Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, June 6as the day unfolded. To find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic, click here.

The Washington State Health Department approved applications from 14 Washington counties — including Pierce and Snohomish counties — on Friday to move to new phases of reopening the economy, which allow restaurants to offer indoor dining at half-capacity. King County has been approved to enter a “modified Phase 1.”

Meanwhile, George Floyd protests have continued for a full week in Seattle and throughout Washington state, and — despite the increased risks of the new coronavirus — local public health professionals and leaders have supported the protests, both tacitly and explicitly. Some experts have begun to voice concerns about the use of tear gas and pepper spray for health reasons, saying tear gas “and other respiratory irritants” could increase the spread of COVID-19.

Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday 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 Saturday.

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Live updates:

Whitman County receives approval to move to third stage of coronavirus reopening plan

Whitman County has been approved to move to the third stage of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-stage coronavirus recovery plan, joining seven other Eastern Washington counties that have received the OK to advance to the next reopening phase.

Phase III of Inslee’s Safe Start Plan allows, among other changes, gatherings of up to 50 people, recreational facilities, such as gyms, to operate at 50% or less capacity, and restaurants up to 75% capacity. Residents can also resume nonessential travel. Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved the county’s reopening stage Saturday.

Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens and Wahkiakum counties were approved to move to the third stage on Friday.

As of midnight Friday, Whitman County had 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

—Paige Cornwell
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Department of Health confirms 23,442 coronavirus cases in Washington

State health officials confirmed 449 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Saturday, as well as four additional deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 23,442 cases and 1,153 deaths, according to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The dashboard reports 3,652 hospitalizations in Washington.

So far, 400,588 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.9% have come back positive.

King County, the state's most populous, has reported 8,417 positive test results and 576 deaths, accounting for 50% of the state's death toll.

—Taylor Blatchford

Coronavirus-driven unemployment rate, touted by Trump, is actually higher; mistakes were made

Yesterday's surprising announcement that the U.S. unemployment rate was at a much lower-than-anticipated 13.3 percent was a mistake, according to the Bureau Labor Statistics.

The jobless report, touted by President Trump as a sign of a roaring comeback by the U.S. economy in the wake of devastating job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, contained a major "error" -- referenced in a footnote in the report -- and that the actually unemployment rate was likely 3 percentage points higher -- or closer to 16.3 percent.

Estella Flores, right, and Maria Mora, left, are reflected in a window as they look for information in front of the closed California State Employment Development Department on May 14 in Canoga Park, Calif. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / TNS)
Report puts jobless rate at 13%, while raising doubts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that puts out the monthly jobs reports, said it was working to fix the problem.

“BLS and the Census Bureau are investigating why this misclassification error continues to occur and are taking additional steps to address the issue,” said a note at the bottom of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Some took this as a sign that President Donald Trump or one of his staffers might have tinkered with the data to make it look better, especially since most forecasters predicted the unemployment rate would be close to 20 percent in May, up from 14.7 percent in April. But economists and former BLS leaders from across the political spectrum strongly dismissed the idea that Trump or anyone else tampered with the data.

Durkan to visit coronavirus testing site in SODO, will be tested for COVID-19

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that Seattle would expand its coronavirus testing facilities to accommodate protesters who have taken to the streets to protest police violence and racism  -- and ignored social distancing guidelines -- and says she'll take the test herself today at a media availability at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing station in the SoDo district.

Durkan has spent a lot of time in recent days in close contact with protesters, law enforcement and others during a time when health officials warn that the coronavirus remains a significant health threat.

Durkan has invited the media to follow the test from the nasal swab taken at the SoDo Testing Facility – a former emissions testing site 3820 6th Avenue South -- to the University of Washington's Virology Lab, where thousands of test kits are analyzed every day.  Durkan will be accompanied by Dr. Alex Greninger,  an assistant professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine.

 

 

 

—Mike Carter
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Mount Rainier NP opens Paradise road, superintendent says parks are 'solace' in times of crisis

Mount Rainier National Park reopened the Nisqually to Paradise Road in the park’s southwestern corner Friday, providing access to the Longmire National Historic District and the town of Paradise.

Superintendent Chip Jenkins said there is also additional access on the park's east side near the White River and Ohanapecosh campgrounds for hiking, however overnight camping isn't yet allowed.   Due to coronavirus restrictions, he said visitor centers, lodging and developed campgrounds will remain closed.

Jenkins said recreation on the Upper Mountain above 10,500 feet in elevation will open on June 19, with additional access later after its safe and if there's adequate staff.

“Throughout history, Americans have looked to their public lands for solace and recreation during times of crisis,” Jenkins said. “We’re pleased that we can now restore access to the popular Longmire and Paradise areas of Mount Rainier for people to be able to recreate responsibly.”

Jenkins said that, as of Friday, these facilities are available:

On the park’s west, trailheads along the entrance road normally accessible this time of year are open, as is the Cougar Rock picnic area and the general store in Longmire. The road at the park’s northwestern (Carbon River) entrance was damaged by winter storms. Visitors can park along the road outside the entrance and walk in. Use caution when passing road damage.

On the park’s east side, Highways 123 and 410 across Cayuse Pass are open, as well as all trailheads along that route. The White River Road is open as far as the White River Campground, with the campground open for trailhead access and day use only. The Ohanapecosh Campground area is open for trailhead access and day use only.

Jenkins said backcountry camping permits are available.

—Mike Carter