Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Monday, April 20, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Tuesday, April 21. 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.
While polling shows broad support for stay-home orders, protests that erupted across the nation over the weekend highlighted the partisan divide in how people perceive the virus. More than 2,000 demonstrators gathered at the Washington State Capitol on Sunday, violating both Gov. Jay Inslee’s order and widely accepted public health guidance. Economic frustrations are high as so many Washingtonians are out of work that the “tsunami of claims” crashed a state unemployment website.
UW Medicine has halted the use of COVID-19 testing kits it had airlifted from Shanghai, after a small percentage of the kits showed signs of contamination with a bacteria called Stenotrophomonas maltophilia (S. maltophilia). Since the ubiquitous bacteria was found in the specimen-preserving liquid, which makes no contact with patients, neither patients nor test results are believed to be affected. Still, the state Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday recalled 12,000 testing kits it had distributed to local health jurisdictions, tribal nations and other partners.
Throughout Monday, 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 Sunday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Trump says he's planning to temporarily halt immigration to the United States
President Donald Trump said Monday evening that he intended to close the United States to people trying to immigrate into the country to live and work, a drastic move that he said would protect American workers from foreign competition once the nation’s economy began to recover from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has said health concerns justified moving swiftly to bar asylum-seekers and unauthorized immigrants from entering the country, alarming immigration advocates who have said that Trump and his advisers are using a global pandemic to further hard-line immigration policies.
But the president’s late-night announcement Monday signals his most wide-ranging attempt yet to seal the country off from the rest of the world. A formal order temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days, according to several people familiar with the plan.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
Local food bank opens new facility in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood to combat food insecurity worsened by pandemic
A Seattle-based food bank announced Monday it has opened a new facility in the city's Sodo neighborhood, aiming to address a food relief demand that has doubled during the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement from the nonprofit.
Local food bank Food Lifeline has joined forces with SSA Marine, Columbia Hospitality and Prologis in an attempt to feed hungry neighbors, according to a Food Lifeline statement. The National Guard also sent 250 members to pack emergency food boxes for the facility.
The new bank opened Monday in a 166,000-square-foot warehouse located at 4140 East Marginal Way South, the statement said, adding the center will more than double Food Lifeline's capacity.
"The need to feed our neighbors who are hungry has nearly doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak while food donations have dropped by 70 percent," the statement said. "The new facility will also allow Food Lifeline ... to more than double its staffing to better meet the community’s needs, which are outstripping current capacity."
Mariners’ Manny Acta remains mindful of Latin minor-leaguers’ plight amid coronavirus outbreak
Manny Acta is trying to make the most of his shelter-in-place situation that we are all seemingly living in during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mariners’ third-base coach tries to exercise when he can, embraces time with his wife Cindy, having meals and “wearing out” Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. He’s also rediscovered his love of books, reading at least an hour each day.
Acta, a native of the Dominican Republic, also is the vice-president and general manager of the Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League. He’s aware of the uncertainties facing Latin players in MLB organizations, particularly minor-leaguers.
“A lot of those guys had to go back home, which is probably a tougher situation than being here in the states,” he said.
For many players from Venezuela, they can’t return to their native country due to coronavirus concerns, as well as political and civil strife within the country. The Mariners have a handful of Venezuelan minor-league players who are being housed in Arizona. They can’t go to the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic, which is shut down, and the risk of returning home is too great.
Coronavirus cases skyrocket among homeless shelter population in King County, death reported at quarantine facility
Coronavirus cases have risen dramatically in King County’s shelters and housing for homeless people, and public health officials reported Monday that a man died in a facility for people with no place to quarantine in.
The county said Monday it now has 112 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, among its homeless population or people working at shelters or service sites. Less than two weeks ago, on April 7, there were only 27 confirmed cases.
The man who died at the Kent isolation and quarantine facility was in his 60s, and was found unresponsive Monday morning by medical staff, according to a county press release. He used to be homeless, but had been housed for more than a year in shared Single-Room Occupancy housing run by Operation Nightwatch, a faith-based shelter and housing provider, according to the Rev. Rick Reynolds, the organization’s executive director.
Washington state confirms 12,085 cases and 652 deaths from COVID-19
The number of COVID-19 infections in Washington has risen to 12,085, including 652 deaths, state health officials confirmed Monday.
The updated count reflects an additional 295 cases and 18 deaths, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
The bulk of the cases remains in King County, which is now reporting 5,259 infections and 358 deaths. New deaths were also confirmed in Snohomish, Spokane, Whatcom and Yakima counties.
The updated numbers show the state has received negative results from 91% of tests.
SPU professor keeps young cellists sharp during coronavirus isolation with video lessons
The local schools are shut down, but the music goes on for cello-playing students.
Bradley Hawkins, the cello professor at Seattle Pacific University, has made sure of that by offering free daily video lessons at 9 a.m.
The 30- to 45-minute video conferences are geared for students whose only lessons come at school, but Hawkins said there are no age limitations, and a couple of adults have taken part.
“There are lots of students who don’t have that resource so orchestra just kind of disappears. I thought this is what I can offer to students and it has been really nice. I like giving something out to the community,” said Hawkins, who has continued his work at SPU on a remote basis.
Massachusetts becomes coronavirus hot spot as cases surge
Massachusetts has become a hot spot of coronavirus infections, drawing the concern of federal officials and promises of aid from hard-hit New York as the state’s death toll prepares to double in less than a week.
Deaths from COVID-19 are expected to surpass 2,000 this week in Massachusetts, where officials are scrambling to boost hospital capacity and trace new infections to curb the spread of the disease.
“We’re right in the middle of the surge now,” Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Seattle will give high-school students A’s or incompletes; colleges urged to adopt generous grading
The Seattle School Board on Monday adopted a policy giving all high-school students either A’s or incomplete grades for the spring 2020 semester to reflect the hardships of remote learning. The change was recommended by Seattle schools superintendent Denise Juneau.
Meanwhile, Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib called on the state’s colleges and universities to adopt “generous and consistent grading policies” to help students maintain their GPAs, meet financial-aid award requirements and make progress toward earning a degree at a time when many students’ academic lives have been severely disrupted by COVID-19.
All colleges, universities and K-12 schools in the state are teaching classes remotely this spring due to the coronavirus, and that move to online has raised questions about how to assign grades when everything about education has been upended.
The “A or incomplete” policy ensures that “no students are penalized because they might not have the same advantages at home that other students have,” said school board president Zachary DeWolf.
No fares required on Community Transit buses through May 31
Community Transit will continue its suspension of fare collection until at least May 31.
The Snohomish County transit agency announced March 19 it would not collect fares from riders beginning after four transit operators tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Eliminating fares reduces the amount of hand-to-hand interaction drivers have with passengers. The agency also asked all passengers, except riders with disabilities, to board and exit through the rear doors.
The number of positive cases among Community Transit employees has risen to 13. One Community Transit bus driver, Scott Ryan, died less than two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.
During the week, buses run on a service schedule that is about 30% below normal. Buses run on a regular schedule on Saturday and Sunday.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson sues Nevada-based company for allegedly violating Washington’s emergency ban on evictions
OLYMPIA — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sued a property-management company for allegedly violating the emergency moratorium on evictions.
It’s the first lawsuit filed to enforce the emergency orders put in place amid the new coronavirus, according to a news release from his office.Filed in Pierce County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that JRK Residential Group Inc., violated the emergency order made by Gov. Jay Inslee by issuing notices to Pay or Vacate this month to 14 tenants in Tacoma.
The filing contends the violations ran afoul of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, according to the news release. Those notices were issued to tenants at The Boulders at Puget Sound, a 700-unit apartment complex operated by the company, according to the news release.
“Residents discovered the hard copy notices at their front doors,” according to the news release. “A cover letter indicated that ‘Boulders management’ was aware of the ‘no-evictions’ law.”
“In spite of this knowledge, the notice nevertheless instructed residents to pay all rents due within fourteen days or be ‘subject to eviction as provided by law,’ according to the release.
“The Notice to Pay or Vacate stated that it was ‘unconditional,’ and threated tenants that if they failed to ‘surrender the premises,’ they would ‘be guilty of unlawful detainer and subject to eviction.’”
Inslee’s emergency moratorium on evictions, which has drawn criticism from some landlords, bars landlords from issuing such notices while the order is in effect. Ferguson’s lawsuit seeks restitution for those tenants who were impacted, a penalty “to hold JRK Residential accountable for its conduct and deter future bad actors” and costs and fees, according to the news release.
Under the Consumer Protection Act, a judge can award penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, according to the news release.
Since April 1, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than 650 complaints from tenants, according to the news release, and the office has been in touch with 284 landlords and 469 tenants about them.
Rich Americans activate New Zealand pandemic escape plans
As coronavirus infections tore across the U.S. in early March, a Silicon Valley executive called the survival shelter manufacturer Rising S Co. He wanted to know how to open the secret door to his multimillion-dollar bunker 11 feet underground in New Zealand.
The tech chief had never used the bunker and couldn’t remember how to unlock it, said Gary Lynch, general manager of Texas-based Rising S Co. “He wanted to verify the combination for the door and was asking questions about the power and the hot water heater and whether he needed to take extra water or air filters,” Lynch said. The businessman runs a company in the Bay Area but lives in New York, which was fast becoming the world’s coronavirus epicenter.
Read the story here.
Feds to track, share information on nursing home outbreaks
Calling nursing homes ground zero of the coronavirus crisis, federal officials said Monday they plan to start tracking and publicly sharing information on infections and deaths in such facilities to help spot trends and early signs the virus is spreading in communities.
The move comes as critics, industry officials and local leaders have called for more aggressive actions by the federal government to track infections in homes and contain outbreaks by helping them get greater access to testing and masks, especially given the vulnerability of elderly residents.
“It’s our intention to make that information public,” Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during a call with reporters, adding that details were still being worked out on when or how the information would be distributed.
Because the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, The Associated Press has been keeping its own tally from media reports and state health departments, finding at least 8,426 deaths linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide.
But the true toll of the mostly frail and elderly people who live in such facilities is likely much higher, experts say, because many homes have not reported their deaths and state counts may not include those who died without ever being tested.
Read more the full story here.
Washington state to provide disaster cash assistance to some ineligible for other programs
The Washington state Department of Social and Health Services announced Friday that some coronavirus-impacted state residents who are not eligible for other programs could apply for emergency cash assistance through the Disaster Cash Assistance Program (DCAP).
The temporary program is available to provide relief for one month in a 12-month period to Washington residents who meet income and resource limits, with benefits ranging between $363 for one person to a maximum of $1,121 for a family of eight or more. The benefits are available regardless of citizenship status.
The federal government approved the cash assistance for Washington after Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency declaration and an expansion of the state definition of "emergency" to extend beyond natural disasters.
The state estimates that 175,000 households may be eligible for the benefit. Eligible people can apply at WashingtonConnection.org.
Reported poisonings from cleaners soar amid coronavirus concerns
Reports of accidental poisonings from cleaners and disinfectants are up this year, and researchers believe it’s related to the coronavirus epidemic.
Such poisonings were up about 20 percent in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period in 2018 and 2019, according to a report Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The authors said they can’t prove coronavirus drove the increase, but said it seems likely the two are linked, given the number of stay-at-home orders and guidance to clean hands and dirty surfaces. They warned against using more cleaner than directed, mixing multiple products together or using them in poorly ventilated areas.
The report was based on more than 45,000 recent calls to 55 poison-control centers across the country involving exposures to cleaning chemicals or disinfectants.
Oil price plummets to historic lows; Wall Street dips
Stocks are slipping in afternoon trading on Wall Street, as the price of oil cratered to historic lows Monday, cheaper than bottled water.
The S&P 500 was down 0.8%, as of 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, after wavering between sharper and milder losses. But the market’s most dramatic action was in oil, where benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery plummeted to a record low below $1.50 per barrel, a 90% drop in just one day.
Much of the plunge was chalked up to technical reasons — the May delivery contract is close to expiring so it was seeing less trading volume, which can exacerbate swings. But prices for deliveries even further into the future, which were seeing larger trading volumes, also plunged. Demand for oil has collapsed so much because of the coronavirus pandemic that facilities for storing crude are nearly full.
Pro-gun activists using Facebook groups to push anti-quarantine protests, against public-health advice
A trio of far-right, pro-gun provocateurs is behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests across the country, offering the latest illustration that some seemingly organic demonstrations are in fact being engineered by a network of conservative activists.
The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called Minnesota Gun Rights, and his siblings Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had more than 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Donald Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states.
The online activity implies that opposition to the restrictions is more widespread than polling suggests. Nearly 70% of Republicans said they supported a national stay-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats backed such a measure in the survey.
The Facebook groups have become digital hubs for the same sort of misinformation spouted in recent days at state capitols – from comparing the virus to the flu to questioning the intentions of scientists working on a vaccine.
Read the full story here.
Share your story: How will you spend your coronavirus stimulus money?
Last week, Americans started receiving stimulus payments from the U.S. government.
Americans earning $75,000 or less, or $150,000 and below as a couple, are eligible for the full $1,200 payout per adult, plus $500 for each child under 17.
What do you plan to do with your stimulus money?
Will you use it to pay bills? Put it in the bank? Something else? Will it be enough to tide you over?
Tell us how you feel about the stimulus payments. Do you think they were a good idea? Should the federal government offer another round of payments?
If you haven’t received your payment yet, what steps have you taken to find out when it will arrive?
Share your story below, and it could be included in a story about how Times readers are using their stimulus payments.
Worst of coronavirus is still ahead, warns leader of World Health Organization
The head of the World Health Organization has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus pandemic, raising new alarm bells just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could get worse. Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.
Singapore seemed to have coronavirus under control — until cases doubled
After recording its first coronavirus case Jan. 23, Singapore meticulously traced the close contacts of every infected patient, while keeping a sense of normalcy on its streets.
Borders were shut to populations likely to carry the contagion, although businesses stayed open. Ample testing and treatment were free for residents.
But over the past few days, Singapore’s coronavirus caseload has more than doubled, with more than 8,000 cases confirmed as of Monday, the highest in Southeast Asia.
Most of the new infections are within crowded dormitories where migrant laborers live, unnoticed by many of the country’s richer residents and, it turns out, the government itself.
The spread of the coronavirus in this tidy city-state suggests that it might be difficult for the United States, Europe and the rest of the world to return to the way they were anytime soon, even when viral curves appear to have flattened.
Although countries can closely track contacts to try to keep an outbreak at bay as Singapore did, the coronavirus is sickening, killing and spreading with each passing day, leaving scientists and political leaders racing to catch up with its relentless pace and new dangers.
Shake Shack to return $10 million federal loan money
Shake Shack, the U.S.-based burger chain, will return its entire $10 million loan from the U.S. government, the company’s leaders said in a statement, amid widespread criticism over who got access to the money aimed at saving small businesses before the funds were depleted.
More than a dozen publicly traded companies with revenue topping $100 million received funds before the program ran out of money, according to a Bloomberg review of regulatory filings. Lawmakers in Congress are said to be near an agreement to top up the loan program, while also providing new funds for hospitals and coronavirus testing.
“Shake Shack was fortunate last Friday to be able to access the additional capital we needed to ensure our long term stability through an equity transaction in the public markets,” said Chief Executive Officer Randy Garutti and Danny Meyer, the founder and chairman of Shake Shack and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group.
“We’re thankful for that and we’ve decided to immediately return the entire $10 million PPP loan we received last week,” the pair said, “so that those restaurants who need it most can get it now.”
The sight of big companies getting aid while mom-and-pops complained they’d been frozen out of funding has sparked criticism of who was rescued by taxpayer dollars and who wasn’t. Asked whether such large, publicly traded companies should be eligible for PPP funds, President Donald Trump on Sunday spoke about the role of franchisees as small businesses.
Read the story here.
Japan scientist 'very pessimistic' Olympics will happen next year
A Japanese professor of infectious disease says he is “very pessimistic” the postponed Tokyo Olympics can open in 15 months.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year,” Kentaro Iwata, a professor of infectious disease at Kobe University, said Monday, speaking in English on a teleconference. “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions: one, controlling COVID-19 in Japan, and controlling COVID-19 everywhere.”
Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo organizing committee, expressed his own reservations 10 days ago. Since then, the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee have said there is no “Plan B” other than working for the Olympics to open on July 23, 2021.
“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation,” Iwata said, speaking at a forum arranged by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.
“You have to invite so many athletes from many, many places, which is not very compatible with this COVID-19 infection that is causing a pandemic. Japan might be able to control this disease by next summer. And I wish we could. But I don’t think that will happen everywhere on earth.”
Japan was spared during the initial stage of the coronavirus outbreak. But cases are now spiking, particularly in Tokyo and other large cities. As of Monday, there were about 12,000 detected infections in Japan and about 250 deaths.
Read the story here.
60 percent of U.S. adults are feeling daily stress and worry, new Gallup poll shows
Daily stress and worry plague a majority of American adults – 60 percent, according to a new nationwide Gallup poll, conducted from March 21 to April 5.
The finding represents what Gallup describes as an “unprecedented” increase in the number of anxious Americans, a statistic that it says generally shows little change over time. Since last summer, however, the number of people feeling stressed has risen 14 percentage points and the number feeling worried has climbed 21 points, representing 53 million more worried adults, Gallup reports.
By comparison, the 2008 recession resulted in increases of just three percentage points for stress and five percentage points for worry. Though anxiety is something everyone feels at one time or another, economic and health fears brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic are believed to have sparked the spike in anxious Americans.
Read the story here.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to be stuck at home
Run from the zombies! If you're bored of the same old exercise, try these monotony-busting workouts.
Find five fun ways to blow your kid’s mind, from optical illusions to Egypt’s pyramids, in our Weekly Wonder feature.
Need a dose of kindness and generosity? Here are 10 movies, filmed from the 1930s to our current times, about the rediscovery of our better angels.
Pregnant during the pandemic
Local health-care providers are answering questions about keeping newborns and their parents safe at a time when pregnancy can mean isolation, fear and uncertainty. Others who recently gave birth, too, have advice to share.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
"We’re taking our state back": More than 2,000 protesters massed at the state Capitol in Olympia on Sunday to demand a reopening of businesses and society. The protest, which violated Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home order and health officials' guidance, highlighted the partisan divide in how residents perceive the virus. Across the nation, lockdown tensions are growing as people seek to resume work and play.
A "massive volume" of claims for coronavirus unemployment benefits crashed a state website as the new programs went live this weekend, frustrating out-of-work Washingtonians.
Whether you've gotten your relief check already or not, fraudsters are eager to prey on you at this vulnerable time. Know the scams to look out for.
UW Medicine has halted the use of coronavirus testing kits after signs of contamination turned up in some. The tens of thousands of kits had been airlifted from China in an extraordinary effort.
Many Americans have had silent coronavirus infections with no symptoms, new research indicates. That's fueling hope that the virus may be less deadly than feared, but it's also complicating decisions about returning to normal life.
President Donald Trump says he's "very close to a deal" with Congress on adding $450 billion to a small-business loan program that ran dry. For many Seattle-area businesses, those loans came with major risks.
There’s no road map for teaching online, so Washington’s teachers are creating their own, and learning by trial and error. Districts, meanwhile, are making spotty progress on providing what the state requires.
Can this man solve the nation's coronavirus testing problems? Trump's test czar was forced out of a job developing vaccine projects, and his work has not always gone as planned.
As COVID-19 fears grew in Seattle, public officials and sports executives weighed health risks — but let 33,000 fans into a Sounders match on March 7. At what cost? Read the Times Watchdog story.
Undocumented, essential and sick: Behind every coronavirus data point is a story of hardship. Columnist Naomi Ishisaka tells the story of one Washington family that's struggling to cope with illness upon illness, minus the financial help many others are receiving.
As Amazon cracks down on dissent, its tech and warehouse workers are uniting over coronavirus and environmental injustice. The effects of both, activists say, are bearing down hardest on the world’s most vulnerable. A "sickout" is planned this week.
How is the pandemic 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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