commons area of Western’s campus.
At the same time, the 16,000-student university joined other state and national institutions in announcing major changes to its spring quarter instruction plans. The university, which just concluded its final exams for winter quarter, will delay the start of spring quarter from March 31 to April 6, and all courses will be online-only through April 27, when in-person instructions might resume.
That’s in keeping with a new directive this afternoon from Gov. Jay Inslee, restricting teaching to online at all state higher education institutions through at least April 24. Labs and clinics can continue with appropriate social distancing, Inslee said.
While no WWU student has yet tested positive for COVID-19, the university has confirmed that it submitted 19 tests of students with flu-like symptoms for testing since Tuesday, and is awaiting results.
One other person in Whatcom County has tested positive. An employee of the Lummi Indian Business Council who lives in King County and works at the Lummi Reservation also has tested positive.
Seattle Children’s hospital halts all elective surgeries
Seattle Children’s Hospital decided Thursday night to halt all elective surgeries beginning on Monday, said Sonja Hanson, a hospital spokesperson.
The decision was made after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for area hospitals dealing with COVID-19 cases. Urgent surgeries and procedures will continue.
“We are taking this action to preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and to maintain social distancing standards, which minimizes potential exposures for patients and workforce members,” Hanson said in an email.
Boeing says seven workers infected with coronavirus
Boeing said Friday morning that as of Thursday evening, seven members of its local workforce had tested positive for COVID-19.
Six worked at the Everett jet plant, the company said. The seventh worked at the Longacres headquarters of the commercial airplanes division.
In addition, three workers at Boeing's Auburn parts plant are in quarantine after showing flu-like symptoms. These employees are being tested for the COVID-19 virus and are receiving medical care.
Boys & Girls Clubs of King County remain open, extend programs, as schools close because of coronavirus
The Boys & Girls Clubs of King County are open, accepting new members, extending programs and serving hot meals while keeping a close eye on the number of kids who come through the doors, the organization said Friday.
“We want to support those families who may be experiencing challenges due to school closures in our area,” said Laurie Black, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of King County, which has 10 locations: Bainbridge Island, Ballard, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Redmond Elementary, Sammamish, Smilow Rainier Vista, North Seattle, View Ridge and Wallingford.
The clubs have no evidence of anyone there having contracted the COVID-19 virus, and have instituted the following policies at all clubs:
Families and staff will be asked at dropoff if they have had contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of the coronavirus or is awaiting test results in the last 14 days. If the answer is yes, the youth is unable to attend and the staff is unable to return to work until after the quarantine has passed.
Youth and staff are required to wash their hands upon arrival and will wash thoroughly before eating meals and snacks, and throughout the day.
If the club experiences a confirmed case of coronavirus -- in a staff member or youth -- the club will close down for at least two days to allow the disinfection of all surfaces.
And starting next week, youths' temperatures will be taken before entry; if it is over 100 degrees, staff or youth will be sent home and told to contact their primary care provider.
Capacity will be limited to fewer than 250 people, including staff. The club will maintain a 15:1 ratio between attendees and staff in elementary programming and 20:1 in the teen centers.
There is no additional cost to current youth and teen club members; new members will be responsible for a $50 membership fee and a $25 daily fee. New teen members will pay only the $50 membership fee.
Parents are advised to call their neighborhood club to confirm the starting times, or visit the club’s website.
“We are working to be as flexible and responsive as possible to our family and community needs in this time of upheaval,” Black said.
Washington state, Seattle-area leaders await Trump’s coronavirus emergency announcement
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he hopes the emergency powers that President Donald Trump is expected to invoke Friday will provide desperately needed help to the state’s communities.
Inslee spoke Thursday to Vice President Mike Pence and asked that the White House immediately declare a national emergency under the Stafford Act, the governor said in a statement before Trump spoke Friday.
The Stafford Act is a U.S. law that allows for federal emergency and disaster aid to state and local governments.
“This will unlock additional resources and authorities for states like Washington on the front lines of the crisis,” Inslee said. “I am hopeful the president’s actions today will provide the assistance I asked for to help the workers, businesses, families and communities that are being impacted in Washington state.”
He added, “By declaring a national emergency, the federal government can provide states with direct assistance to meet our residents’ needs for health care, shelter, food and cash assistance, and more.”
Washington’s U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, didn’t immediately comment. Nor did Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who has repeatedly called on Trump to declare a national emergency, saying the step would unlock desperately needed relief for the state’s largest city. King County Executive Dow Constantine also didn’t immediately comment.
Read the full story here.
Person left quarantine facility in Kent against instructions, officials say
A person awaiting COVID-19 test results left an emergency quarantine facility at a Kent motel on Friday morning, against the instructions of onsite security, King County officials said. The person had been experiencing homelessness and was placed there late Tuesday.
The person was the “first temporary resident” of the motel and was the first known homeless individual potentially infected with the novel coronavirus.
The person left the facility at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. The person allegedly then took two baked items from a convenience store and tried to pay for milk before boarding a 153 King County Metro bus, which was later taken out of circulation and cleaned, officials said.
Read the full story here.
Walk-on riders staying away from ferries
Coronavirus, and the social distancing it requires, have had a heavy impact on Washington State Ferries.
Ridership over the last week is down 13% versus the same week last year, the ferry system said Friday.
Walk-on riders, who can't isolate themselves in their cars, are down 42%.
The system's busiest route, Seattle to Bainbridge Island, has seen walk-on ridership dive 51%.
Washington State Ferries has asked passengers in the cabin to stay six feet away from one another and has advised drivers that they're welcome to stay in their cars through sailings.
"At some point in time if we're not able to staff the boats because people are in quarantine, or if ridership continues to drop, we could move to a reduced-service schedule," spokesman Ian Sterling said. "But we're not there yet."
Davis Wright Tremaine legal assistant dies after having 'flu-like' symptoms; firm closes 3 offices
A 60-year-old executive legal assistant for the Seattle-area law firm giant Davis Wright Tremaine has died after leaving work Tuesday with "flu-like symptoms," according to the legal publication Law 360.
The woman worked in the Bellevue office, according to the firm which announced on Friday that it would be closing two of its Washington offices and a third location in Portland.
Davis Wright Tremaine later reported that the woman's death was not linked to the coronavirus.
The firm's announcement was made as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to climb in the U.S., with 457 cases in Washington state alone as of yesterday, including 31 deaths, according to the state's Department of Health.
Employees in all other Davis Wright offices are being instructed to work remotely if possible starting Monday, said Jeff Gray, Davis Wright's managing partner.
South Korea is doing 10,000 coronavirus tests a day
More than 240,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus in South Korea — about one test per every 250 people, among the highest testing rates in the world.
More than 10,000 tests have been administered each day over the past few weeks since a sudden spike in infections in late February.
From drive-through kiosks to hospitals to local clinics, hundreds of test sites are available across the country, and it's largely free. South Korea's testing blitz has emerged as one of the models for rapid and comprehensive responses as some other countries, including the United States, lag well behind.
Person quarantined in Kent left facility, officials say
King County is changing the qualifications for who it allows to stay in temporary housing units in Kent and White Center after a homeless person awaiting COVID-19 test results left the Kent facility against the instructions of on-site security, officials said.
The person left the facility at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. Officials alleged that this person shoplifted items from a convenience store before boarding a 153 King County Metro bus, which was then taken out of circulation and cleaned.
King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the purchase of the Kent motel and deployment of modular units last week in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The units were intended to isolate or quarantine people who might not have a home address or who are unable to stay at home.
People allowed to be housed in the Kent and White Center facilities will be restricted to those who are “able to quarantine or isolate without the need of social services or additional supports,” according to the county.
Rage Against the Machine postpones tour and Tacoma Dome stop, a likely sign of what's to come
The first leg of Rage Against the Machine’s highly anticipated reunion run, which included an April 28 Tacoma Dome stop, has been postponed due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.
Also postponed: Celine Dion's April 15 Tacoma Dome stop.
While Billie Eilish also announced a string of postponements Thursday, her April 10 Tacoma Dome visit is still on the books — though that seems increasingly likely to be delayed.
Kent says it has 'urgent public safety update' about quarantine patient's exit from coronavirus facility
The city of Kent has called a news conference for 11 a.m. Friday to broadcast an "urgent public safety update about a patient who has left the Coronavirus quarantine facility in the City of Kent."
The message was sent out by Interim Communications Manager Bailey Stober.
Kent officials protested King County's recent purchase of a motel along a key downtown corridor in the south King County city to be used as an emergency public health quarantine facility for coronavirus patients, contending they weren’t informed or consulted about the decision that could put their community at risk.
On Wednesday, King County identified the facility’s “first temporary resident” — an unidentified person who may become the region’s first known case of a homeless individual infected with the novel coronavirus.
The revelation that the county had moved a patient with viruslike symptoms into the vacant Econo Lodge on Central Avenue North late Tuesday, pending test results, came during a hearing before a Superior Court commissioner tasked with deciding on the city of Kent’s latest attempt to get a temporary restraining order against the quarantine facility.
U.S. Sens. Merkley, Warren call on Trump to halt evictions in federally subsidized housing
As the COVID-19 pandemic starts to take a toll on workers’ paychecks, U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., are calling on President Donald Trump to place a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in federally subsidized housing and properties owned or insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In a letter to the president, the senators wrote that “a national moratorium is urgently needed to mitigate the hardship confronting many American workers who have already seen or will soon experience an unexpected and significant drop in income.”
Their request echoes calls from local housing and homelessness advocacy organizations for Gov. Jay Inslee to halt evictions in Washington state during the COVID-19 crisis. Local landlords have also asked the King County Sheriff’s Office not to enforce evictions as the outbreak grows, and housing advocates want the King County Superior Court to halt eviction filings in court altogether.
No rite of spring for golf: Masters postponed due to virus
Augusta National decided Friday to postpone the Masters because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Club chairman Fred Ridley says he hopes postponing the storied event puts the exclusive Georgia golf club in the best position to host the Masters and its other two events at some later date.
Ridley did not say when it would be held. The PGA Tour has canceled all events through the Masters, and golf has a full schedule of events through the year.
The next major would be the PGA Championship in San Francisco in May.
Seattle Art Museum closing three sites to slow COVID-19 spread
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) announced the temporary closure of its three sites—the Seattle Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park—effective Friday, March 13, in order to support Seattle’s efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The museum joins a host of other bastions of art and culture responding to the outbreak with closures.
The temporary closure will extend through March 31, with any further program or operational updates announced as the museum monitors the evolving situation.
The outdoor areas of sculpture park will remain open and free to the public. The museum said it will continue to pay employees.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
All K-12 schools, public and private, in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties are closing through at least April 24 to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and the shutdown could extend longer. This has families scrambling and some districts hurrying to figure out how to deliver education from a distance. Will it help stem the virus’ spread? Here’s what the research says.
Health care: Medical supplies have run low. Hospitals are searching for ways to add beds. Health care workers are being asked for extra shifts. We’re facing the real-life consequences of shortcomings that have been documented for years. Read the Times Watchdog story, and learn about how virtual doctor visits are keeping patients and health-care workers safe.
Isolation: President Donald Trump provoked howls when he floated the idea of restricting travel to Washington state if the outbreak gets “too hot.”
Housing: More people are going to have trouble paying their rent. Is banning evictions the answer?
Businesses: From bakers to barbers and everything in between, the impacts are snowballing. Seattle is ponying up $1.5 million for grants to small businesses, but many fear that city, state and federal relief won’t be enough to save them.
Restaurants: Owners are “flat-out scared” and workers are reeling as the number of restaurant closures tops 50 in two weeks; the latest include two highly acclaimed Seattle spots. And vaunted Canlis is switching to drive-thru and delivery services.
Sports: UW has suspended all athletic events, Major League Baseball delayed its season and the NCAA canceled its basketball tournaments. Sports, a longtime sanctuary in times of crisis, has vanished in roughly 24 hours. This will resonate for a lifetime, columnist Larry Stone writes.
Homelessness: Imagine living through this with no way to wash your hands. Across Seattle, thousands of people are vulnerable because of a lack of sanitation. Here’s what the city is doing to try to help them.
Unsung heroes: We're seeing an epidemic of people helping each other with extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity. Columnist Naomi Ishisaka spotlights a few of these heartening stories. Please share yours, and we’ll gather the best for publication.
Around the world
A Brazilian official who recently met President Donald Trump has tested positive for the virus. Trump doesn't plan to be tested or go into quarantine.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie, has also tested positive. The Trudeaus are in isolation. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, meanwhile, are recovering in a country that's earning praise for its preparation.
If you stay home, you can help reverse trends, an Italian town is showing. "We have behaved well," one Codogno resident says, but it has come with great personal sacrifices.
Keep your home free of viruses with these cleaning and disinfecting tips.
Know how the virus spreads and how to protect yourself. Here's our visual guide.
If you don’t have cabin fever yet, you might soon. Here’s what you can do in the Seattle area this weekend, even amid the social distancing.
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- More on coronavirus »
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