Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, June 3, 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 Washington 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.
In Washington, state health officials confirmed 180 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, as well as five additional deaths. This brings the state’s totals to 22,157 cases and 1,129 deaths, according the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard.
Throughout Wednesday, 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 Tuesday 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 Wednesday.
Malaria drug promoted by Trump did not prevent COVID-19 Infections, study finds
The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine did not prevent COVID-19 in a rigorous study of 821 people who had been exposed to patients infected with the virus, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Canada are reporting Wednesday.
The study was the first controlled clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that President Donald Trump has repeatedly promoted and recently taken himself. Conducted in the United States and Canada, this trial was the first to test whether the drug could prevent illness in people who have been exposed to the coronavirus.
“The take-home message for the general public is that if you’re exposed to someone with COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine is not an effective post-exposure, preventive therapy,” the lead author of the study, Dr. David R. Boulware, from the University of Minnesota, said in an interview.
The results are being published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Greater Seattle-area high schools and families find creative ways to celebrate their 2020 graduates amid coronavirus
Keeping the secret was hard, but Georgina Wigton thought it would be worth it.
Under the cover of night on May 27, Wigton’s front yard was flocked, filled with a fleet of flamingos courtesy of West Seattle-based company Westside Flockers. They stood alongside two signs congratulating her 18-year-old son, Highline High School senior William Stagi, on finishing high school, with one bearing the slogan “The One Where We Were Quarantined.”
After school districts nationwide canceled graduation ceremonies out of caution during the coronavirus pandemic, Wigton is one of many parents of high school graduates who has devised alternative ways to commemorate the milestone moment while abiding by social distancing.
High school graduation is a pivotal moment for any teenager. But as the pandemic closed classrooms across the country and canceled most large public events, the tradition became a potentially hazardous one. An auditorium teeming with supportive family members, some having traveled to support their graduate, would be a pathogenic nightmare.
So now, the class of 2020 sits at home, never to walk across the stage with all their peers at once, their diplomas in the mail.
Oregon loosening virus restrictions for restaurants, pools
Oregon’s phase 2 coronavirus reopening plan will begin as early as Friday and includes loosening current restaurant restrictions, opening pools and expanding outdoor gatherings to 100 people.
Gov. Kate Brown planned a news conference late Wednesday morning with state health leaders to discuss the next steps ease restrictions from her stay-at-home directives.
Thus far, 20 counties in Oregon are under review by the governor’s office to enter phase 2, including Deschutes, Jackson and Lane, according to the state’s reopening dashboard. Currently, gathering limits are set at 25 people. Under phase 2, gatherings will be increased to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, said Gina Zejdlik, Brown’s deputy chief of staff.
Restaurants, which are currently required to close at 10 p.m., will be allowed to stay open until midnight.
Seattle-based American Seafoods to screen 2 more crews after most on third vessel test positive for COVID-19
Seattle-based American Seafoods, after most of the 126-person crew aboard its American Dynasty tested positive for COVID-19, has decided to screen the crews of two additional vessels.
The new round of testing involves the crews of the American Triumph and the Northern Jaeger as they dock in Bellingham, according to a company statement.
“We’re conducting these tests out of an abundance of caution,” said Mikel Durham, the company’s chief executive.
All three of American Seafoods’ vessels had been participating in the Pacific whiting harvest off the Northwest coast with large crews onboard to operate the vessels and equipment that processes and freezes the catch. Their work often entails long hours of close-quarters labor in a season that started last month.
Last week, a crew member of the American Dynasty tested positive and was hospitalized in Bellingham. A subsequent screening of other crew determined that 85 were positive. That vessel has returned to Seattle, and the crew members who tested positive are staying in lodging acquired by King County for COVID-19 patients.
Amazon workers sue over coronavirus allegedly brought home from warehouse
A group of Amazon.com warehouse employees sued the online retail giant, contending its working conditions put not only them at risk of contracting the coronavirus but also their family members, including one who died.
Barbara Chandler, one of three workers who filed a lawsuit Wednesday in New York, says she contracted the virus in March at Amazon’s Staten Island distribution center, where employees “were explicitly or implicitly encouraged to continue attending work and prevented from adequately washing their hands or sanitizing their workstations.”
Within a month, Chandler’s cousin, whom she lived with, died after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the lawsuit says.
The suggestion that working conditions at the facility contributed to a specific third-party death distinguishes Wednesday’s lawsuit from other coronavirus-related complaints filed against Amazon in recent months.
But the plaintiffs are not seeking damages for illness or death. The lawsuit instead is mainly asking for an injunction requiring the company to adhere to public-health guidance.
Watch: Many children in foster care can’t see their parents because of coronavirus. Here’s why it’s a problem.
Before the coronavirus pandemic broke out here, if Washington state took custody of a child, most parents had the right to visit. In fact, recent research reviewed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that the more time children in foster care spend with their parents, the higher the child’s well-being.
But when the pandemic started, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation that allowed the Department of Children, Youth and Families to suspend in-person visitation, one of his measures attempting to slow the spread of coronavirus. Since then, statewide, only about two percent of children in foster care have had in-person visits each week and fewer than half have had virtual visits.
During this episode of Ed Lab Live, public defender Tara Urs talks about how that change has affected families statewide and dispels some misconceptions about why children are removed from their homes.
State officials confirm 22,484 COVID-19 cases in Washington
State health officials confirmed 327 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Wednesday, as well as six additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 22,484 cases and 1,135 deaths, according the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The dashboard reports 3,578 hospitalizations in Washington.
So far, 377,327 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 8,264 positive test results and 573 deaths, accounting for 50.5% of the state's death toll.
Hydroxychloroquine failed to prevent healthy people from getting COVID-19 in trial
Hydroxychloroquine did not prevent healthy people exposed to COVID-19 from getting the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a study being published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study is the first randomized clinical trial that tested the antimalarial drug, touted by President Donald Trump, as a preventive measure. It showed that hydroxychloroquine was no more effective than a placebo — in this case, a vitamin — in protecting people exposed to COVID-19.
“As we say in Tennessee, ‘That dog won’t hunt’ — it didn’t work,” said William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Schaffner, who was not involved in the trial, praised it as “rigorously done.”
The results were the latest development on a highly charged medical and political issue — the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in combating COVID-19. Trump has repeatedly touted the drug as a “game changer” for COVID-19, and recently said he took it for several days. But federal regulators have said it should be used only for hospitalized patients or in clinical trials because of possible side effects, including serious heart-rhythm issues.
Husky basketball legend donates masks to UW Medicine
Former University of Washington basketball player Spencer Hawes on Tuesday donated 25,000 masks to UW Medicine, as the health system reels from financial impacts of COVID-19.
Hawes, who also played for 10 seasons in the NBA (most recently in 2017), told UW Medicine in a promotional video that reading news about a lack of personal protective equipment for hospital workers affected him “like a bell went off” and he wanted to find some way to contribute to health workers’ efforts.
Hawes donated mostly standard surgical masks, which are in demand as UW Medicine hospitals now require everyone interacting with patients to wear a mask.
Hawes, 32, said in the promotional video that the donation will help “make sure that everybody has those and doesn’t have to keep reusing them and putting themselves and others at risk in the process.”
Six counties seek to move to the third phase of Washington’s four-part coronavirus reopening plan
OLYMPIA – Six smaller Washington counties have requested permission to move to the third phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-part coronavirus reopening plan.
The counties – Columbia, Ferry, Lincoln, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Wahkiakum – are the first to ask the state Department of Health (DOH) to advance to the third phase. State health officials must decide whether to give those counties clearance to move forward.
The third phase allows gatherings of up to 50 people, the resumption of nonessential travel, some indoor sports activities, and the reopening of museums, libraries and government offices.
The third phase also allows bars to reopen at up to 25% capacity, movie theaters to resume at 50% capacity and restaurants to expand indoor dining to 75% capacity.
Meanwhile, Snohomish and Pierce counties are looking to move to the second phase, which allows a host of businesses to reopen with protections in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, King County on Wednesday submitted an application to allow some second-phase activities to start up.
A website showing the status of counties and their applications will be updated daily at 2 p.m., according to DOH.
Emergency orders to insurers extended, waiving COVID-19 copays and deductibles for 30 more days
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler on Wednesday extended his emergency order to Washington state health insurers for an additional 30 days, requiring them to waive copays and deductibles for any consumer requiring testing for COVID-19.
In a statement, Kreidler said that insurers must continue to allow a one-time, early refill for prescription drugs and suspend any prior authorization requirement for treatment or testing of COVID-19.
In addition, if a company's insurance does not have enough medical providers in its network to provide testing or treatment for COVID-19, it must allow enrollees to be treated by another provider within a reasonable distance at no additional cost.
“Consumers are rightly concerned about prevention, testing and possible treatment,” Kreidler said in the statement. “My emergency order provides guidance to health insurers and should help reassure the public that we will take all necessary steps to protect them.”
The extension is effective immediately and applies to all state-regulated health insurance plans and short-term limited duration medical plans until July 3, 2020.
King County applies for 'modified Phase 1' to allow limited restaurant dining, barbers, salons and outdoor activities
King County on Wednesday officially asked the state for permission to move forward in reopening its economy to a "modified Phase 1" plan, that would allow limited indoor dining at restaurants, barbers and salons to reopen and outdoor fitness activities to resume.
The application, filed with the state Department of Health, comes as the state's largest county readily admits it does not yet meet all the criteria to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's four-phase reopening plan.
But King County does, according to its application, meet many of those criteria. The county's infection rate has just ticked below the state-set threshold of 25 new cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. There is room in hospitals if there were to be an uptick of patients. And the county, with help from the state, is exceeding its contact tracing goals of contacting nearly every confirmed case of the virus within 24 hours and all their close contacts within 48 hours.
“Our plan to safely reopen our region’s economy is based on the latest data, recommendations by Public Health experts, and insight from communities and businesses,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a prepared statement. “We are ready to take the next careful step toward an equitable recovery that benefits everyone who calls King County home.”
Where the county is still falling short: It's still not testing enough people and it's not testing people quickly enough — there's still a substantial lag between when people report the onset of symptoms and when they get tested.
County officials said they expect state Health Secretary John Wiesman to make a decision on the application by the end of the week.
If he grants approval, modified Phase 1 would allow in-restaurant dining at 25% capacity, one-on-one training at fitness studios, barbers and salons at 25% capacity and small social gatherings, but only outdoors and only with fewer than five people.
Cannon Beach among tourist towns balancing fear, survival in make-or-break summer
As the coronavirus raced across America, Cannon Beach did what would normally be unthinkable for a tourist destination.
Spooked by a deluge of visitors, the tiny Oregon community shooed people from its expansive beaches and shut down hundreds of hotels and vacation rentals overnight. Signs went up announcing that the vacation getaway 80 miles from Portland was closed to tourists — no exceptions.
“It was unprecedented,” said Patrick Nofield, whose hospitality company Escape Lodging owns four hotels in Cannon Beach and abruptly laid off more than 400 employees in March. “We really went into survival mode.”
Now, with summer looming and coronavirus restrictions lifting, the choices facing Cannon Beach are emblematic of those confronting thousands of other small, tourist-dependent towns nationwide that are struggling to balance their residents’ fears of contagion with economic survival. It’s a make-or-break summer in these vacation spots — and the future is still terrifyingly unclear.
“How do you regulate people inundating your town on a day-to-day basis?” Nofield said. “One of the great things about Oregon is our beaches are free to all. We don’t want to take away people’s rights, but how do we manage it and still stay safe? That’s the thing.”
The town reopened on May 15 and its hotels began taking bookings 10 days later, and on a recent warm, sunny day, Cannon Beach appeared to be coming back to life.
Read the story here.
Trump looks elsewhere for GOP convention after spat over N.C. coronavirus protections
President Donald Trump said he is seeking a new state to host this summer’s Republican National Convention after North Carolina refused to guarantee the event could be held in Charlotte without public health restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump announced the news via tweet Tuesday night, complaining that Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., and other officials were not “allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised.”
“Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention,” he wrote.
Some convention business may take place in Charlotte, due to existing obligations. But Trump will not accept renomination in the city, according to one RNC official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump and the RNC had demanded that the August convention be allowed to move forward with a full crowd and that participants would not have to wear face coverings. Those demands raised concerns in a state that is facing an upward trend in its coronavirus cases, with about 29,900 cumulative cases and 900 deaths as of Tuesday. About 700 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, and Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County has been a hot spot, with nearly 100 deaths.
“We have been committed to a safe RNC convention in North Carolina and it’s unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe,” Cooper tweeted in response to Trump’s announcement. “Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority.”
Read the story here.
Italy opens borders in move some neighbors see as premature
Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport sprang back to life Wednesday as Italy opened regional and international borders in the final phase of easing its long coronavirus lockdown, but it was still an open question how other nations would accept Italian visitors.
Families and loved ones separated by the global pandemic could finally reunite but normalcy was a long way off.
Italy is the first European country to fully open its international borders, dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for visitors. But most European nations see Italy’s move — which aims to boost its collapsed yet critical tourism industry — as premature. Many of them are moving to open only on June 15 — and some even much later than that.
Who gets to go where in Europe this summer is shaping up to be determined by where you live, what passport you carry and how hard hit your region has been during the pandemic.
Read the story here.
Wuhan tests nearly 10 million people, finds only 300 infections
The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected late last year, has tested nearly 10 million people in an unprecedented 19-day campaign to check an entire city.
It identified just 300 positive cases, all of whom had no symptoms. The city found no infections among 1,174 close contacts of the people who tested positive, suggesting they were not spreading it easily to others.
That is a potentially encouraging development because of widespread concern that infected people without symptoms could be silent spreaders of the disease.
“It not only makes the people of Wuhan feel at ease, it also increases people’s confidence in all of China,” Feng Zijian, vice director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told state broadcaster CCTV.
Read more here.
Latter-day Rip Van Winkle emerges, blinking, into the post-virus world
On the morning of May 23, Daniel Thorson rejoined society after an absence of 2½ months.
He had spent that time in silent meditation in a cabin in remote northwestern Vermont, where he is part of a Buddhist monastic community. During his 75 days in isolation, his hair had grown out. The last snow of winter had melted, and the trees had budded. Frogs had come out of hibernation and begun peeping.
Thorson, a podcaster and enthusiastic online philosopher, had also missed 75 news cycles. And so, less than two hours after ending his silent retreat, Thorson logged back onto Twitter.
“Did I miss anything?” he wrote.
The last week was a strange one for Thorson, 33, a staff member at the Monastic Academy, as he tried to catch up with the changes that had taken place during his absence.
He learned of Boris Johnson’s hospitalization — and his recovery. He learned that meat packing plants had emerged as pockets of infection and death. He learned that his cousin had met her new love interest on a social-distance dating website. And that there is now such a thing as a Zoom channel devoted to ecstatic dance.
Reengaging — with his mom, with the supermarket, with the internet — was at times intensely pleasurable. Other times it was just intense. He had trouble sleeping.
People wanted to talk to him. They compared him to Rip Van Winkle, the fictional character who falls asleep in the Catskills and wakes up 20 years later to discover that his beard is a foot long and the United States is no longer ruled by the British Crown.
It stunned him to discover that the many and various topics that interested him — global warming, electoral politics, the health care system — had been subsumed by a single topic of conversation: the coronavirus.
“While I was on retreat, there was a collective traumatic emotional experience that I was not a part of,” he said, on the second day back in the world. “To what degree do I have to piece it back together?”
Read the full story here.
36 cases of COVID-19 among inmates, staff at state prison in Franklin County
There are 28 confirmed COVID-19 infections among inmates and eight among staff at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Franklin County, state prison officials said.
That brings the total number of Department of Corrections (DOC) staffers infected with COVID-19 to 49 and the number of inmates to 55, according to DOC.
One staff member, Berisford Anthony Morse, 65, died last month from complications of the disease, according to DOC. His death was the first from the illness involving a state correctional officer. Morse worked at the Monroe Correctional Complex’s minimum-security unit, where 18 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
Coyote Ridge has the most confirmed coronavirus cases among the state's correctional facilities.
— Jim Brunner (@Jim_Brunner) June 3, 2020
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Gov. Jay Inslee has extended his emergency order halting evictions and freezing new rent hikes. He also handed down guidance on reopening libraries and drive-in theaters. Find our handy county-by-county breakdown of what you can do and when.
Seattle Public Schools will soon decide what next fall will look like, and all scenarios involve remote learning. Statewide, a work group yesterday began mapping out how everything from transportation to school lunch could change.
Wuhan, China, has tested nearly 10 million people for coronavirus in an unprecedented campaign to check an entire city. The results are encouraging.
Who’s wearing a mask? Recent surveys suggest that gender, political affiliation and education level all play roles in the answer.
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