Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, June 2, as the day unfolded. To find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic, click here.
As George Floyd protests continue in Seattle and throughout the state, experts and public health officials worry that the first large gatherings since the pandemic was declared could set back the region’s recovery from the novel coronavirus.
In King County, which plans to apply to enter a modified Phase 1 of coronavirus recovery soon, health officials recommend that anyone who attends a group gathering should monitor their health for 14 days afterward. While they encouraged the public to continue staying home whenever possible, several top health officials said they understood the outrage communities of color are feeling and did not ask the public to refrain from attending protests.
Throughout Tuesday, 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 Monday 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 Tuesday.
250,000 people now follow this Fred Hutch scientist on Twitter. We talk to this leading voice of the coronavirus pandemic
Before the pandemic, Trevor Bedford was best known in a small circle of bioinformatics specialists who use rapid genomic analysis to monitor pathogens like the Ebola virus as they evolve and spread.
Bedford and his colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the virus-tracking project called Nextstrain were perfectly positioned to serve as a kind of central, scientific command when the novel coronavirus emerged, documenting the tendrils of contagion that followed air and transit corridors, and noting every mutation and genetic quirk along the way.
What had been a little-known field where computer technology and genetics intersected was suddenly a matter of global urgency.
Bedford’s Twitter feed, which now has nearly 250,000 followers, has become a must-read for infectious disease experts and armchair epidemiologists. Health officials turn to the computational biologist and his colleagues for insight and analysis. When genetic sequencing of the first two cases in Washington state suggested the virus had been spreading silently through the community for six weeks and was poised for exponential growth, Bedford sounded the alarm Feb. 29 — via a long Twitter thread spelling out his reasoning — and helped galvanize the public health response.
Coronavirus outbreak strikes Seattle factory trawler as most of 126 crew tests positive
A Seattle-based factory trawler cut short its fishing season off the Washington coast after 85 of 126 crew tested positive for COVID-19 in screening results obtained Saturday, according to a statement released by vessel operator American Seafoods.
The test results for the FV American Dynasty are a somber finding for the North Pacific fishing industry, which has been trying to keep the novel coronavirus off the ships and out of the shore-based plants that produce much of the nation’s seafood.
The outbreak also underscores the toll coronavirus continues to take on the food processing industry across the nation. In Washington state, outbreaks in meat plants, fruit and vegetable fields and packing facilities prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to order new protections for agricultural and food processing workers.
“Only if there were no signs that they were actively infected or contagious were they cleared to board their vessel,” American Seafoods chief executive Mikel Durham said in a written statement.
Somehow, the virus still found its way on board.
Your right to a jury trial is on hold. Here’s how coronavirus is changing the justice system
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted America’s adversarial system of justice like nothing before it, chipping away at the bedrock guarantee of American jurisprudence — the right to a trial by jury.
There has not been a jury trial in Western Washington — perhaps in the entire state — since early March. While the wheels of justice still turn — some hearings are still held, arraignments and pleas are taken — for the most part they are spinning in place.
The federal courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma have been shuttered by judicial order: Pretrial proceedings are done either by video, telephone or postponed. In the busier state courts, where locking the doors hasn’t been an option, the daily docket call looks very different than it did just four months ago.
Some worry that, as the weeks and cases pile up, the pandemic-caused delays threaten to turn one of our most revered legal maxims into something more like an accusation: Justice delayed is justice denied. In many cases — despite efforts to ease jail populations — there are citizens accused of crimes, innocent until proven guilty, who wait in custody, unsure when their case will ever be heard.
Coronavirus infects famed research lab working on at-home test
For months, researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, a prestigious biomedical research center in Senegal, have been working to produce a low-cost, rapid, at-home test for the coronavirus — the kind that countries across Africa and elsewhere have been most eager to have.
Now the coronavirus has infected a cluster of staff members at the institute, one of whom has died, according to its director, Dr. Amadou Sall. He did not say how many workers had tested positive, but local media reports said it was five.
People they have been in contact with have been isolated and the work is continuing, according to Cheikh Tidiane Diagne, a researcher at the lab.
The center’s work has been crucial in efforts to contain the spread of the virus in West Africa: In the early stages of the outbreak, it trained laboratory staff from more than a dozen countries in how to test for the virus.
Education leaders reckon with reality of reopening school: social distancing on buses, cutting class sizes
Members of the state education department’s new 123-member work group, which recently formed to study school reopening options, met virtually on Tuesday to begin mapping out everything from transportation to school lunch in a world transformed by the novel coronavirus.
The work group is studying scenarios intended to help districts improve how they’ll function next school year. When Gov. Jay Inslee closed school buildings statewide in mid-March, school districts worked independently to devise remote learning plans. But distance learning ended up uneven across the state. Families of students in special education say children aren’t getting services they’re legally entitled to. Homeless students and those from low-income homes are going without basic needs, such as hot meals and mental health support. Young children need extra help from parents to stay on task.
On Tuesday, much of the conversation centered on how reopening plans could best serve these children.
For example, the work group is studying a strategy that would rotate students through school buildings a few days a week. Under this scenario, work group members suggested, children who need extra support could come to school more often than their peers.
Another idea: In-person learning could be phased in, with the youngest learners, and those with extra needs, welcomed back first.
From Chicago to Renton, newspaper disinvestment chains up government watchdogs
Of all the beats covered by The Chicago Tribune, perhaps none has a higher profile than the Cook County courthouse, the scene of real-life dramas like the trial of mob boss Al Capone and TV shows like “The Good Wife” and “Hill Street Blues.”
With 36 felony courtrooms, it is “one of the nation’s busiest courthouses,” brags The Tribune in its web bio of criminal courts reporter Megan Crepeau. She cranks out a story every day during a big trial, sometimes three if there is breaking news on other cases.
But this spring and summer, Tribune readers get no Crepeau for one week every month. She is one of dozens of Tribune employees intermittently idled to help the newspaper’s owners cut costs to stay solvent during the advertising drop-off caused by the pandemic. Colleagues fill in, but they have multiple responsibilities, which raises the question of who is keeping an eye on the judicial branch of government.
But even before the pandemic — which The New York Times calculates has cost 38,000 media workers all or part of their jobs — journalism’s watchdogs were being pulled off their beats by an internal force: disinvestment.
Education Lab en español: Cómo los distritos escolares de Washington tienen éxito y enfrentan los problemas desde el cierre por el coronavirus
Los miércoles, durante una hora y media, en la Escuela Media Franklin del Distrito Escolar Yakima se forma una fila de espera por comida.
Seis filas de automóviles se forman en el estacionamiento de la escuela, dijo la directora Sherry Anderson, y la policía local ayuda a dirigir el tráfico. En cada vehículo, padres y niños esperan recibir una provisión semanal de alimentos, un sustento en medio de una pandemia que afectó a la comunidad industrial y agrícola de Yakima Valley en Washington.
La Escuela Media Franklin es una de las siete que ofrece este servicio en el distrito de 16,400 estudiantes. Yakima distribuyó más comidas que los distritos mucho más grandes, de acuerdo con una encuesta que el estado hizo a sus aproximadamente 300 sistemas escolares durante el cierre.
La encuesta semanal, que pregunta sobre comidas, cuidado infantil, el aprendizaje remoto y la graduación, ofrece una pequeña ventana hacia la manera cómo Yakima y otros distritos tienen éxito y enfrentan los problemas desde que las escuelas cerraron hace seis semanas. Desde que la Oficina del Superintendente de Instrucción Pública (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, OSPI) creó la encuesta en marzo, entre 69 % y 83 % de los distritos respondieron en una semana. Es una de las únicas formas de rendición de cuentas del gobierno estatal en los distritos escolares de Washington en este momento, pero no hay consecuencias por no responderla.
Inslee extends eviction moratorium until Aug. 1
Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday extended a statewide eviction moratorium, intended to shield renters who have lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic from losing their homes.
The moratorium, which Inslee first issued in March and had extended once, had been scheduled to expire this week. It will now run through Aug. 1.
It prohibits, with limited exceptions, residential evictions and late fees on unpaid rent. It also requires landlords to offer residents a repayment plan, to catch up on unpaid rent.
"It is the intent of this order to prevent a potential new devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak," Inslee's proclamation says. "That is, a wave of statewide homelessness that will impact every community in our State."
The new measure also allows rent increases on commercial properties that were agreed upon before Washington’s state of emergency for the virus was first declared Feb. 29.
Concerns mount about two studies on drugs for coronavirus
Concerns are mounting about studies in two influential medical journals on drugs used in people with coronavirus, including one that led multiple countries to stop testing a malaria pill.
The New England Journal of Medicine issued an “ expression of concern ” Tuesday on a study it published May 1 that suggested widely used blood pressure medicines were not raising the risk of death for people with COVID-19.
The study relied on a database with health records from hundreds of hospitals around the world. “Substantive concerns” have been raised about the quality of the information, and the journal has asked the authors to provide evidence it’s reliable, the editors wrote.
The same database by the Chicago company Surgisphere Corp., was used in an observational study of nearly 100,000 patients published in Lancet that tied the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to a higher risk of death in hospitalized patients with the virus. Lancet issued a similar expression of concern about its study on Tuesday, saying it was aware “important scientific questions” had been raised.
New York City contact tracers start, reach out to 600 people
New York City contact tracers hired to contain the spread of the coronavirus reached out to all of the roughly 600 people who tested positive for the virus citywide on Monday, the first day of the program, and succeeded in reaching more than half of them, officials said Tuesday.
“On Day 1 of the program, seeking to reach several hundred people and have what could be an hour conversation with each of them was a tall order,” Dr. Ted Long, the head of the city’s contact tracing program, said at a briefing. Long said the fact that the contact tracers actually got through to more than half of the new cases “shows that the system we’re setting up is working.”
The city has hired 1,700 people for its contact tracing effort and needs to reach 2,500 in order to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s target for entering the first phase of the state’s four-step reopening process. The contact tracers are placing people infected with the virus in hotel rooms if they need to isolate themselves away from their families as well as reaching out to the close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.
State officials confirm 22,157 COVID-19 cases in Washington
State health officials confirmed 180 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Tuesday, as well as five additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 22,157 cases and 1,129 deaths, according the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The dashboard reports 3,543 hospitalizations in Washington.
So far, 368,799 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6% have come back positive.
King County, the state's most populous, has reported 8,177 positive test results and 570 deaths, one of which was confirmed Tuesday, accounting for 50.5% of the state's death toll.
Indonesia cancels pilgrimage to Mecca due to coronavirus
Indonesia’s government has decided not to participate in this year’s hajj pilgrimage to Mecca because of the coronavirus outbreak, an official said Tuesday.
Indonesian Religious Affair Minister Fachrul Razi said Saudi Arabia has not announced it will open the July hajj pilgrimage to other countries, and it is too late to prepare if it does so now. “The government will not send the 2020 hajj pilgrimage,” Razi said.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, normally sends the largest contingent to the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It was expected to send 221,000 pilgrims this year.
Razi said pilgrimages held during past disease outbreaks resulted in tragedies in which tens of thousands of people became victims. “In 1814 for example, when the Thaun outbreak occurred, also in 1837 and 1858 there was an epidemic outbreak, cholera outbreak in 1892 and during the meningitis outbreak in 1987,” he said.
As of Tuesday, the Indonesian government has confirmed 27,549 COVID-19 cases, including 1,663 deaths.
Parisians return to cafes; Latin America sees virus surge
Parisians returned to the City of Light’s beloved sidewalk cafes as lockdown restrictions eased Tuesday, but health experts expressed deep concerns as several Latin American countries opted to reopen their economies despite a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.
The post-lockdown freedom along Paris’ cobbled streets will be tempered by social distancing rules for the city’s once-densely packed cafe tables. Paris City Hall has authorized outside seating areas only, with indoor seating off-limits until June 22. But the tiny tables will have to be spaced at least 1 meter apart, sharply cutting their numbers.
“It’s amazing that we’re finally opening up, but the outside area is just a fraction of the inside space,” said Xavier Denamur, the owner of five popular cafes and bistros. “It’s a start.”
But as Parisians reclaimed the rhythm of city life, health experts warned that virus cases are still rising in Latin America, the world’s latest COVID-19 epicenter.
How you should read coronavirus studies, or any science paper
The National Library of Medicine’s database at the start of June contains over 17,000 published papers about the new coronavirus. A website called bioRxiv, which hosts studies that have yet to go through peer review, contains over 4,000 papers.
In earlier times, few people aside from scientists would have laid eyes on these papers. Months or years after they were written, they’d wind up in printed journals tucked away on a library shelf. But now the world can surf the rising tide of research on the new coronavirus. The vast majority of papers about it can be read for free online.
But just because scientific papers are easier to get hold of doesn’t mean that they are easy to make sense of. Reading them can be a challenge for the layperson, even one with some science education.
Need to know
Which phase of reopening is your county in, and what can you do in the new "modified Phase 1"? Here’s our updated county-by-county breakdown.
In Washington, the wheels of justice are spinning in place. Coronavirus has disrupted Washington's courts like nothing before it, stalling the right to trial by jury since early March. “I am not sure how we come back,” says the judge who shuttered courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma. Meanwhile, threats closed King County Superior Court yesterday, leaving dozens of people jailed since Saturday's protests while they await their first court appearances.
In the race for a vaccine, monkey and ferrets are starting to offer clues. Meanwhile, many people are reading scientific studies these days, trying to glean facts. A science writer who's read tens of thousands of them explains how to do it with a healthy skepticism.
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