Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, June 19, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.
The race continues to intensify for a vaccine against the new coronavirus, and rich countries are rushing to place advance orders for the inevitably limited supply to guarantee their citizens get immunized first — leaving significant questions about whether developing countries will get any vaccines in time to save lives.
Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an executive order Thursday extending pandemic-related relief policies that have been in place for months: an eviction moratorium, rent relief for tenants, flexible payment plans for utilities and a suspension of paid parking requirements.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday 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 Friday.
Inslee issues new guidance for holding weddings and funerals during the coronavirus pandemic
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee this week issued new guidance for allowing weddings, funerals and religious services to proceed for his four-part coronavirus recovery plan.
The guidance lays out how activities can proceed under the first three phases of that plan. It comes as most of Washington’s 39 counties have advanced beyond the first and most restrictive phase.
The guidelines — first issued on Thursday and then clarified Friday — state that funeral or wedding planners able to meet requirements to protect against COVID-19 can resume activities,
Those planners must comply with the guidance issued for religious and faith-based groups in the first, second and third phases of the plan, according to the governor’s office.
Meanwhile, if food is being served at a reception for a service, the venue has to comply with guidance already issued for taverns and dine-in restaurants.
Such services must follow the guidance for whatever phase their county is in.
State health officials start including industry and occupation in coronavirus data
Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials announced Friday that they will start releasing coronavirus data related to industry and occupation.
The largest number of COVID-19 cases in Washington is associated with health care and social assistance workers, according to a DOH statement. The manufacturing industry, including both "traditional" manufacturing businesses and food processing facilities, has the second highest number of cases.
The new report — which includes information collected during interviews with people who tested positive for the virus — includes cases through May 27, the statement said. It notes that additional studies are needed to better understand the COVID-19 risks of certain occupations.
"It’s important to note that while the risk for contracting COVID-19 may be higher for people depending on their industry or occupation, this report reflects where people work, not where or how they were infected," the statement said. "It can be difficult to determine with certainty where and how people get infected."
The statement also noted that health care workers have been a priority testing group since the beginning of the pandemic, potentially resulting in "increased detection of COVID-19."
State DOH confirms 27,601 total COVID-19 cases in Washington
State health officials confirmed 409 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Friday, including 10 additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 27,601 cases and 1,255 deaths, meaning about 4.5% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
So far, 446,899 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6.1% have come back positive.
The state has confirmed 9,061 diagnoses and 600 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll.
Layoffs mount in Washington state’s aviation industry, as Boeing suppliers and airline contractors cut back
Job losses in Washington state’s aviation sector are mounting as the coronavirus pandemic casts a deep shadow over air travel demand.
Swissport, which provides ground handling and fueling services for airlines, is laying off almost 300 workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
With international air travel not expected to recover for perhaps a couple of years, 131 of the Swissport layoffs are labeled permanent.
Toray Composites America, which supplies Boeing with the carbon fiber material for its composite airplane structures on the 787 and 777, announced 146 layoffs at its Frederickson plant near Tacoma, which has a workforce of roughly 600.
“It’s pretty dark,” said Tim Kirk, Toray’s vice president of aerospace sales. “There’s no good news coming out of Boeing right now.”
Jazz Alley announces first concert since coronavirus shutdown; state says not so fast
It’s been a long three months since local music fans last filled Seattle clubs. And on the whole, it could be a while before many music venues are allowed to return under the fourth and final phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan. In the meantime, several Seattle club owners have explored ways to come back sooner, though it’s unclear when that could actually happen.
On Friday, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley announced what would be Seattle’s first club show since the statewide shutdown began after COVID-19 hit the United States. The Seattle jazz bastion planned to reopen June 30 with a two-night stand with local jazz singer Greta Matassa.
Owner John Dimitriou said Friday he believed that because Jazz Alley is licensed as a restaurant, it is allowed to resume its dinner-and-a-show business while following the reopening guidelines for restaurants.
“We have taken plenty of precautions to make it COVID-compatible, and I think that we’ll be just fine,” Dimitriou said.
Seattle Public Schools announce plans to reopen ‘as usual’ if King County is in Phase 4
Seattle Public Schools will return to class as usual come fall, officials announced in a letter to staff Friday evening — but only if King County has entered Phase 4 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus reopening plan.
If the county is still in Phase 2 or 3, all students will be given a hybrid option, which will include a mix of in-person and online learning. Families will also be able to choose to continue learning at a distance instead of returning to school buildings.
After months of uncertainty about whether buildings would reopen in the fall, district officials say their decision reflects uncertainty over how the course of the coronavirus will evolve between now and when school starts.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know what will happen over these next few months, so a contingency plan is needed, including how we will address a resurgence of COVID-19 in our community,” district superintendent Denise Juneau wrote to staff.
AMC Theaters reverses course on masks after backlash
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The nation’s largest movie theater chain changed its position on mask-wearing less than a day after the company became a target on social media for saying it would defer to local governments on the issue.
AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron said Friday that its theaters will require patrons to wear masks upon reopening, which will begin in mid-July. Customers who don’t wear masks won’t be admitted or allowed to stay.
“We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” Aron said. “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks.”
Rival chain Regal followed AMC’s lead. Spokesman Richard Grover said Friday that moviegoers must wear masks in all its theaters as well.
AMC Theaters wasn’t the first to say it would defer to officials on the mask issue. That policy was identical to what Cinemark announced earlier this month. Cineplex Inc., which has a 75% box office market share in Canada, said they will leave it up to moviegoers to decide if they wear a face mask inside their theaters.
Copper won’t save you from coronavirus
It began in mid-March. Every time Michael D.L. Johnson checked his email, the University of Arizona microbiologist would find a new batch of messages, all asking the same question: Will products made with copper keep the coronavirus at bay?
“I was getting three to four emails about it a day,” Johnson said. Some asked if he recommended ingesting copper as a cure. Others wondered if it was a good idea to outfit their homes with it. A few inquisitive citizens even wanted to know whether wearing copper accessories, such as bracelets, would stave off disease.
“It was kind of a wild ride,” Johnson said.
The flood of missives in his inbox eventually waned. But in many ways, the COVID-19 copper craze has not. In recent months, there’s been a surge of interest in materials laced with the metal, including socks, bedsheets and coatings that can be sprayed onto surfaces. Multiple companies are marketing face coverings and masks with built-in copper linings, touting their germ-killing properties. One company even offers a “nasal wand” designed to apply “the touch of solid copper” to the hands, face and nostrils at the first sign of illness.
But while copper does have antimicrobial qualities, Johnson and others said you should think twice before buying into many of these products’ claims.
Clemson sees 23 football players test positive for COVID-19
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson said 23 football players have tested positive for coronavirus since returning to campus this month.
Clemson announced the results Friday. It did not identify the athletes.
In all, school spokesman Jeff Kallin said 28 people were found with COVID-19 since testing began for athletes and other personnel on June 8.
The uptick at Clemson mirrors one in the state of South Carolina, which reported a single-day high of 1,081 people testing positive on Friday.
In Yakima County, where COVID-19 cases are surging, hospitals are exceeding capacity
The novel coronavirus continues to spread rampantly in Yakima County, where confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 5,000 diagnoses this month. Now hospitals in the county — which has the highest rate of infection in Washington state — are teeming beyond capacity with sick patients.
Virginia Mason Memorial hospital in Yakima, which holds more than 200 beds, had none available as of Thursday night, intensive care or otherwise, the Yakima Health District explained in a release published Friday afternoon.
At least 17 patients had already been transferred out of the county, per the release. That leaves a total of 61 individuals in hospital beds with positive COVID-19 diagnoses, the county's highest to date.
And "all hospitals" are experiencing severe staffing shortages — many due to COVID-19 cases within hospital staff, symptoms of the coronavirus, or proximity to a quarantined patient.
Nearby Benton and Franklin counties are also feeling the strain on their health care systems, but Yakima County remains Washington state's hot spot for the virus. The county now represents 22% of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Washington (61 of 242 cases), a higher tally than King County, which is nearly 10 times larger than Yakima County.
“This is the day we have been fighting to avoid for months, when our hospitals can no longer provide their highest level of care because they are overwhelmed caring for patients with severe COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Teresa Everson, health officer for Yakima Health District, in the release.
“We have a choice to make today — whether we continue to do what we have been for the last three months and keep watching our neighbors get sick and our local health care system break down; or whether we commit to keeping each other safe and healing our health care system by avoiding close contact with those outside of our households and masking when we do need to be out.”
Watney first on PGA Tour to test positive for COVID-19
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — In the second week of returning to golf, Nick Watney became the first player to test positive for COVID-19.
Watney withdrew from the RBC Heritage on Friday, the PGA Tour said.
Watney missed the cut last week in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, the first tour event in three months after it shut down because of the pandemic.
He traveled privately to South Carolina and tested negative upon arrival at Harbour Town. Before he arrived Friday for his afternoon tee time, he said he had symptoms consistent with the virus, consulted a doctor and tested positive.
Watney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. He played the opening round with Luke List and Vaughn Taylor.
State worker union says deal with budget officials will keep pay raises and limit job losses amid coronavirus downturn
OLYMPIA — A key state worker union Friday announced it reached a deal with Washington officials to use unpaid furloughs to reduce costs during the coronavirus pandemic, while preserving a scheduled 3% raise for union workers and limiting job losses.
The tentative agreement between the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) and the state Office of Financial Management is described as a “memorandum of understanding.”
The deal sets a schedule for furloughs announced earlier this week by Gov. Jay Inslee as state officials grapple with a steep economic downturn in the wake of the new coronavirus.
“As a union, we successfully preserved the 3% raises provided under our current contract,” WFSE wrote in a Friday morning post on its website.
“To prevent job loss, we secured this memorandum of understanding (MOU) to introduce limited furloughs,” the website post said. “While not ideal, furloughs will reduce job loss, help members maintain vital health insurance during the pandemic, and limit impacts on retirement.”
Though those things aren’t guaranteed in the agreement, Mike Yestramski of WFSE said in an interview he believes the memorandum would avoid layoffs, or impacts to health care or retirement.
State extends order requiring insurers to cover telehealth and coronavirus tests
Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has extended his emergency order requiring all state-regulated health insurers to cover testing for the novel coronavirus and all telehealth appointments.
The order is now in effect until July 19. It was issued March 24 and had previously been extended until June 21.
“This continues to be critical time for all Washingtonians and we need to provide safe and flexible access to care,” Kreidler said in a news release Friday. “During this unprecedented time, people should not have to worry about their insurance coverage.”
UW Medicine study finds front-line staff no more likely to be infected than its other health workers
Front-line health workers at UW Medicine were no more likely to become infected with the novel coronavirus than health workers who did not have direct contact with patients, according to a new analysis that also underscores the value of rapid testing of medical staff.
The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found 5.2 percent of front-line workers with symptoms tested positive for the virus, compared to 5.5 percent of other healthcare workers, also with symptoms.
The results suggest that infection-prevention protocols, including strict use of personal protective equipment, paid off, said Dr. Nandita Mani, a UW Medicine fellow in infectious diseases and lead author of the study.
“Based on our findings, we don’t have strong reason to believe that our front-line healthcare workers are at higher risk of acquiring COVID than other employees or other community members,” she said in a press release.
When Seattle emerged as the country’s first epicenter for COVID-19, UW Medicine quickly established what might have been the first drive-through and walk-through testing programs for employees.
Between March 12 and April 23, 3,477 symptomatic employees were tested, with 185 positive for the virus for a total infection rate of 5.3 percent. Of those, six were hospitalized and one was admitted to the ICU, according to the study.
Another 151 staff who had no symptoms were also tested as part of outbreak investigations, and 6 percent were found to be infected with the virus.
The study was not able to determine whether employees had been infected at work or elsewhere.
“Reliable and rapid access to testing for employees is essential to preserve the health, safety, and availability of the healthcare workforce during this pandemic and to facilitate the rapid return of SARS-CoV-2 negative employees to work,” the analysis concludes.
Cruise lines to suspend trips from U.S. until mid-September
Major cruise lines agreed to suspend voyages from U.S. ports until Sept. 15, marking another setback for an industry trying to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
The industry group Cruise Lines International Association, or CLIA, said Friday that it would use the extra time to consult with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on steps to safely resume cruises.
The CDC’s no-sail order is set to expire on July 24, and speculation had mounted that some voyages would begin as soon as August. With the extended suspension, the world’s biggest cruise lines will now be going at least six months without U.S. customers.
Navy reverses course, upholds firing of carrier captain in virus outbreak
In a stunning reversal, the Navy has upheld the firing of the aircraft carrier captain who urged faster action to protect his crew from a coronavirus outbreak, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.
The official said the Navy also extended the blame for the ship’s pandemic crisis, delaying the promotion of the one-star admiral who was also onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt — concluding that both men made serious errors in judgment.
The spread of the coronavirus aboard the carrier while on deployment in the Pacific in March exploded into one of the biggest military leadership crises of recent years. More than 1,000 members of the crew eventually became infected, and one sailor died. The ship was sidelined for weeks at Guam but recently returned to duty.
The decision by Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, to hold both Capt. Brett Crozier and his boss, Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, accountable is a confirmation of concerns expressed by top Pentagon officials who demanded a deeper investigation last month when the initial probe recommended Crozier’s reinstatement as the ship’s captain.
Pandemic enters 'new and dangerous' phase, says WHO
Countries may be at differing phases in the pandemic, but the global spread of the novel coronavirus is accelerating overall, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.
“The world is in a new and dangerous phase,” Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual news briefing from Geneva, where the WHO is headquartered. “The virus is still spreading fast, it is still deadly, and most people are still susceptible.”
The world recorded about 150,000 new cases on Thursday, the largest rise yet in a single day, according to the WHO.
UW issues new face-mask policy
The University of Washington on Thursday issued a new face-covering policy that requires masks for students, staff, employees, contractors and visitors on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The policy says face coverings are required to be worn on-site at all three UW campuses when inside and around people, including hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators or outside when unable to stay 6 feet away from others.
For more information, see UW's statement on the policy.
In Netherlands, coronavirus apparently went from people to minks and back to people
The minks on Dutch fur farms first got sick in mid-April, showing symptoms ranging from runny noses to severe respiratory distress.
They had caught the novel coronavirus from human handlers, the government later said, and soon farmed minks appeared to have passed it back to two other people, in the world’s first reports of animal-to-human transmission since the pandemic began.
The Netherlands has since culled more than 500,000 minks from 13 infected fur companies.
The goal of the grim task, set to continue until the farms are virus-free, is to snuff out the possibility of the animals becoming a reservoir for the virus that causes COVID-19, which could stymie efforts to end a pandemic that has killed nearly half a million people worldwide.
With King County now in Phase 2, our restaurant critics discuss how dining out has changed dramatically
Tan doesn't sense any palpable excitement from the public about this new phase. "I don’t get a meet-me-at-the-arbor-at-midnight-on-the-next-full-moon kinda giddiness over more restaurants reopening for dine-in," he said.
They also discussed how chefs and restaurateurs are feeling about Phase 2, and their own conflicted thoughts on dining out again.
Canada closes cross-border Peach Arch park where families reunited
British Columbia has temporarily closed a park where American and Canadian friends and families had been able to reunite despite the closed U.S.-Canada border.
Authorities said Thursday that Peace Arch Provincial Park in Surrey, B.C., had become too crowded, raising concerns about traffic and public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
The park is adjacent to Peace Arch Historical State Park in Washington. Visitors from both sides can cross the border without showing passports or other forms of identification, as long as they remain in the park.
With the border closed to nonessential travel, the park has been one of the only options for separated friends and families to see each other. Some cross-border couples had their weddings there.
But British Columbia officials say parking lots and access roads have been overwhelmed with nearly twice as many vehicles as typical peak summer traffic. Efforts to manage the number of visitors by posting signs, increasing patrols and limiting park hours have fallen short, they said.
Authorities said they would reopen the park when they deem it safe to do so.
American Airlines bans man who refused to wear mask
American Airlines has banned a man who was asked to get off a plane this week because he refused to wear a mask, among the first such incidents since airlines promised this week to step up enforcement of their mask rules.
A spokesman for American said Thursday that the airline decided to ban the man after reviewing the incident, which occurred Wednesday at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
According to the airline, conservative activist Brandon Straka ignored requests by crew members to wear a mask while the plane with 122 passengers prepared to leave for Dallas-Fort Worth. He was ordered off the 172-seat plane and put on a later flight.
On Twitter, Straka posted about the incident, making it sound different and more dramatic than it really was, according to a New York Times reporter who happened to be sitting next to Straka.
American said Straka will be banned until the airline drops its requirement that passengers and crew members wear face coverings to limit spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Airline spokesman Ross Feinstein said, “We expect customers who choose to fly with us to comply with these policies, and if necessary, we will deny future travel for customers who refuse to do so.”
King County moves to second phase of reopening; three more counties move to Phase 3
King County can now ease off a little more from pandemic-related restrictions.
Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman on Friday morning approved King County's application, submitted Monday evening, to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's four-phase Safe Start reopening plan. It is the last county in Western Washington to do so.
Effective immediately, restrictions are relaxed on many King County businesses including restaurants, salons and retail, as well as some recreation and small gatherings.
Public health officials caution that people should continue to stay at least 6 feet apart, wash their hands and wear masks.
Also Friday morning, Wiesman approved Island, Lewis and Mason counties moving to Phase 3.
Inslee’s stay-home order began March 23 and is now being relaxed — gradually, piecemeal — across the state. Three of Washington's 39 counties remain in the first phase, two are in a modified Phase 1 (as King County was before Friday morning), 19 are in Phase 2 and 15 are in Phase 3.
Read the full story here, including more details on what is now allowed in King County and the requirements for counties to move to the next phase.
Decline in new U.S. virus deaths may be temporary reprieve
The number of deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. has fallen in recent weeks to the lowest level since late March, even as states increasingly reopen for business. But scientists are deeply afraid the trend may be about to reverse itself.
“For now, it’s too soon to be reassured that deaths are going down and everything’s OK,” said Dr. Cyrus Shahpar of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent epidemics.
Deaths from COVID-19 across the country are down to about 680 a day, compared with around 960 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The analysis looked at a seven-day rolling average of deaths through Wednesday.
A multitude of reasons are believed to be at play, including the advent of effective treatments and improved efforts at hospitals and nursing homes to prevent infections and save lives.
But there are warning signs.
The number of newly confirmed cases per day has risen from about 21,400 two weeks ago to 23,200, the AP analysis found. And in some states that loosened their stay-at-home restrictions early, daily deaths have been quietly rising since early June, said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered Seattle’s libraries, community centers and playgrounds to remain closed through at least the end of June, as the state yesterday confirmed 408 new COVID-19 cases. (Here's what's open near you, and what isn't.)
A Washington prisoner has died of COVID-19, marking a first for the state. He was incarcerated at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, where 129 cases have been confirmed.
Hang onto your nickels and dimes. The pandemic has created a coin shortage.
Disneyland swings its gates open next month, but its workers aren't feeling the magic. As COVID-19 hospitalizations surge in Orange County, Calif., unions representing about 17,000 employees say reopening isn't safe.
Is it wise to take an Uber or Lyft amid the pandemic? Both companies have added safety measures, but infectious disease specialists are urging plenty of caution.
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