Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Thursday, April 16, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Friday, April 17. And 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.

A new analysis shows further evidence that Washington state is bending the curve, though the projections have wide uncertainty ranges and assume we all keep distancing as much as we have been. The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 11,152 infections and 583 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.

With that positive outlook in mind, Gov. Jay Inslee is discussing what a reopening of Washington’s economy could look like once state officials believe it’s safe — but he gave no new details on when that might begin. At a national level, Sen. Patty Murray is among the Democrats pushing the White House for broad coronavirus testing, which would help officials fully understand how widely the illness has spread and make informed decisions about when to ease distancing orders.

Throughout today, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Wednesday 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 Thursday evening.

Live updates:

Transit union demands hazard pay, stronger social-distancing rules

The union representing 4,000 workers at King County Metro Transit, and thousands more across North America, issued demands Thursday for hazard pay and tighter enforcement of social distancing, to cope with the coronavirus epidemic.

Ken Price, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 in Seattle, issued a bulletin that calls for a $2 hourly wage boost, retroactive to early March and continuing until Gov. Jay Inslee lifts the statewide stay-at-home order.

Metro should require passengers to wear masks, Price said, by having security guards tell people “No mask, no ride,” supplemented by public-address warnings.

Price’s memo specifically cites a need locally for mandatory mask use by “non-destination riders.”

Read the full story here.

—Mike Lindblom

COVID-19 cases in Washington rises to 11,152

The number of COVID-19 infections in Washington has jumped to 11,152, with 583 deaths, state health officials confirmed Thursday.

The new totals reflect an additional 369 infections and 16 deaths.

The bulk of the cases remains in King County, which is reporting 4,796 cases and 320 deaths. New deaths were also reported in Benton, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

About 91% of patient samples tested have returned negative, according to the state.

—Elise Takahama

Inslee expands statewide moratorium on evictions and freezes rent hikes

OLYMPIA — Seeking to help Washingtonians cope with the economic shutdown amid the new coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday extended and expanded his moratorium on evictions and imposed a new freeze on increases of residential rents.

The order comes a month after Inslee announced a 30-day moratorium across the state on evictions for residential tenants.

The temporary statewide ban on evictions — which Inslee first announced last month — will be extended another seven weeks, according to the governor, and will include a slew of new measures aimed at protecting more tenants.

Part of the new eviction moratorium includes a ban on residential rent increases during the public health emergency. Commercial rent increases will also be prohibited, Inslee said.

Read the full story here.

—Sydney Brownstone and Joseph O’Sullivan

Meat processing plants are closing due to COVID-19 outbreaks, potentially leading to shortfalls

The novel coronavirus has sickened workers and forced slowdowns and closures of some of the country’s biggest meat processing plants, reducing production by as much as 25%, industry officials say, and sparking fears of a further round of hoarding.

Several of the country’s largest beef-packing companies have announced plant closures.

The meat supply chain is especially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus because processing is increasingly done at several massive plants instead of many smaller facilities. Industry experts said the shutdown of beef processing facilities could prompt another round of hoarding at the grocery stores, as with toilet paper and milk several weeks ago.

—The Washington Post

Thousands of OSHA complaints filed against companies for coronavirus workplace safety concerns

People asked to work during the pandemic have filed thousands of complaints regarding their exposure to the novel coronavirus and a lack of safeguards at their places of employment.

The employee complaints offer a snapshot of the fear experienced by the Americans compelled to work while the majority have been urged to stay at home, and they come from an array of workplaces: hospitals, construction companies, grocery stores, pharmacies and shipping companies, among others.

Collectively, the records depict the desperation of the employees as well as their frustrations with employers, who in the view of workers were at best simply unprepared for a pandemic and at worst callously unconcerned with worker safety.

—The Washington Post

Seattle opens 2.5 miles of street space for pedestrians and bicyclists by banishing cars

Seattle will close 2.5 miles of residential streets in the Central District and West Seattle neighborhoods to drivers beginning this Saturday.

Closing portions of 25th Avenue South, 34th Avenue Southwest/Southwest Graham Street and Holly Street/High Point Drive Southwest will allow pedestrians and people biking more public space to move around and comply with social-distancing recommendations.

The “Stay Healthy Streets” will be remain in place for the duration of Washington’s stay-at-home order or until otherwise noted.

Residents who live along the streets will still be able to drive to their homes, and delivery workers can still operate on the streets. Through traffic will not be permitted.

The closures come after Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, a street-safety advocacy group, proposed a list of suggestions to create more space for pedestrians and bicyclists, including allowing people to walk in the street on non-arterial roads.

Denver and Philadelphia expanded walking space by closing some streets to vehicles. Oakland, California, closed 74 miles of streets to through traffic to make room for pedestrians and bicycles.

The Seattle Department of Transportation plans to close about 15 miles of streets in the coming weeks to vehicle traffic.

—Michelle Baruchman

Light rail will run less frequently due to low ridership, staffing

Starting Monday, light rail trains will run every 30 minutes, a dramatic drop from the six to 12-minute frequencies that were once normal, Sound Transit announced Thursday.

Trains were already reduced to running every 20 minutes, as the coronavirus pandemic has caused big drops in ridership and staffing issues. Light rail trains will run with four cars "to increase space for social distancing," Sound Transit said.

Sound Transit also plans additional cuts to ST Express bus service. Starting Saturday, ST Express routes 542 between Redmond and the University District and 550 to Bellevue will have fewer trips.

It's the latest in a series of cuts to bus and rail service from Sound Transit, King County Metro and other agencies throughout the region. Transit systems have also suspended fares, asked riders to board through the back doors of buses when possible to avoid interactions with drivers, and advised riders to wear masks.

Sound Transit ridership has fallen 87% and there has been "fluctuating staffing availability," Sound Transit said.

With reduced schedules, riders should be careful about using apps like Google Maps and One Bus Away, and instead check Sound Transit's website and Metro's website.

Citing "an increase in vandalism and unsanitary conditions," Sound Transit reminded riders they can call or text the agency's security desk at 206-398-5268.

—Heidi Groover

Washington Department of Corrections names 1,100+ inmates to be released in coming days due to coronavirus concerns

The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) has identified hundreds of inmates who will be released early from prisons out of coronavirus concerns.

The DOC on Thursday issued a roster of the of inmates who will be released in the coming days due to Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency order this week authorizing commutations, furloughs and other measures to reduce prison populations vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The list made public by the DOC includes names of more than 1,100 individuals — a higher number than the 950 Inslee and DOC had announced earlier this week. The releases are targeted at incarcerated people who are not currently serving time for violent or sex offenses and who are nearing the end of their sentences, according to the agency.

Susan Biller, a spokeswoman for DOC, said the list has been given to staff at all 12 prisons across the state with the directive that they begin releasing inmates over the next couple days if possible. “It’s a process,” she said. “It’s happening at all facilities.”

Read the full story here.

—Jim Brunner and Mary Hudetz

PGA Tour announces mid-June return in Texas

The PGA Tour on Thursday announced it would resume its season in mid-June with a tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, which would most likely make men’s golf among the first major American professional sports to restart competition since the coronavirus pandemic halted most events in March.

The tour said the event, the Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club, would be held June 11-14 and played without spectators, as would the next three tournaments scheduled for June and early July.

Tour leaders, however, conceded that myriad details had yet to be resolved, including testing of players for the coronavirus before they leave for tournaments, assessing the effects of global travel bans on participation and determining whether local health officials would approve the tournaments set for their areas.

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to resume play; that’s different than being certain,” Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief tournament and competitions officer, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Trump, aides float outlier theory on origins of coronavirus

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and some of his officials are flirting with an outlier theory that the new coronavirus was set loose on the world by a Chinese lab that let it escape. Without the weight of evidence, they’re trying to blame China for sickness and death from COVID-19 in the United States.

“More and more, we’re hearing the story,” Trump says. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo adds: “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers — that China hasn’t shared the answers — I think is very, very telling.”

A scientific consensus is still evolving. But experts overwhelmingly say analysis of the new coronavirus’ genome rules out the possibility that it was engineered by humans, as some conspiracy theories have suggested.

Nor is it likely that the virus emerged from a negligent laboratory in China, they say. “I would put it on a list of 1,000 different scenarios,” said Nathan Grubaugh of Yale University, who studies the epidemiology of microbial disease.

Scientists say the the virus arose naturally in bats. They say the leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in Wuhan, China, probably from an animal that got the virus from a bat.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Agent: NFL star Von Miller has COVID-19, is in good spirits

Von Miller’s agent says the NFL star has tested positive for the coronavirus and wanted to come forward with his diagnosis to show doubters how serious the disease is.

Joby Branion told The Associated Press on Thursday that Miller is in good spirits while resting at his home in Denver and that Miller plans to speak publicly about his diagnosis on Friday.

Miller is the second-known NFL player to test positive.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen said he tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks ago, making him the first active NFL player to acknowledge testing positive during the coronavirus pandemic. The Rams revealed on Thursday that they shut down their training complex for roughly two weeks and several people went into quarantine after Allen’s positive test last month.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Seattle-area Sikh community leans on core values to help those in need

Before the coronavirus existed, the Degh Tegh Community Kitchen in Auburn was already helping people.

Run by the local Sikh community, the meaning of the words Degh Tegh was also its mission: to serve food to and protect the rights of everyone in the community.

Since opening a couple of years ago, the nonprofit Degh Tegh Community Kitchen has served 500 meals every Saturday to local homeless shelters. With the spread of the virus, the Seattle-area Sikh community came together to do much more.

The Degh Tegh Community Kitchen has aligned with the United Sikhs organization and A1 Seattle Taxi to provide meals to hospital workers, send pizzas three days a week to the Ray of Hope Shelter in Auburn, drop off bags of food to people in need and provide free taxi and delivery service for the elderly and those vulnerable and without means.

Read the full story here.

—Scott Hanson

Trump unveils phased approach to reopen economy in some states with declining infections

WASHINGTON — New White House guidelines outline a phased approach to restoring normal commerce and services, but only for places with strong testing that are experiencing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

President Donald Trump unveiled his administration’s plans to ease social distancing requirements on a call Thursday with the nation’s governors.

The new guidelines are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the novel coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit locations.

Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phase gradual reopening of businesses and schools, with each phase lasting at least 14 days, meant to ensure the virus outbreak doesn’t accelerate again.

The recommendations make clear the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially said he envisioned, with federal officials warning some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year in an attempt to prevent a new outbreak.

At earliest, the guidelines suggest some parts of the country could see a resumption in normal commerce and social gatherings after a month of evaluating whether the easing of restrictions leads to a resurgence in virus cases. In other parts of the country, or if virus cases resume an uptick, it could be substantially longer.

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

Metro plans more bus service cuts, reminds riders to wear masks

With about a third of its operators unavailable and ridership down significantly, King County Metro will continue to cut bus service starting this weekend.

Weekday service will have 27% fewer trips than usual and weekend trips will be cut by 15% on Saturdays and 4% on Sundays, Metro officials said.

Metro previously cut weekday service in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has driven ridership down 70%. The cuts are a balancing act: Deep service cuts can run the risk of making it more difficult for riders to keep distance from others. Drivers and other Metro employees have raised concerns about their safety amid the pandemic.

On weekdays, 111 routes and services will be cut entirely and a mere 22 routes will have only one or two trips cut. Many bus routes will have fewer trips or reduced hours. Among the list of routes cut entirely are weekend trips on the water taxi to West Seattle and Vashon Island.

The newest schedule will provide “a core network of public transportation services to maintain access to critical supplies, services and worksites around the region,” Metro said in a statement.

Metro cited low ridership and staffing issues in announcing the latest cuts. About 66% of Metro's bus and rail operators are available to work, with others out for health or other reasons, Metro said.

Weekend cuts will start Saturday and weekday cuts will start Monday. Riders should check Metro’s website for specific trip information and be wary of apps such as Google Maps or One Bus Away, which might not have the latest information.

Riders can text their stop number to 62550 to find out when the next bus is expected to arrive.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Metro has stopped collecting fares and directed riders to board through back doors when possible to avoid interactions with drivers. Riders should avoid unnecessary trips and wear masks or other face coverings, Metro said.

—Heidi Groover

City of Seattle provides up to 100 hotel rooms for quarantined health care workers

The city of Seattle is making up to 100 rooms available at the downtown Executive Hotel Pacific for nurses and other health care workers who need to be isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office announced Thursday.

The rooms rented by the city are available to health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization, and for exposed workers who cannot quarantine at home without exposing vulnerable family members. The rooms also are available to healthy workers who need to avoid being exposed to someone they’re living with who has contracted the virus, and to healthy workers who live with high-risk persons who would be vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure.

“Our health care workers are on the frontlines of this pandemic, and they are routinely asked to risk their own personal safety to help others. We know that failure to provide protections for health care workers, including isolation spaces like these, can have devastating consequences,” Durkan said in a news release. “No health care worker should have to worry about infecting their loved ones, especially if they live with people who are more vulnerable to this virus.”

The city had first reserved the hotel rooms in mid-March to provide places for Seattle police and fire personnel exposed to the novel coronavirus who could not self-quarantine at home because they live with people vulnerable to infection. As of Thursday, 11 health-care workers and 11 fire and police department personnel have stayed at the hotel, according the mayor’s office.

The city is working with health care-worker unions to identify which persons can use the rooms. The hotel has created safety protocols to try to protect staff and other guests at the hotel, a city news release said.

—Jim Brunner

Positive cases among sheltered homeless populations triples in a week

The official number of COVID-19 cases among King County’s homeless shelter populations almost tripled in a week, according to Public Health -- Seattle & King County.

As of Tuesday night, the most recent numbers available, there were 75 cases in 24 homeless shelters and permanent supportive housing complexes. As of the previous Tuesday, King County officials reported 27 positive cases in 12 shelters.

These are not the total number of cases among the homeless population of King County, according to Sharon Bogan, a spokesperson for public health.

“There are many barriers to Public Health being able to systematically track information about the number of positive cases among people living homeless,” Bogan wrote in an email. “The State Department of Health attempts to contact every positive case for a follow-up interview, including asking whether the person lived or worked in a homeless shelter, but there can be data lags and some people (particularly people experiencing homelessness) may be difficult to reach.”

—Scott Greenstone

Some laid-off union hospitality workers to get free health insurance coverage

A local hospitality union with 5,000 members announced Thursday that workers who were recently laid off due to the coronavirus quarantine will get to keep their health insurance coverage for three months and that premiums will be waived during that time.

Local 8 said in a statement that the board of the UNITE HERE Northwest Health Trust voted to extend health insurance coverage for eligible workers for three additional months.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been devastating on the hospitality industry, and here in Washington and Oregon, the majority of Local 8 members have been laid off while others are facing reduced hours,” said Local 8 President Erik Van Rossum in a video statement sent to members. 

The union represents room cleaners, cooks, bartenders, bellmen, food and beverage servers, bussers, and dishwashers who work in hotels, restaurants, food service and airport concessions, among others.

Last week, the Service Employees International Union Local 6, which represents more than 5,000 janitors in the Seattle area, announced that laid-off employees would keep their full-family, 100% employer-paid health insurance for at least three months in the event that COVID-19 causes layoffs.

The union said the deal was reached through a unanimous vote by union representatives and executives at the region’s top janitorial employers, including Amazon, Microsoft and Swedish Hospital.

—Christine Clarridge

Jeff Bezos ‘very optimistic’ as he recounts Amazon’s coronavirus response in annual letter to shareholders

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos quoted Dr. Seuss to close his annual letter to shareholders, released Thursday as the global coronavirus pandemic rages:

“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

Bezos added, “I am very optimistic about which of these civilization is going to choose.”

The letter, which in past years Bezos has used to share insights or anecdotes and other unique views from the top, revisits many of the announcements Amazon has made over the last six weeks as its response to the pandemic has evolved.

Bezos depicted the Amazon of 2020 as a multifaceted juggernaut plowing through a chaotic time to bring needed goods, computing services and jobs to people and organizations dealing with the pandemic around the world.

Amazon has seen demand, and its stock price, spike as many other businesses have crumbled. The company’s shares have traded at record levels this week, and were up nearly 4% early Thursday afternoon, to about $2,398, giving the company a stock market value of $1.2 trillion.

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Romano

Seattle Pride events will be held virtually this year

This year, Seattle's largest LGBTQIA+ Pride events will go virtual. According to a joint announcement on Thursday morning from the organizers of Seattle's annual Pride events, a number of large-scale gatherings including PrideFest at Seattle Center, TransPride, PrideFest Capitol Hill, Seattle Pride Parade and Seattle Pride in the Park will be held virtually rather than in-person.

"This decision was made out of an abundance of caution – and concern for our community’s health – after conferring with local public health officials and the City of Seattle," organizers Krystal Marx (Seattle Pride), Egan Orion (Seattle Pridefest) and Elayne Wylie (Gender Justice League) said in a joint news release.

Read more here.

—Megan Burbank

COVID-19 tracking tech from Google, Apple faces EU scrutiny

The European Union said it will scrutinize Google and Apple’s proposed contact-tracing technology to ensure it meets the bloc’s new standards governing the deployment of COVID-19 apps.

Officials from member states and the EU’s executive arm will “seek clarifications on the solution proposed by Google and Apple,” the European Commission said on Thursday as it issued guidelines aimed at making the various virus-tracking apps interoperable.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple late last week announced they would add technology to their platforms to alert users if they have come into contact with a person with the coronavirus. While the system is voluntary, it has the potential to monitor about a third of the world’s population.

Read the full story here.


Glitches prevent $1,200 stimulus checks from reaching millions of Americans

Many Americans woke up Wednesday expecting to find a payment of $1,200 or more from the U.S. government in their bank account, but instead they realized nothing had arrived yet — or the wrong amount was deposited. Parents of young children complained they did not receive the promised $500 check for their dependent children.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instructed the Internal Revenue Service to get payments out as fast as possible to help offset the pain of losing jobs and shutting down businesses, but numerous glitches — affecting filers who used tax preparers, parents of dependent children and people with 2019 tax returns still to be processed — are delaying payments and causing confusion.

Several million people who filed their taxes via H&R Block, TurboTax and other popular services were unable to get their payments because the IRS did not have their direct deposit information on file, according to the Treasury, companies and experts.

IRS and Treasury officials acknowledged they are aware of these issues and are working to fix them. A Treasury spokeswoman noted that the IRS processed nearly 80 million payments in less than three weeks. That’s just over half the 150 million payments expected to go out under the Economic Impact Payment program.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Singing surgeon: Dr. Elvis cuts EP to aid coronavirus fund

Elvis Francois, the orthopedic surgery resident who has gone viral with his top-notch live performances at hospitals, knew from adolescence he wanted to help heal the world through medicine.

But through music? Not so much.

Two years after becoming an unlikely singing sensation, the 34-year-old doctor with a golden voice is releasing his first-ever EP on Friday and all the proceeds will be donated to The Center of Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund.

“It’s been such a unique time in all of our lives. I’m just honored to be able to share a bit of music with people, especially during these trying times,” Francois said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday. “What we do as surgeons, what we do as physicians goes a very long way, but music moves people in a way that medicine can’t.”

Read the full story and watch Francois sing here.

—The Associated Press

After anonymous tip, 17 bodies found at nursing home hit by coronavirus

Police in a small New Jersey town had gotten an anonymous tip about a body being stored in a shed outside one of the state’s largest nursing homes.

When police arrived, the corpse had been removed from the shed, but they discovered 17 bodies piled inside the nursing home in a small morgue, intended to hold no more than four people.

“They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring,” said Eric Danielson, the police chief in Andover, a small township in Sussex County, the state’s northernmost county.

Read the story here.

—Tracey Tully, The New York Times

Should you book your summer vacation now? Here's a guide to help you decide

Should you book summer travel right now? After all, leisure travelers find two things irresistible: going and doing, and the value they get for money spent.

To which you may reply, “Are you out of your mind?”

It’s a possibility. But it’s also possible that you may be financially protected in a way that you have not been before. Refunds are more plentiful, but so are problems. The issue of refunds has continued to evolve, and so have polices and practices that determine whether you get your money back, a credit or nothing at all.

For those who fret, the loosening of restrictions, particularly on airline tickets, may be of some comfort. But planning travel is still a gamble, especially because it’s unclear whether the coronavirus curve is beginning to flatten.

Read the story here.

—Elouise Schumacher

President says new guidelines aim to lift some restrictions

President Donald Trump said he’s prepared to announce new guidelines allowing some states to quickly ease up on social distancing, even as business leaders told him they need more coronavirus testing and personal protective equipment before people can safely go back to work.

The industry executives cautioned Trump that the return to normalcy will be anything but swift.

The new guidelines are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit places. The ultimate decisions will remain with governors.

“We’ll be opening some states much sooner than others,” Trump said.

Read the story here.

—Elouise Schumacher

Navy may reinstate fired captain of aircraft carrier

The Navy is looking into whether it can reinstate Capt. Brett E. Crozier, who was removed from command of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt after he pleaded for more help fighting a novel coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.

Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, has indicated that he may reinstate Crozier, who is viewed as a hero by his crew for putting their lives above his career, officials said.

“No final decisions have been made,” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the admiral, said in a statement on Wednesday to The New York Times. Christensen added that Gilday was reviewing the findings of a preliminary investigation into the events surrounding Crozier’s removal.

But Gilday’s decision could be upended by President Donald Trump, who has not been shy about intervening in military personnel cases. Only five months ago, Trump fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer for opposing the president’s intervention in support of a Navy SEAL accused of murdering a wounded captive with a hunting knife during a deployment to Iraq in 2017.

No one in the Navy wants a repeat of that intervention, which included a Twitter admonishment by Trump about how the branch’s leaders handled the case. But Navy officials insist that Gilday will make a decision based on the findings of the investigation into the Roosevelt crisis, and not on what he believes the president wants him to do.

Trump himself has indicated he may be open to reassessing the events around the firing. He said recently that Crozier “made a mistake,” but he also noted that the captain “had a bad day.” It remained unclear how the president would view a move to reinstate Crozier, or when action would be taken.

Read the whole story here.

—The New York Times

Technology’s had us ‘social distancing’ for years. Can our digital ‘lifeline’ get us through the coronavirus quarantine?

There’s never been a better time to have to stay at home.

Never mind the bingeable content trove at our fingertips or the ability to have groceries and a new book delivered to our doorsteps in five clicks or less. In some ways, we’ve been social distancing for years as more aspects of our social lives go digital. Looking for a date? There’s an app for that. Curious about the latest neighborhood gossip? Check the Facebook group. Missing your bestie you haven’t seen in a while? Hop on a quick FaceTime call before dinner. Or better yet, just text them.

Beyond the serious public health concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected our social lives as our cafes and parks close, and as health experts advise limiting in-person interactions and keeping a 6-foot invisible buffer between ourselves and others. But with all the technology at our disposal, we’re uniquely equipped (if not conditioned) to adapt our lives to stay-at-home orders.

“If this had happened in 2002 or something, I think it would have been really different,” says Alexis Hiniker, an assistant professor at the University of Washington whose research focuses on human-computer interaction and the negative effects of everyday technology. “What a different world it is in terms of our ability to connect.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of American adults use social media, up from just 5% in 2005. Even more own smartphones. While these numbers are also up for seniors, the least plugged-in generation, Hiniker has witnessed firsthand the shift among her students over the past decade.

“They’ve already been practicing this for a long time in really every aspect of their social life,” Hiniker says. “I don’t think that means this is easy. Obviously, social isolation is really hard for everyone, but I think … we’re in the right place with the right tools to get through this in a better way.”

Read the story here.

—Michael Rietmulder

Antibody testing could start soon in Seattle

The UW Medicine Virology lab says it could start offering blood testing for antibodies to the novel coronavirus as early as next week.

In a tweet, the lab said the first validation experiments on the technology have gone well, and that workers hope to perform thousands of clinical tests a day.

A UW Medicine spokeswoman said more information will be shared tomorrow.

With clinical testing for the virus so difficult to come by, many people may have been infected but not know for sure.

Testing for antibodies in the blood is one way to confirm infection. It might be possible for people with antibodies to resume work and other activities knowing they have at least some immunity, but the accuracy of the tests remains in question.

—Sandi Doughton

Washington state sees 150,000 new unemployment claims; nation nears Depression territory

Washington recorded more than 150,000 new weekly jobless claims as the state continues to feel the devastation from the coronavirus pandemic.

For the week ending April 11, Washington saw 150,516 initial claims for unemployment insurance, according to data released Thursday morning by the U.S. Department of Labor.

That’s a 12% decline from the prior week, the second such weekly dip. But it is also roughly 23 times as many claims as were filed in the same week in 2019, and it brings the total number of claims to more than 600,000 since the pandemic began.

That pattern was echoed across the nation, which saw 5.2 million new claims, according to the Labor Department. That was down from the 6.6 million claims reported for the prior week, but it brought total jobless claims over the last month to more than 22 million, representing levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Read more about unemployment in Washington state here.

—Paul Roberts

Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to be stuck at home

Food is hard right now, and eating Cap'n Crunch is perfectly OK. So ditch the shame and just enjoy, food writer Bethany Jean Clement says. She got Seattle's best chefs to spill the jellybeans about their favorite junk foods.

You can support local movie theaters, even though the doors are closed, by buying a ticket and watching online. Plus, here are some eerily familiar sci-fi films to stream.

There's no better time for a nice long read, and the pages should fly by in these recommended books.

Stories to inspire kids — and adults: In these uncertain times, cuddle up together and read about young heroes who changed the world with grit and courage.

—Kris Higginson

Here's help

Want to sew your own face mask? Here's a video tutorial. Then make sure you're wearing it correctly (many people aren't) and keeping it clean.

Kids ages 2 and older should wear face masks, the CDC says, but any parent knows it's easier said than done. A family physician has some good advice on motivating your child.

If you're struggling financially and thinking about raiding your 401(k), beware. Consider these factors before seizing an option that should be a last resort.

Should you book summer travel now, while deals abound? Things are iffy, but you may have more protection than ever. Here's a guide to deciding whether to take the chance.

—Kris Higginson

Catch up on the past 24 hours

President Donald Trump is expected to lay out new guidelines today allowing some states to quickly ease up on social distancing, despite business leaders' warnings. In Washington state, we're seeing more evidence the curve is bending, and Gov. Jay Inslee is describing a gradual reopening — but not yet.

Boeing will soon be forced to slash planned production — which could bring steep job losses. The collapse in business could rival the three years after 9/11, when 27,000 Boeing jobs in Washington state melted away. The company needs a plan; here's a look at its options.

Why do rents keep rising in the Seattle area, even as coronavirus has cost more than 100,000 people their jobs and local leaders call for rent freezes? Complaints about this are drawing the state attorney general's attention. Renters, know what your rights are and where to find help.

Health care workers should wear personal greenhouses as they test people for COVID-19, a Washington doctor says. Take a look at the first one, which is up and running in Eastern Washington.

A patient likely got COVID-19 at Harborview Medical Center, a hospital official says. It would be the first known hospital-acquired infection at Harborview, which is trying to trace the staffers and patients who came near the man.

Immigration officials have released some detainees in Tacoma to increase social distancing. But advocates say a coronavirus outbreak is inevitable: "ICE is operating on quicksand."

California is giving cash payments to immigrants living in the country illegally who are hurt by the virus.

"Am I going now to my execution?" This is the story, told in photos, of one doctor's very long day, from tense hospital hallways to his drastically altered home life.

The polar bear would be the last to go. One shuttered zoo has drawn up a startling contingency plan as financial pressures grow: Feed the animals to the animals.

—Kris Higginson

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