Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Sunday, April 12, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Monday, April 13. 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.
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed Italy’s for the highest in the world, pushing past 20,000 on Saturday, with more than half a million infections. In Washington, confirmed infections passed the 10,000 mark Saturday, and the total death toll rose above 500 Sunday, according to the latest state Department of Health figures. Some affluent families are fleeing for vacation homes. Seattle and King County are taking steps to protect homeless people, but are falling short by some measures.
Meanwhile, health officials are trying to figure out how and when this will all end — and whether a new regime of massive testing and continued rolling closures can protect vulnerable populations, even people start to resume a semblance of normal life again.
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 Saturday 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 Sunday evening.
Trump lashes out at Fauci amid criticism of slow coronavirus response
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump publicly signaled his frustration Sunday with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, after the doctor said more lives could have been saved from the coronavirus if the country had been shut down earlier.
Trump reposted a Twitter message that said “Time to #FireFauci” as he rejected criticism of his slow initial response to the pandemic that has now killed more than 22,000 people in the United States. The president privately has been irritated at times with Fauci, but the Twitter post was the most explicit he has been in letting that show publicly.
Read more here.
Seattle’s parks were quiet this weekend, though some residents still broke the rules
Foot traffic was much lighter than usual this weekend in Seattle’s largest parks, which would typically see a crush of people in warm weather — but hundreds of sun-deprived residents still showed up even though the parks were officially closed.
Despite city orders to stay away from 15 of the city’s most popular parks to slow further spread of the novel coronavirus, some families, couples, cyclists and joggers apparently couldn’t resist as cooler weather burned off into a warm, cloudless day Sunday afternoon. As temperatures rose, Seattle Parks and Recreation staff scrambled to block entrances at Gas Works Park, where police had to shoo people away.
Read more here.
State reports 17 new deaths and nearly 200 new cases
Washington’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 10,411 Sunday with 508 deaths, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
The updated count included 187 new cases and 17 new deaths, the state reported Sunday. The total count surpassed 10,000 on Saturday.
King County continues to have the majority of cases, with 4,422 cases, up from 4,241 Saturday. There have been 292 deaths in King County, up from 282 the previous day.
The state also has begun to release demographic information about cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, although it is incomplete, with 51% reported as unknown race/ethnicity.
In Sunday’s count, among cases where information was known, 23% were Hispanic, compared to 13% of the state population. Black people account for 6% of cases and 4% of the population. Asian people made up 9% of cases and 9% of the population; white people made up 56% of cases and 68% of the population.
Gates tied closed at Discovery Park, but some still manage to get inside
On Sunday at Seattle’s Discovery Park, gated entrances that had been opened Saturday were tied with chains and zip ties. A parking lot off Emerson Street West was blocked with caution tape, and the pedestrian entrance was chained with a paper sign that read “park closed until Mon,” accompanied by a smiley face. Another entrance was zip-tied, with a “no parking” sign on one side and a trash can on the other to further obstruct any visitors.
Some still managed to get inside the city’s largest park. Around 4 p.m., a group of hikers and cyclists who said they came in near the beach were having trouble finding their way out. One said they would have to go all the way back, or maybe call the parks department.
Police, parks employees shoo away crowds in Gas Works Park
Parks employees scrambled to intercept droves of people on foot, bicycle and Solowheel as they attempted to get inside Gas Works Park on Sunday afternoon, despite city orders that major parks be closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Several people and their dogs still managed to slip through the park's initial defenses before being asked to leave once inside.
Others made alternative plans: Across the street from the main Gas Works parking lot, Connor McDermott, 27, and Garbo Grossman, 31, inflated a raft. Their plan was to avoid the park and find a way to make it onto Lake Union.
"It makes sense," McDermott said of the city's decision to close major parks over coronavirus fears Easter weekend. "It's a nice day. Otherwise there would be swarms of people."
Earlier in the day, Seattle police arrived to enforce the closure.
The Seattle Police Department referred a request for comment to the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. Parks did not immediately comment.
Pierce County sees 20th coronavirus death
A man in his 90s became the 20th person to die of COVID-19 in Pierce County, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reported Sunday.
The county confirmed 10 new cases Sunday and has had a total of 931 cases. The man who died lived in the Edgewood/Fife/Milton region and had underlying health conditions, the county said.
A new statewide count of coronavirus cases is expected to be released later Sunday by the Washington State Department of Health.
Park closures don’t deter joggers, cyclists and a six-month anniversary at Green Lake
Kayaks and swimmers were missing from Green Lake on Sunday afternoon, but news of the weekend’s major park closures did not deter joggers, cyclists and some picnickers on the trails and the daisy-filled hills surrounding the lake.
There were few signs that Green Lake was among the parks closed outside of the empty tennis and basketball courts, and signage on the entrance to the parking lot.
Hannah McCausland, 23, and Bubba Schwanner, 31, didn’t realize Green Lake Park was meant to be off-limits. They were having a picnic with wine, cheese, strawberries and backgammon to celebrate their six-month anniversary.
Green Lake wasn’t their first choice, however. The couple first tried Gas Works Park before getting kicked out.
“We need[ed] to get out,” McCausland said. They were keeping their distance from others but determined to make it a special day.
McCausland had been struggling with her mental health in recent weeks, she said, and being cooped up wasn’t helping.
“I think not knowing when it’s going to end – that's what drives my anxiety,” McCausland said.
Virus sets back efforts to reduce plastic use
PORTLAND — Just weeks ago, cities and even states across the U.S. were busy banning straws, limiting takeout containers and mandating that shoppers bring reusable bags or pay a small fee as the movement to eliminate single-use plastics took hold in mainstream America.
What a difference a pandemic makes.
In a matter of days, hard-won bans to reduce the use of plastics — and particularly plastic shopping sacks — across the U.S. have come under fire amid worries about the virus clinging to reusable bags, cups and straws.
Governors in Massachusetts and Illinois have banned or strongly discouraged the use of reusable grocery bags. Oregon suspended its brand-new ban on plastic bags last week, and cities from Bellingham to Albuquerque have announced a hiatus on plastic bag bans as the coronavirus rages.
Add to that a rise in takeout and a ban on reusable cups and straws at the few coffee shops that remain open, and environmentalists worry COVID-19 could set back efforts to tackle plastic pollution for years.
Spikes in demand creating shortages of asthma drugs and sedatives for ventilator patients
Hospitals in regions experiencing a surge of coronavirus patients are struggling to maintain supplies of antibiotics, antivirals, sedatives required for patients on ventilators and other drugs produced in countries where the coronavirus has shuttered or curbed manufacturing.
Although overlooked by a public focused on shortages of ventilators and personal protective equipment, hospitals are increasingly concerned about future shortages of lifesaving drugs as authorities in India and other countries producing the drugs try to guarantee supplies for their own people.
Why are some people more infectious than others?
As the coronavirus tears through the country, scientists are asking: Are some people more infectious than others? Are there superspreaders, people who seem to just spew out virus, making them especially likely to infect others?
It seems that the answer is yes. There do seem to be superspreaders, a loosely defined term for people who infect a disproportionate number of others, whether as a consequence of genetics, social habits or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But those virus carriers at the heart of what are being called superspreading events can drive and have driven epidemics, researchers say, making it crucial to figure out ways to identify spreading events or to prevent situations, like crowded rooms, where superspreading can occur.
Just as important are those at the other end of the spectrum: people who are infected but unlikely to spread the infection.
Distinguishing between those who are more infectious and those less infectious could make an enormous difference in the ease and speed with which an outbreak is contained, said Jon Zelner, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan.
Reopening economy too early could risk resurgences, UW expert says
Reopening the economy too quickly could risk resurgences of the coronavirus in some states, Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said Sunday.
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) April 12, 2020
“If you open up too soon and there’s a big load of cases still in the community that have the potential to go back to community transmission, we can quickly see resurgences in some states,” Murray said in an interview on CBS’s Face The Nation.
“So, [in] some states it’s possible in May, but in other states it’s going to be very unlikely that that would not lead to an immediate resurgence,” Murray said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, said Sunday the economy in some parts of the country could begin "rolling reentry" in May, depending on the availability of testing and other factors.
States on the West Coast appear further along in their epidemics than some other states, Murray said, and states will have to figure out how to “control importation from other states.”
“It poses a whole series of new questions that haven’t yet really been addressed,” Murray said.
In Washington, experts have been working to figure out what comes next.
Keeping the coronavirus under control will require an ambitious strategy one Seattle scientist calls “the Apollo program of our times.” Read more about that here.
No crowds on Capitol Hill on second day of park closures, but some still flout rules
In weather that would usually make hundreds of Capitol Hill dwellers want to squeeze into their tiniest jean shorts and bask in the sun, Cal Anderson Park was empty of large crowds Sunday morning, the second day of major park closures because of the threat of novel coronavirus.
Still, several joggers and dog-walkers could be found flouting the weekend's park rules.
Lauren, who declined to provide her last name for fear of being outed as a scofflaw, allowed her sheep-a-doodle, Elway, to roll around in the grass. She knew the park was closed, but came anyway.
“I guess it’s kind of frustrating,” she said of the park closure. “We come here three times a day.”
Within minutes, park concierge Chuck Scott approached Lauren, Elway and another woman and her dog, and informed them the park was closed.
“I don’t think that a couple of people here and there is going to be a big deal,” Scott, 52, said. “Mostly everyone is aware of the rules.”
Scott makes hourly reports about park activity to his supervisor, who is in touch with the Mayor’s Office, Scott said. Lauren and her sheep-a-doodle would be included in his write-up.
On Cal Anderson’s athletic field, Brett North and Bill Stevens, both 34, were running sprints to lose fat for a festival season they hoped wouldn’t be canceled. Neither were aware the park was closed before speaking to a reporter, they said.
“If people quarantine themselves, we’ve got nothing to worry about,” Stevens said. He didn’t count himself among those who should be doing so.
After Stevens and North finished speaking to a reporter, they continued to sprint on the field. Soon after, Scott intercepted them and told them the park was not open.
He could have seen what was coming: Behind Trump’s failure on the coronavirus
Throughout January, as President Donald Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the Cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.
The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials. It was a problem, he said, that had come out of nowhere and could not have been foreseen.
Even after Trump took his first concrete action at the end of January — limiting travel from China — public health often had to compete with economic and political considerations in internal debates, slowing the path toward belated decisions to seek more money from Congress, obtain necessary supplies, address shortfalls in testing and ultimately move to keep much of the nation at home.
Unfolding as it did in the wake of his impeachment by the House and in the midst of his Senate trial, Trump’s response was colored by his suspicion of and disdain for what he viewed as the “Deep State” — the very people in his government whose expertise and long experience might have guided him more quickly toward steps that would slow the virus, and likely save lives.
'Rolling reentry’ of US economy could start in May, Fauci says
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States’ top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the economy in parts of the country could have a “rolling reentry” as early as next month, provided health authorities can quickly identify and isolate people who will inevitably be infected with the coronavirus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci also said he “can’t guarantee” that it will be safe for Americans to vote in person on Election Day, Nov. 3.
Rather than flipping a switch to reopen the entire country, Fauci said a gradual process will be required based on the status of the pandemic in various parts of the U.S. and the availability of rapid, widespread testing. Once the number of people who are seriously ill sharply declines, officials can begin to “think about a gradual reentry of some sort of normality, some rolling reentry,” Fauci said.
In some places, he said, that might occur as soon as May.
Amid virus, world’s Christians mark an Easter like no other
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Christians around the world celebrated Easter at a distance on Sunday, with most churches closed and family gatherings canceled amid wide-ranging coronavirus shutdowns.
Southern Europe and the United States, whose death toll of over 20,600 is now the world’s highest, have been the recent focal points of the pandemic. But coronavirus hot spots have been shifting constantly and new concerns are rising in Japan, Turkey and Britain, where the death toll surpassed 10,000.
Uncertainties loomed about the months ahead, with a top European Union official suggesting people hold off on making any summer vacation plans.
St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, where tens of thousands would normally gather to hear Pope Francis deliver his “Urbi et Orbi” speech and blessing “to the city and the world,” was empty of crowds, ringed by police barricades. Francis celebrated Easter Mass inside the largely vacant basilica, with the faithful watching on TV at home.
Similar scenes played out around the world.
3D printable mask designed in Seattle is first of its kind to get federal approval
Onetime Microsoft executive Jonathan Roberts knows that not all 3D-printed personal protective equipment being produced for the nation’s coronavirus response is created equal.
The past few weeks have thrust 3D printing technology into the spotlight as entrepreneurs and well-doers scramble to convert factories, shops and even home basements into makeshift assembly lines to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers. Once best known for a Texas company’s nationwide distributing of blueprints for homemade handguns, 3D printing is now viewed as a potential lifesaver in the race to get masks, visors, shields and other PPE to those needing them most.
But amid concerns about the effectiveness of PPE made from 3D printers, Roberts used his connections at Seattle-based nonprofits and tech firms to fast-track a solution both with federal approval and broad distribution.
Some farm workers worry about becoming Washington state’s new coronavirus epicenter
In the Yakima Valley, as in the Puget Sound region, this is a difficult spring shadowed by a pandemic. But in this rural part of the state, much of the work cannot be done from home. It unfolds in the fields, orchards and packing houses essential to keeping grocery stores stocked with food.
With the growing season under way, employers, farmworker advocates and state officials are wrestling with redefining workplace safety, a task that eventually will spread to other parts of the economy when the governor’s stay-at-home order is relaxed.
The coronavirus creates special challenges for agriculture. By summer, some 80,000 workers find jobs in Washington agriculture, including more than 20,000 recruited from Mexico and other nations under temporary visas.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of the hospital
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was discharged from a London hospital where he was treated in intensive care for the coronavirus as the U.K. on Sunday became the fourth European country to surpass 10,000 virus-related deaths.
Johnson’s office said he left St. Thomas’ Hospital and will continue his recovery at Chequers, the prime minister’s country house.
“On the advice of his medical team, the PM will not be immediately returning to work,” the statement said. “He wishes to thank everybody at St. Thomas’ for the brilliant care he has received.”
Johnson had been in the hospital for a week and had spent three nights in the intensive care unit. Earlier in the day, he said he owes his life to the National Health Service medical workers who treated him.
The state of our state's coronavirus fight
We do not know enough.
How many will be infected? How many will die? Our best guesses are still only guesses, overshadowed by uncertainty.
How many have already been infected? Tens of thousands of tests have been run, but nowhere near enough to map the virus’ full spread.
Do doctors and nurses have the protection they need? Not really, exposing them and their patients and families to dire risk.
Still, there is evidence for optimism. Our hospitals were going to be overrun. That danger seems to have passed. Those 500 ventilators the federal government sent us? Didn’t need 'em. The 250-bed emergency field hospital? The Army unpacked it one week and packed it up the next.
As models increasingly show that Washington state is flattening the curve, The Seattle Times dispatched reporters to examine critical issues, from COVID-19 deaths to hospitalizations to supply chains for critical protective and testing equipment. The goal: to get a better sense of where we are now — what we know, and what we don’t.
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