Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Saturday, April 11, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Sunday, April 12. Click here to find the latest extended coverage of the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2; the illness it causes, COVID-19; and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world.
Although researchers say Washington has begun to successfully flatten the curve of coronavirus infections, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that it’s possible he will extend restrictions beyond his stay-at-home order to prevent further spread of the virus. Meanwhile, state and local health officials continue to analyze COVID-19 numbers, releasing preliminary data that indicate that people of color, particularly Hispanics or Latinos, are disproportionately affected by the outbreak.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Washington continues to grow, though at a slower rate. As of 11:59 p.m. Friday, the state has confirmed 10,224 people infected with the virus, including 491 who have died.
Throughout today, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Friday 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 Saturday evening.
Food banks are in dire need; Russell Wilson and other Seattle pro athletes try to help
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Ciara, his wife, have donated 1 million meals to Food Lifeline. Former NBA guard and Rainier Beach star Jamal Crawford has given 125,000 meals. Former Washington safety Taylor Rapp and former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu have given big too, as have the Seattle Storm.
With local and national food banks facing shortages - and a giant boost in demand due to the ongoing economic shutown, those gifts and plenty more are needed.
Chris Nishiwaki, the director of marketing and communications for the Food Lifeline, says about 2 million Washingtonians will need food assistance by the end of the month. He said $120 million must be raised to feed the hungry in our state, and that money is becoming harder and harder to come by.
Read the whole piece by columnist Matt Calkins, and learn how you can help.
Sunny skies and quiet parks as most Seattle-area residents heed closures
The skies cleared Saturday afternoon over Seattle. But the city's sun-starved masses mostly stayed out of Seward and Alki Beach parks, which were closed by officials for the weekend due to coronavirus concerns, along with 13 other major parks.
Mayor Jenny Durkan this week said she worried warmer weather would draw unsafe crowds to the popular outdoor spaces and contribute to the spread of the virus.
Traffic cones, caution tape and concrete cubes blocked vehicles from entering Seward Park, forcing a number of cars and SUVs to turn and head back the way they came. Several cyclists also balked, though some slipped past.
There were small signs announcing the park’s closure that some pedestrians missed or decided to ignore. But the park and its asphalt loop were much less crowded than they otherwise would have been. Those there included a dad and his daughter, who stopped by the beach to see the turtle hatchlings there and enjoy the relative quiet.
Abdi, who shared only his first name, was advised by a Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation employee that the park was closed. He entered from another direction, cheerfully determined to get some exercise after a week spent sick in bed. He had plenty of space between him and a small number of others on the loop. "This felt good," he said. "I just had to get out and start walking."
Across town at Alki Beach Park, several Parks Department employees gently and sporadically encouraged people to leave the beach. But during the late afternoon, there were never more than two dozen violators on the long, sandy stretch. Friday saw much greater numbers there.
Motorists passed a large highway sign that spelled out the park’s closure, but there were scant indicators by the beach.
"I saw one of the Parks people tell a couple to leave," said David Koutroulis, sitting on a bench along the sidewalk. "They took off." The closure made sense, said Koutroulis. "We’ve got to do everything we can to stop this virus," he said. "Anyway, I can still sit here and enjoy the sun and the breeze."
Katherine Davies and Chris Moore walked their Labradors — Sawyer and Bella — along the beach, unaware the park was closed. "I didn’t realize (the beach) was considered a park," Davies said.
Paul Cremoux, watching his young son play in the sand, was likewise surprised. "We didn't know," he said, apologetically. "This is our first time here."
A Seattle Police Department officer was parked in a cruiser nearby. He didn’t seem concerned and was eating a sandwich.
Washington coronavirus cases top 10,000; 16 new deaths reported
Washington's confirmed count of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 10,000, with 491 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.
Another 337 cases were reported Saturday, bringing the total to 10,224. There were 16 new deaths reported from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The bulk of the cases remain clustered in King County, which has confirmed 4,241 cases, up 194 from a day ago, and 282 deaths, an increase of seven, according to the newly released numbers from the health department.
The state has started to break out its infection data by race and ethnicity, showing some indications of disparities, but the information is incomplete as 58% of cases have been reported as unknown race/ethnicity.
Of the cases where the information was provided, 21% were among Hispanics, who make up 13% of the state population. Black people accounted for 5% of cases, while making up 4% of the overall population. White people accounted for 60% of cases, but 68% of the state population. Asian people made up 8% of cases in the state data, compared with 9% of the state population.
10 more residents of Spokane Veterans Home test positive for COVID-19
Ten additional residents of Spokane Veterans Home have tested positive for COVID-19, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs announced Saturday.
The testing brought the number of confirmed cases at the facility to 12. One resident died Wednesday after contracting the coronavirus.
The veterans agency said in a news release all the infections have occurred in one part of the facility, "and we are working hard to prevent the spread to non-affected areas." All residents of the veterans home continue to be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 with temperature and symptom checks every four hours, the agency said. Staff have been wearing additional protective gear since March 30.
Residents and families have been notified about the test results, the news release said. The Spokane Veterans Home is one of four such facilities in the state, which offer 24-hour nursing care and other supportive services to honorably discharged U.S. veterans, as well as their spouses.
"We are learning from the experiences of other long-term care facilities and working to defeat this enemy that has come through our door," said Lourdes E. Alvarado-Ramos, director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. "Our team is working around the clock to care for our residents and prevent further spread of the virus."
How a 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory fueled arson and harassment across UK
Across Britain, more than 30 acts of arson and vandalism have taken place against wireless towers and other telecom gear this month, according to police reports and a telecom trade group. In roughly 80 other incidents in the country, telecom technicians have been harassed on the job.
The attacks were fueled by the same cause, government officials said: an internet conspiracy theory that links the spread of the coronavirus to an ultrafast wireless technology known as 5G. Under the false idea, which has gained momentum in Facebook groups, WhatsApp messages and YouTube videos, that radio waves sent by 5G technology are causing small changes to people’s bodies that make them succumb to the virus.
The incidents starkly demonstrate how coronavirus conspiracy theories have taken a dark turn by spilling out into the real world. In just a few weeks, the pandemic has given preexisting fringe ideas online new urgency by playing on people’s fears.
“You know when they turn this on it’s going to kill everyone,” a woman said of 5G in a recent video on Twitter, as she confronted technicians laying fiber-optic cables in an unidentified British town.
Mark Steele, a prominent anti-5G activist in Britain, said the fires were a result of people being frustrated that their safety concerns were not taken seriously. Asked if he believed 5G was causing coronavirus, he said, “It’s looking a bit suspicious, don’t you think?”
Read the story here.
‘Hope’ the giraffe born amid pandemic
The Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans welcomed a new resident, a baby giraffe named Hope. The calf was born 6 feet tall, weighing in at 189 pounds.
CEO Ron Forman said Hope was the perfect name for the calf, especially as New Orleans has been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic.
“What name could be more fitting than 'Hope' in these challenging times?” Forman said. “May we all take comfort in the reminder that, even in the darkest of days, life continues, undaunted.”
The staff had known the calf was on the way for 15 months but said it can be tough to pinpoint a likely delivery date for giraffes.
Read the story and see pictures of Hope here.
UW drops SAT, ACT requirement
The University of Washington won’t require freshman applicants to take the ACT or SAT, the university has announced.
The temporary change in admission policy affects high-school juniors — students who usually would be taking the tests this year before applying for admission for fall 2021.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the high-stakes standardized tests have been canceled across the nation this spring. Typically, they are administered in large rooms with dozens of students sitting close together for hours.
Many universities have also dropped the requirement for fall 2021, and earlier this week, Seattle University announced it would permanently drop the requirement to submit test results for admission.
Critics have long argued that the standardized tests make college admissions inequitable because families with more money can game the system — hiring tutors or sending their kids to test-taking prep classes to boost their scores. Some critics also believe the tests themselves are biased.
Colleges that have dropped the requirement over the years say grades are a better measure of a student’s ability to succeed in college.
“Every student in the state will celebrate this news,” said David Quinn, who coordinates the International Baccalaureate program at Edmonds-Woodway High School. Quinn said the College Board, which administers the SAT, “has too much influence over the future of UW applicants.”
“I hope this temporary action can give the UW the student performance data it needs to prove that they can build a competitive undergraduate class without using these assessments,” he said by email.
Nurses end overnight shift to find tires slashed
Some nurses at a Cortlandt, New York, hospital who had just been lauded for their work during the coronavirus pandemic ended their stress-filled overnight shifts to find their tires had been slashed while they worked.
New York state police reported that the tires of 22 vehicles were found slashed outside New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital.
A 29-year-old man was arrested in connection with the tire-slashing and is facing charges of criminal mischief and possession of a controlled substance, PCP, police said.
Hospital officials said they would pay for the damage.
Read more here.
U.S. death toll surpasses Italy’s
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus briefly overtook Italy’s for the highest in the world Saturday, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The United States eclipsed Italy in reporting more than 18,850 dead around midday. A short time afterward, Italy reported a total of nearly 19,500.
Deaths have been declining in recent days in Italy while rising rapidly in the U.S.
With the New York metropolitan area swamped with cases, fear mounted over the spread of the virus into the nation’s heartland as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in victims and moved to snuff out smoldering hot spots of contagion before they erupt.
Twenty-four residents of an Indiana nursing home hit by COVID-19 have died. Chicago’s Cook County has set up a temporary morgue that can take more than 2,000 bodies. And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been going around telling groups of people to “break it up.”
Around the world, meanwhile, European countries used roadblocks, drones, helicopters, mounted patrols and the threat of fines to keep people from traveling over Easter weekend. And with infections leveling off in Italy, Spain and other places on the continent, governments took tentative steps toward loosening the weeks-long shutdowns of much of public life.
Glorious weather across Europe posed an extra test of people’s discipline.
“Don’t do silly things,” said Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency. “Don’t go out, continue to behave responsibly as you have done until today, use your head and your sense of responsibility.”
Read the full story here.
Exercises from UW Medicine to ease into while at home
Getting motivated to work out can be tough, especially if you feel like you don’t have the equipment or space to do so at home, says one UW Medicine physician, and that could be exacerbated this weekend with 15 popular Seattle parks closed to slow the spread of coronavirus.
With that in mind, Dr. Cindy Lin, associate director of clinical innovation at The Sports Institute at UW Medicine, has launched an educational campaign explaining how it is possible to use virtual classes and apps to be active.
Research has shown the benefits of exercise, like relieving stress and boosting the immune system, she said in a statement from UW Medicine.
"Even just taking a 5- or 10-minute break from sitting has been shown to be beneficial to your health too, so every minute counts, every movement counts," Lin says. "Definitely we should be dedicating ourselves to doing that because it’s more important than ever that we stay healthy."
Lin, with Bernard Bansil, a UW Medicine physical therapist, take us through some of those exercises in this video.
What Seatle has - and hasn't - done to protect homeless population from COVID-19
When the novel coronavirus killed its first U.S. victim in King County, local officials knew that the spreading virus posed unique risks to the more than 11,100 people in the Seattle area who do not have homes, and, in many cases, access to basic hygiene services.
To date, shelter outbreaks in cities like San Francisco and Boston outpace what’s been seen in the Seattle area. But while the city and the county have worked to create resources to protect the region’s homeless population, the response falls short of what experts and homeless-service providers say is needed.
City and county efforts have focused on three areas: opening new overnight shelters to decrease crowding in existing shelters; creating isolation, quarantine and recovery units; and installing additional hygiene services for people living outside.
Read about the full scope of what has been done and what experts say is needed here.
What's next? Seattle scientist says massive testing and cellphone tracking
With hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 being reported statewide every day, the virus hasn’t vanished — and it never will.
Though an influential University of Washington model suggests deaths and hospitalizations may have peaked in the state, lifting restrictions too soon could cause cases to rebound to even higher levels than before, health officials warn.
But lockdowns can’t go on indefinitely, either. President Donald Trump, who extended federal social-distancing guidelines through April, is pushing to restart businesses by early May or even sooner.
Keeping the virus under control in the long term will require an ambitious strategy that one Seattle scientist calls “the Apollo program of our times.”
The basic approach is no different than for any other epidemic: Identify those who become infected, as well as those who have been exposed, and isolate them. But that would mean a massive scale-up of testing and contact tracing, at a time when even nursing homes can’t get enough test kits and public health agencies are swamped.
Trevor Bedford, the Fred Hutch computational biologist who made the moonshot analogy, says what’s needed is new technology, including simple home tests and the use of cellphone location data to alert people who may have been exposed. Some epidemiologists say it could be necessary to impose intermittent lockdowns through the end of the year, to keep hospitals from being flooded with patients.
If the strategies work, they will buy time for the development of lifesaving treatments and a vaccine.
“People really do need to understand the sad truth here, related to the fact that we’re not going to be able to stop this outbreak,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health -- Seattle & King County. “We’re trying to manage it, but people will continue to get sick. People will continue to get critically ill. People will continue to die.”
Read the full story here.
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