Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Monday as the events unfolded. Extended coverage of the outbreak of a new 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 can be found here.
Cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, continue to be confirmed around Washington state. In total, 22 people in Washington state are known to have died from the disease.
Residents around the Puget Sound region have faced an ongoing state of uncertainty about how the virus’ spread affects them and their daily lives.
Throughout Monday, 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 Sunday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Gates Foundation spearheads $125 million drive to develop a coronavirus drug
As part of a $100 million commitment to the global COVID-19 response, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Tuesday a collaboration to speed development of treatments for the new coronavirus that has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide — and killed nearly 4,000.
The Seattle-based foundation’s $50 million contribution will be combined with $50 million from Wellcome, a major British health philanthropy, and $25 million from Mastercard’s Impact Fund, a philanthropy focused on economic growth.
Read the full story here.
Snohomish transportation employee tests positive for COVID-19, resulting in building and school closures
The Snohomish Health District confirmed Monday that a district-level employee who works in the transportation department tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the closure and cleaning of the facility.
Because the closure will affect the city's ability to transport students, all Snohomish School District schools will also be closed Tuesday, the city said in a statement. All athletics and other activities will also be canceled Tuesday.
Columbia Lutheran Home confirms 2 COVID-19 cases among residents
Seattle's Columbia Lutheran Home confirmed Monday two of their hospitalized residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
The skilled nursing facility didn't share any more information about the two residents, but noted that it has implemented several new rules to keep the community healthy.
The facility has increased cleaning, prohibited group meals in dining rooms, postponed group activities for residents, rescheduled nonessential doctor appointments and restricted visitors, among other rules.
Samammish and other Eastside cities cancel public meetings until further notice
The City of Sammamish will only accept public comments for its City Council and planning commission meetings via email and written submissions because of the virus outbreak.
The meetings are closed to the public indefinitely, but they will continue to be broadcast on Channel 21 within Sammamish and archived on the city’s YouTube channel. Written comments should be submitted at Sammamish City Hall, which is located at 801 228th Ave. S.E.
In Kirkland, all city meetings in the evening have been canceled, except for City Council meetings, through the end of the month. City Council meetings are also live-streamed on the city’s website.
King's Schools in Shoreline close campuses until after spring break amid coronavirus concerns
King's Schools in Shoreline told families Monday that they were closing all four campuses until after spring break because of the virus outbreak.
The private, interdenominational Christian preschool, elementary school, junior high school and high school will ease into online learning, beginning with a half-day Tuesday and lasting until spring break, the head of school said in an email. School is canceled Wednesday, the email said, and the "remote learning experience" will begin Thursday.
The remote learning will extend through March 27, the last school day before spring break. While the schools are closed, staff will clean the buildings.
"It will be our hope to welcome all students back to campus following spring break on Wednesday, April 8," the school said.
No COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at King's Schools.
"I want you to know that a decision like this can only be made following a great deal of prayer, analysis and collaboration," the head of school said in the email. "We understand that moving to a remote learning environment over the following 2-plus weeks may present a significant impact for your student and family. Yet the well-being of your children, as well as our teachers and staff, is and always will be our highest priority."
Northshore School District begins online-only learning to prevent coronavirus spread
Ask parents Scott Pope and Matthew Mizenko to rate Northshore School District’s first day of remote learning, and you’ll get two very different answers.
At the Pope household in Bothell, Monday went remarkably smoothly: While the parents worked elsewhere in the home, the kids sat with their friends in their rooms and in the kitchen. Together, they watched live videos of their teachers and filled out worksheets together.
But in the Mizenko home in Woodinville, 6-year-old Bjorn’s schooling was limited to the amount of time his father could break away from work calls to keep him on track — resulting in an entire school day boiled down to two to three hours.
Read the full story here.
2 Bellevue community centers postpone programs and activities
All programs and drop-in activities at Bellevue’s Highland Community Center and North Bellevue Community Center have been postponed through the end of the month.
There haven’t been any COVID-19 cases in Bellevue, but the closures are to help stop the potential spread of the virus, particularly among high-risk populations, the city of Bellevue said. Highland Community Center provides several learning, sports and social programs for people with disabilities.
In addition to the two community center closures all Bellevue parks and community services events are canceled through March 31. City parks and other community centers remain open.
South Seattle College student tests positive for COVID-19
A student at South Seattle College has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the school to transition to "remote operations" starting Tuesday, the college announced Monday evening.
The school said in a statement that the student was on campus for an evening class and entered one classroom in the University Center Building, which closed Monday for cleaning. The student is in self-isolation at home, and a college employee who interacted with the student is also staying home.
The main campus in West Seattle will be closed until the end of winter quarter — "with online instruction and remote work continuing where possible," South Seattle College said on its website.
The school told students not to go to the West Seattle campus from Tuesday to March 25 and to contact their professors for information on their courses. Staff and faculty can go to campus on Tuesday to consult with their supervisors and pick up necessary supplies for remote work, the statement said.
"Remote operations generally mean you will continue to finish your classes using alternate modes of instruction (including online, via Canvas, and other means)," the statement said. "Your instructors will provide further information as soon as possible."
The school's Georgetown campus, NewHolly Learning Center classrooms and the Harbor Island Training Center will stay open.
Gov. Inslee cites University of Washington genetic modeling on MSNBC, saying there could be up to 1,000 COVID-19 cases in the state
OLYMPIA – While state health officials by Monday had confirmed 162 cases of the novel coronavirus in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee said the real number of cases in Washington could be around 1,000.
In remarks on MSNBC, Inslee said that genetic modeling by the University of Washington suggests there could be "basically in the ballpark" of 1,000 cases out there.
That number could grow rapidly if measures aren't taken seriously to slow the growth of the illness the coronavirus causes, known as COVID-19, Inslee said.
"When you double whatever that number is and you double it every week, these things can explode," Inslee said. "And as I've indicated, if it's 1,000 people today, it will be 64,000 people in week seven.
"And so that's why all of us have to be dedicated to making decisions earlier in this epidemic, even when it may not seem overwhelming at the moment," Inslee added. "And that's what we're working through right now."
The governor also said Washington has increased its capacity to test people for the coronavirus "by a factor of 20."
In addition to the state's capacity to test for COVID-19, Inslee cited the tests that have started at the University of Washington, as well as commercial labs that are beginning to help.
The governor added, "We are right on the edge right now of having enough testing capability, and we are doing that as quickly as we can."
Seattle considers options to help small businesses, workers, residents during coronavirus outbreak
Seattle officials are considering how the city could help vulnerable small business, workers and residents weather the worsening economic storm caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak. The possibilities include deferring tax bills for businesses.
Deputy Mayor Mike Fong told City Council members Monday that Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration is working on “a package of actions” to provide support. Fong said he hoped to have details in a matter of days.
The discussion at a council meeting came a day after many labor and advocacy organizations urged Gov. Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Durkan to help workers who stand to lose income and health benefits during the outbreak.
The organizations also asked officials to halt residential evictions and utility shutoffs during the crisis. No such actions have yet been taken.
Seattle may seek to defer city business and occupation tax payments and utility bills for “distressed small businesses under the conditions resulting from COVID-19,” Fong said. The city also may try to expedite federally funded small-business loans, the deputy mayor said.
Read the full story here.
4 Tacoma public schools temporarily close due to COVID-19 cases
Four Tacoma public schools are temporarily closing after individuals on each campus tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, the district announced Monday evening.
Sheridan Elementary School, Lowell Elementary School, Mary Lyon Elementary School and Wilson High School will shut their doors this week, Tacoma Public Schools said in an email to the community.
Sheridan and Lowell will be closed Tuesday through Friday, Mary Lyon will be closed through Thursday and Wilson will only be closed on Tuesday, due to "limited exposure," the email said.
After-school activities and athletics will be canceled at the schools on the days they're not in session.
The district will use the closure time to clean the schools, the email said.
UW Medicine launches drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for employees
The University of Washington Medical Center opened a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for employees last week, according to a UW Medicine statement Monday.
Nurses began testing symptomatic UW Medicine staff, faculty and trainees from their cars on Friday, the statement said. Here's how it works:
- The employee drives up to the testing center, which is located in tents in an open-air garage at UWMC-Northwest in north Seattle.
- A nurse walks up to the car and conducts the test.
- Employees receive guidance on next steps and get results back within 24 to 48 hours.
Ninety-four staff, faculty and trainees have been tested for both the flu and COVID-19 as of Sunday, the statement said. None of them has tested positive for the virus so far.
"It's important to point out that while the employees tested so far at the drive-through site have been negative for COVID, we are still seeing a fair amount of influenza in our clinic," the statement said.
UW Medicine employees are also being tested at Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle.
Pearl Jam postpones first leg of Gigaton tour amid coronavirus concerns
American rock band Pearl Jam, which was formed in Seattle, announced Monday its plans to postpone the first leg of its Gigaton tour because of the coronavirus outbreak.
"We’ve worked hard with all our management and business associates to find other solutions or options but the levels of risk to our audience and their communities is simply too high for our comfort level," the band said in a series of tweets.
The tour was set to begin March 18 in Toronto.
The band added that Ticketmaster will be in touch with those who have already bought tickets, and current tickets will be honored for the new dates.
"We have and will always keep the safety and well-being of our supporters as top priority," the band tweeted.
Read the full story here.
Boeing employee in Everett tests positive for COVID-19
A Boeing employee at the Everett widebody jet plant has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is now in quarantine and receiving treatment, Boeing said Monday.
The company said it has notified its employees and is following the advice of public health officials.
Boeing has asked all coworkers of the infected employee who were in close contact to remain home to self-quarantine and self-monitor. And it has conducted a thorough cleaning of the work areas and common spaces.
“We’re taking action to ensure the health and safety of our employees and their families,” Boeing said in a statement. “We have asked employees in the Puget Sound region who are able to perform work offsite to telecommute from home. We continue to communicate openly and frequently with our employees and encourage everyone to exercise caution and take all appropriate health and safety measures.”
Read the full story here.
Seattle area official outlines potential next steps in coronavirus response
Seattle area public-health officials are “at the ready” to start ordering involuntary isolation and quarantines and are considering cancellation of major public events, with information coming soon, a top official said Monday.
Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, outlined potential next steps in the area’s effort to slow the spread of the virus at a Seattle City Council meeting and said officials are talking about what to do.
Hayes shared a Washington State Department of Health chart that listed five levels of actions that officials could take. Gov. Jay Inslee hinted at the ongoing discussions Sunday on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” saying the state’s response could involve “reducing the number of social activities that are going on.”
Although King County’s first confirmed COVID-19 case was announced less than two weeks ago, the area’s response already has ratcheted through Level 1 and Level 2.
Read the full story here.
Washington Employment Security Department to issue emergency rules for workers and businesses
The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) plans to announce measures to help workers and businesses disrupted by the novel coronavirus, according to a spokesman for the agency.
Among other things, the department plans to make sure workers who must quarantine themselves but who don’t have access to paid sick leave can instead get unemployment benefits, according to spokesman Nick Demerice.
ESD, which oversees unemployment claims, will also relax some regulations in order to ease the burden on businesses, said Demerice.
“We're really trying to protect businesses and workers that are feeling the impacts,” he said.
A formal announcement is likely to come Tuesday, according to Demerice, possibly at a news conference with Gov. Jay Inslee.
Bellevue police substations closing until further notice to protect volunteers
The Bellevue Police Department announced Monday that it's closing its volunteer-staffed substations at the Factoria and Crossroads shopping malls until further notice as a precautionary measure.
"Most of our volunteers who staff the substations are in high-risk groups and we've told them to protect themselves and stay home," the police department said in a tweet.
Officers usually use the substations to do paperwork, take breaks and make phone calls, Bellevue police spokeswoman Meeghan Black said. They aren't normally places where people report crimes, she said.
Any non-emergencies in Bellevue can be reported here.
Washington State Convention Center says event cancellations have reduced staffing needs
The publicly-overseen Washington State Convention Center has scrapped the shifts of dozens of on-call employees for the rest of the month, saying event cancellations because of the coronavirus outbreak have reduced its staffing needs.
Teamsters Local 117 said it would work to ensure none of its 44 members working on-call at the convention center had lapses in health insurance. Those workers typically become eligible for the benefit after working 60 hours each month -- a milestone few on-call workers anticipate meeting in March.
The convention center has been hit by a raft of cancellations in the past week. On Thursday, its website listed 14 upcoming events in the month of March, including the much-heralded Emerald City Comic Con, which was expected to draw 25,000 attendees. By Monday, that list had been trimmed to just eight events. Comic Con has been postponed to this summer.
This post has been updated to accurately reflect the Teamster's position on health insurance for their members.
Of the 35 Life Care Center residents that have been tested for COVID-19, 31 have tested positive
Thirty-one out of 35 Life Care Center residents whose test results came back Monday tested positive for coronavirus, press liaison Timothy Killian said Monday evening. One result came back negative and three more were inconclusive, meaning they’ll require further testing.
Those residents remain inside the Life Care facility, along with approximately 20 others whose results have not come back yet. Their symptoms haven’t reached a level where they can be taken to a hospital, Killian said, citing hospital capacity as a factor in determining who can be transferred.
The residents who tested negative will be moved to a separate part of the building away from everyone else, Killian said.
Aegis Living at Marymoor confirms COVID-19 cases in resident, staff member
Aegis Living at Marymoor, located in Redmond, announced Monday afternoon that one of its residents tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email sent to families.
The resident was being treated for what Aegis management believes was an unrelated condition at a local hospital last week, the email said. As a precaution, the resident was tested for COVID-19 while they were at the hospital.
The resident was isolated after returning from the hospital, but has since returned to the medical center for treatment.
"Our thoughts are with this resident and her family and we wish them a speedy recovery," the email said.
Aegis Marymoor alerted the community on Saturday morning that a staff member had also tested positive for the virus. The staffer went home sick on Feb. 28 and hadn't been in the Aegis community since then, the Saturday email said.
Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will visit the assisted living facility on Tuesday to provide staff with COVID-19 support and training. CDC officials will also test symptomatic residents and staff.
The facility has closed the community to all visitors, halted unnecessary trips outside, started delivering meals to each resident's apartment and canceled all group activities.
Resident from Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood tests presumptive positive for COVID-19
A resident of Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the Snohomish Health District.
The patient, a woman in her 70s, had been a resident at the care center for an "unrelated condition," the statement said. She tested positive for COVID-19 after being taken to an area hospital.
The facility also hosts a child care center, which has since separated the kids from the long-term care residents.
Dr. Chris Spitters, the health district's interim health officer, and Josephine Caring Community CEO Terry Robertson will share more details at a news conference Tuesday morning, the statement said.
"Officials at Josephine Caring Community have been coordinating with public health officials to implement additional infection control measures," the statement said. "Meanwhile, all group activities and group dining for residents are suspended. Staff are also conducting checks for all patients at the facility every four hours."
NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS closing locker rooms amid virus scare
The NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel in response to the coronavirus crisis, the leagues announced in a joint statement Monday night.
The leagues said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.” The NBA, in a call with teams earlier Monday, stressed that the move is not to ban reporters but to ensure the safety of players and staff in those areas.
Grand Princess cruise ship on its way to Seattle
The first ship of the Seattle cruise season is scheduled to be none other than the Grand Princess, the same Princess Cruises vessel that until Monday was quarantined off the coast of San Francisco with dozens of cases of coronavirus.
The Port of Seattle is reviewing "all options" to ensure passengers' safety, Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw said. Ultimately, though, the decision of whether to prevent the Grand Princess from docking will be made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Other Princess Cruises ships have been quarantined while passengers are tested and monitored for symptoms of coronavirus. The Diamond Princess, which reported nearly 700 cases of the disease, including six deaths, was held off the coast of Japan for nearly two weeks in February. And Monday, the Caribbean Princess was held off the coast of Grand Cayman pending tests for the disease after two crew members transferred to the Caribbean Princess from the Grand Princess. Also, the Regal Princess spent most of a day sailing up and down the Florida coast before finally pulling into Port Everglades late Sunday. Its passengers got to leave after two crew members who had served on the Grand Princess tested negative for the disease.
On Sunday, the country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recommended that Americans avoid traveling on cruise ships, especially if they have underlying medical conditions. Vice President Mike Pence and the Department of State issued similar warnings.
Read the full story here.
Ireland cancels St. Patrick’s Day parades amid virus fear
Irish authorities canceled the nation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as concern around the coronavirus outbreak escalated.
The St. Patrick’s parade scheduled for March 17 in Dublin has been shelved, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters Monday in Dublin. About half a million people attended Ireland’s national day celebrations last year, with thousands traveling from overseas.
“It is possible we are facing events unprecedented in modern times,” Varadkar said. The virus “can’t be stopped, but it can be slowed.”
Trump campaign postpones bus tour as he plays down risks of coronavirus
President Donald Trump’s campaign Monday called off a “Women for Trump” bus tour featuring his daughter-in-law and other top election surrogates amid ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, two people close to the campaign said, even as the president sought to play down the threat of the outbreak.
The three-day bus tour through the key battleground states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania was supposed to begin Monday. But after an advisory was sent out broadly last week, the bus tour was quietly postponed, with notices going out to reporters and attendees who were planning to participate.
A campaign spokeswoman cited “scheduling conflicts.” But the two people familiar with the events said the decision came after Schlapp moved to postpone the tour after the diagnosis of the person who attended the CPAC event.
2 GOP congressmen who interacted with Trump say they are quarantining due to contact with virus carrier
Two Republican congressmen who interacted with President Donald Trump in the past week said Monday that they were quarantining themselves due to contact with a confirmed carrier of the coronavirus.
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who rode with Trump on Air Force One as he flew from Florida to Washington on Monday, said he had no symptoms but was awaiting the results of tests after an encounter with a carrier of the virus at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington late last month.
Georgia Rep. Douglas Collins, who also came in contact with the same individual at the conservative conference, joined Trump during a Friday visit to the Georgia-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Union Gospel Mission cuts back volunteer program through the end of the month
In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Union Gospel Mission — known for its work with Seattle’s homeless community — is drastically scaling back its volunteer program starting Tuesday through the end of March.
The announcement, made in an email to volunteers Monday afternoon, will affect a number of programs, including the mission’s dental services, legal services and career services, among others.
“It’s about protecting everybody,” said Allison Anderson, spokesperson for UGM. “It’s really about the safety and the care of everybody.”
The mission will continue to do outreach to homeless people, including through its Search and Rescue van program, which delivers food, hygiene and other supplies to homeless people and encampments around the city. The vans, known as the LOVE vans, are well-known among the homeless community.
Usually, the vans are driven by staff who work with large groups of volunteers. Now, staff alone will be doing outreach, Anderson said. They will be operating limited routes in that time.
Rex Hohlbein, whose organization Facing Homelessness has been conducting encampment outreach and cleanups since 2019, said Facing Homelessness has stopped offering volunteers the opportunity to participate in the cleanups as a result of the outbreak. Hohlbein is continuing to do that work on his own.
The fear is not that the volunteers would catch COVID-19 from encampment residents, Hohlbein said, but rather that volunteers would potentially expose vulnerable people to the illness in the camps, where it would be devastating.
“People that are living outside I think are going to be one of the most vulnerable to this virus, because they're already living with compromised systems,” Hohlbein said. “But I also think because they're quite frankly, effectively shunned as the other, their mobility and exposure is probably less than other people.”
Italy imposes nationwide restrictions to contain new virus
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says travel restrictions and other strict public health measures will be imposed nationwide starting Tuesday to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Conte said Monday night that a new government decree will require people throughout the country of 60 million people to demonstrate a need to work, health conditions or other limited reasons to travel outside the areas where they live.
Life Care Center of Kirkland confirms 20 residents have tested positive for COVID-19
A total of 20 Life Care Center residents have now tested positive for COVID-19, and the rest are awaiting results after being tested over the weekend. Meanwhile, 65 employees still have COVID-19 symptoms and have not been tested.
Life Care doesn’t have enough kits to test staff members, press liaison Timothy Killian said Monday outside the facility.
“We would like more kits to be able to test employees,” he said. “That’s what we continue to ask.”
When asked why the facility is experiencing potential delays in receiving the kits or when they could receive more of them, Killian said he didn’t have an answer.
Life Care has 115 employees currently working in three shifts. In addition to those employees, five workers from other facilities who initially had symptoms have returned to work. Life Care has brought in extra doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses to assist their staff, but many are still working overtime. One nurse, Killian said, told him she’s been working 18-hour days.
“She says she gets three to four hours of sleep a night,” he said. “That’s what it’s been like working in this facility for the last 10 days.”
Washington Department of Health confirms 162 cases, including 22 deaths
State officials have now confirmed 162 cases of novel coronavirus in Washington, including 22 deaths.
The numbers released by the Department of Health Monday afternoon are likely an undercount, as the state is working to confirm reports from local health agencies and other sources like hospitals and nursing home facilities.
Of the confirmed 22 deaths in the state, 19 are associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland, according to Public Health - Seattle & King County. The nursing home has been linked to at least 54 total confirmed cases in the state, although the number is likely much higher, as Public Health stopped releasing detailed information about each case days ago.
Here’s the breakdown by county from the state’s updated numbers:
- King: 116 cases, including 20 deaths
- Snohomish: 37 cases, including one death
- Pierce: four cases, no deaths
- Grant: one case, including one death
- Jefferson: one case, no deaths
- Clark: one case, no deaths
- Kittitas: one case, no deaths
- Kitsap: one case, no deaths
This post initially said the state had not confirmed a death in Grant County. It has since been updated, as the state confirmed the death soon after releasing numbers Monday.
There will be no more public bill signings this legislative session
OLYMPIA – As part of the response to the novel coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced Monday that Inslee won’t hold any more public bill signings for this legislative session.
“This is one extra precaution we’re taking to maintain public health standards and minimize COVID-19 exposure in large, social settings,” wrote Drew Shirk, Inslee’s legislative director, in an announcement to lawmakers and staff at the Legislature. Shirk added that the measure came recommended by “numerous medical and health officials over the past few days."
The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to end Thursday, leaving Inslee with a flurry of bills to be signed in the coming weeks. Bill signings often include members of the public and advocacy groups that pushed for bills, along with lawmakers.
The public will still be able to view bill signings on TVW.org, Shirk said.
Primary sponsors of bills are still allowed to attend and can bring one guest — but only if they RSVP.
Some jurors excused from reporting for duty, says King County court
King County Superior Court announced a temporary change Monday allowing prospective jurors to be excused from jury duty for a number of health reasons.
The reasons outlined are chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, pregnancy or a weakened immune system. The court also said that people over 60 years old don't have to report if they don't want to or if they have been sick or in contact with someone who is sick.
The court previously announced stepped-up cleaning efforts in the room where prospective jurors check in and assemble before potentially being assigned to civil and criminal cases.
King County has 33 new cases of COVID-19 and 3 additional deaths, agency reports Monday
Public Health – Seattle & King County reported 33 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
The official case count total in King County is now 116. In addition, three new deaths were reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the county to 20, the agency reported.
The agency, however, said there are a number of viral respiratory germs circulating in the area right now and people with mild illness should not assume they have COVID-19 or that they need to be tested.
"Healthcare providers determine who should be tested, based on specific symptoms. While testing is becoming more available, there are still limitations in the ability to quickly collect and process tests," the statement said.
"For now, if you have mild symptoms (cough, fever), you need to stay home and stay away from people," the statement said.
Kirkland firefighter tests positive for COVID-19
One Kirkland first responder has tested positive for COVID-19, while eight others have tested negative, a statement from the city said Monday.
A total of 31 firefighters and three police officers are in quarantine: Six firefighters were released after completing a recommended quarantine period without demonstrating any symptoms, while another nine have been placed in quarantine.
"Public Health is currently in the process of determining whether the positive test was the result of contact with a patient or with the general public," the city said.
Most of the first responders are in isolation or quarantine at home, the city said, though Fire Station 21 is offline and available to firefighters for isolation. The first responders reported having symptoms after interacting with patients at the Life Care Center, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak locally.
Meanwhile, the city said it is canceling all evening meetings except for City Council meetings until the end of March. Most recreation programming has been canceled and community centers are closed to the public through March 31.
Virus puts damper on closing days of state's presidential primary
The coronavirus outbreak has put a damper on the closing days of Washington’s presidential primary. Not only are the candidates, both of whom are in the high-risk age range, steering clear of Washington, but Election Night also promises to be quiet.
The campaigns of both former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders say they’re not planning any sort of Election Night events or watch parties in Washington.
The state Democratic Party isn’t holding an event, either.
“We are following guidelines that the King County Department of Health has laid out with respect to public gatherings,” said Shaun Scott, Sanders’ Washington state field director.
Port of Seattle says it's 'reviewing multiple options' on cruise season
The Port of Seattle said in a statement Monday that it was "reviewing multiple options" regarding the start of the Alaska cruise season, scheduled to begin April 1.
The Port said it will coordinate with partners including cruise operators, the U.S. Coast Guard, public-health authorities and local leaders, as it assesses the coronavirus threat going forward.
“We appreciate the work of the federal government and cruise lines to institute new protocols related to cruise passenger safety, health, and well-being," the Port said in the statement. "This is a rapidly developing situation and we are in daily contact with officials."
Seattle Children's hospital closes doors to volunteers
Seattle Children's notified volunteers on Monday that it's restricting access to volunteers at the hospital and regional clinics due to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation.
"As an organization focused on pediatric health, we are taking precautions to minimize the virus spreading and are following guidance from partners such as Public Health – Seattle & King County," the hospital said in an e-mail. "Public health recently asked members of the public to avoid visiting hospitals, when possible, to protect everyone’s health including healthcare workers and patients and families receiving care."
The hospital said it does not know when normal volunteer activities will resume.
Theft blamed for dwindling medical supplies
Health care providers said medical supplies were growing scarce, threatening to further stress a system scrambling to control the coronavirus outbreak. Part of the reason, they said: theft.
Area health providers have taken measures to secure and hide supplies, which were vanishing rapidly last week.
An internal email sent Thursday by an administrator to UW Medicine outpatient clinic staffers encouraged them to move masks away from front desks and unsecured parts of exam rooms “because they have been rapidly disappearing.”
On Saturday, a message went out to UW Medical Center staff:
“It is sad to report, but we have experienced theft of critical supplies here in our hospital. If you witness anyone removing supplies from your area, please escalate this to your supervisor immediately,” the internal email stated. “Know that taking any items from the medical center is theft – serious action will be taken up to and including termination for any employee identified stealing hospital property.”
Dr. Christopher Baliga, chief of infectious disease at Virginia Mason Medical Center, said theft was a problem there last week, too. Baliga said a ride-hailing service driver was seen to “walk into the lobby, pick up a box of masks and walk out with it.”
The novel coronavirus outbreak is stressing the Pacific Northwest’s blood supply
The spread of COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of a number of blood drives in Washington and Oregon. About 60 percent of the region’s blood supply comes from those drives, said Curt Baily, CEO and president of Bloodworks Northwest.
“Without access to locations where the public can donate blood, we’re at a tipping point where children and adults experiencing trauma, those going through cancer treatment, and premature babies, among others, will not have blood available,” he said.
Bloodworks said the regional blood supply was already precarious because of a nationwide blood shortage but that it has started to receive blood donations from blood centers across the United States.
Bloodworks has 12 donation centers from Bellingham to Eugene, Oregon, where blood can be drawn. Potential blood donors can also text bloodapp to 91985 to make an appointment at the nearest donation center.
Homeless women's overflow shelter on Capitol Hill to close temporarily
Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill announced it would temporarily close the overflow homeless women’s shelter it operates.
"Our primary concern is always the health, safety and well-being of our guests, volunteers and staff. Given the unique safety and health challenges posed by the operation of a volunteer-staffed shelter in the age of COVID-19, we have informed Angeline’s that we will be closed until further notice," a notice from the temple said.
The shelter will be deep-cleaned and re-opened when it is safe to do so, the notice also said.
City to move 100 emergency service clients to Seattle Center Exhibition Hall over COVID-19 concerns
The city of Seattle is opening space in the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall for homeless clients from the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), one of the city’s largest shelters, in an effort “to limit potential COVID-19 exposure.”
The hall will remain open in this capacity through at least March 23, the city said in a news release Sunday night.
The city plans to move about 100 of the 260 clients, who are currently living in extremely close quarters, from DESC’s Main Shelter, and possibly the organization’s Queen Anne shelter, into the Exhibition Hall to lower exposure potential.
DESC has also identified other, off-site accommodations for vulnerable clients in its shelters, the release said.
There are no known COVID-19 cases at DESC or any other homeless shelters at this time.
Seeking trial delay, Alabama sheriff makes false COVID-19 claim
Lawyers for a longtime Alabama sheriff seeking a delay in his Monday theft trial falsely claimed the officer was being tested for the illness caused by a new coronavirus.
With Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely set to go on trial on felony charges, his attorneys told a judge in a court document filed Friday he was hospitalized and being tested for COVID-19.
But testimony during a rare Saturday hearing showed the 69-year-old Blakely wasn’t being tested for the illness, and Circuit Court Judge Pride Tompkins criticized the defense for making claims that could cause a public panic, The News Courier of Athens reported.
“I don’t know what your tactic is, but it’s condemned by the court,” Tompkins said. “And the court won’t tolerate it.”
Tips on groceries and workouts when you're practicing social distancing
Adjusting to life in quarantine can mean getting creative about your everyday routines, including meals and workouts.
Here are some options for getting groceries delivered, and delicious recipes you can cook up from a well-stocked pantry.
If you're going to the gym, take extra precautions. If you're avoiding it, we recommend trying these four workouts at home, or getting a breath of fresh air on our treasured local trails.
Dow drops 1,500 points as oil price plunge shocks markets
NEW YORK — Fear is gripping financial markets around the world as stock prices and bond yields plunge on worries about the effects of the new coronavirus.
The most violent drops came from the oil markets, where prices cratered more than 20% Monday. But moves in stocks and bond yields were nearly as breathtaking. In the United States, the S&P 500 plunged 7% in the first few minutes of trading, and losses were so sharp that trading was halted.
What to know about travel during the outbreak
- The State Department is urging Americans not to travel on cruise ships as officials prepare to take 2,000 people off an infected cruise ship docked near Oakland.
- Thinking about canceling a trip? Here are some questions to ask yourself first, and what to know about getting refunds.
- If you must fly somewhere, make sure you follow these steps to disinfect your space on a plane.
Catch up on major developments over the weekend
- Italy is locking down more than a quarter of its population and closing all museums. In China, mask-clad workers are cautiously returning to the office.
- Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee and other officials are considering mandatory measures for social distancing as the virus spreads across the state. Here's a look at what those measures could include.
- Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home hit hardest by Washington state's outbreak, is "still in triage mode" as more residents and employees have been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms. Meanwhile, two residents at Issaquah Nursing & Rehabilitation Center who were hospitalized Thursday have presumptive positive results for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases at the skilled nursing facility to three.
- A Gates-funded program will offer home-testing kits for the virus. This has "enormous potential to turn the tide."
- Helping each other: Seattle-area philanthropic groups and companies are launching a $2 million-plus campaign to aid people who are especially vulnerable to the economic impacts. That includes gig workers, who are falling through the public-health safety net, columnist Naomi Ishisaka writes.
- What will happen if the virus hits homeless shelters? Their population, aging and already ill, is particularly at risk.
How is the pandemic affecting you?What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.
Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?Ask 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. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.
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