Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Sunday, April 19, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Monday, April 20. 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.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday the United States and Canada have agreed to keep their border closed to nonessential travel for another 30 days, and he said it undoubtedly will be longer before the restriction is removed.
President Donald Trump, in a roller-coaster week of reversals and contradictions, told governors to “call your own shots” on lifting stay-at-home orders once the coronavirus threat subsides. But then he took to Twitter to push some to reopen their economies quickly and tell them it was their job to ramp up testing.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee fired back, taking to national television to say Trump was encouraging people “to violate the law” and risk spreading coronavirus. A few hours later, more than 2,000 demonstrators assembled at the Capitol in Olympia, toting American flags as they urged Inslee to lift the stay-at-home order. They brought children and firearms, and few practiced social distancing — in violation of Inslee’s order.
Six weeks after long-term care facilities first emerged as a deadly front of the coronavirus pandemic, Washington state says it’s now aiming for widespread testing in those facilities. The state’s goal is to get enough supplies to allow for universal masking of staff and to test all residents and employees in facilities with COVID-19 cases.
The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 11,790 infections and 634 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.
Throughout Sunday, 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 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.
Sound Transit announces further service reductions, additional social distancing efforts
With ridership down 87% due to the coronavirus outbreak, Sound Transit announced that starting Monday, Link light-rail trains will run every 30 minutes instead of every 20 minutes. Sound Transit also noted further reduced service on some express routes operated by King County Metro that went into effect Saturday.
Link light-rail trains will operate with the maximum length of four cars to allow riders more space to practice social distancing, according to Sound Transit's website. The agency also recommends that riders wear face masks while traveling on public transit. Revised schedules can be found here.
Fluctuating staffing levels were cited as one reason for the further reduction in transit services. On March 19, Sound Transit first reduced service and cut 19 routes completely.
Sound Transit previously suspended fares on all buses and trains to help protect riders and operators through social distancing and have asked riders to board and exit coaches through rear doors to maintain distance from drivers.
UW Medicine halts use of coronavirus testing kits from China due to bacterial contamination
UW Medicine allocated $125,000 to airlift tens of thousands of testing kits for COVID-19 from China, during a nationwide shortage of sampling swabs and the liquid that preserves specimens for diagnostic testing.
But the hospital has decided to halt, at least temporarily, the use of the testing kits from Lingen Precision Medical Products in Shanghai, after a small percentage of the kits showed signs of contamination with what turned out to be a bacteria called Stenotrophomonas maltophilia (S. maltophilia). Since the ubiquitous bacteria was found in the specimen-preserving liquid, which makes no contact with patients, health officials don't believe it was a danger to anyone who was tested. It also did not appear to impact test results.
Still, the state Department of Health on Sunday recalled 12,000 testing kits it had distributed to local health jurisdictions, tribal nations and other partners, according to a news release.
Twenty thousand test kits were sent to Public Health — Seattle & King County and another 15,000 to the state’s public health lab.
About 5,000 of the 20,000 kits given to Public Health — Seattle & King County had been distributed and roughly 300 had been used, said spokesman James Apa.
The contamination turned the specimen-preserving liquid in a small percentage of the testing kits to an orange or yellow color, an indication of bacterial growth. Some appeared cloudy, too. Swabs included in the kits were also being tested out of an abundance of caution.
'Data cleaning' reduces number of confirmed coronavirus cases; 634 people have died in Washington
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported Sunday that as of the end of the day Saturday, 634 people had died in Washington from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That's 10 more deaths than had been reported the day before.
King County remains at the epicenter of fatal cases, accounting for 346 deaths or nearly 55% of the state total, according to DOH data. There have been more than 5,000 confirmed cases in King County, with 2,100 confirmed cases in Snohomish County and just over 1,100 confirmed cases in Pierce County.
As of Friday, DOH said there were 11,802 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state but "data cleaning" late Saturday showed 190 of them were among people who live out of state. The corrected number of confirmed cases in Washington now stands at 11,790, the agency said Sunday.
As of Saturday, 138,642 tests for the virus had been conducted, nearly 3,000 more than were reported on Friday. DOH says 8.5% of the tests have come back positive.
Durkan says we are 'still at the beginning' of coronavirus marathon
In a weekly update, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said that seven weeks after the first U.S. coronavirus death was reported in Kirkland, we are "still at the beginning" of a marathon that's already drastically altered daily life.
"Though it's hard to believe, we are still at the beginning of (a) marathon, and it's going to get worse before it gets better, but we will get through it together," Durkan wrote. "And remember, stay home, and if you need to get out, practice social distancing — our nurses, doctors, and the most vulnerable are counting on you."
Without a vaccine or widespread testing available, the city will need to adapt to a new normal in the weeks and months ahead, wrote Durkan, who also provided a recap of available resources for people struggling financially as a result of the ongoing stay-at-home order.
A full list of city, county, state and federal assistance programs can be viewed here.
- Relief on Utilities: Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and Seattle City Light (SCL) will keep utility services on for customers. More than 4,000 people have signed up for the Utility Discount Program (UDP) and the city is now allowing customers who meet income eligibility criteria to fill out an online enrollment form. Customers financially impacted by COVID 19 can also set up payment plans with either Seattle City Light or Seattle Public Utilities by calling 206-684-3000 or sending an email at http://www.seattle.gov/utilities/about-us/email-question.
- Moratorium on Residential Evictions: On March 14, Mayor Durkan signed a moratorium on evictions for residents, non-profits, and small businesses. For more information, read this FAQ.
- Food Resources: Grocery vouchers have been provided to thousands of families. An interactive Food Resource Map was set up to help residents find food banks and sites where meals are being provided.
- Emergency Childcare: There are 27 classrooms throughout the city for the children of healthcare workers, first responders, grocery workers or pharmacy workers. Essential employees in these industries are encouraged to visit the City of Seattle Emergency Child Care website and fill out an interest form to apply for childcare.
- Rental Assistance: United Way of King County, in partnership with King County, the City of Seattle and the Seattle Foundation, announced the launch of a $5 million investment in United Way’s expanded Home Base program to provide rental assistance to King County households that have lost all or part of their income. It is estimated these funds will help up to 2,000 families stay in their homes. While the application period is currently paused due to demand, you can sign up for updates here.
- Unemployment Benefits: At the state level, Governor Inslee announced measures to help employees and employers with unemployment benefits. For more information, visit wa.gov.
- Direct Payments: At the federal level, the CARES Act provides $1,200 directly to individuals and $500 for each child. This direct payment begins to phase out at incomes of $75,000 per individual or $150,000 per married couple. You can find out more information here.
A digital disco, pot-infused cupcakes, and a live streamed SPLIFF film festival are among the virtual events planned for 4/20
Quarantine won’t stop Seattleites from getting high. Through Monday, several events are being held virtually in celebration of 4/20, a date made popular by the police code 420 that refers to marijuana use.
The SPLIFF film festival that made its debut in 2019 returns this year as a completely virtual event. Starting April 17 and going through the end of the day Monday, the film festival has live-streamed original short films about “by stoners, for stoners,” and encouraging viewers to enjoy from the comfort of their own couches at home.
DJ Sassyblack will be hosting a “Digital Disco” on Instagram Live on Monday with partner Heylo Cannabis, an organization that supports the arts and music that promotes “the conscious-use of cannabis.”
Seattle Hempfest, so far, still planned for August 14-16, will be hosting a membership drive and fundraiser via a Zoom "Toke-a-thon Multicast” on Monday at 1 p.m.
Demonstrators rally in Olympia against Washington’s coronavirus stay-at-home order
OLYMPIA — More than 1,000 demonstrators appeared at the Capitol on Sunday to urge Gov. Jay Inslee to lift the stay-at-home order put in place to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
Carrying American flags — as well as some Trump flags and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags — demonstrators broke into thunderous chants of “USA” and “Vote Jay out.”
Families brought their children, gun-rights advocates brought their firearms. Some demonstrators wore masks — including a few N95 masks— or bandannas. Few practiced the social distancing guidelines of staying 6 feet apart from each other.
The rally was in violation of both the governor’s order and the guidance of public health officials across the state and country. The Washington State Patrol estimated between 1,000 and 1,500 demonstrators by the official 1 p.m. start of the event. Read more here.
State website crashes after seeing ‘a tsunami of claims’ for new coronavirus unemployment benefits
Instead of unemployment benefits, out-of-work Washingtonians say they are getting frustration and delay from the state’s web site for COVID-19 job loss benefits.
Washington was one of the first states to roll out unemployment assistance backed with federal cash under several new assistance programs for people unemployed because of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The aid goes beyond unemployment benefits in several ways. But accessing the programs has been another story.
Read the full story here.
Coronavirus deaths down in NY, but officials urge vigilance
New York's daily toll of coronavirus deaths hit its lowest point in more than two weeks. Saturday marked the first day in two weeks where the number of coronavirus deaths dropped under 550. Hospitalizations there declined, but the state's healthcare facilities still reported nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 patients per day.
Read more here.
Cantwell among four Senators urging Senate leadership to make local media outlets eligible for small business assistance
In a letter to Senate leadership, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) called for any future legislation supporting small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic to include help for local media outlets.
The letter specifically points to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which provides small businesses with financial assistance. However, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s affiliation rule, which restricts assistance to companies owned by larger entities means that many local news outlets cannot benefit from the PPP. Pointing out that this rule has previously been waived for hotels and restaurants, Cantwell and her colleagues pushed for the Senate to allow the same for news outlets that have suffered significant losses in advertising revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ensuring that local news outlets remain viable at this critical time is not only a matter of fairness, but is essential to public health,” the senators wrote. “Local newspapers, radio, and television stations provide important local content that keeps their communities informed. People rely on local newspapers and broadcasters to cover school and business closures, to widely communicate public health guidance, and to combat life-threatening misinformation.”
Dick’s Drive-in in Queen Anne will close for two days to deliver burger donations to first responders
Dick’s Drive-In announced in a Facebook post that its Queen Anne location will be closed on April 20 and 21 so that the company can deliver over 5,000 burgers to health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dick’s received donations for 24,000 burgers through its Hospital Hero & First Responder Burger Box program, according to a post on the company’s Facebook page. Along with Franz Bakery and MacDonald Meat Co., Dick’s will match the donations for another 24,000 burgers. All other Dick’s locations will operate as usual and the Queen Anne spot will reopen April 22.
Seattle nonprofit Northwest Share expanded its free food truck schedule
Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, Northwest Share expanded the schedule for their Free Vegetarian Food Truck from one day a week to four days a week.
The food truck provides free meals to those in need at two locations — the parking lot at the University Heights Community Center in the University District and Tiny Cabin’s Safe Harbor Homeless Service Center. Although the current schedule (below) at the U District location is limited, NW Share eventually hopes to expand service to six days a week, introduce a second truck and add some more locations.
At University Heights Community Center:
Wednesday 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Friday 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m.
Sunday noon-2 p.m.
At Tiny Cabin’s Safe Harbor:
Saturday 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Gov. Inslee says President Trump ‘encouraging people to violate the law,’ risking the spread of coronavirus
President Donald Trump’s message to liberate states is basically encouraging people to break the law, Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“To have an American president to encourage people to violate the law, I can’t remember any time in my time in America we have seen such a thing,” Inslee said. “It is dangerous, because it could inspire people to ignore things that could save their lives,” Inslee told ABC Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
The exchange came before some Washingtonians planned to gather in Olympia and elsewhere to “defend liberty,” demonstrate the right to assemble and gather signatures for petitions that defend the Second Amendment and repeal the state’s new comprehensive sex education bill.
Read more here.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The cost of the game: A new investigation from The Seattle Times and ProPublica examines the series of decisions and deliberations that led to a Seattle Sounders match on March 7, a giant gathering that proceeded as COVID-19 fears grew. Two days after the public health department wrote on Facebook, “We are making a recommendation to postpone or cancel events greater than 10-50 people,” officials in King County allowed a soccer match to be held with 33,000 fans, squeezed together.
The coronavirus economy is looking hazy for the next wave of college graduates. Already, some entry-level job offers and internships for college grads are being rescinded. Many internships are moving online, while some are canceled altogether. What are the long-term consequences of coronavirus for our next generation as they enter the workforce?
Yakima County's farm workers are trying to make sense of mixed COVID-19 guidance. Novel coronavirus outbreaks are already occurring in an industry that has kept busy keeping shelves stocked with food but has unevenly adopted social distancing and other protective measures. One Yakima Valley farmworker told The Seattle Times her employer was not supplying soap or, until recently, water for hand-washing.
Comforting tunes: Music is bringing solace to people living through the pandemic. Old songs can bring people back to younger days and pleasant memories of a time before everything changed. See how a group of local retirees is using an "Old-Time Favorites Songbook" to be together while apart.
To life. The process of having a baby in April 2020 is dramatically different from what many expecting parents planned for eight or nine months ago. Many pregnant people find themselves isolated from families and friends, cut off from perinatal support resources and navigating uncertainty. People giving birth, in Seattle and worldwide, are now having to go it nearly alone, with health care workers that might be new to them. These are their stories.
West Seattle retirement community’s weekly singalong unites residents during coronavirus isolation: ‘We love each other’
For a lot of us, old songs are like comfort food; they take us on a journey, to younger days and pleasant memories of, perhaps, a time when we didn’t know what “social distancing” meant. At The Kenney, a retirement community in West Seattle, the residents have begun regular gatherings to sing their favorite nostalgic songs — from their balconies and windows, or standing (more than six feet apart) on the lawn. During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a way to be together while apart.
Read more about this ritual here.
Dozens of coronavirus antibody tests on the market were never vetted by the FDA, leading to accuracy concerns
The Food and Drug Administration, which was harshly criticized for being slow in authorizing tests to detect the coronavirus, has taken a strikingly different approach to antibody tests, allowing more than 90 on the market without prior review, including some that are being marketed fraudulently and are of dubious quality, according to testing experts and the agency itself.
Antibody, or serological, tests are designed to identify people who may have overcome COVID-19, including those who had no symptoms, and developed an immune response. They are not designed to detect active infections. Some officials tout the blood tests as a way to reopen the economy by identifying individuals who have developed immunity and can safely return to work. But many scientists, as well as the World Health Organization, say evidence is lacking that even high-quality antibody tests can prove someone has immunity to the novel coronavirus.
Now, the emergence of dozens of tests never reviewed by the FDA – many of which are being aggressively marketed – could confuse doctors, hospitals, employers and consumers clamoring for the products, according to critics who say the agency’s oversight has been lax. The questions are taking on special importance as federal and state officials debate various strategies, including using serological testing, to help determine when they can end state and local lockdowns.
Read the full story from the Washington Post's Laurie McGinley here.
As coronavirus cases in Yakima Valley agriculture spike, advocates for growers and workers react differently to new state guidelines
As Yakima County health officials identified 70 farm and fruit-packing workers who have tested positive for COVID-19, new state safety guidelines got sharply different reactions from grower and worker advocates.
Before the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) released final guidelines Thursday, two farmworker unions filed a lawsuit in Skagit County Superior Court, calling draft versions “garbled” and “non-mandatory.” The suit, which has a hearing set for May 1, seeks stronger emergency rules. Grower groups, in contrast, said they found the guidelines challenging but reasonable.
Novel coronavirus outbreaks are already occurring in an industry that has kept busy keeping shelves stocked with food but has unevenly adopted social distancing and other protective measures. One Yakima Valley farmworker told The Seattle Times her employer was not supplying soap or, until recently, water for hand-washing.
Read the full story here.
How a coronavirus recession could kneecap recent college grads
Canceled internships. Rescinded job offers. Students who graduate from college this spring, or who had lined up an internship for on-the-job training over the summer, will enter a vastly different job market than the one that existed even a few months ago – and if the downturn becomes a recession, it could have long-term impacts on their earnings, economists say.
In the face of the COVID-19 national health emergency, there’s early evidence that at least some entry-level job offers for college grads are being rescinded, and many internships are being moved online; a few are being canceled altogether.
Experts say the modern world has never had an economic downturn like this, making it difficult to predict how college students and recent graduates will fare in the wake of a pandemic-induced slowdown.
Read the full story here.
Pregnant during a pandemic: Seattleites share their concerns about birth, delivery and beyond
As COVID-19 spreads, many pregnant people find themselves isolated from family and friends, cut off from certain perinatal support resources, and navigating uncertainty and fear as health professionals adjust prenatal practice and hospitals adapt their policies in light of the global crisis.
That babies continue to be born represents a sliver of hope at a time when the U.S. now has the most diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the world, and cities like New York are burying people in mass graves.
But for those bearing these new lives into the world, giving birth in a pandemic is a terrifying task, full of unprecedented new challenges and uncertainty during what is already one of the most challenging of life’s milestone events.
Read the full story here.
And the match played on. At what cost?
As COVID-19 fears grew, public officials and sports executives weighed health risks — and a PR message — but let 33,000 fans into a Sounders match on March 7.
How that happened is captured in hundreds of pages of emails exchanged among federal, state and local officials, as well as executives from the Sounders, Seahawks, Mariners and XFL Dragons. Those records, obtained by ProPublica and The Seattle Times, show how one meeting would beget another, one email would beget a dozen more, all while the virus was taking rapid hold.
Read the full story from Times reporters David Gutman and Lewis Kamb, and ProPublica's Ken Armstrong.
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