Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Friday, April 24, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Saturday, April 25. 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.
As unemployment claims in Washington state reach levels rivaling any modern recession, and the health care system continues to shoulder the massive burden of the pandemic, relief for employers and hospitals could be on the way after Congress passed a nearly $500 billion aid package.
Meanwhile, the makers of Lysol are urging people not to inject disinfectants, after President Donald Trump wondered about that idea during a White House briefing. Doctors’ response: “People will die.”
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Federal coronavirus funds for Seattle may support rent assistance, senior meals, small-business grants
Seattle may spend $14 million in coronavirus relief dollars from the federal government on grants for small businesses, food deliveries to seniors, rent assistance for struggling tenants and meals at homeless shelters.
Mayor Jenny Durkan has sent legislation to the City Council to accept and allocate the funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed by Congress, she said Friday in a news release.
Durkan is proposing that Seattle spend the money in several ways, including providing rent assistance for households at risk for eviction or homelessness; supporting food-delivery programs for older adults; and providing additional meals at homeless shelters.
Washington State Department of Health reports 12,977 COVID-19 cases
State health officials have confirmed an additional 224 cases — 3.2% of all test results received within the past day — and 12 deaths from COVID-19 in Washington.
The new Thursday numbers bring the state's totals to 12,977 positive cases and 723 deaths.
In general, about 92% of Washington coronavirus tests have been negative, according to the state Department of Health.
New deaths were reported in Clark, King, Snohomish and Yakima counties. The state reported one fewer death in Pierce County than yesterday, and added a death to its "Unassigned" column.
UW to lead national study of drug promoted by President Trump to fight coronavirus
Researchers at the University of Washington on Friday announced a major new study of the malaria drug President Donald Trump has praised as a possible, low-cost cure for COVID-19.
The clinical trial is one of dozens around the world aimed at providing definitive evidence about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, either alone or in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin, against the novel coronavirus.
The 60-year-old drug has become the focus of intense attention and debate — both scientific and political — since Trump first began enthusing about its potential in White House briefings. Evidence at the time was scant, limited to a few test-tube studies and anecdotal reports from France.
Small-scale trials and observational studies over the past two months have done little to clear up the picture, with some finding modest benefits, others finding none and some suggesting the drug could cause dangerous heart problems.
To help restaurants, Seattle institutes a 15% cap on food delivery service commissions
In hope of reining in food delivery services and prevent price gouging, the city of Seattle on Friday imposed a 15% cap on commissions that third-party, app-based services can charge to deliver food and drinks around town.
The emergency order is effective immediately and will remain until the state allows dine-in service again, the mayor’s office said Friday evening.
“Unfortunately, some third-party delivery services are charging exorbitant commission fees, which exacerbates the financial hardship many restaurants are already experiencing,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a news release. “This commission cap will be critical to ensuring that delivery and takeout remain viable options and don’t cause increased financial hardship.”
Seattle parks will remain open this weekend with same coronavirus guidelines, plus rain
Seattle’s major parks will be open again this weekend, with the same coronavirus-related restrictions that applied last weekend, according to the city.
The loop trails at Green Lake Park and Seward Park will remain open only to pedestrians. Beach activities will remain banned at Golden Gardens and Alki Beach. Park goers will again be encouraged to “keep it moving” by walking, running or biking, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jesús Aguirre said. Parking lots at large parks will remain closed.
Hundreds of small, neighborhood parks have been open throughout the pandemic. But Seattle banned the use of playgrounds, athletic fields and sports courts weeks ago, taping off playground structures and swings.
Republicans eager to reopen economy; Democrats more cautious
Announcing plans to begin reopening his state, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster cited the ongoing economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. At the same briefing, the state’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, seconded the importance of economic recovery but quickly inserted a note of caution.
It is a scenario playing out across the country as governors wrestle with weeks of quarantine-fueled job losses and soaring unemployment claims and the simultaneous warnings of public health officials who say lifting stay-at-home orders now could spark a resurgence of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, as scattered groups of protesters have staged loud demonstrations in favor of rescinding quarantine orders, a recent public opinion poll finds that a majority of Americans believe it won’t be safe to stop following social distancing guidelines anytime soon.
Reaction mixed to Inslee’s order to allow some construction work amid coronavirus pandemic
Gov. Jay Inslee’s order allowing some construction work to restart amid the coronavirus pandemic drew a mix of reactions. within the building industry — from triumph to trepidation and frustration.
Friday’s announcement will allow the return of some work on building projects in progress that were halted in the governor’s stay-at-home order first issued March 23.
“It’s a big relief, obviously,” said George Schuchart, owner and CEO of mid-size commercial builder Schuchart Construction. But Schuchart said he’s not sure how his company will be able to implement all of the safety guidelinesmandated by the new order on the dozen or so projects it plans to reopen next week.
In Thurston County, Todd Hansen, owner of residential builder Hansen Construction, said his 16-person crew would “absolutely do our best to comply” on four stalled projects he plans to restart next week. But, he said, he’s concerned “we will fail to comply because we don’t fully understand all the regulation.”
Sound Transit to incrementally resume construction work previously halted
Sound Transit will begin taking steps to resume construction work that was temporarily suspended earlier this month, following new rules Gov. Jay Inslee issued Friday.
Sound Transit had suspended “almost all construction” work April 6 in response to Inslee’s stay-at-home order to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tasks that Sound Transit considered critical continued, like work on the Interstate 90 floating bridge to extend light rail to the Eastside.
Starting Friday, work will resume incrementally on a project-by-project basis, said agency spokesperson Geoff Patrick in an email. Sound Transit will work with contractors to verify safety and worker training measures.
“In the coming weeks, we expect most construction work to resume,” he said in the email.
Sound Transit also previewed how future expansion plans will be adjusted amid the economic downtown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
A realignment process that will be kicked off in the months ahead “will put particular focus on avoiding impacts to projects that are currently under construction or under contract,” Patrick said in the email.
Seattle-based Zillow allows employees to work from home through end of 2020
Seattle-based online home sales giant Zillow on Friday announced it will allow employees to work from home through “at least the end of 2020,” should they so choose.
“We are working through office re-opening plans now and expect this to be a gradual process over many months,” the company said in a statement, noting that employees were notified earlier Friday. “We want to make sure employees are supported and have the flexibility and visibility to manage their lives with work in these uncertain times.”
This is the latest measure Zillow has taken to exercise excess caution amid the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the company announced it would stop buying new homes “in response to local public health orders related to COVID-19 and to help protect the safety and health of its employees, customers and partners.”
There has been speculation about an increasingly remote work environment after a widespread return to offices and post-COVID-19 normalcy, but Zillow’s remote-work initiative is one of the most proactive and furthest-reaching from a major company to date.
Next round of small-business loans under controversial coronavirus-aid program starts Monday
Small businesses that missed out on the first round of loans under the federal Paycheck Protection Program can apply for a new round of the pandemic-related emergency loans starting Monday.
Applications for the $310 billion second round, which Congress approved this week after an initial $349 billion fund was quickly exhausted, will be accepted by participating lenders starting at 7:30 a.m., the Small Business Administration announced Friday.
“Our economy is dependent on the small businesses so we need to and are doing everything in our power to ensure that they make it through the impact of this horrible pandemic,” said Jeremy Field, regional administrator for the SBA Pacific Northwest Region, in a press briefing Friday.
The loan program, created under last month’s $2.2 trillion pandemic response as a way to avoid layoffs, has been praised by some as a lifeline for small businesses, which needn’t repay the loans if used primarily to retain or rehire employees. In Washington, the SBA oversaw 30,421 loans totaling $6.96 billion before the program ran out of funds last week.
But the program also has been criticized for underestimating the amount of money needed by small businesses during the pandemic, and for not making loans more accessible to smaller businesses. Some small business owners in Seattle say were either unable to apply for loans or were not approved before the funding ran out.
‘Playing Russian roulette’: Nursing homes are told to take the infected
Neal Nibur has lived in a nursing home for about a year, ever since he had a bad bout of pneumonia. Now the 80-year-old man has not only his own health to worry about but that of his neighbors at the Poughkeepsie, New York, residence. Four new patients recently arrived from the hospital with COVID-19.
They were admitted for one reason, according to staff members: A state guideline says nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus.
“I don’t like them playing Russian roulette with my life,” said Nibur, who is on oxygen. “It’s putting us at risk. I am 80 years old with underlying problems. Everybody here has an underlying problem.”
The disease caused by the virus has killed more than 10,500 residents and staff members at nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis. That is nearly one-quarter of deaths in the United States from the pandemic. Last Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York described nursing homes as a “feeding frenzy for this virus.”
But states are increasingly turning to nursing homes to relieve the burden on hospitals and take in COVID-19 patients considered stable enough to be released. Although there is no evidence so far that the practice has allowed infections to spread in nursing homes, many residents and advocates fear that it is only a matter of time. One lawsuit in New Jersey alleges that a worker was likely to have been sickened by a COVID-19 patient readmitted from a hospital.
WSDOT resumes construction work that can be done with 6 feet of distance
Construction work on Washington state transportation projects that allows crew members to be more than six feet apart will resume, following an order Gov. Jay Inslee issued Friday.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) suspended most construction work March 26 in response to Inslee’s stay-at-home order to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
To restart construction, contractor crews will need to demonstrate how they adhere to a list of 30 safety protocols, including meeting social distancing requirements, provision of personal protective equipment, and safety training, Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar said in an email to WSDOT workers.
The rules apply to on-site construction, maintenance work and Washington State Ferry vehicle maintenance.
The plan must be available on each job site during any construction activity and available for inspection by state and local authorities.
No work be done until the contractor proves it can meet and maintain all requirements.
A site-specific supervisor will be at every job site to monitor the health of employees and enforce the safety plan. WSDOT field inspectors and maintenance supervisors, who will be monitoring work activity, have the authority to shut down a job site if safety protocols are not followed, Millar said in the email.
“Construction and maintenance work will look different in the months ahead,” he said.
Workers will wear more protective gear, including eye protection, masks, and gloves. Sites will be sanitized more often.
Trump raises question of ultraviolet light and COVID-19. Doctors, scientists say it's ineffective and dangerous.
While people worldwide search for ways to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, some are testing the old saying that sunlight’s ultraviolet wavelengths are a good disinfectant against pandemic germs.
President Donald Trump speculated about sunlight and ultraviolet rays as a panacea at a White House news conference on Thursday. Hospitals already have begun deploying artificial ultraviolet-C light for the first time to sanitize scarce N95 respirators for reuse. At home, fearful consumers are snapping up UVC sanitizing gadgets such as PhoneSoap to disinfect everything from cellphones to credit cards. Meanwhile, some are hanging gloves in the sun, while tinkerers are creating their own UVC gizmos.
Not only are artificial ultraviolet techniques ineffective and likely deadly for treating an infected person, scientists say, some of them can be extremely dangerous used at home for disinfecting.
Of the three types of ultraviolet light, UVC is the deadly one, long-established for water and air sanitizing, but also one that people should never fool with. The invisible light is highly carcinogenic, with disinfecting results that vary widely in professional settings depending on the setup.
What does work to disinfect items? Soap on hands and alcohol or bleach on items.
Wiping — not spraying — with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol on your phone, while alcohol or bleach solutions work much better on 3-D objects such as groceries or packages.
And the simple act of washing hands with old-fashioned soap, which readily breaks down the coronavirus, dissolving its lipid — fat — coating, remains among the best ways to disinfect.
“Soap works,” said Krista Wigginton, environmental engineering professor at the University of Michigan, who studies emerging viruses and how humans release germs into water and the land from urine and feces. “It really works.”
Read the full story here.
Muslims begin marking a subdued Ramadan under coronavirus closures
Muslims worldwide began Ramadan on Friday with dawn-to-dusk fasting, but many will have to forgo the communal prayers and family gatherings that make the holy month special, as authorities maintain lockdowns aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramadan is usually a festive season, with the daylong fast followed by lavish meals and evening get-togethers. But this year many are confined to their homes, travel is heavily restricted and public venues like parks, malls and even mosques are shuttered.
Many are also weighed down by anxiety about the pandemic and widespread job losses resulting from the worldwide shutdowns.
“This is too sad to be remembered in history,” said Belm Febriansyah, a resident in the capital of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Muslim-majority countries began imposing widespread restrictions in mid-March, with many cancelling Friday prayers and shuttering holy sites. Saudi Arabia has largely locked down Mecca and Medina and halted the year-round umrah pilgrimage.
Read the full story here.
Western State Hospital nurses register no-confidence vote in facility’s administrators
Nurses with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW are calling for the removal of five top administrators involved with oversight at Western State Hospital, including the chief nursing officer and an assistant secretary with the state Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS).
A majority of nurses at Western State voted no confidence in the facility’s leadership, according to a news release from the union, which has about 400 members who are nurses and nurse supervisors at the hospital.
Safety and staffing levels were concerns before COVID-19 further disrupted operations, the union said in the news release. During the pandemic, the nurses say they have gone without needed personal protective equipment and that managers have ignored concerns voiced about safety.
At Western State Hospital, 29 employees and six clients have been infected with COVID-19, according to DSHS data posted online. Of those cases, 28 employees have recovered from their infections, the website says. Five clients have recovered; one person died.
Trump says he will block coronavirus aid for U.S. Postal Service if it doesn’t hike prices immediately
President Trump on Friday said he would not be approving an emergency loan for the U.S. Postal Service if it did not immediately raise its prices for package delivery, confirming a recent Washington Post article that said he planned to exert more control over the agency.
“The Post Office is a joke,” Trump told reporters. “The Post Office should raise the price [of package delivery] four times.”
Trump recently signed a law that allowed the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service to borrow $10 billion from the Treasury Department. The Post has reported that the White House wants to force changes at USPS as part of the terms of the loan. Trump confirmed on Friday that one of those new conditions is a requirement that the Postal Service raise prices.
“If they don’t raise the price, I’m not signing anything.”
He said that he won’t allow Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to approve the loan if prices aren’t raised.
Another U.S. Navy warship has coronavirus outbreak; at least 18 cases confirmed on USS Kidd
The Navy is coping with a new coronavirus outbreak on a warship at sea, with at least 18 cases emerging on the destroyer USS Kidd, defense officials said Friday.
The outbreak became evident after a sailor aboard the vessel developed symptoms associated with the virus, and the Navy flew the individual to San Antonio for testing. After the sailor tested positive, the Navy dispatched a medical team to the Kidd to conduct more testing and other cases emerged, said chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.
“They are preparing to return to port, where they will undertake efforts to clean the ship,” Hoffman told reporters on Friday. “They will remove a portion of the crew from the ship and work to get everybody back to health and get the ship back to sea.”
Seattle closes benches, picnic tables and shelters at Alki Beach to most people
Benches, picnic tables and picnic shelters at Alki Beach will close this weekend, the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department said on Twitter.
The closure comes after “significant crowding” last Sunday at Alki, according to the agency.
Some benches will be marked as open for people who have disabilities.
For now, the park will stay open for walking, biking and running in compliance with the city and state “Keep It Moving” guidelines.
However, if crowding continues, Alki Beach will close, Seattle Parks said.
Inslee allows some construction projects to reopen with safety rules to protect against the coronavirus
OLYMPIA — As the state battles both the new coronavirus pandemic and a bruising economic slowdown, Gov. Jay Inslee Friday announced that some construction work will go forward under new safety guidelines to protect workers.
The plan came together after discussions between Inslee’s office, the construction industry and labor unions for a resumption of “low-risk” tasks on projects where workers can remain at least 6 feet apart on the job at all times.
Those projects will have to maintain the physical distancing and other safety and health requirements, Inslee said in a Friday morning news conference with representatives from business and labor groups. Once he signs the order Friday, Inslee said, tasks that fit the criteria and have a plan in place can start back up.
The announcement could help lift Washington’s stricken economy and maintain progress on fixing the state’s longstanding housing-affordability crisis. Inslee said the deliberations between industry representatives, his office and labor groups about how to safely work amid the virus will serve as a template to reopening other sectors of the economy.
“I think this is a very thorough, thoughtful approach allowing construction to move forward,” Inslee said.
Read the story here.
FDA warns doctors against malaria drug touted by Trump
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning doctors against prescribing outside of hospitals or research settings a malaria drug that was widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus.
In an alert Friday, regulators flagged reports of serious side effects and death among patients taking hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine. The drugs, also prescribed for lupus, can cause a number of side effects, including heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.
In one such report, doctors at a New York hospital said heart rhythm abnormalities developed in most of the 84 coronavirus patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, a combo Trump has promoted.
Last month, the FDA authorized emergency use of the malaria drugs for hospitalized patients with COVID-19 who aren’t enrolled in ongoing clinical trials. But regulators said they are investigating life-threatening side effects reported with the drugs to poison-control centers and other health authorities.
Calls to U.S. poison control centers involving the malaria drugs have recently jumped 50%, from 52 calls in March 2019 to 79 last month, according to Dr. Christopher Hoyte of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center in Denver.
Trump has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine during his regular coronavirus briefings, calling it a “game changer” and suggesting that its skeptics would be proved wrong. He has offered patient testimonials that the drug is a lifesaver.
Read the story here.
Don't inject disinfectant, doctors warn after Trump questions possibility
After a presentation that touched on disinfectants that can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air, President Donald Trump pondered whether those chemicals could be used to fight the virus inside the human body.
“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”
The question, which Trump offered unprompted, immediately spurred doctors to respond with incredulity and warnings against injecting or otherwise ingesting disinfectants, which are highly toxic.
“My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea,” Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told The Washington Post. “This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous.”
Read the story here.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to be stuck at home
We took the Food Network's "Chopped Challenge." The Seattle Times food squad and our favorite eighth-grade chef started with four mandatory ingredients and wound up with a whole lot of fun (and a weirdly wide variety of recipes). Now we have a challenge for you. Here are your four ingredients.
How will you break up the same ol', same ol' routine this weekend? Here are some good ways to spice things up inside and outside. And let fine art inspire you with these nine intriguing arts events happening online in coming days.
Need a COVID-19 test? Our updated list shows where they're available and who qualifies.
There’s so much coronavirus information — and misinformation — out there. Media literacy experts recommend ways to make sense of it and share information thoughtfully.
Don’t let your car get "lot rot" during the pandemic. A NASCAR instructor outlines how to head off car trouble if your vehicle is parked for weeks at a time.
Severe coronavirus outbreaks stagger some meat-packing plants in Washington
The Tyson Fresh Meats plant near Pasco has come to a temporary halt amid an outbreak that's spread to some 100 workers and family members. Workers there weren't required to wear masks until this month.
An avalanche of outbreaks has hit U.S. beef, pork and poultry plants, prompting an urgent push to protect workers and keep products flowing into grocery stores.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Nearly a million Washingtonians could be on unemployment by next week, rivaling the rate of any modern recession here. But many frustrated workers are still hitting trouble trying to access the benefits through the state's website. Here's where to find emergency aid with food, rent and more.
The Seattle that existed until March is gone forever. What comes next is up to us, columnist Jon Talton writes as he explores the great unknowns on the road to economic recovery.
A congressional panel will investigate the ouster of U.S. coronavirus vaccine chief Rick Bright, who spoke out against widespread use of an unproven drug that President Donald Trump has touted. The Veterans Affairs chief, too, has plugged the drug. Here's a fact check on his remarks and a look at what the research says about hydroxychloroquine.
One of Boeing's biggest challenges is tamping down workers' fear as the company tallies more than 200 COVID-19 cases at its locations. This week, on the same day thousands of workers returned to the Everett factory, two who fell ill before the shutdown were confirmed as positive cases.
Stimulus checks will help homeless Seattleites who can work out the logistics of getting them. But the money won't get most people into housing, experts say.
Gov. Jay Inslee won't be forced to free thousands more prisoners to protect them from potential exposure to the virus. The ruling came after the state Supreme Court had its first-ever Zoom hearing to consider oral arguments.
It was the longest shift of their lives. For 28 days, dozens of workers lived in a Pennsylvania factory, making millions of pounds of materials for face masks and surgical gowns. No one told them they had to do it. Watch as they finally get to go home.
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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