Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, June 11, as the day unfolded. Click here to see updates from Friday, June 12. To find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic, click here.
As the number of new coronavirus cases continues to increase worldwide, hospitalizations in at least nine states — including Oregon — have been on the rise since Memorial Day. In California, Texas, North and South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Arizona, more patients have been under supervised care for COVID-19 infections since the holiday weekend, according to The Washington Post.
In Washington, three more counties have been cleared to advance to new phases of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-part reopening plan, Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman announced Thursday.
King County remains in a modified Phase 1, which allows for limited reopening of some businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and barber shops. Also in King County: Racism has been declared a public health crisis by public health director Patty Hayes, who noted that decades of systemic racism have adversely affected health outcomes for Black people and other people of color in the country.
Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll post 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.
Oregon governor puts one-week pause on state's reopening process
The Oregon Health Authority reported 178 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday, marking the highest daily count in the state since the start of the pandemic.
Officials said part of the reason for the increased case number is due to the expansion of “widespread availability of testing, increased contact tracing, active monitoring of close contacts of cases” and recent workplace outbreaks.
Thursday’s cases bring the new total number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in Oregon to 5,237. In addition, two more people have died from the disease, raising the state’s death toll to 171, the Oregon Health Authority reported.
The second highest daily case count in the state was 146 cases Sunday, June 7.
Gov. Kate Brown said Thursday evening that the noticeable increase in COVID-19 infections was cause for concern and that in response she is putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days.
"As we began reopening nearly a month ago, I was clear that reopening Oregon comes with risks, and that COVID-19 case counts would rise," Brown tweeted. "We now see a significant increase in COVID-19 infections in counties across Oregon and it is cause for concern."
Multnomah County doesn't currently meet the health and safety criteria to enter Phase 1, she continued. Other communities, both urban and rural, are seeing spikes in case counts, she said.
The pause will give health officials "time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus," Brown said. "I will use the data we see in the next week to determine whether to lift this pause or extend it."
Seattle Rep. Frank Chopp proposes coronavirus recovery plan with new taxes on capital gains and large employers
State Rep. Frank Chopp on Thursday proposed a $2 billion revenue and spending package — including new taxes on capital gains and large corporations — to confront Washington’s staggering economic downturn amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The “Progressive Priorities and Progressive Revenues Plan” would boost spending on public health services, child care and early learning, workforce education, affordable housing and other programs.
Before stepping down from leadership last year, Chopp, a Democrat from Seattle, spent a generation as House speaker and one of Washington’s most powerful politicians.
Now, Chopp is running for reelection as a rank-and-file lawmaker. Meanwhile, legislators in both parties and Gov. Jay Inslee are reckoning with a state revenue shortfall expected to exceed $7 billion through 2023.
“We can’t simply cut our way out of a recession,” Chopp said in an interview. “It’s better to invest in our people and lay the groundwork for the economy and people in the future.”
His plan would implement a new tax on some capital gains to fund affordable housing, workforce education and a tax credit for low-income families.
A second wave of coronavirus infections could begin in September, UW model suggests
After remaining fairly constant through the summer, novel coronavirus infections and deaths in the United States are likely to begin climbing again in September, marking the start of a second wave of the epidemic, according to a model from the University of Washington that has been widely cited but also criticized.
The UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects the national death toll from COVID-19 could reach nearly 170,000 by Oct. 1, with an uncertainty range of 133,201 to 290,222. That’s 57,000 more deaths in the coming months, in addition to the approximately 113,000 Americans killed by the virus so far.
The group’s forecast for Washington state follows a similar trajectory, though at a much lower level, with a projected total of 1,475 deaths by Oct. 1. As of Thursday, the state death toll stood at 1,194.
While the projections present one possible outcome, what actually happens can be altered through individual action like wearing masks and reducing contact with others, IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said Thursday in a briefing.
Boeing Classic golf tournament canceled because of coronavirus pandemic
Another Seattle summer sporting event has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Boeing Classic, the PGA Tour Champions event held every in August at the Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club, was canceled, organizers said Thursday.
The senior golf event, which Brandt Jobe won last year after rallying from seven strokes back, was scheduled for Aug. 17-23.
“While we are deeply disappointed to cancel the 16th annual Boeing Classic, this is the right thing to do given the uncertainty for large public gatherings in our state and the need to protect our players, fans, sponsors and volunteers,” Boeing Classic tournament director Brian Flajole said in a release.
The weeklong event, which features the Seattle Seahawks Rumble on the Ridge tournament, is also a fundraiser that has raised $10 million for local charities, especially the Benaroya Research Institute.
Skamania County approved to move to third phase in Washington’s four-part coronavirus recovery plan
OLYMPIA — Skamania County has been given approval to move to the third phase of Washington’s four-part reopening plan, according to the state Department of Health.
Counties in the third phase can begin allowing the resumption of nonessential travel, gatherings of up to 50 people and some indoor sports activities. Museums, libraries and government offices can start reopening.
Under that phase, bars can reopen at up to 25% capacity, movie theaters can resume at 50% crowd capacity and restaurants can expand indoor seating to 75% capacity.
Three counties remain in the first and most restrictive phase, according to the Department of Health. Three others – including King County — are in a modified version of the first phase, which allows for some restrictions to lift.
Meanwhile, 23 counties are in the second phase and 10 counties are in the third phase.
Businesses approved to reopen under the phases must follow health and safety requirements determined by the state. Those guidelines can be found here.
Lawmakers express concern over EPA plans to reopen regional office in Seattle
Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation are expressing concerns about plans for a phased return of employees to the regional offices of the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle despite continued COVID-19 infections.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the lawmakers said the resumption of in-office work was being planned “without a clearly articulated plan” for public safety.
“Any reopening must be conducted in a manner consistent with public health expertise and local and state guidelines, laws, and regulations. To date, EPA has detailed no specifics concerning its planned regional reopening efforts.”
The lawmakers also said the EPA was refusing to bargain with the federal employees’ union over health and safety measures.
The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle; Rick Larsen, D-Everett; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish and Denny Heck, D-Olympia.
In a statement Thursday, an EPA spokesperson disputed the characterizations in the letter, saying the EPA’s plan for a phased-in return “will take a measured and deliberate approach that ensures our employees’ health and safety.”
The EPA statement said employees for now “will continue to have maximum telework flexibilities and will not be forced to return to the office,” adding the employees will, in fact, “be encouraged to telework through the first couple of phases of the reopening plan.”
The statement added that the EPA has held seven briefings with its unions to discuss its plans for reopening and would “fulfill any bargaining obligations required by law.”
State confirms 137 new COVID-19 cases
State health officials confirmed 137 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Wednesday, as well as four additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 24,779 cases and 1,194 deaths, meaning 4.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard.
So far, 425,212 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.8% have come back positive.
King County, the state's most populous, has reported 8,550 positive test results and 583 deaths, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll.
Coyote Ridge medium security complex on restricted movement to contain COVID-19
The Department of Corrections has placed the Medium Security Complex at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) in Connell, Franklin County on restricted movement to contain the spread of COVID-19 at the facility.
As of Friday, June 11, the facility has 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff; 71 confirmed cases among its incarcerated population; 33 people in isolation, and 1,815 people in quarantine, meaning they have been exposed but do not have symptoms, and are separated from healthy people, according to statement from the Washington State Department of Corrections.
Access to outside medical resources in the community is limited to a team of volunteer EMS professionals and hospitals more than one hour away. The Department is deploying additional custody and health services staff to assist CRCC staff in caring for those incarcerated at the facility, the statement said.
“Due to the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and the limited access to emergency medical services and hospital care nearby, the Department of Corrections has directed CRCC to implement restricted movement throughout Medium Security Complex (MSC),” said Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair. “The health and safety of Corrections staff, the incarcerated individuals, and the citizens in the community remains our top priority.”
UW drops SAT, ACT requirement, extending coronavirus accommodation
The University of Washington will no longer require applicants to submit scores from standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT, making it the latest major university to drop the testing requirement for incoming students.
The UW says it has studied results and outcomes for several years, and found there’s little correlation between test scores and success at the university. UW says the change will allow applicants to focus instead on taking a rigorous, college-preparatory high-school curriculum.
Critics have long argued that the standardized tests make college admissions inequitable because families with more money can game the system — hiring tutors or sending their kids to test-taking prep classes to boost their scores. Some critics also believe the tests themselves are biased.
“Careful analysis and research showed that standardized testing did not add meaningfully to the prediction of student success that our holistic admission process already provides,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said in a statement.
Earlier this year, the UW temporarily changed its admissions policy for high-school juniors — students who usually would be taking the tests this year before applying for admission for fall 2021 — because the high-stakes standardized tests were canceled across the nation this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more here.
Washington schools expected to reopen this fall with in-person learning after long coronavirus closures
Washington’s schools chief said Thursday that he expects school districts to reopen buildings and return to in-person learning next school year — as long as public health guidelines allow them to do so.
Chris Reykdal, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, and a work group of more than 120 educators, parents, students and community organizations released a 47-page document with new guidance Thursday that lays out what face-to-face instruction could look like come fall.
How and whether schools reopen depends, at least in part, on what phase their county is in as part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan. But for now, education officials said, schools should plan to resume class in-person.
The guidance leaves most decisions up to school districts. Districts that can’t reopen right away, or bring all students back at once because of public health concerns, are encouraged to use a mix of distance learning and staggered scheduling.
Read the whole story here.
Hawaii extends 14-day quarantine for all incoming travelers
HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. David Ige extended the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving travelers on Wednesday in a bid to keep coronavirus cases in the islands low.
Ige said the rule is being extended to the end of July as the state works to solidify a screening process that could soon allow travelers to return in some capacity.
Officials said they are planning to install thermal screening stations and facial recognition technology at the airports by the end of the year. Ige said the technology would be used only to track people within the airports during the screening process.
Hawaii has among the lowest COVID-19 infection and mortality rates in the nation. Ige enacted a mandatory self-quarantine for all arriving tourists and residents in March.
With measures lifted, Balkans hit by coronavirus case spike
Serbia’s president has canceled his party’s campaign rallies and officials in Bosnia, North Macedonia and Albania are appealing on citizens to respect anti-infection measures due to a spike in new coronavirus cases after the Balkan countries relaxed their restrictions.
President Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party will not hold rallies ahead of Serbia’s June 21 parliamentary election to avoid further spread of the virus, state broadcaster RTS reported on Thursday.
Serbia went from having very strict lockdown measures to a near-total lifting of the government’s emergency rules. Vucic’s political opponents peg the move to the president’s desire to hold the election, which originally was scheduled for April and canceled because of the pandemic, and to cement his grip on power.
Mass gatherings have gradually been allowed with people not keeping social distance or wearing masks although authorities advised utilizing the protections in public. Some 20,000 fans packed a stadium Wednesday during a soccer match between Belgrade’s bitter rival teams, Red Star and Partizan.
“The virus is still here,” epidemiologist Branislav Tiodorovic, from the state crisis team, told RTS on Thursday. “We are on the line between an uncertain and a favorable situation.”
Read more here.
In blow to Skagit County economy, Cascade Mall in Burlington to close
Cascade Mall in Burlington, Skagit County, will close permanently at the end of June.
In a statement emailed to the Skagit Valley Herald, the mall pinned its demise on “the closure of anchor department stores including JC Penney, Sears and Macy’s, and the added financial impact of COVID-19 on tenants as well as ownership.”
The mall opened in 1989 and is owned by Merlone Geier Partners, which bought it in 2017 for $16 million, the Herald reported.
“It’s a blow to our local economy, both in sales tax revenues as well as jobs lost,” Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton told KING 5. “Skagit County currently has the third-highest unemployment rate in the state, and this type of development won’t help us at all.”
The mall made national headlines in 2016 when five people were killed in a shooting there.
As coronavirus cases spike across the country, politicians move on to other business
The coronavirus may not be done with the nation, but the nation’s capital appears to be done with the coronavirus.
As the pandemic’s grim numbers continue to climb — more than 112,000 dead as of Wednesday and warnings from Arizona that its hospitals could be full by next month — President Donald Trump and lawmakers in both parties are exhibiting a short attention span.
“They have made a conscious decision that we are moving on,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan who helped shape federal social-distancing policy during the George W. Bush administration. He mourned the shrinking public profile of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.
“The government is blessed with one of the best experts in the world and neither side is listening,” he said. “What’s wrong with that picture?”
Out of patience, some New York City shops open
In a city famous for its lack of patience, some New York City businesses have jumped ahead on what’s supposed to be a slow and methodical emergence from coronavirus lockdown.
Stores in parts of NYC have started to allow customers inside to shop, even though the phased reopening that began Monday only allows retailers to sell merchandise via curbside pickup for now.
At least a dozen customers perused racks of women’s clothing Wednesday inside Mini-Max in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood.
Shoppers mostly self-policed for social distancing, which wasn’t difficult given the store’s size, but the only restriction applied by owner, Albert Abeal, was that customers must wear masks.
“We just opened. Everybody’s hungry for merchandise,” said Abeal, who has owned the store for about 20 years. He said business this week had essentially returned to normal, although he didn’t expect that to last. “They didn’t buy clothes for so long. It’s going to slow down in a week.”
Read the story here.
Moderna on track for large COVID-19 vaccine test in July
The first experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. is on track to begin a huge study next month to prove if it really can fend off the coronavirus, its manufacturer announced Thursday — a long-awaited step in the global vaccine race.
The vaccine, developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Moderna, will be tested in 30,000 volunteers — some given the real shot and some a dummy shot.
Moderna said it has made enough doses for the pivotal late-stage testing. Still needed before those injections begin: results of how the shot has fared in smaller, earlier-stage studies.
But Moderna’s announcement suggests those studies are making enough progress for the company and the NIH to get ready to move ahead.
Read the story here.
Many forces behind alarming rise in virus cases in 21 states
States are rolling back lockdowns, but the coronavirus isn’t done with the U.S.
Cases are rising in nearly half the states, according to an Associated Press analysis, a worrying trend that could worsen as people return to work and venture out during the summer.
In Arizona, hospitals have been told to prepare for the worst. Texas has more hospitalized COVID-19 patients than at any time before. And the governor of North Carolina said recent jumps caused him to rethink plans to reopen schools or businesses.
There is no single reason to explain all the surges. In some cases, more testing has revealed more cases. In others, local outbreaks are big enough to push statewide tallies higher. But experts think at least some are due to lifting stay-at-home orders, school and business closures, and other restrictions put in place during the spring to stem the virus’s spread.
Read the story here.
Surgeons perform first known U.S. lung transplant for COVID-19 patient
A former COVID-19 patient has received a double-lung transplant, a surgery believed to be the first of its kind in the United States since the pandemic began, medical officials announced Thursday.
Northwestern Medicine in Chicago said the recipient, a woman in her 20s who would not have survived without the transplant, is in intensive care recovering from the operation and from two previous months on lung and heart assistance devices.
Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of Northwestern’s lung transplant program, said organ transplantation may become more frequent for victims of the most severe forms of COVID-19. The disease caused by the coronavirus most commonly attacks the respiratory system but also can damage kidneys, the heart, blood vessels and the neurological system.
“I certainly expect some of these patients will have such severe lung injury that they will not be able to carry on without transplant,” said Bharat, who performed the operation Friday. “This could serve as a lifesaving intervention.”
Read the story here.
Resources to help you understand and navigate the pandemic
As we keep you apprised of the day’s developments and hold those in charge accountable for their response to this crisis, we’ve also been compiling resources to help you understand and navigate this changed world.
Thousands of Washingtonians care for loved ones with dementia. During the coronavirus pandemic, some have never felt more alone.
“There is really nowhere to escape,” Ania Maldowska-Leek says of caring for her husband, David, during the pandemic.
David has Alzheimer’s disease. Maldowska-Leek is one of the 350,000-plus unpaid family caregivers in Washington supporting a loved one with some form of dementia during a pandemic that is particularly dangerous for such people — typically in the 65-and-older age group, forgetful of masks and social-distance protocols.
Everyone has experienced the impacts of the coronavirus crisis in different ways — feelings of isolation, worries about finances and questions about the future among them. But the unique factors that surround caring for loved ones with cognitive decline are exacerbated, or contrasted by, the pandemic.
Those who work with people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia say they’ve seen burnout among caregivers after more than two months of Washington state’s stay-home order. Resources for respite, like adult day programs, are gone, and daily routines — people with memory loss are more likely to thrive with familiarity — are wiped out.
Don't play sidewalk chicken: Pedestrian etiquette for social distancing
With many residential sidewalks too narrow to maintain a 6-foot buffer, a once-simple stroll can now feel like a real-life version of the video game Frogger, dodging other walkers and joggers.
Here's a primer on sidewalk etiquette for social distancing, which can get tricky in our less-than-ideal spaces.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while you stay home
Lettuce soup?! Dessert for dinner? Those were among readers' best creations in Round 3 of The Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen Challenge. And yes, there is a Round 4. Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it.
Coming soon to a theater — er, living room — near you: Our critic recommends the artful drama "Shirley," and a documentary that follows Michelle Obama.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
State health officials confirmed 288 new COVID-19 cases as Washington yesterday cleared three counties to move into new phases of reopening. Hospitalizations are rising sharply in several states, including Oregon (you can track the virus' spread here and see Washington state hospitalization data here). This underscores a painful reality: The pandemic is not ending, it's surging.
Alaska Air will cut as many as 3,000 jobs as it struggles to bring passengers back. One glimpse of the daunting challenges airlines face: just how slowly travelers are returning to Sea-Tac Airport. And when they get where they're going, the hotel may look like a different world.
A Seattle program that lets participants swab their own noses at home to test for the coronavirus is back in operation and looking for volunteers, a month after being shut down by the FDA.
Many Americans are still losing their jobs even as businesses reopen, new figures out this morning show.
But the "Happiest Place on Earth" is reopening. Disneyland and California Adventure are aiming to swing their gates open next month, and Walt Disney World is back in action today.
Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.
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