Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, June 8, as the day unfolded. Click here to see updates from Tuesday, June 9. To find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic, click here.
Health experts warn that tear gas and pepper spray could make respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 spread more easily by inducing coughs, sneezes and irritation. Despite these admonitions, Seattle Police again used both to disperse crowds of protesters on Capitol Hill late Sunday night and early Monday morning. (Follow live protest updates here.)
Counties around Washington state are confirming they likely missed some early deaths from undiagnosed novel coronavirus disease. Although retrospective testing elsewhere has set back the timeline for its spread in the country, medical examiners and coroners’ offices here in Washington have had limited ability to do the same, and counties have prioritized using resources to detect and contain current outbreaks.
State health officials confirmed 287 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Sunday, as well as six additional deaths. The update brings the state’s totals to 23,729 cases and 1,159 deaths, according to the state Department of Health’s data dashboard. The dashboard reports 3,669 hospitalizations in Washington.
Throughout Monday, 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 Sunday 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 Monday.
All but one coronavirus test at Northwest detention center come back negative
For months, immigrant advocates have feared the novel coronavirus was silently spreading at the Northwest detention center. The results of court-ordered testing have now come back, and all but one of 45o were negative, according to a Monday filing by federal authorities.
Not everyone was tested at the Tacoma facility because 111 detainees declined to give their consent, according to the filing.
The person who tested positive, who arrived at the detention center May 29, was initially held with one other detainee in a unit reserved for new arrivals and was transferred, after the positive test result, to a medical isolation unit. The detainee exposed to that person tested negative for COVID-19 but will still be held alone in a cell and under medical observation for 14 more days.
The findings appear to be a validation for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which faces a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of vulnerable detainees seeking release.
For many Seattle-area small businesses, recent looting damage only adds to challenges of reopening
When looters broke into the Simply Seattle shop near Pike Place Market two weekends ago, owner Jamie Munson tried to take the long view.
None of his employees had been hurt. Insurance was likely to help with broken windows and smashed cash registers. And while the damage meant he couldn’t open the shop last Friday, when King County allowed retailers and others to partly reopen, Munson doubts the delay will matter much, given the heavy restrictions and tough economic climate businesses will probably face for months.
That sort of weary pragmatism seems common among the scores of Seattle-area businesses swept up in the incidents of destruction that followed recent protests over police violence.
By latest count, vandals and looters struck more than 100 stores, restaurants, and other businesses in Seattle’s downtown, Belltown, Capitol Hill, and Chinatown-International District neighborhoods, according to the Downtown Seattle Association.
Aside from the looting and vandalism, area businesses faced unprecedented challenges in recovering from COVID-19.
Crush of COVID-19 cases from Mexico continues to overwhelm hospitals in California
EL CENTRO, Calif. — The tiny El Centro Regional Medical Center has seen spikes in emergency department visits here and there — a bad flu season, injured off-road vehicle drivers, overheated farmworkers. But they've always been able to manage.
Then came COVID-19.
The hospital, which has a 20-bed intensive-care unit, has been overwhelmed with ailing residents of the Imperial Valley, as well as Americans and U.S. green card holders fleeing overcrowded clinics and hospitals in Mexicali, a city of 1.1 million on the other side of the border.
To alleviate the pressure, hospitals in nearby San Diego and Riverside counties began accepting transfers in April. But the intensifying crisis prompted California last week to activate an extraordinary response, enlisting hospitals as far north as Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Sacramento to accept patients from this remote southeastern corner of the state.
The swelling numbers of COVID-19 patients entering the United States from Mexico comes as many parts of California have pushed down their infection rates, enabling many counties to lift stay-at-home restrictions and reopen businesses.
Tear gas, pepper spray and virus spread
Police departments have used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters in recent weeks, raising concern that the chemical agents could increase the spread of the coronavirus.
The chemicals are designed to irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat. They make people cough, sneeze and pull off their masks as they try to breathe.
Medical experts say those rushing to help people sprayed by tear gas could come into close contact with someone already infected with the virus who is coughing infectious particles. Also, those not already infected could be in more danger of getting sick because of irritation to their respiratory tracts.
GOP lawmakers push bill to keep Trump, RNC in North Carolina without some coronavirus restrictions
RALEIGH, N.C. — Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are planning to vote this week on a measure that would allow President Donald Trump to speak in front of a packed Republican National Convention without some of the restrictions officials have required elsewhere to stop the coronavirus.
The first vote, which could be held as early as Tuesday, will largely be a symbolic one, given the measure will almost assuredly be rejected by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republicans will be unlikely to have the votes to override his veto.
During a Monday news conference, the governor called the proposal “irresponsible” and suggested state lawmakers do not have a role in the decision-making process.
A U.S. recession began in February in the face of coronavirus
WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy entered a recession in February as the coronavirus struck the nation, a group of economists declared Monday, ending the longest expansion on record.
The economists said that employment, income and spending peaked in February and then fell sharply afterward as the viral outbreak shut down businesses across the country, marking the start of the downturn after nearly 11 full years of economic growth.
A committee within the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private nonprofit group, determines when recessions begin and end. It broadly defines a recession as “a decline in economic activity that lasts more than a few months.”
For that reason, the NBER typically waits longer before making a determination that the economy is in a downturn. In the previous recession, the committee did not declare that the economy was in recession until December 2008, a year after it had actually begun. But in this case, the NBER said the collapse in employment and incomes was so steep that it could much more quickly make a determination.
Lawsuit filed over Washington’s emergency farm worker housing rules
KENNEWICK — A Washington labor union for farm workers has sued two state agencies, asking a Thurston County Superior Court judge to strike down emergency rules on temporary housing.
Union president Ramon Torres says the rules do not protect farm workers who live in dormitory-style housing during the harvest season.
The Tri-City Herald reports the lawsuit was filed last week by the union Familias Unidas por la Justicia because of fears sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.
DOH confirms 312 more coronavirus cases in Washington, bringing state total to 24,041
State health officials confirmed 312 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Monday, as well as two additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 24,041 cases and 1,161 deaths, according to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The dashboard reports 3,699 people hospitalized in Washington.
So far, 410,290 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 8,496 positive test results and 579 deaths, accounting for 49.9% of the state's death toll.
As business trickles back, hotels compete on cleanliness
Marriott, Hilton and other big hotel companies are used to competing on price or perks. Now, they're competing on cleanliness.
From masked clerks at the front desk to shuttered buffets, hotels are making visible changes in the wake of the pandemic. Signage will tout new cleaning regimens: Red Roof Inns promise “RediClean,” while Hilton boasts of “CleanStay with Lysol.”
Hotels are still mostly empty; in the U.S., occupancy stood at 37% the week ending May 30, down 43% from the same period a year ago, according to STR, a data and consulting firm. But leisure travel is starting to pick up, and hotels see cleaning standards as a way to soothe jittery guests — and possibly win back business from rivals like home-sharing companies like Airbnb.
U.S. approval of Chinese manufacturer's masks means Washington’s and California’s orders for millions are a go
A U.S. federal agency approved a new highly sought-after respirator mask made by Chinese automotive conglomerate BYD Co., paving the way for Washington and other states to complete orders totaling hundreds of millions of dollars and distribute the masks.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved BYD’s application for the N95 mask on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the federal agency told The Seattle Times on Monday.
The masks, which are designed to filter out tiny airborne particles, have been in high demand globally to protect against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Washington state’s Department of Enterprise Services (DES) had ordered 55 million of the N95 masks for $178 million but has been waiting for federal approval to complete the orders.
The scarcity of N95 masks early in the pandemic prompted Washington and other states to initially order a Chinese alternative known as the KN95, but officials later canceled orders due to problems with quality and fit.
Columbia City Farmers Market to reopen Wednesday
The Columbia City Farmers Market will be open Wednesday, for the first time since it shut down in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Seattle's year-round neighborhood farmers markets shut down as social-distancing measures ramped up in March and have been slowly reopening since then.
The market, on 35th Avenue South, will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. There will be only one entrance, and shoppers are encouraged to wear masks and keep 6 feet of distance.
Scenes from a world beginning to reopen
It's not just the protests.
Across the country and around the world, people are slowly beginning to move away from social distancing. Economies are starting to reopen and people are inching back toward their normal routines.
In Barcelona, Spain, above, teachers tried to prevent elementary school students from hugging on their first day back.
WHO: spread of new coronavirus by people without symptoms is rare
Researchers are still trying to figure out a great many things about the new coronavirus, including how easily it is spread by people showing no, or mild symptoms of COVID-19.
The World Health Organization believes the transmission by asymptomatic people of SARS-CoV-2 is rare, but that the issue needs more study.
The WHO's position is based on data from countries doing extensive contact tracing investigations and is finding that asymptomatic people are not widely spreading the disease, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, at a press briefing Monday.
When questioned in more detail about these cases, Van Kerkhove said many of them turn out to have mild disease or unusual symptoms.
“We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question,” she said. “It still appears to be rare that asymptomatic individuals actually transmit onward.”
Kerkhove's comments come despite warnings from numerous experts worldwide that such transmission is more frequent and likely explains why the pandemic has been so hard to contain.
Although health officials in countries including Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere have warned that COVID-19 is spreading from people without symptoms, WHO has maintained that this type of spread is not a driver of the pandemic and is probably accounts for about 6% of spread, at most. Numerous studies have suggested that the virus is spreading from people without symptoms, but many of those are either anecdotal reports or based on modeling.
Canada slightly eases border restriction, allows immediate family in
Canada is slightly easing border restrictions enacted due to the coronavirus pandemic and will allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to come to the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday.
Trudeau stressed anyone entering the country will be required to quarantine for 14 days or face serious penalties.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the limited exception will apply to spouses, common law partners, dependent children, parents and legal guardians. He said they will have have to stay in Canada for at least 15 days.
Canada had allowed only Canadians and permanent residents into the country under a border closure to nonessential travel imposed in March.
Hospitals got bailouts and furloughed thousands while paying CEOs millions
HCA Healthcare is one of the world’s wealthiest hospital chains. It earned more than $7 billion in profits over the last two years. It is worth $36 billion. It paid its chief executive $26 million in 2019.
But as the coronavirus swept the country, employees at HCA repeatedly complained that the company was not providing adequate protective gear to nurses, medical technicians and cleaning staff. Last month, HCA executives warned that they would lay off thousands of nurses if they did not agree to wage freezes and other concessions.
A few weeks earlier, HCA had received about $1 billion in bailout funds from the federal government, part of an effort to stabilize hospitals during the pandemic.
HCA is among a long list of deep-pocketed health care companies that have received billions of dollars in taxpayer funds but are laying off or cutting the pay of tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and lower-paid workers. Many have continued to pay their top executives millions, although some executives have taken modest pay cuts.
Shutdowns prevented 60 million infections, study finds
Shutdown orders meant to blunt the spread of the novel coronavirus were largely successful, according to two new studies.
The measures prevented about 60 million infections in the United States and 285 million in China, according to a study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.
A separate study from epidemiologists at Imperial College London estimated that the shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives in 11 European countries, including 500,000 in the United Kingdom, and dropped infection rates by an average of 82%, sufficient to drive the contagion well below epidemic levels.
The reports, both published Monday in the journal Nature, provide fresh evidence that aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns, which caused massive economic disruptions and job losses, were necessary to halt the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus.
New Zealand is COVID-19 free while cases continue to mount in the U.S.
Cities, counties and states continue to reopen even as the new coronavirus shows no signs of slowing down in many regions of the country.
A Washington Post analysis shows that 23 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are showing an increase in the rolling seven-day average of coronavirus cases compared to the previous week.
A recent Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing document tracking how many days in a row a state records a decline in new daily coronavirus cases shows that 13 states — Washington, Arizona, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin — had not shown a sustained daily decrease as of Tuesday, according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.
The continued transmission of the virus has decreased in New York and New Jersey, two states hit hard early on during the pandemic, it is still putting enormous pressure on the health care systems in some states. Hospitals in Arizona and Mississippi are struggling with a crush of COVID-19 patients.
As many regions in the U.S. continue to reopen and the nation still struggles with the virus, New Zealand appears to be free of COVID-19 infections. The country's last known person to be infected has recovered.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was confident New Zealand had halted the spread of the virus but it still must be prepared for more.
"We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say that again, we will almost certainly see cases here again, and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs we have to make sure — and we are — that we are prepared," she said at a news conference.
'Cruise ships on land': As Las Vegas opens, a huge test for casinos
As Nevada embarks on one of the most epidemiologically complex reopening experiments in the nation, Gov. Steve Sisolak said he is confident that “every precaution possible” has been taken to ensure that the famed resorts can both serve guests and protect public health. Dealers and players are separated by Plexiglas, dice are doused in sanitizer after every throw, and guests, encouraged though not required to wear masks, are subject to mandatory temperature checks.
“I don’t think you’ll find a safer place than Las Vegas,” the governor said during a recent call with reporters. But he added that he is closely tracking the state’s case numbers and will “pull back if it causes any type of problem.”
While the contact-tracing challenges faced by Las Vegas are extreme, they highlight larger national systemic problems.
What's happening with COVID-19 around the world
New York City: The United States' largest city faces a big test today as up to 400,000 people flood back to work and residents confront a new normal.
Florida: Nudist resorts are reopening with clothes off and masks on.
New Zealand: The prime minister did a happy dance as the virus apparently vanished.
South Africa: The president says he's worried as Africa’s most developed economy sees a steep rise in infections.
Moldova: The country -- one of Europe's poorest, plagued by corruption and political turmoil -- registered a record number of new cases in the first week of June, prompting a former health minister to describe the situation as "out of control."
Britain: Travelers are now subject to a 14-day quarantine, prompting critics in the aviation and tourism industries to say the move -- which comes months after other European countries imposed similar measures -- has been introduced too late to be useful and can't be effectively enforced.
India: With shopping malls, places of worship, restaurants and state borders reopening Monday, some of the last vestiges of India’s 10-week-long coronavirus lockdown disappeared even as the country reported its highest single-day death toll and experts said things would get worse.
Poll: Pandemic does little to alter U.S. views on health care
The coronavirus pushed hospitals to the edge, and millions of workers lost job-based coverage in the economic shutdown to slow the spread, but a new poll suggests Americans have remarkably little interest in big changes to health care as a result of the pandemic.
People are still more likely to prefer the private sector than the government on driving innovation in health care, improving quality and, by a narrower margin, providing coverage, according to the survey by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Those views are basically unchanged since February, when an earlier edition of the AP-NORC poll asked the same questions at a time that the coronavirus was still largely seen as a problem in other countries, not the United States.
Still stepping up: These Seattle-area residents continue to help
During the pandemic, we've been publishing a periodic series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times.
Many of the folks we've profiled have continued that work, so we wanted to check in with them.
Here are some updates on Stepping Up subjects you might have read about over the past couple of months, from a sculptor who's feeding the hungry to refugee artists who've expanded their operation churning out face shields and masks.
Quarantine Corner: Things you can do while keeping a healthy distance
Need fresh air? Seattle outdoors folk suggest 17 hikes around Western Washington, without the crowds. (Just don't all go to one of them, dear readers!)
Escape someplace new: As coronavirus keeps many of us from traveling far, these six new paperbacks will do the trick.
Make fondue, or build a newspaper fort: The Weekly Wonder offers five ways for kids to escape boredom.
Giving birth with COVID-19
Tina Jander found out she had the novel coronavirus the day before her baby was born. Everything changed as she plunged into uncharted waters without her husband in the room.
How did it go? "Even with COVID, welcoming a baby is an amazing experience."
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington's $37 million push to buy Chinese-made masks slammed up against delays, poor quality and fit problems. The state canceled more than half the orders as medical workers donned homemade masks instead. Read the Times Watchdog story.
Seattle-area wallets opened and philanthropic giving shot up when the coronavirus hit. Will it fade like it did during the last recession?
What to expect at the airport: You'll see differences at the security gate, and more dramatic changes are on the way. As airports worry about suddenly getting too crowded for coronavirus comfort, a robotic helper is scuttling around one to ease those fears.
If you need to let a repair person into your home, take a few steps to ensure a healthy visit, and be ready to ask a series of questions.
Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.
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