Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Thursday, April 30, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Friday, May 1. 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 Washington residents and businesses continue to come up with ways to stay safe during quarantine — including using thermal cameras at airports to check for fevers — Gov. Jay Inslee is preparing to extend the state stay-at-home order. Inslee said he’ll outline a plan Friday on what reopening the state’s economy will look like once the threat from the novel coronavirus has receded.
Inslee also announced new guidance Wednesday that gives hospitals and health care providers a little more leeway as they seek to resume nonurgent medical procedures that were halted in response to the pandemic.
Much is unknown about the virus’ impact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that the U.S. coronavirus death toll is far higher than reported. Although the new data is partial, it illustrates how the virus is causing a surge in deaths in the places it has struck.
Throughout Thursday, 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 afternoon.
This time, Will Ferrell isn’t crashing a wedding but a Seahawks zoom meeting
Due to restrictions in place because of the novel coronavirus, the Seahawks this week began an offseason program unlike any other.
Instead of players gathering for meetings at the VMAC in Renton, the Seahawks are conducting their meetings the same way seemingly everyone else is in the world is, via Zoom.
Carroll on Thursday found a way to liven things up calling in an old friend — Will Ferrell — to make a special appearance, as the team revealed Thursday night on its Twitter account.
Only, Ferrell wasn’t playing himself (and probably thankfully, he also wasn’t bearing a cowbell).
Instead, he played the part of veteran tight end Greg Olsen, a free agent signed in February who was getting his “official’’ introduction to the team.
Seattle police expect a quiet May Day due to coronavirus restrictions, but plan heavy downtown presence
With millions left unemployed by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Seattle’s May Day march this year looked poised to cast a spotlight on issues such as workers’ rights, income inequality and job safety.
But organizers of the annual daytime event on May 1, known for its rousing rhetoric and colorful costumes, agreed to abandon their plans when government bans on large gatherings and strict social distancing standards were put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
Left unanswered was whether the measures would deter the kind of mayhem, seen over the past decade, that often followed the sanctioned activities. Such illegal actions included vandalism and violent confrontations with police. Much of the conflict has diminished in recent years.
Still, Seattle police say they will be on the alert for “any pop-up events that may happen,” said Capt. Todd Kibbee, of the department’s South Precinct who is the May Day incident commander.
Early test results suggest widespread coronavirus infections at Washington state’s largest beef plant, Tyson
The novel coronavirus outbreak appears to be spreading further at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Walla Walla County, the largest beef processing center in Washington, as partial results from employee screenings found nearly 15% tested positive for the disease.
The plant, just outside the small town of Wallula, largely shut down last week amid a major outbreak that already had resulted in more than 125 workers coming down with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, including one who died. Since then, more than 1,100 other workers have been tested, and Walla Walla County officials said Thursday that 56 of the first 400 test results were positive.
County officials, in a statement, said more results will be released during the next few days as they — and Tyson — try to get a fuller picture of the spread of the virus in the plant.
Just when the plant, which employs more than 1,400 people, will reopen remains uncertain.
Jury trials in Washington postponed until July; new coronavirus guidance issued for courts
Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Debra Stephens issued a new emergency order Wednesday evening, extending time frames for many criminal and civil matters in superior courts across Washington as the public health threat from the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend every aspect of daily life.
Stephens’ latest emergency order makes clear that many of the state’s courts are ill-equipped to effectively comply with social-distancing and other public health requirements to slow the virus’ spread. As a result, the order says, in-person court appearances continue to jeopardize the health and safety of judges, attorneys, defendants, litigants, court staff and members of the public.
The chief justice’s new order suspends all criminal and civil jury trials until at least July 6. Previously, Stephens’ March 18 order had required pending criminal and civil jury trials to be pushed back until late April.
Gather ’round the (virtual) campfire: Mount Baker Council Boy Scouts is hosting an online campout
With campouts in the outdoors now not allowed, the Mount Baker Council, which has Boy Scout troops in Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties, is hosting a virtual campout this weekend for Scouts and their families. The goal is for it to be as much like camping as possible, from the food to the campfire.
Brian Lechner, senior development director of the Mount Baker Council, said he hopes to have 500 Boy Scouts participate via Facebook.
“There is really no telling how many people can show up online,” he said of the event, dubbed “Virtual CamporAll.”
Amazon employees who can work from home 'welcome to do so until at least Oct. 2'
Amazon told its corporate employees working from home since early March that they “are welcome to do so until at least October 2,” raising the prospect that one of Seattle’s busiest neighborhoods could be largely deserted for another five months.
The extension of the work-from-home guidance applies to “employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home,” according to a message the company sent employees Thursday, portions of which were viewed by The Seattle Times.
A company spokesperson confirmed the extension, adding, “We are working hard and investing significant funds to keep those who choose to come to the office safe through physical distancing, deep cleaning, temperature checks, and the availability of face coverings and hand sanitizer.”
State confirms 14,327 COVID-19 cases
State health officials announced 257 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, including 13 more deaths.
The recent update brings Washington's totals to 14,327 cases and 814 deaths.
So far, 193,981 tests for the illness have been conducted in Washington, according to the state. Of those, about 93% have come back negative.
The bulk of the cases remain in King County, with 6,207 positive test results and 447 deaths, accounting for 43.3% of the state's death toll. New deaths were also reported in Benton, Franklin, Skagit and Spokane counties.
Landlords may not charge new month-to-month fees during pandemic, AG says
Clearing up a point of contention between some landlords and tenants, the Attorney General’s office clarified that month-to-month fees are a form of rent increase disallowed during the pandemic.
In his expanded eviction moratorium April 16, Gov. Jay Inslee prohibited landlords from raising rents until June 4 to protect tenants during the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus shutdown.
Some landlords, though, have said charging tenants fees to convert their yearlong leases into month-to-month tenancies should be excluded from the governor’s order.
The fees typically range between $50-$200 a month. Landlords say they’re needed to hedge against the risk of a suddenly empty unit.
The Attorney General’s office said those fees are no different than a rent increase.
“If rent is higher than it was on April 15, that is not allowed under the governor’s order,” said a spokesperson for Attorney General’s office.
Tenants whose landlords began charging month-to-month fees after April 16 may ask for a refund of the difference, the spokesperson confirmed.
Fact-checking the president’s triumphant rhetoric on coronavirus testing
The Trump administration bungled its initial effort to get a broad-based testing regime in place for the new coronavirus and has been playing catch-up ever since. But now the United States has conducted more than 5 million tests, more than any other country.
That would seem to be a good talking point for President Donald Trump. But it also lacks important context. “Anyone who wants a test can get a test,” he declared March 6, a statement corrected the next day by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Here’s a look at Trump’s recent rhetoric on testing.
— — —
“We are way ahead on testing. We are the best in the world on testing. We’ve tested much more than anybody else, times two — or every country combined. We’ve tested more than every country combined.”
— Trump, remarks at the White House, April 28, 2020
More than every other country combined? Not by a long shot.
As of the end of April 28, the United States has conducted 5.9 million tests, according to one metric. (The crowdsourced Covid Tracking Project reports almost 5.8 million tests but it does not have international comparisons.) The next five countries — Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Arab Emirates — had conducted 10 million tests as of that date. The total for all non-U.S. countries is about 25 million. So Trump’s bravado is ridiculously wrong. Read more remarks, fact-checked, here.
Mercer Island lays off more than 60 employees as part of coronavirus pandemic budget cuts
Mercer Island projects it will end the year with a $5.6 million deficit because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has laid off more than 60 city employees and other workers as part of budget cuts, the Eastside city said this week.
The city has a $4.3 million shortfall in its general fund and $1.3 million in its youth and families services (YFS) fund, which provides several programs such as a food bank, counseling and senior outreach.
Two dozen employees in the parks and recreation department, the youth and family services department and the facilities division were laid off this month, Mercer Island City Manager Jessi Bon wrote in a city update. Another 11 employees in those departments were furloughed.
Last month, the city laid off 40 temporary, seasonal and contract workers, and those in work study positions. The layoffs and furloughs, combined with other cuts such as eliminating all travel for the rest of the year, total $2.5 million.
“This unparalleled situation has led to very difficult and painful actions that deeply affect staff and residents alike,” Bon wrote. “The decisions I’ve made over these past two months are choices no City Manager ever wants to face.”
City officials cited the closures of the Mercer Island Community and Event Center and the Mercer Island Thrift Shop in its reasons for the budget gap. The thrift shop, which provides significant revenue for the YFS fund, has been closed since March 16 and won’t reopen for at least another month.
The city is looking into additional layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions as part of its third phase of cuts.
Labor, transportation advocates call for mask requirement on buses and trains
People riding Seattle-area buses and trains should be required to wear face coverings, labor and transportation advocates said Thursday in a letter to local leaders.
“One clear way that we can support public health and protect the lives of frontline workers that operate, maintain, or ride transit is by requiring face coverings on all modes of public transportation,” wrote leaders of MLK Labor, Amalgamated Transit Union and Transportation Choices Coalition in the letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We ask that you do everything in your power to implement this important safety measure immediately and look at requiring face coverings in other public areas.”
The letter asked the city, county and Sound Transit to “provide the public with a clear, inclusive definition of what qualifies as a face covering, ensure that face coverings are made available so that everyone can comply, and ensure that penalties for not wearing face coverings are neither criminal nor financial.”
ATU Local 587, which represents King County Metro employees, previously asked for security presence on buses to tell people, "no mask, no ride" and $2-per-hour hazard pay. A Metro driver, 59-year-old Samina Hameed, died this month from complications of COVID-19.
Metro has suspended fare collection, asked riders to board through back doors and limited how many passengers can be on board buses. Riders are encouraged to wear face coverings while waiting for buses and while on board. Metro recently said it would use advertising and on-board announcements to urge riders to wear masks.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York launched a public awareness campaign after the state required New Yorkers to wear face coverings.
Amazon's coronavirus response could wipe out second quarter profit as the company spends on wages, testing
Amazon expects at least $4 billion in costs during the second quarter related to its coronavirus response, mainly in the form of higher wages and productivity losses, likely wiping out any operating profit, CEO Jeff Bezos warned investors Thursday.
The company is also building out its own testing capacity to track the virus among its 945,000-person work force, at a cost of up to $1 billion this year, including $300 million in the current quarter.
For the first quarter, Amazon reported a 26% spike in net sales to $75.5 billion and profits of $2.5 billion, down 29% from the same time a year ago due to costs of responding to the pandemic. Amazon's share price hit a new record Thursday, valuing the company at $1.23 trillion, before the earnings report.
Bezos said the “current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced.”
Read the whole story here.
700,000 pieces of personal protective equipment donated for Seattle responders, workers
Seattle has collected more than 700,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to distribute to first responders and at-risk community workers, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office.
The city launched a donation drive with Goodwill Industries in March. Some 200 local residents and companies have contributed about 136,000 items through the drive, and Chinese cities have collectively contributed another 67,000, the mayor’s office said this week.
Larger donors, such as Gates Ventures and the Brotman Baty Institute, have contributed the remainder, specifically for firefighters and police officers, according to Durkan’s office.
More than 536,000 masks, gloves, gowns, goggles and face shields have gone to first responders, while about 93,000 have gone to workers in nursing homes, homeless shelters and similar facilities. The city is still accepting donations, the mayor’s office said.
“The level of giving has been unprecedented, matching the unprecedented nature of this public health emergency,” Durkan said in a statement.
State hospital association applauds Inslee's actions on nonurgent medical procedures
The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), which has been lobbying Gov. Jay Inslee to ease his ban on nonurgent medical procedures, said it is pleased with the guidance the governor issued yesterday, clarifying when health care providers can perform such procedures.
Inslee, on Wednesday, didn't alter his ban, which has been in effect since March 19, in an effort to conserve hospital space and protective equipment like masks and gowns for the coronavirus pandemic.
But he did offer new guidance on how health care providers should interpret the ban. The ban bars nonurgent medical procedures unless putting them off would harm the patient. Inslee emphasized on Wednesday that individual health care providers are in the best position to define "harm," clearing the way for some procedures to resume.
"This much-needed clarification will help ensure patients are able to get the care they need," WSHA President and CEO Cassie Sauer said in a prepared statement Thursday. “As we prepare for a potential COVID-19 surge this fall, we hope to begin offering additional medical services soon, such as cancer screenings."
The WSHA had written to Inslee this month, asking him to ease the ban, saying hospitals have seen revenues plummet due to the decline in elective procedures, even as their services have become more urgent due to the pandemic.
Sauer emphasized that hospitals are still a safe place to receive medical care and that patients should not put off treatment of chronic conditions.
Want to make or donate cloth masks? Lt. Governor's office has new instructions
A new state-sponsored initiative aims to encourage Washingtonians to make, donate -- and wear -- cloth masks to slow the transmission of the novel coronavirus.
The Washington Mask Challenge, from the office of Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, matches people who sew at home with organizations in need of masks, including nursing homes, homelessness service organizations, food banks, grocery stores and restaurants.
The Mask Challenge website contains instructions for sewing your own cloth masks, and organizations in need of masks can sign up to receive donations on the site.
Port Angeles man charged with federal felony for promoting bogus COVID-19 cure
A Port Angeles man has been charged with a federal felony for peddling misbranded drugs he claimed could "crush" the novel coronavirus.
Former naturopathic physician Richard Marschall marketed a "Dynamic Duo" of two plant-based products he said could kill viruses, including COVID-19, for $140 plus shipping, the U.S. Attorney alleged.
The products contained allicin, an amino acid contained in garlic, and arabinogalactans, a plant fiber found in the larch tree sometimes used in pudding mixes.
While slight progress has been made in clinical trials testing the effectiveness of the antiretroviral drug remdesivir against the virus that causes COVID-19, there is no known cure for the coronavirus.
“At a time when scientists are scrambling to identify COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, it is unconscionable and cruel to take people’s money for false hope and promises of a cure,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran in a statement.
Marschall has twice been convicted and sentenced in federal court for distributing misbranded drugs. In 2018, his credentials to practice as a naturopath were revoked. He now faces up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Seattle University cuts pay, furloughs dozens of employees
Seattle University will begin mandatory and voluntary pay reductions of up to 20% and furlough 79 staffers to try to manage some of the economic damage caused by closing campus during the coronavirus outbreak, the university’s president announced Thursday.
In a letter to faculty and staff, Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg said the private school’s Cabinet and deans will take mandatory pay reductions of 10%, and will be asked to consider voluntary reductions of up to 20%. Upper-level administrators have been asked to take a voluntary reduction of 5 to 20%, and full-time faculty “have been invited to consider a voluntary reduction of 5 to 10%,” Sundborg wrote.
The 79 furloughed staff members will retain medical benefits and be eligible for unemployment, and the school intends to bring them back to work at the start of August, Sundborg said. The university has already lost $7 million as a result of moving to remote instruction and closing most residence halls, he wrote, and for fiscal year 2021, the school’s governing board plans a $9.1 million budget cut.
Sundborg said the university’s “full intent is to reopen campus in the fall,” but that “the beginning of the academic year will not look like it has in the traditional sense.” A university task force is weighing options including a blend of in-person and hybrid classes, along with strict social distancing and enhanced safety measures. Sundborg wrote that “a robust infrastructure for testing, tracing and isolation will need to be in place for all areas and aspects of our campus for an extended period of time.”
Nationally, higher education experts have speculated that the coronavirus will cause declines in enrollment this fall of up to 20%, and that some smaller private colleges may not survive the financial downturn.
As campaign to blame China ramps up, Trump officials are said to press spies to link virus and Wuhan labs
WASHINGTON — Senior Trump administration officials have pushed U.S. spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, according to current and former U.S. officials. The effort comes as President Donald Trump escalates a public campaign to blame China for the pandemic.
Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than 3 million people across the globe.
Read more here.
Seattle tops nation's coronavirus unemployment as statewide claims rocket
Newly available federal benefits helped draw more than 145,000 new unemployment claims in Washington state last week, pushing the state’s total to nearly three-quarters of a million as coronavirus continues to hammer the economy.
For the week ending April 25, the state received 145,757 initial claims for unemployment insurance, up nearly 75% from the number of claims received the prior week, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The large increase came as initial jobless claims nationally dropped 18.5% to 3.8 million, the Labor Department reported
The surge in state claims — the state’s third-largest weekly number — came as tens of thousands of jobless workers who had been previously ineligible for state benefits took advantage of new federal coronavirus relief funds.
While Washington state is not among those with the highest rate of unemployment from coronavirus in the country, Seattle is the city most affected by unemployment due to the coronavirus, according to an analysis of unemployment data by WalletHub.
To identify where workers have been most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the online financial site compared 180 U.S. cities on how their unemployment rate has changed over time, both year over year and in the period between January and March 2020.
In Seattle, unemployment increased 86.92% between March 2019 and March 2020, the highest increase in the U.S. among cities compared, WalletHub reported. From January 2020 to March 2020, unemployment increased by 105.92%, with 24,006 unemployed people in March 2020 as compared to 11,658 in January this year, the third highest increase.
Officials with the Washington state Employment Security Department, which will report its own jobless figures later Thursday, had expected a surge in claims for unemployment insurance starting last week as the new federal benefits became available to state workers starting April 25.
The federal benefits, which flow through the state’s unemployment insurance system, were part of a $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus bill enacted in March and provide benefits for independent contractors and many other workers not typically eligible to claim unemployment insurance in Washington and other states. The federal package also includes a $600 weekly benefit for all unemployed workers and 13 additional weeks of benefits, which lifts Washington’s total to 39 weeks.
For weeks, the state Employment Security Department has braced for what department commissioner Suzi LeVine characterized as “a tsunami” of additional jobless claims as newly eligible applicants flooded the state’s overworked claims system.
State officials said last week that the new applicants could push Washington’s total number of initial and recurring claims, which stood at 605,514 for the week ending April 18, to as many as 1 million for the week ending April 25.
More than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s.
Nationally, 30.3 million people have filed for jobless aid in the six weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors and slash their work forces, according to The Associated Press. That is more people than live in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined, and it’s by far the worst string of layoffs on record. It adds up to more than one in six American workers.
With more employers cutting payrolls to save money, economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%. That would be the highest rate since it reached 25% during the Great Depression.
Some outside reviews suggest that the number of job losses is likely even higher than is captured in the weekly unemployment claims. A poll by two academic economists, Alexander Bick and Adam Blandin, found that the U.S. economy may have lost 34 million jobs since mid-March, when the coronavirus shutdowns began.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Horror films have always been a means of escape. From goofy to grotesque, here are some to stream that are a scream.
Want to help local breweries and wineries stay afloat? Refresh your bar with these top picks, available online. You could also try the cocktail with a weird pantry ingredient that a star Seattle bartender showed off on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Catch up on the past 24 hours
What will it take to reopen Washington now that Gov. Jay Inslee is extending his stay-home order? Inslee walked through the factors he's watching ahead of Friday's announcement of a "phased-in approach." He also gave health care providers more leeway to resume elective medical procedures.
As President Donald Trump's social distancing guidelines expire today, he is talking about a return to travel and massive campaign rallies in the not-too-distant future. Pressure is growing to ease lockdowns across the country as economies stagger but some states are resisting that pressure: California, for example, closed its beaches.
The frustrated minority fighting Washington's shutdown say there's more to their case than stereotypes. Meet some of them and read about their reasons.
An experimental drug has shown modest benefits against coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health says he's optimistic remdesivir will become “the standard of care.”
"I have never seen so many toes." Doctors are encountering "COVID toes" and other peculiar signs of hidden infections, especially in young people. They're also trying to understand why some patients who seem to be recovering crash suddenly in the second week.
Boeing's white-collar workers will bear the "higher percentage" of job cuts, CEO Dave Calhoun said Wednesday as he spoke about how the company will get smaller and cut jet production
Friday Harbor's mayor caused a stir by inviting a Seattle entrepreneur to visit during the stay-home order, so the mayor could perhaps try an unauthorized coronavirus treatment that's since drawn fire from the state.
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