Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, June 23, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As cases surge across Washington state — especially in Yakima County, which now has nearly as many COVID-19 cases as the state of Oregon — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday afternoon announced a statewide requirement for almost everyone to wear masks in public.
Several states in the South and the West are seeing more alarming surges in COVID-19 cases, raising fears that the outbreak is spiraling out of control because many Americans refuse to wear masks or keep their distance from others, health officials said. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said Monday the United States has done “too good a job” on virus testing.
Other large countries are also reporting high daily numbers of new coronavirus infections. The situation is “definitely accelerating” in places across the globe, including in South Asia and the Americas, while Africa has a “mixed” situation with numbers “generally on the rise,” Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said Monday.
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.
Airlines, passengers grappling over coronavirus safety policies
Issaquah resident Ashley Musta said her first airline journey since the coronavirus pandemic struck will likely be her last for some time.
Musta, 32, was left unnerved by an Alaska Airlines flight she took from Phoenix to Seattle on Thursday afternoon in which she said social distancing and other coronavirus safety measures were ignored. The plane boarded “like normal,” she said, with first-class and elite-status passengers going first — despite the Seattle-based airline’s new back-to-front boarding policy — resulting in people inching by her as she sat in the sixth row, premium economy, on the aisle.
Once airborne, she added, some passengers refused to abide by the requirement to wear masks when not eating or drinking.
“I would say half of the first-class cabin was not wearing their masks,” Musta said. “People in the rows nearby me were not wearing them, talking with them off.”
Airlines have touted enhanced cleaning and safety measures that include blocking middle-seat sales and eliminating alcohol to encourage social distancing and the use of masks. But rules vary in severity and enforcement; passengers have complained that even airlines with the strictest policies don’t always enforce them.
King County Library System resumes book return — and plans to have curbside pickup in July — at selected locations
Eager to get back to the library? King County Library System announced Tuesday it has resumed book return services at 16 locations and plans a new Curbside to Go service at those locations beginning July 1.
KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum said, in a statement, “While we are not yet able to welcome patrons back inside our buildings, these next steps bring us closer to providing full access to KCLS’ collection, programs and services.”
Book returns, which must be done through the manual book drop, will be accepted Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. through 1 p.m. Because of pandemic concerns, returned books will be quarantined for at least three days before being processed back into the system.
Texas hits 5,000 new cases for first time as virus surges
Rapidly worsening coronavirus numbers in Texas reached bleak new milestones Tuesday as the state surpassed 5,000 new cases in a single day for the first time and hospitalizations again hit record numbers, leading the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S. to begin treating adult patients in Houston.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott stressed that the public “comprehend the magnitude of the challenge” ahead and, in a first since Texas lifted lockdown orders in May, empowered cities and counties to immediately put tighter restrictions on large gatherings.
The move reflected a more urgent tone Abbott is now taking after previously asserting that Texas’ rising numbers raised concerns, but not alarms. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that “the next couple weeks are going to be critical” in Texas and other states that are trying to curtail an alarming spike in new cases.
It was only last weekend that Texas surpassed 4,000 cases in a single day for the first time. On Tuesday, the record shot up to more than 5,400 new cases, and although Texas is testing more people, the rate of people testing positive inched closer to 10 percent — the highest it has been since mid-April, when Texas was still under stay-at-home orders.
Washington firefighters prepare for wildfires amid virus
MOUNT VERNON — Washington state firefighters are preparing for a season of potential summer wildfires while adopting new health safety measures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added a new layer of uncertainty to the work of preparing for wildfire season, The Skagit Valley Herald reported Sunday.
A period of dry spring weather was followed by an onslaught of rain, sending mixed signals about the likelihood for major fires this summer.
The emergence of the coronavirus has meant firefighters also have to rethink how to work without infecting each other.
Play ball! Mariners spring training to start July 1 at T-Mobile Park with 2020 MLB season set
For the first time since Sept. 29, the Mariners’ final game of the 2019 season, baseball will be allowed return to T-Mobile Park, on July 1.
After three months of acrimonious negotiations between Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Players Association that included leaked proposals and counterproposals to the media, released reaction statements from both sides and an earned disgust/distrust from fans, there is finally an “agreement” in place to start the 2020 season.
A unanimous vote by MLB owners Monday to have commissioner Rob Manfred impose a schedule of 60 games based on a previous agreement between MLB and the MLBPA on March 26 — two weeks after baseball shut down due to the spread of the novel coronavirus — basically brought an end to the draining and drawn-out negotiating process.
The final aspect of the baseball’s return came Tuesday when the MLBPA voted to approve the submitted Operating Manual from MLB, which contained safety and health protocols to deal with playing in a time of pandemic and accept a July 1 report date for a shortened version of spring training — 21 days of workouts — in their respective home cities.
GOP wary as Trump pushes new round of stimulus checks
President Donald Trump’s call for another round of stimulus checks to most taxpayers is getting a lukewarm endorsement from his GOP allies on Capitol Hill, but it’s emerging as an early area of potential agreement with Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the next coronavirus bill.
In a fractured Washington, that could be a foundation of a winning coalition as lawmakers inch toward talks on the fifth, and possibly final, coronavirus relief measure before November’s elections.
Trump told an interviewer Monday that he supports another round of direct economic stimulus payments similar to the $1,200 checks issued to most individuals earlier this year.
“Yeah, we are,” Trump told a correspondent for Scripps television stations. “We will be doing another stimulus package. It’ll be very good. It’ll be very generous.”
On Tuesday, neither Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — the lead White House negotiator on the first package — nor Trump’s GOP allies raced to endorse the idea.
Inslee orders face coverings to be worn in public
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a statewide mandate requiring facial coverings in public to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, as cases again begin to rise in Washington.
And for Yakima County — which now has nearly as many COVID-19 cases as the state of Oregon and where healthcare workers are struggling with the surge — Inslee ordered even more stringent requirements to make sure people cover their faces while at businesses.
The new orders — set to take effect Friday — come after King County last month put in place its own requirements to wear facial coverings.
Read the full story here, and watch Inslee's announcement below.
Seattle to close more streets to through traffic, allowing access for people walking, biking
Several more city streets will soon be closed to through traffic and opened to people walking and biking, the latest in a series of changes meant to give people more space to move around during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the changes, Seattle will temporarily close a portion of Lake Washington Boulevard to through traffic for five days.
The change will be in place starting this weekend from Mount Baker Beach at Lake Park Drive South to Seward Park at South Juneau Street. The city may extend that closure into the summer but that hasn’t been determined, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) said.
As people have been urged to keep distance, Seattle has restricted vehicle traffic on so-called Stay Healthy Streets and Keep It Moving streets. Mayor Jenny Durkan announced in May that the city would permanently close 20 miles of streets to through traffic to provide more space for people to walk and bike.
The latest additions include four miles covering the Cedar Park Neighborhood Greenway, Wallingford Neighborhood Greenway, Bell Street between 1st and 5th Avenues and an extension of the previously created Stay Healthy Street through Beacon Hill to South Lucile Street.
Neighborhood greenways are streets where the city had already attempted to slow down traffic to be more friendly to people walking and biking.
Vehicle traffic will also be temporarily restricted near Golden Gardens Park, where the parking lot has been closed during the pandemic, to accommodate people walking and biking. Golden Gardens Drive Northwest through the park will be closed to through traffic until further notice, according to SDOT. Drivers will still be able to access the boat ramp.
The city is still determining where the 20 miles of permanent changes will be located and is taking feedback in an online survey or by email at StayHealthyStreets@Seattle.gov .
State confirms 516 more diagnoses, eight more deaths; positive test rate unchanged
State health officials confirmed 516 new COVID-19 infections in Washington on Tuesday, as well as eight additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 29,386 cases and 1,284 deaths, meaning about 4.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
So far, 487,059 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6% have come back positive. The rate of positive tests in Washington has hovered around 6% in recent days, even as the total number of infections has been climbing.
The state has confirmed 9,366 diagnoses and 604 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for almost half of the state's death toll.
Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo to reopen next week
For parents who have had to keep their kids busy at home for the past four months, the most exciting result of King County entering Phase 2 may be the reopening of Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo.
Like everything else during the pandemic, a trip to the zoo or aquarium this summer will be different from what you’re used to.
Seattle Aquarium is reopening with limited capacity on Monday, June 29. Timed tickets must be reserved in advance (online or by phone).
Woodland Park Zoo is reopening Wednesday, July 1, also with timed tickets and limited capacity.
Read the full story here.
Snohomish County logs largest one-day total of COVID-19 since April
Snohomish County had its largest one-day total of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday since 92 cases were reported on April 9.
The one-day total of 75 cases has county officials cautiously approaching an application to move to Phase 3 of reopening from restrictions put in place on March 23 to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
"We are seeing some troubling trends both at the state level and local level," said Dave Somers, Snohomish County executive, during a press briefing Tuesday morning.
Hospitalizations in Snohomish County remain stable and the infection rate per 100,000 residents is at 24 as of Saturday, said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish County Health District, during the press briefing.
One of the data points the state considers before letting a county move on to the next phase is the rate of infection per 100,000 residents. Gov. Jay Inslee's Safe Start Plan has a target of 25.
Spitters noted that the infection rate for the prior two-week period was 21 per 100,000 residents.
"This is a caution sign for us all," Spitters said.
The increased case count comes as the Snohomish County Health Department is responding to a recent party of about 50 people where one of the attendees was showing symptoms for COVID-19 and later tested positive for the virus. The party was far in excess of Phase 2 restrictions for gatherings that cap such events at 5 people.
The location of the party isn't being revealed because the health department is confident it will be able to contact all the party-goers, Spitters said.
E.U. may bar American travelers as it reopens borders, citing failures on virus
European Union countries rushing to revive their economies and reopen their borders after months of coronavirus restrictions are prepared to block Americans from entering because the United States has failed to control the scourge, according to draft lists of acceptable travelers seen by The New York Times.
That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States, which has more than 2.3 million cases and upward of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country.
European nations are currently haggling over two potential lists of acceptable visitors based on how countries are faring with the coronavirus pandemic. Both include China, as well as developing nations like Uganda, Cuba and Vietnam.
Travelers from the United States and the rest of the world have been excluded from visiting the European Union — with few exceptions mostly for repatriations or “essential travel” —- since mid-March. But a final decision on reopening the borders is expected early next week, before the bloc reopens on July 1.
Kittitas County moves to Phase 3
Kittitas County's request to move to Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan was approved Tuesday by Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman.
A total of three counties are in Phase 1, two counties are in a modified version of Phase 1, 18 counties, including King, are in Phase 2 and 16 counties are in Phase 3.
Kitsap and Thurston counties have applied to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3, and Cowlitz and Walla Walla have applied to move from Phase 2 to a modified version of Phase 3. Benton and Franklin counties have applied to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2, and their applications are currently on pause. The state Department of Health is working with local officials to discuss next steps, the department said in a statement.
Businesses approved to move into a new phase must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in the guidance to reopen.
On May 29, Gov. Jay Inslee, collaborated with the state Department of Health to craft an approach to reopening Washington and modifying social and recreational activities while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19. Washington will move through the phased reopening county by county, allowing for flexibility and local control to address COVID-19 activity geographically.
To advance to the next phase, each county must demonstrate they have adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe.
Seattle Aquarium opens Monday
Ever wanted a nearly crowd-free visit through the Seattle Aquarium? You could get your chance when the facility opens on June 29 at 15% capacity.
Tickets can be purchased for a specific day and entry time, and visitors and members will be asked to only arrive during their reserved time slot.
All visitors, staff and volunteers will be required to wear a mask or face covering that covers the nose and mouth during the duration of the visit, including outdoor exhibits. Exceptions will be made for children under the age of 2 and people who are medically unable to wear one.
All aquarium restrooms will be used as single-person or family-occupancy bathrooms.
For Washington state residents, tickets for adults are $27.95, $17.95 for people aged four through 12 and free for children under 3.
For more information, see the Seattle Aquarium's website.
FDA warns of 9 potentially toxic hand sanitizers with wood alcohol
The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid nine hand sanitizer products manufactured in Mexico because, it said, they may contain methanol, a substance that can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested.
In an advisory dated Friday, the agency said it had tested samples of two products, Lavar Gel and CleanCare No Germ, and found they had 81% and 28% methanol, also known as wood alcohol.
“Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects,” the agency said.
The FDA said Wednesday that it had recommended that the manufacturer, Eskbiochem SA de CV of Mexico, remove its products from the market but that so far the company had not responded.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers of Spokane: 'We're not out of the woods yet'
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious disease expert, is testifying Tuesday in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, along with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, used part of her five minutes in the hearing to ask Dr. Fauci about adjuvants — a product given in conjunction with vaccines to enhance the immune response — and whether they're part of efforts to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. They are.
McMorris Rodgers prefaced her questions by remarking that "we're not out of the woods yet," and expressing gratitude for health care workers.
She also noted her confidence in scientists in the U.S. to develop vaccines and treatments for the virus.
"There's no country in the world that's better equipped" to lead on health innovation than the U.S., she said, asserting that "we can't trust China" to do that.
You can watch the doctors' testimony live here.
Tennis player Novak Djokovic tests positive for coronavirus
Top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic announced Tuesday he and his wife have COVID-19 after he played in a series of exhibition matches he organized in Serbia and Croatia with zero social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Raising questions about the full-fledged return of tennis, including the U.S. Open, planned for August, Djokovic — who stands third in the history of men’s tennis with 17 Grand Slam titles — is the fourth player to test positive for the illness after participating in the matches held in Belgrade and Zadar, Croatia.
The others were three-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki.
“Unfortunately, this virus is still present, and it is a new reality that we are still learning to cope and live with. I am hoping things will ease with time so we can all resume lives the way they were,” Djokovic said in a statement released Tuesday. “I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection. I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone will be fine.”
German region in new lockdown after slaughterhouse outbreak
German authorities slapped new lockdown measures Tuesday on a western region that has seen hundreds of coronavirus infections linked to a slaughterhouse, trying to make sure the cluster doesn’t race into the wider community.
Authorities initially said more than 1,550 people had tested positive for coronavirus at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, but by Tuesday afternoon they said the exact number was still being verified.
Thousands of workers, many of them migrants from Eastern Europe, and family members have been put under a quarantine to try to halt the outbreak.
The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Armin Laschet, said people in Guetersloh and parts of a neighboring county for the next week will face some of the same restrictions that existed across Germany during the early stages of the pandemic in March.
These include limiting the number of people who can meet in public to those from a single household or two people from separate households, Laschet said.
“We will order a lockdown for the whole of Guetersloh county,” he said Tuesday. “The purpose is to calm the situation, to expand testing to establish whether or not the virus has spread beyond the employees of Toennies.”
Pubs, restaurants in England to reopen as virus toll eases
Millions of people in Britain will be able to go to a pub, visit a movie theater, get a haircut or attend a religious service starting July 4, in a major loosening of coronavirus lockdown restrictions. But they will have to wait a bit longer to see a concert, get a tattoo or go to the gym.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday that a swath of businesses can reopen next month, including restaurants, bars, hotels, hairdressers, cinemas and museums. Other businesses, including gyms, pools, spas and tattoo parlors, have to stay shut for now.
The government’s decision will help thaw a British economy that has been in deep freeze for three months under a nationwide lockdown.
Johnson told lawmakers that “our long national hibernation” was coming to an end.
Is it safe to form a COVID-19 ‘support bubble’ with friends?
Yes, if done correctly.
Support bubbles, also known as quarantine pods, may help fend off loneliness and anxiety after months of social distancing. The idea, which originated in New Zealand, calls for two people or households to agree to socialize in person only with each other to limit the risk of infection.
Experts say don’t do it unless everyone agrees to follow social distancing guidelines while outside the bubble.
The latest in sports
Major League Baseball is planning to schedule its shortest season since 1878 after the players’ association rejected a negotiated deal of the same length, putting the sport on track for a combative return to ballfields without fans.
How will high-school sports look this fall? It's likely not all parts of Washington state will be competing equally under new guidelines released yesterday for restarting athletics.
Horse racing is back at Emerald Downs — with a shortened season, no fans and a midweek schedule.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The spikes in U.S. coronavirus cases are raising fears that progress is slipping away as states reopen and many people resist wearing masks. More than 26,000 new cases are being reported per day. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, is delivering a message about this in Congress today.
A Seattle entrepreneur who sold an unauthorized “vaccine” for the novel coronavirus has agreed to settle a lawsuit with Washington state. Johnny Stine's customers will get payouts in the deal.
You should get tested for COVID-19 if you were in a protest, the CDC says. But it can be a challenge to time your test correctly. Here's guidance on whether, when and how to get tested, plus an updated list of Puget Sound-area testing sites.
Black people are nearly four times more likely than white people to be hospitalized with COVID-19, among patients with Medicare, the government said Monday.
Three months after getting COVID-19, Nina Makadia, 38, still can't shake exhaustion, dizziness and gastrointestinal bleeding. Doctors are seeing a growing list of lingering impacts from the full-body assault of the virus.
Saudi Arabia will drastically curb the hajj, effectively barring everyone outside the kingdom from attending the pilgrimage that usually draws millions of Muslims from around the world.
New Mexico's famed hot air balloon festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and ballooning teams from around the world, is grounded this year.
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