Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Tuesday, April 14, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Wednesday, April 15. 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.
More than 500 people in Washington state have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and more than 10,500 have been diagnosed. While the number of infections continues to rise, more people are also starting to recover from the disease, offering hospitals a chance to try a promising, experimental treatment that derives from their donated blood.
While researchers test potential solutions, officials continue to urge people to stay away from each other to avoid spreading the virus. Gov. Jay Inslee declined to say in a Monday press conference if he still intends to reopen some businesses by May 4, though he noted that any plans to reopen the state’s economy will be closely coordinated with Oregon and California to ensure the virus remains contained across the West Coast.
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 Monday 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 Tuesday evening.
Washington confirms 10,694 cases and 541 deaths from COVID-19
Washington’s count of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 10,694 Tuesday and 541 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.
The updated count included an additional 156 new cases and 25 deaths, according to the state.
The bulk of the cases remains in King County, which is reporting 4,612 cases and 303 deaths. New deaths were also reported in Island, Klickitat, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Whatcom and Yakima counties.
The state has not updated its count of negative test results.
King County’s small and midsize cities worry they’re being left behind in federal coronavirus relief plan
As Washington continues to shoulder large costs in response to the novel coronavirus, a federal stimulus package to help state and local governments appears to provide a path for only the nation’s largest cities and counties to get the money — leaving local leaders of smaller jurisdictions to fear their communities will suffer the most.
The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Relief Fund allows cities and counties with a population of at least 500,000 to apply to the U.S. Treasury Department for critical funds needed to compensate for the loss of sales revenue and other impacts from the pandemic. However, it doesn’t include guidance for smaller cities and towns: The Associated Press reports that while further guidelines are expected to be released by the Treasury Department this week, midsize and small jurisdictions may have to lobby for a portion of the funds sent to state governments.
In King County, Seattle is the only city that meets the population threshold to apply directly for federal relief, which leaves the future uncertain for the county’s 38 other localities.
One such city that could be affected is Kirkland, the earliest epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak and one of the Washington cities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Grocery workers and customers say social distancing inside stores is difficult amid coronavirus pandemic
During recent visits to several stores in the Seattle area, The Seattle Times witnessed shoppers wandering the wrong direction through aisles, ignoring distancing stickers in checkout lines or brushing past other shoppers. Not all employees wore masks or gloves, even those serving unpackaged counter food.
Despite enhanced safety measures implemented by some of the region’s biggest grocery chains, frightened employees and shoppers say they’ve seen distressed customers crashing carts together to avoid one another, or sidestepping workers trying to restock shelves.
They say some stores also seem more interested in making money than keeping people safely distanced and aren’t doing enough to limit and monitor crowds.
Health officials cautiously look ahead as new modeling shows slowing coronavirus transmission
New modeling suggests transmission of the novel coronavirus has slowed more than expected in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties due to social distancing, and may have reached a critical threshold.
But the progress remains precarious, with evidence that even increased movement of people on the weekends is enough to nudge the rate back up.
Earlier in the epidemic, the so-called effective reproductive number was nearly 3, meaning each infected person was passing the virus on to almost three other people.
Now, the number of new cases in King County has remained steady for nearly two weeks, while in Snohomish County the new infection curve is bending downward. But in order to bring the epidemic under control, the effective reproductive number must remain below one.
Inslee issues new proclamations on criminal statutes and wage garnishments as part of coronavirus response
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday evening announced new emergency orders intended to help the criminal justice system, aid commercial truckers and protect consumers from debt collectors through the coronavirus pandemic and the state’s response to it.
One proclamation temporarily suspends statutes allowing the collection of judgments on consumer debt, including garnishments of bank accounts and wage garnishments, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
A second proclamation temporarily relaxes some requirements — which have also been loosened by the federal government — around extending or renewing commercial driver’s licenses and commercial learning permits, according to Inslee’s office.
A third proclamation temporarily suspends statutes of limitations for any crimes and also waives the one-year limitation on raising postconviction challenges to criminal convictions, according to the governor’s office.
The proclamations are effective immediately through May 14.
Feds award $192 million to Sea-Tac for coronavirus relief, smaller grants to other Washington airports
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will receive more than $192 million in relief funds, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Tuesday.
The grant is part of a $10 billion package of aid disbursed through the CARES Act stimulus package for airports struggling under travel restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Funds were allocated, in part, based on airport traffic. Atlanta, by some measures the country’s busiest airport, received $338 million through the program.
Other Washington airports — including Spokane International Airport, Pangborn Memorial Airport in Wenatchee, Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport and Walla Walla Regional Airport — received smaller chunks of money.
Amazon fires two tech workers who criticized conditions in its warehouse workplace
Amazon has fired two employees who were outspoken critics of its climate policies and who had publicly denounced the conditions at its warehouses as unsafe during the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the fired workers, Emily Cunningham, a user experience designer who is part of the group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, said in a tweet that a lack of safe and sanitary working conditions “puts them and the public at risk.”
The other former employee, Maren Costa, a principal user experience designer who is also part of the employee climate group, has retweeted criticism from Cunningham, as well as from groups supporting the activist warehouse workers, about Amazon’s policies on protecting warehouse staff.
Amazon fired the techworkers for “repeatedly violating internal policies,” spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement.
Democratic bills call for racial breakdown of COVID-19 cases
The lawmakers say the demographic data is needed to address any disparities in the national response to the coronavirus outbreak, which is taking a disproportionate toll on African Americans and other nonwhite populations.
“To effectively slow the spread of the virus and ensure our response is robust and equitable, we need comprehensive national data on who is getting infected, who is getting treatment, and who is dying," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of several sponsors of the legislation in the Senate, said in a statement.
Emerald Downs president confident there will be horse racing this season — it’s just a matter of when
Phil Ziegler, president of Emerald Downs, is confident there will be horse racing this season at the Auburn racetrack.
When it will start, and what it will look like when it finally does, will likely be decided for him.
Opening day was scheduled for Saturday, but that went away when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered non-essential businesses shut down through May 4 to combat the coronavirus.
In the meantime, more than 500 horses are in training, so racing could start fairly quickly once the track gets the green light to start. But until there is clarity as to how and when the state will reopen, operations remain in a holding pattern at the track, which has put most of its employees on furlough (while maintaining benefits for those employees).
What doctors on the front lines wish they’d known a month ago
Just about a month ago, people stricken with the new coronavirus started to arrive in unending ranks at hospitals in the New York metropolitan area, forming the white-hot center of the pandemic in the United States.
Now, doctors in the region have started sharing on medical grapevines what it has been like to re-engineer their health care systems, their practice of medicine, their personal lives.
For the disease that drives this pandemic, certain ironclad emergency medical practices have dissolved almost overnight.
The biggest change: Instead of quickly sedating people who had shockingly low levels of oxygen and then putting them on mechanical ventilators, many doctors are now keeping patients conscious, having them roll over in bed, recline in chairs and continue to breathe on their own — with additional oxygen — for as long as possible.
At Western State Hospital, coronavirus infections add pressure to a psychiatric facility already facing challenges
Western State Hospital has long struggled with an entanglement of challenges, and now, the coronavirus pandemic is adding a new and unprecedented layer of difficulty at Washington’s largest psychiatric hospital.
As of Tuesday, 27 staff members and six patients have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees the hospital. One patient has died.
Western State staff, increasingly frustrated by what they see as a potential coronavirus outbreak, are calling on DSHS to take the crisis more seriously. They want more protective medical gear, better screenings for symptoms of the virus and better communication when workers have been potentially exposed to COVID-19.
How far does a $10,000 relief grant go toward helping a Seattle restaurant stay afloat amid the coronavirus?
As the state-mandated closure of bars and restaurant dining rooms approaches the one-month mark, Seattle’s eating establishments are having a tough time.
To help, the city offered 250 grants of $10,000 each to small businesses. Nearly 9,000 applied, many of them restaurants in the Chinatown International District, Rainier Valley, the University District and Belltown.
Of the successful applicants, did the grant make a dent in their stack of bills? Will they reopen? How far does $10,000 go in the current economic climate? We checked in with three restaurants that received grants to see how they’re doing.
Trump directs halt to payments to WHO during virus pandemic
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he was cutting off U.S. payments to the World Health Organization during the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the organization of failing to do enough to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China.
Trump, who had telegraphed his intentions last week, claimed the outbreak could have been contained at its source and that lives could have been saved had the U.N. health agency done a better job investigating the early reports coming out of China.
“The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump said at a briefing. He said the U.S. would be reviewing the WHO’s actions to stop the virus before making any decision on resuming aid.
There was no immediate comment from the Geneva-based organization on Trump’s announcement.
CDC, FEMA have created a plan to reopen America. Here’s what it says.
WASHINGTON – A team of government officials – led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – has created a public health strategy to combat the coronavirus and reopen parts of the country.
Their strategy, obtained by The Washington Post, is part of a larger White House effort to draft a national plan to get Americans out of their homes and back to work. It gives guidance to state and local governments on how they can ease mitigation efforts, moving from drastic restrictions such as stay-at-home orders in a phased way to support a safe reopening.
Read the full article here.
Washington to receive nearly $11 million in Department of Justice grants
U.S. Attorneys Brian Moran and William Hyslop announced Tuesday that the Department of Justice is sending nearly $11 million in grants to bolster Washington's coronavirus aid efforts, including staffing, collecting more protective gear and increasing medical care in jails and prisons.
The grants are available under the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, according to a statement from the department.
“Our first responders continue to answer the call every single day, to keep our communities safe, while risking exposure to this dangerous virus,” Moran, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in the statement. “The Department of Justice provides this funding with significant flexibility, so that state and local departments can use it in the ways that best benefit their officers and their community.”
The grants will be directed to the Washington Department of Commerce and the city of Olympia, though an additional $5.7 million has been allocated for other local jurisdictions in the state, the statement said. The Justice Department is awarding those grants on a rolling basis.
"The law gives jurisdictions considerable latitude in the use of these funds for dealing with COVID-19," the statement said. "Potential uses include hiring personnel, paying overtime, purchasing protective equipment, distributing resources to hard-hit areas and addressing inmates’ medical needs."
Pledge 1200 campaign urges spending stimulus checks at small businesses hurt by coronavirus
Aubrey MacKenzie’s first thought when he knew he would be getting a $1,200 stimulus check was how was he going to spend it.
“But a better question is: What is the best way to spend this $1,200?” said MacKenzie, who graduated last year from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, of the money the federal government is sending to Americans to help with financial issues caused by shutting down the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
That thought was the seed for the Pledge 1200 campaign MacKenzie has helped start, with the hope that others around the country who aren’t in need will also pledge to spend some or all of their $1,200 checks at small businesses.
Bellevue closes parking lots near downtown park
People who want to enjoy the downtown Bellevue park will no longer be able to drive there.
Bellevue Parks & Community Services will close both the main and secondary parking lots to the Downtown Park, located at Northeast 4th Street in Bellevue, starting Wednesday.
The park itself will remain open for people walking. Park rangers will be on-site to remind people to maintain social distancing recommendations, according to a news release.
People are encouraged to access the parks near their homes rather than driving to another park.
The city of Bellevue has also closed playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, ballfields and picnic shelters until further notice.
King County launches "one-stop shop" website listing ways to help during COVID-19
A “one-stop shop” website listing ways King County residents can help groups and individuals affected by COVID-19 is now online.
Project C. A. R. E. includes how individuals and businesses can help in making hygiene kits, donate to food banks and help laid-off restaurant workers with rent, utilities and other necessities.
“In this time of crisis, my hope is that Project C. A. R. E. will unite our region and help us look out for each other, “said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, sponsor of the program.
14 employees test positive in COVID-19 cluster at University of Washington Medical Center – Northwest
A cluster of COVID-19 cases has been identified among health care workers at University of Washington Medical Center – Northwest and at least 14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a message to staffers posted online.
The message, from two top infectious-diseases physicians with UW Medicine, says the outbreak cluster was first identified at the beginning of April.
After three cases were documented in a medical surgical unit, the medical center opened an investigation and offered testing to all staffers working in the unit.
“Out of nearly 100 staff who underwent surveillance testing, 11 additional staff members were found to be positive for COVID-19,” the message said. “Based on the results of our investigation, the transmission is believed to have occurred over several days at the end of March and was most likely transmitted from healthcare worker to healthcare worker.”
This medical surgical unit was not designated for COVID-19 patients.
The message said that the unit has been “deep cleaned and sanitized,” that the employees who tested positive are all recovering at home, and that there is not evidence COVID-19 had spread from staff to patients.
“... UW Medical Center – Northwest is currently testing all patients on the unit for COVID-19 who have not been tested in the prior 48 hours. There are currently 14 patients hospitalized on the 36-bed unit,” according to the message, which was posted Tuesday afternoon.
KOMO TV reported about the cluster Monday.
NHL Seattle, Oak View Group donate $1 million to United Way for food vouchers
Seattle’s expansion NHL franchise along with arena operator Oak View Group say they have raised $1 million to support at-risk families in the city and help nonprofit organizations on the Seattle Center campus where the team’s new arena is being constructed.
The first donation of $800,000 will be to the United Way of King County and will be distributed as grocery vouchers to those who have recently lost their jobs or seen their hours significantly reduced due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Another $200,000 is being earmarked as grants for 21 different nonprofit organizations that share the Seattle Center campus.
NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke says bringing the NHL to Seattle was born out of a strong partnership with the city and, “we are committed to giving back to those among us with an urgent and immediate need.”
King County councilmembers call for statewide rent freeze
Citing economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, King County Councilmembers Girmay Zahilay and Jeanne Kohl-Welles have introduced a motion calling for Gov. Jay Inslee to place a freeze on rent and mortgage payments. A rent freeze would build on the state’s existing 30-day moratorium on residential evictions, which Zahilay and Kohl-Welles said needed to be expanded upon.
“Thousands of King County residents are terrified. Not only of COVID-19, but of losing their livelihood and their homes,” said the councilmembers in a joint statement released Tuesday. “An eviction moratorium is a great first start, but it doesn’t address the mounting debt that will be waiting.”
The councilmembers also raised concerns that when the eviction moratorium comes to an end, King County’s population of unhoused people might increase. In addition to prevailing upon the governor, Zahilay and Kohl-Welles encouraged elected officials at the federal level to immediately initiate a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments.
“The King County Council doesn’t have the authority to halt rent and mortgage payments, but state and federal officials do,” they said. “This resolution allows us to amplify the voices of our constituents and add the King County Council to a larger national movement — a movement for providing the greatest forms of economic relief in existence: keeping people housed and keeping small businesses alive.”
Search for a COVID-19 vaccine heats up in China, US
Three potential COVID-19 vaccines are making fast progress in early-stage testing in volunteers in China and the U.S., but it’s still a long road to prove if they’ll really work.
China’s CanSino Biologics is beginning the second phase of testing its vaccine candidate, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology said Tuesday.
In the U.S., a shot made by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. isn’t far behind. The first person to receive that experimental vaccine last month returned to a Seattle clinic Tuesday for a second dose.
NIH infectious disease chief Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Associated Press there are “no red flags” so far and he hoped the next, larger phase of testing could begin around June.
A third candidate, from Inovio Pharmaceuticals, began giving experimental shots for first-step safety testing last week in the U.S. and hopes to expand its studies to China.
Initial tests focus on safety, and researchers in both countries are trying out different doses of different types of shots.
Washington airports get $310 million in federal funds
Washington state airports will receive more than $310 million in federal funding to help with impacts of COVID-19, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.
The funding will be granted to 62 airports in Washington, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The money will help airports continue operating and replace some lost revenue from passenger and business declines in the wake of COVID-19, according to the FAA. Airports can use the funds to pay debts, make capital expenditures and for operating expenses like payroll.
Airports receiving the most money include Seattle-Tacoma International with $192.1 million; Spokane International, $29.6 million; Pullman/Moscow Regional, $18.1 million; Pangborn Memorial (East Wenatchee), $18.1 million; Boeing Field/King County International, $18 million; and Walla Walla Regional, $18 million.
Distancing is working in 3 counties, but let's not get complacent, officials say
Physical-distancing efforts in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties are working faster than anticipated to slow COVID-19 transmission, according to a new report.
But state and county officials are expected to warn at a news briefing Tuesday afternoon that the measures must stay in place to remain effective.
“Now is not a time to celebrate, but to humbly take stock in what we appear to have achieved so far," Chris Spitters of the Snohomish Health District said in a statement. "Our hospital systems, healthcare partners and first responders are relying on of all us as a community to sustain the focus, discipline and patience it will take to get to the other side of this pandemic.”
The report was developed by Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling, which analyzed data on the overall “mobility” of people in King County, both before and after physical distancing policies were announced. Using anonymized mobility data from the two previous reports, researchers found that COVID-19 transmission rates continued to decline.
Girl Scouts cancel all in-person events through August
Girl Scouts of Western Washington has canceled all in-person Girl Scout programming through the end of August.
"We understand that this is disappointing, but as we continue to follow guidance of health officials, this step is in the best interest of our girls, families, volunteers, and staff," the organization's leader said in an email to scouting families. "We can’t take the chance of convening girls and volunteers early in the post-outbreak recovery period since other locations have seen infections spike as soon as they’ve relaxed mitigation efforts. The health and safety of our girls and volunteers is not worth the risk.
"However, despite being unable to meet in-person, Girl Scouts is not canceled," the message goes on to say. "We recently launched a new web page: Girl Scouts at Home. It provides our girls, families, volunteers and the public with opportunities for continued Girl Scout engagement during COVID-19."
Coronavirus causes delay to 2020 Census count
Conceding that its effort to count the nation’s population has been hamstrung by the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau said Monday it would ask Congress for a four-month delay in delivering the census data used to reapportion the House of Representatives and political districts nationwide.
In a news release, the bureau said it would ask that delivery of the final census figures be postponed to April 31, 2020 — 120 days beyond the existing Dec. 31 deadline. That would mean that state legislatures would get final population figures for drawing new maps as late as July 31, 2021. Delivery of that data normally is completed by the end of March.
The bureau also said it would extend the deadline for collecting census data, now Aug. 15, to Oct. 31, and would begin reopening its field offices — which have been shuttered since mid-March — sometime after June 1.
Read the story here.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to be stuck at home
Coronavirus nixed your social life, but a virtual dinner party can help restore your spirits. Here’s how to host one, from picking the guests to planning the menu and avoiding (or laughing at) the awkwardness. In an era when quirky rituals matter more than ever, what's keeping you sane?
How to look good on Zoom: Here are tips on projecting a professional image that avoids unflattering light and, ew, nose hair.
Kids in the kitchen: Our favorite "MasterChef Junior" competitor, age 14, shares a recipe for raspberry jam that’s so good, you’ll want to eat it with a spoon.
Seattle-area fitness studios are transforming into online spaces "where people don't feel as lonely" after coronavirus pushed them online. And some say the changes will stick around after the virus eases.
ER doctor: COVID-19 was 'pulling me down the drain'
For Ryan Padgett, a 45-year-old doctor at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, it all started with minor aches and pains. Six days later, he was on a ventilator.
Padgett, one of the first front-line health care workers in Washington to test positive for COVID-19, is describing what happened as "this incredible team of 15 physicians over two hospitals refused to say, ‘We’re done.’" His story could help doctors nationwide better understand the virus and its effects.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state will set as many as 950 prisoners free. The emergency move, meant to limit coronavirus' spread, unlocks the doors for inmates who meet certain criteria.
Who gets to decide how our lives will start returning to normal? Governors in Washington and other West Coast states outlined the steps they'll take together under a new pact. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, says he has "total authority" and is assembling a council that's already raising concerns. But states largely have the right to call their own shots on this. Here's a Q&A on who can do what.
Americans are starting to get coronavirus relief payments. Here's a primer on who will receive them, when, what the chances are of another round, and more.
Seattle has picked the first 250 small businesses to get coronavirus relief grants. Here's what they are, and how the city decided among nearly 9,000 applicants.
Can blood from coronavirus survivors cure others? Seattle hospitals are calling for donors as they try a treatment with century-old roots.
Amazon plans to add 75,000 jobs — on top of the 100,000 it added in less than a month — as coronavirus drives huge demand for online shopping and delivery.
Deborah de los Angeles got an early morning call from Life Care Center of Kirkland, saying her mother was feverish with what appeared to be COVID-19. Less than 24 hours later, Twilla Morin, 85, was dead. Now de los Angeles is suing, accusing Life Care of negligence in failing to inform her family of the coronavirus outbreak.
The CIA has issued a warning about an unproven coronavirus treatment touted by Trump. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine has side effects including sudden death, the agency told its workers.
'I have to remain calm' amid frightening turbulence: Thousands of airline workers are still in the air, sharing the struggle to stay professional in an era when one passenger's cough is enough to draw icy stares from nearly everyone on board.
The Tour de France could be scrapped for the first time since 1946. The June start date for the world's most famous cycling race has been called off.
How is this outbreak affecting you?What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.
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