Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Monday, March 16, as the events unfolded. Click here to find the latest extended coverage of the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2; the illness it causes, COVID-19; and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world.
Life is different in the Puget Sound region as most people — by choice or by order — practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the new type of coronavirus that causes a disease called COVID-19. Gov. Jay Inslee said late Sunday he would further restrict public gatherings and temporarily close places of entertainment and recreation statewide.
As Washington gains the capacity to test more people for the virus, more COVID-19 diagnoses are made each day. The state Department of Health announced 135 new cases Monday, bringing the state total to 904 cases, including 48 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County, which has seen 488 people fall ill and 43 of them die. A Seattle expert estimates the U.S. could have 10 times as many cases as have been confirmed.
Throughout today, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak 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 afternoon.
UW announces that its Odegaard Undergraduate Library will close Tuesday
The University of Washington announced Monday evening its plan to close its Odegaard Undergraduate Library, which was previously running limited operations due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The library, which is usually open 24/7 most weeknights for students, staff and faculty, will shut its doors starting Tuesday at 5 p.m., according to a statement from UW Libraries.
All UW Seattle-campus libraries will also be closed to the public, with the exception of limited circulation services, the statement said.
"The health and safety of our staff and users are the priority," the statement said. "Supporting adherence to public health recommendations on social distancing is imperative at this time."
Seattle Center Monorail reports 95% drop in ridership over the past weekend
The Seattle Center Monorail announced Monday, after it began implementing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 last week, that it would temporarily close until at least April 6.
Over the weekend, Monorail trains -- which usually take people to work, school and Seattle Center or downtown events -- only carried about 5% of normal expected ridership, according to a statement from Seattle Monorail Services. They usually transport more than 9,000 passengers on a Saturday in March, the statement said, but they saw fewer than 550 this past Saturday.
The closure went into effect Monday at 7 p.m.
"Seattle Monorail Services employees will use this time to complete maintenance and facilities work to prepare for reopening," the statement said.
Gov. Inslee reminds Washingtonians that 'we need to make changes' -- here's what's allowed and what's not
From WSU Cougar mascot to coronavirus vaccine volunteer, Seattle man ‘just wanted to help’
The 45 volunteers for the experimental coronavirus vaccine trial that started Monday at Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle come from all walks of life.
Along with a Microsoft engineer, and an operations manager, there’s Zach Wurtz, aka, “Butch T. Cougar.”
Wurtz, who went to Washington State University from around 2002 to 2007, spent several years as the school’s cougar mascot, pawing at football games and other events, including weddings.
In 2007, Wurtz, now 36 and a Seattle resident, was also the school’s student body president.
“I just wanted to help,” he says. “While I’m not a scientist, this is something I can do.”
Read the full story here.
Seattle government expecting revenue loss of more than $100 million as result of coronavirus
The novel coronavirus pandemic that’s wreaking medical and social havoc in Seattle also could punch a hole of $100 million or more in the city’s budget, forcing leaders to make tough decisions about cuts and emergency funds, a top official said Monday.
Seattle budget director Ben Noble’s team last week estimated the city could collect $110 million less than expected in general-fund tax revenue this year due to an economic breakdown caused by the virus and by efforts to slow its spread, said Noble.
At the same time, some City Council members are adjusting their push to tax large corporations like Amazon, now arguing the money could initially be used to help people slammed by the virus crisis.
Read the full story here.
State Department of Licensing closes driver's license and other service counters starting Tuesday
The state Department of Licensing confirmed Monday that it would temporarily close its driver licensing and other service counters to the public to limit the spread of coronavirus.
The closures will begin Tuesday and last at least until March 23, though department officials said the public should be prepared for an extended closure.
The department said in the Monday statement that it will stop administering vision tests for driver's license applicants, since it doesn't have adequate supplies to clean the machines.
"Additionally, vision exams have a 99.6% pass rate," the statement said. "We believe this move is prudent given the circumstances."
Beginning March 23, more people will be able to renew their driver's license or identification card online, the statement said. The department noted that it temporarily suspended rules that require Washington residents to visit an office to renew every other time and prohibit customers older than 70 years old from renewing online.
Nordstrom to shutter all its stores to limit virus spread
Nordstrom Inc. says it will temporarily close all of its stores for two weeks starting Tuesday as it tries to limit the spread of the new virus.
The Seattle-based upscale chain, which operates 380 stores including 116 department stores, is the latest retailer to announce temporary closures. It joins Nike, Everlane, Apple and Abercrombie & Fitch, among others, in closing its doors. Like many of the other chains, Nordstrom says it will be providing pay for its employees during the period.
Microsoft to close all stores to limit spread of coronavirus
Microsoft said in a Monday letter to the community that, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, it would close all its stores, effective immediately.
"We are closing all Microsoft Store locations to help protect the health and safety of our customers and our employees," the Monday statement said. "During this unprecedented time, the best way we can serve you is to do everything we can to help minimize the risk of the virus spreading."
The Redmond-based tech company promised that employees affected by the outbreak would continue to be paid for their regularly scheduled hours.
According to its website, Microsoft runs two stores in Washington -- one in Seattle's University Village and one in the Bellevue Square Mall -- and more than 70 nationwide.
King County Sheriff's Office announces new safety measures amid virus outbreak, including halting application process for concealed pistol licenses
The King County Sheriff's Office said in a Monday statement it won't process any new concealed pistol license applications, a decision made to increase the social distancing encouraged by public health officials.
The concealed pistol license applications require fingerprinting in close quarters, which the sheriff's office said didn't think was safe for community members or employees at this time.
The office's public-facing service window, located in the King County Courthouse, will also shorten its service hours until further notice, and operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mariners head home from spring facility as MLB pushes back opening day amid coronavirus outbreak
PEORIA, Ariz. — At spring-training facilities in Arizona and Florida, the exodus of players is growing with each day, along with the stark realization that baseball of any sort — besides individual workouts — won’t happen any time soon due to the spread of the novel coronavirus and its illness, COVID-19.
On Monday several players could be seen exiting the Mariners’ facility with multiple bags, loading them into their vehicles and preparing to head home, wherever that may be.
Following the memo sent by Major League Baseball to all 30 teams Sunday — which banned all group workouts and amended policies for players on the 40-man roster, non-roster invitees and minor-league players — many players who at first opted to remain at spring training in hopes of a quick resolution to this problem realized that’s not going to happen.
Read the full story here.
Boeing confirms 11 COVID-19 cases
Boeing, which reported its first case of coronavirus last week, has since confirmed a total of 11 cases.
The cases include:
- 7 in Everett
- 1 in Renton
- 1 in Longacres
- 2 outside Washington State
All were sent home for treatment and co-workers sent home for quarantine. As of Sunday, 339 employees were under quarantine and 87 had been cleared to return to work.
Cargo volumes fall in February due to coronavirus-linked shipping cancellations, worse numbers expected for March
The number of cargo vessels cancelling their normal weekly service in Seattle and Tacoma has almost tripled from last year, as the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to control its spread sent Chinese exports plunging by more than 17% in January and February.
Thirty-two cargo vessels have cancelled their sailings in the first three months of this year, compared to just 12 over the same period last year.
That’s caused international imports to Seattle and Tacoma to fall by 15% compared to last year, according to new data from the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), which manages cargo shipping at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
The full effect of falling Chinese exports, though, might be larger even than those numbers suggest.
Read the full story here.
‘Social distancing is impossible in a preschool’: Child care during coronavirus
Diana Montoya, who has two elementary school-aged sons, is one of the thousands around the state who have been seeking emergency child care since Gov. Jay Inslee announced a mandatory six-week school closure last week, part of Washington’s effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. With libraries, community centers and other communal spaces also closed statewide, and gatherings of 50 or more prohibited, many parents have seen their options dwindle.
Amid the confusion, and while shutting down almost every other industry, Inslee announced Monday that child care facilities will remain open.
“We’re keeping open pharmacies, child care and day care facilities,” Inslee said.
With that guidance and the state’s directive that school districts help set up child care with elementary-school students in mind, child care providers are staying open. But some parents and care providers are concerned that their continuation contradicts Inslee’s and care providers’ guidance for social distancing, which recommends staying 6 feet away from others and having fewer than 10 people in a space.
Read the full story here.
King County will not pursue sales tax for bus service, citing coronavirus outbreak
King County officials no longer plan to pursue a regional sales tax measure to fund bus service this year, as they focus instead on responding to the coronavirus outbreak and its mounting economic repercussions, Metropolitan King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci said Monday.
Balducci told advocates in an email that current events “make a countywide August ballot measure unrealistic at this time.”
Seattle could still push for a city-only tax package, as Mayor Jenny Durkan said last month she planned to do. But the spread of the coronavirus has upended some local government meetings and processes and has already brought major economic uncertainty that could make a tax vote less palatable.
Read the full story here.
State makes $30 million immediately available for counties wanting to expand shelter and fund sanitation
Washington State Department of Commerce (DOC) announced to the state’s counties Monday that they’re making $30 million available for expanding shelters, buying more cleaning supplies or hiring more staff.
The hope is to keep people without homes from clogging the state’s hospital beds, according to Tedd Kelleher, senior managing director of housing assistance for DOC.
“We don’t need them taking up hospital beds if they just need a place to recover,” Kelleher said.
About $10 million of the money comes from the state’s disaster-response account, and the other $20 million was just allocated during this winter’s legislative session -- the state is simply making it readily available, only requiring a brief plan and the sign-off of the local public-health officer.
Right after the announcement Monday afternoon, DOC officials sent contracts ready for signature and announced they’re available 24/7 to counter-sign “in a matter of minutes,” digitally.
Boeing creates app to update employees on company's latest coronavirus news
Boeing employees can download a smartphone app to access at any time the latest info on the coronavirus situation within the factories and across the company.
The Boeing Now app, accessed anywhere from personal devices, does not track employees’ personal data or location.
King County District Court locations to close for three days this week
King County District Court locations will be closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in order to protect the public and court personnel in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, a court spokesman announced in a Monday news release.
People who are booked into county jails in Seattle and Kent during those three days will still appear for probable-cause hearings in the district court located inside the King County Jail in downtown Seattle, but otherwise all court operations will be suspended, the release says.
The closure impacts district courts in Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, Issaquah, Kent, Redmond, Seattle, Shoreline and Vashon Island. A full list of court closures across the state due to the COVID-19 outbreak is available on the Washington Courts website.
Costco employee dies Sunday but it's not clear if causes related to coronavirus, company email says
A Costco Travel employee died Sunday night in their home, but it’s unknown at this point if the cause is related to COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to an email sent to all home office employees Monday afternoon.
The retail company closed one of its buildings, LP2, where travel employees work, after 3:30 p.m. for a deep cleaning “to be cautious and because we lack important details,” according to the email.
The email did not specify whether employees would be required to work from the office the rest of the week.
Costco declined to comment.
Gov. Jay Inslee said late Sunday he would sign an emergency declaration to shut down bars, restaurants and entertainment centers statewide and cap all public gatherings at 50 people.
As recently as 10 a.m. Monday, a Costco Wholesale vice president sent an email to IT workers informing them that employees will continue working from LP1, another Costco building.
“All Membership, International or other IT teams normally working in LP1 who are not already approved to work remotely, should begin to return to the office later today, or as soon as is reasonably possible,” according to an email shared with The Seattle Times.
There have not been any employees or contractors who have tested positive for COVID-19, the vice president wrote in the email, calling contrary reports “rumors” and “misinformation.”
“There was simply a single contractor who had flu like symptoms, and employees were prematurely asked to stay home,” he wrote in the email.
If an employee does appear to be sick, that person should go home, according to the email. His or her work space will be cleaned, “but the office shall remain open and operational.”
Employees with questions were directed to speak with a member of their management team.
Washington state organizes 100 volunteer health care workers to help with short-staffing
Washington state now has a roster of more than 100 emergency volunteer health care workers who can be deployed if hospitals and clinics run short on staff due to the surge in coronavirus cases, a state health official said Monday.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s declaration of the coronavirus pandemic as a state emergency allows the Health Department to ease certain health care licensing requirements, allowing doctors, nurses and other practitioners to work in Washington without an active state license.
The allowance applies to health care practitioners now licensed in other states, or those who have inactive Washington licenses.
The North Face closes all North American locations through at least early April
The North Face announced Monday afternoon that it was closing all its retail stores in North America through at least April 5 in order to reduce community exposure to coronavirus.
All North Face employees impacted by the closures will continue to receive full pay and benefits, according to a statement from the outdoor recreation company.
"Our commitment to community is one of our key values of The North Face, and it has been a challenge thinking through how to continue to foster that community and spirit of exploration while we’re all being asked to practice 'social distancing', stay indoors and limit all unnecessary interaction for the health and safety of ourselves and others," the statement said. "During this difficult time, we encourage you all to reach out to those around you, be kind to one another and embrace our collective humanity."
According to its website, the company has two locations in Seattle — one in downtown and one in University Village. There are also North Face stores in Bellevue, Spokane and Tulalip.
King County Bar Association’s eviction help goes remote, won’t take new clients
The King County Bar Association’s Housing Justice Project, which provides legal aid for people facing eviction, announced it would stop providing in-person consultations at both the Seattle and Kent courthouses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The news comes at a time when COVID-19 has begun to hit people’s paychecks – particularly those of service workers. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed a moratorium on rent-related residential evictions over the weekend, but King County and its other cities have not yet enacted such a ban.
The Housing Justice Project’s Edmund Witter urged King County judges to consider halting eviction hearings, known as unlawful detainer cases, during the outbreak.
“Over the last week, we have had a number of clients come to court feeling ill or choose to default over taking any health risk,” Witter wrote to judges on Monday. “Continuing to have these hearings undermines efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and risks prolonging this crisis.”
During a Monday news conference, Gov. Jay Inslee said officials were "exploring every option to get us through this difficult period" and "[hoped] to have some news" on rent and mortgage relief in coming days.
The bar association is providing information and a hotline number at housingjusticeproject.org and its rental assistance program, Home Base.
‘Try getting it yourselves,’ Trump tells governors seeking ventilators in coronavirus outbreak
President Donald Trump told a group of governors Monday morning that they should not wait for the federal government to fill the growing demand for respirators needed to treat people with coronavirus.
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times. “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
The suggestion surprised some of the governors, who have been scrambling to contain the outbreak and are increasingly looking to the federal government for help with equipment, personnel and financial aid.
Washington State Department of Health reports 135 more COVID-19 cases, totaling 904
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington state jumped to 904 on Monday, an increase of 135 from the day before, according to the latest statistics from the Washington State Department of Health. The total number of deaths increased to 48 statewide, with six new deaths reported in King County.
No other Washington counties reported additional deaths from COVID-19 on Monday.
Immigrant detainees vulnerable to coronavirus file suit seeking release from Tacoma detention center
As immigrants held at the Northwest detention center in Tacoma are cut off from family visits and fear of the novel coronavirus takes hold in a place where social distancing is not an option, nine vulnerable detainees filed suit Monday asking to be released.
The suit is believed to be the first of its kind nationally asking for detainees to be released.
Read the full story here.
First positive test of WWU student confirmed
A woman in her 20s who tested positive for COVID-19 is the first Western Washington University student confirmed to have the illness, university officials announced today.
The positive test, announced Sunday by Whatcom County Health authorities, was one of 19 submitted by staff at the Student Health Center at the 16,000-student Bellingham campus, WWU confirmed. Ten of those students previously tested negative; the university is awaiting results on other tests.
The student lives off campus in Bellingham, but neither WWU nor Whatcom County Health provided further details of her current status. The university, which is in the process of shuffling dormitory space to establish a quarantine area for any future resident students with the illness, is following advice from the Health Department, the release stated.
WWU is on spring break until April 6, when it will reopen with online classes only, under a delayed spring-quarter schedule established last week. A Snohomish County-based worker at a residence hall construction site on campus also tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Three WWU staff members were isolated in the wake of that positive test.
Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood, meanwhile, advised city residents that while all state-ordered mandates on social distancing are being observed, basic services such as utilities and trash collection would proceed as normal.
How intrepid lab sleuths in Seattle ramped up tests as coronavirus closed in
While officials in Washington, D.C., grappled with delays and red tape, two professional virus hunters raced to make thousands of tests available to detect the deadly new coronavirus sweeping the globe, hoping to stem its spread in the U.S.
Dr. Keith Jerome, 56, and Dr. Alex Greninger, 38, of the esteemed University of Washington School of Medicine, have overseen the rollout of more than 4,000 tests, painstaking work that has confirmed the infection in hundreds of patients across the nation.
Their 10,000-square-foot virology lab in Seattle’s picturesque South Lake Union neighborhood was whirring with activity on a recent weekday as medical scientists and clinical lab technicians processed samples from patients in the Northwest and beyond. But the virus also has hit close to home.
Regional real estate group moves to cancel open houses to fight spread of coronavirus
More than 30,000 Western Washington real estate agents have been warned off hosting open houses for the rest of the month to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which coordinates home-buying activity in 23 Washington counties, including King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, Monday afternoon disabled features in its online home listing database that allow brokers to “input, search, or view … open house information,” according to an email sent to agents — eliminating agents’ most effective tool to find and advertise upcoming open houses. The group also removed existing open house listings.
The stock market plunge and coronavirus pandemic have not slowed home sales activity from February’s white-hot market, brokers say.
At open houses over the weekend, some brokers saw hundreds of home shoppers come through the door, potentially posing an obstacle to officially-mandated social distancing measures.
Read the full story here.
Suquamish, Puyallup and Tulalip tribes shutting down casinos to contain spread of coronavirus, more casino closures expected
To protect their people and the public from the coronavirus outbreak, the Suquamish, Puyallup and Tulalip tribes announced Monday afternoon it is closing its casino for two weeks beginning at midnight. More casino closures around Western Washington are expected.
For any tribe, the decision is financially painful. The tribes’ casinos fund crucial tribal government programs, as well as charitable donations to their surrounding communities. From education, health and public safety to cultural programs, courts, elder care, and more.
Tribes already have canceled large events at their casinos, and implemented medical-grade cleaning at their casino properties, which at the most urban venues see thousands of customers daily and employ hundreds of people at every shift. Tribes around the state already had canceled large events at their casino properties, from concerts to poker tournaments.
Read the full story here.
Life Care Center reports 42 residents remain at the facility
All the residents of Life Care Center in Kirkland have been tested for COVID-19 and none were transported to a hospital during the weekend.
The updated numbers were shared at a news conference in front of the facility, which has had 26 residents die of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.
Of the 120 residents who were at the facility as of Feb. 19, 42 remain. Thirty of them have tested positive for the virus, 12 negative and one result is pending.
Of the facility's staff of 180, 46 have tested positive, 24 negative and 24 test results are pending.
There is mounting concern about Life Care's access to new supplies of personal protection equipment, said Tim Killian, a facility spokesperson.
Vendors are telling Life Care administrators that shortages could begin in two to three weeks, Killian said.
"It could become a critical issue for us," he said.
Their wedding was scheduled to be during the coronavirus shutdown. They postponed it — and had a small ceremony, too.
Seattle-based director Megan Griffiths had set a wedding date that landed two weeks into the spread of the novel coronavirus, and just as large gatherings were being limited, air travel was impacted and everyone was being told to stay home and stay safe.So, she and her partner, Ben Camp, got married anyway in an outdoor setting in front of 20 people.
"We just committed to doing it in some way, shape or form and figuring out how to do it without putting anyone at risk, including ourselves,” Griffiths said.
Read the full story here.
6 more people die in King County from COVID-19
Six new deaths from COVID-19 were reported in King County on Monday by health officials. Public Health -- Seattle & King County reported a total of 68 new cases, including the deaths.
There are now 488 confirmed cases in King County, and a total of 43 deaths.
Public health officials said they had confirmed that the following six people who died in recent days had COVID-19: a man in his 80s, who died Sunday; a woman in her 70s, who died Sunday; a man in his 80s, who died Wednesday; a woman in her 50s, who died March 8; a woman in her 70s, who died Saturday; and a woman in her 90s, who died Thursday and was a resident of Redmond Care & Rehab.
Seattle to provide $800 in supermarket vouchers to thousands of families during coronavirus crisis, mayor says
Seattle will provide $800 in vouchers to more than 6,000 families to help them buy food, cleaning supplies and other household goods during the coronavirus pandemic at Safeway supermarkets, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Monday.
The city will spend $5 million on the vouchers, which will be distributed to 6,250 families already enrolled in city-subsidized childcare and food-assistance programs, a Durkan news release said. Each family will receive two $400 vouchers, in installments, through the mail, the release said.
The vouchers will be usable at any Safeway in Washington for food and household goods, not including tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and fuel, according to the release. Families will be required to sign up for free Safeway memberships, the release said.
Several City Council members expressed support for the action in Monday's release. The mayor's office didn't immediately say where the $5 million would come from.
“We know that working families in Seattle are already struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic," Durkan said in a statement, referring to the illness caused by the virus. "As schools and child care facilities close, we need to do everything we can to support families and ensure they can put food on the table."
Read the full story here.
Seattle Restaurant Week canceled as coronavirus prompts shutdown of restaurants, bars
With the growing COVID-19 crisis and Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to temporarily shut down all dine-in restaurants and bars, Seattle Restaurant Week, scheduled for March 29 through April 9, has been canceled.
Seattle Good Business Network, one of the organizations that puts on Restaurant Week, plans to push the promotion back to its already scheduled fall event.
In the meantime, the organization is looking for ways to support Seattle businesses during this time, which is proving to be an enormous economic stress for restaurants.
Seattle Restaurant Week is a biannual, beloved citywide event, with many high-end restaurants offering three-course meals for $35 and two-course lunches for $20.
Read the full story here.
Regal Cinemas closing theaters nationwide due to coronavirus pandemic
Regal Cinemas, the country's second-largest movie theater chain, announced Monday that it will be closing its theaters in response to new guidelines for social gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic. The closure, beginning Tuesday, does not have a definite end date.
Regal is the first major chain to announce closure, but it seems likely that others such as AMC and Cinemark will follow suit.
Puyallup police make light-hearted Twitter request: cease criminal activity and nefarious behavior
Amid the swarm of sobering news and disruptive events of the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state, Puyallup police made a joking "request:"
"Due to local cases of #COVID-19, PPD is asking all criminal activities and nefarious behavior to cease," the police department east of Tacoma tweeted Monday.
"We appreciate your cooperation in halting crime & thank the criminals in advance. We will let you know when you can resume your normal behavior. Until then #washyourhands"
Due to local cases of #COVID-19, PPD is asking all criminal activities and nefarious behavior to cease. We appreciate your cooperation in halting crime & thank the criminals in advance. We will let you know when you can resume your normal behavior. Until then #washyourhands
— Puyallup Police (@PuyallupPD) March 16, 2020
Seattle Police Department closes headquarters and other facilities to public
The Seattle Police Department announced Monday morning it would close front counter services at its headquarters and precinct facilities to the public, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The department hasn't decided when it would reopen its facilities, meaning that in-person requests for police reports and fingerprinting services will be suspended until further notice.
During the closures, SPD said people can request police and collision reports by emailing SPDRequest@seattle.gov, sending a fax to 206-684-5240 or mailing the department at 610 Fifth Ave., PO Box 34986, Seattle WA 98124.
More information about police services during the closures can be found here.
ACLU of Washington 'not objecting' to Gov. Jay Inslee ban on large gatherings
Gov. Jay Inslee's escalating ban on large gatherings in Washington state is drawing no objections from the American Civil Liberties Union.
"We're certainly watching very closely. There is a large amount of discussion going on at the local and national level," said Nancy Talner, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Washington.
But, Talner said: "We're not objecting to any of this stuff happening locally, either county or statewide. I think they've made the case that it's rooted in science and public health."
Talner added government leaders have said they'll be "reevaluating constantly" and ensuring the rules are "the least restrictive necessary" to achieve the goal of saving lives at risk from the coronavirus pandemic.
The local ACLU has in the past filed lawsuits over government limits on large crowds — such as Seattle's "no-protest" zone imposed during the 1999 WTO ministerial conference.
But Talner said the WTO situation was "entirely different — that was not a public health crisis based in public health and science."
Under pressure from coronavirus shopping, Amazon seeks to hire 100K workers, commits to $2 raises for hourly workers
Amazon said Monday that it needs to hire 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders as the coronavirus spreads and keeps more people at home, shopping online.
The online retailer said it will also temporarily raise pay by $2 an hour through the end of April for hourly employees, who work at its warehouses, delivery centers and Whole Foods grocery stores. Hourly workers in the United Kingdom and other European countries will get a similar raise.
Read more about it here.
Ohio governor wants to delay primary, but 3 other states plan to go on
Ohio’s governor wants the state to delay in-person voting for the state’s Tuesday presidential primary for three months to let the coronavirus outbreak subside, but Florida, Illinois and Arizona plan to push ahead.
Gov. Mike DeWine told a news conference Monday that he does not have the power to order the change, but some affected voters will file a lawsuit asking a judge to order it given the danger they would face if they had to go to the polls. He wants the new in-person date set for June 2.
“We should not force them to make that choice,” DeWine said. Absentee balloting would continue during the interim.
Georgia already postponed next week’s primary, and Louisiana has postponed its scheduled April 4 primary.
But Florida, Illinois and Arizona’s governors’ offices said Monday morning they were pushing forward with Tuesday’s voting, even though they are losing polling sites and workers.
Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the State Board of Elections in Illinois, said there’s no process in that state for canceling or postponing the vote.
“This is unprecedented so it’s not clear exactly what the process would be for changing it, though it likely would involve a request to the attorney general to seek a court order,” Dietrich said.
Coronavirus fears spark gun and ammo-buying frenzy
Just as grocery stores have been stripped bare by Americans panicked by coronavirus, guns and ammunition have been flying off the shelves with lines six and eight people deep at the world’s largest gun store in metro Atlanta and a line that stretched down the block at a gun store in Los Angeles.
Retailers across the country say the buying frenzy is being fueled by consumers who are worried that people are becoming so desperate and unpredictable, they need to ensure that they can protect themselves.
“It’s been insane,” said Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, Georgia, adding that his ammunition sales are up more than five times the usual numbers. “This is like a Rod Serling ‘Twilight Zone’ episode.”
Sales spiked in a matter of days, industry experts say. Some of the purchases are made by people buying their first firearm. Others are existing gun owners adding to their collection or stocking up on ammunition after seeing grocery stores depleted, schools closed and big events canceled, including the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting.
Also potentially driving the sales are concerns that elected officials may try to restrict access to firearms. A mayor in Illinois recently signed an executive order that would give her the right to ban the sale of guns or ammunition, as did the mayor of New Orleans.
Specific data on the size of the sales spike will not be available until next month.
Idris Elba says he has coronavirus: ‘no symptoms so far’
LOS ANGELES — Idris Elba says he has tested positive for the coronavirus. The actor tweeted Monday that he has no symptoms so far and has been isolated since Friday when he found out about his possible exposure.
Elba is the latest high profile celebrity to have tested positive for the virus. Last week, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson said they had also tested positively in Australia.
This morning I tested positive for Covid 19. I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing 👊🏾👊🏾 No panic. pic.twitter.com/Lg7HVMZglZ
— Idris Elba (@idriselba) March 16, 2020
Shelter in place, say San Francisco and 5 other Bay Area counties
Six Bay Area counties, including San Francisco, announced Monday a “shelter in place” order for all residents to begin on midnight just as Tuesday begins.
The order directs people to work from home and, unless they provide essential services such as public safety, sanitation and medical services, to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible for the next three weeks as public-health officials desperately try to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus across the region.
The order applies to San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, which have a combined population of nearly 7 million.
The order, which did not immediately include three other Bay Area counties — Sonoma, Solano and Napa — will not expire until at least April 7.
“The most important thing you can do is remain home as much as possible,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed posted on Twitter. “There is no need to rush out for food or supplies, as these stores will remain open."
Effective at midnight, San Francisco will require people to stay home except for essential needs.
Necessary government functions & essential stores will remain open.
These steps are based on the advice of public health experts to slow the spread of #COVID19.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) March 16, 2020
The dramatic step came officials across California took increasingly strident steps to separate people and contain the spread of coronavirus, prompting millions of the state’s oldest and youngest residents to stay home Monday.
Read more about it here.
Washington legislators request protective equipment from federal government
Members of Washington's congressional delegation are urging the federal government to quickly deliver more personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and respirators, saying a shortage may jeopardize the safety of health care workers and emergency personnel fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, wrote a letter also signed by most other members of the state's congressional delegation, asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to release protective gear from the Strategic National Stockpile.
“The lack of PPE [personal protective equipment] endangers the health of people on the frontlines, including local health agencies, health workers, and emergency personnel, and limits their ability to respond to those in need and to efficiently curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. A lack of PPE threatens to further endanger the state’s health care workforce, amplifying the public health crisis in Washington state. For these reasons, it is critical that Washington state have access to sufficient PPE as soon as possible to curtail the spread of COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and U.S. Representatives Adam Smith, D-Bellevue; Rick Larsen, D-Everett; Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Denny Heck, D-Olympia; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; and Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish.
Inslee says day cares and child cares can stay open
Washington state day-care centers can remain open — one of just a few commercial industries allowed to do so — Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday morning.
The announcement came as part of a mandate that bars, restaurants and coffee shops end in-person service. These businesses can offer takeout or delivery service, however.
K-12 schools will also be allowed to find ways to deliver food to students, or find ways for families to pick up food.
Colleges are required to end in-person dining services, though students can pick up grab-and-go food in dining halls.
Inslee issues 'as strong a recommendation as I can possibly make' to stay home
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee urged, in the strongest possible terms, people to stay home and avoid social interactions.
The elderly, who are most at-risk from the virus “need to self-isolate starting right now,” Inslee said, saying it could save dozens or hundreds of lives.
Meeting with friends, wrestling with grandchildren, going to a museum — “You just can’t do that anymore,” Inslee told the state’s senior citizens. “This is not a legal statement from the governor, but it is as strong a recommendation as I can possibly make.”
Read the full story here.
Canada closing borders to non-citizens; Americans exempted
TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he will close the country’s borders to anyone not a citizen, an American or a permanent resident and asked all Canadians to say home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“All Canadians as much as possible should stay home,” Trudeau said said outside his residence, where is self isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus.
Trudeau said his government based its decisions on science and public health recommendations ,but said Americans would exempted despite cases surging in the U.S.
“We recognize that the level of integration of our two economies,” he said.
The U.S. is by far Canada’s largest trading partner — accounting for 75% of the country’s exports. Trudeau has spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump in recent days.
Homeless shelters aren’t affected by shutdown order, county says
Shelters and day centers for homeless services aren’t considered a community or social event by local authorities, and therefore aren’t affected by Gov. Jay Inslee's and King County's orders to close community gatherings, according to a county email forwarded to The Seattle Times on Monday.
“Public Health Seattle-King County is not recommending that homeless service site (sic) close down,” the email said.
Shelters are encouraged to do their best to distance space between clients' beds, mats and cots to six feet.
The governor's spokesperson confirmed the policy via email.
Washington shuts down restaurants and bars to fight coronavirus: “This is bigger than all of us”
Washington leaders on Monday called on residents of the state to avoid any unnecessary interactions over the next two weeks, as the state pulls out nearly every measure at its disposal to stem the growth of the novel coronavirus.
“It is time right now for people to assume that they and everyone they meet has been exposed and is potentially infected,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine at a livestreamed news conference, at which reporters listened in on conference lines, to avoid any physical interaction.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced late Sunday that he would be shutting down bars, restaurants, clubs and gyms statewide and banning all gatherings of more than 50 people. Constantine acted simultaneously to also ban all gatherings smaller than 50 people in the state’s largest county, unless they meet specific criteria for hygiene and social distancing.
“This is bigger than all of us,” Inslee said. “All of us have to recognize for the next several weeks, normal is not in our game plan.”
Coronavirus vaccine test opens with 1st doses in Seattle
U.S. researchers gave the first shot to the first person in a test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday, leading off a worldwide hunt for protection as the pandemic surges.
In giving the shot to a healthy volunteer, scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle begin a first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed after the new virus exploded from China and fanned across the globe.
“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”
The study’s first participant was an operations manager at a small tech company, The Associated Press reported, and three others were in line for the test that will ultimately give 45 volunteers two doses one month apart.
You can read more about it here.
The man with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer just donated them to people in need due to coronavirus
A Tennessee man who became a subject of national scorn after stockpiling 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer donated all of the supplies Sunday just as the Tennessee attorney general’s office began investigating him for price gouging.
On Sunday morning, Matt Colvin, an Amazon seller outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, helped volunteers from a local church load two-thirds of his stockpile of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes into a box truck for the church to distribute to people in need.
Read the full story here.
Puget Sound Energy won’t disconnect gas, electric service during coronavirus crisis, company says
Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has stopped disconnecting service for non-payment, a spokeswoman said.
The Bellevue-based company provides natural gas in Seattle and both gas and electric power elsewhere in the region.
“We understand the hardship local businesses and residents are facing and will not be disconnecting customers at this time,” PSE spokeswoman Janet Kim said. She said the company also is suspending the accrual of late fees.
PSE received approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for a waiver allowing the company to do that “while we continue to assess the impacts of coronavirus on our customers,” Kim said.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced last Tuesday that Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, which provide electric power and water in the city, would suspend shutoffs during the coronavirus crisis.
A customer told The Seattle Times that PSE had shut off her gas service the week before, leaving her home without heat and hot water.
PSE followed Seattle’s lead last Thursday, Kim said.
A post on the company’s website refers to PSE as “a provider of an essential service.” The company “will work with customers on options such as payment plans and choosing a new bill due date,” the post says. PSE also has launched an “energy assistance portal” to improve access to funds for low-income customers.
The coronavirus is forcing many colleges to go online only. But will it work for everyone?
On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee restricted all of the state’s colleges and universities to online-only classes through at least April 24. Universities across the country had already announced similar actions at breathtaking speed: Harvard. Stanford. Penn State.
Even for a technology-rich school like the University of Washington, putting classes online for what’s likely to be at least part of spring quarter is a daunting task.
Research shows that students who are less well-prepared for college don’t do as well online as they do in face-to-face classes. But there are ways to help: by redesigning courses to emphasize interaction, letting students know what it’s like to take a course online, and providing virtual online resources that mimic what’s available on campus. Read the full story here.
As schools close, should kids be getting together for play dates? Official says no
Washington’s top education official, Chris Reykdal, is reminding parents that they shouldn’t get their children together for play dates or parties. Gov. Jay Inslee mandated on Friday that all schools close until at least April 24.
Schools are closed to keep children away from one another as a way to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, the state superintendent of public instruction wrote on Twitter Sunday evening, citing Department of Health advice.
“Do not arrange large playdates, sleepovers, or parties. Take your children to parks and enjoy the outdoors,” he said. With many parents wondering whether school closures mean kids should be learning together, Reykdal's tweet seemed to indicate that they shouldn't.
Washington is among several states that have shuttered schools, though it’s still unclear whether such measures will curb the virus’s spread. Research on transmission and infection in children is slim, though studies on influenza and school closures hint that closing school can lower the number of people infected at the peak of the outbreak.
As coronavirus closes schools, bus drivers, substitutes and other hourly workers worry about pay
As every school in Washington shutters for the next six weeks to slow the spread of coronavirus, thousands of hourly and part-time workers across the state are wondering if they’ll be out of a paycheck for more than a month — or longer.
“I have no income. I cannot get Medicare or Social Security yet, without a considerable reduction in full benefits,” said substitute teacher Mari Leaver said.
Many hourly or part-time workers across the state — including bus drivers, custodians, paraeducators and substitute teachers — have little certainty about their pay and benefits during the school closures that state leaders hinted could last through fall. Read the full story here.
'We could be Italy,' says surgeon general on COVID-19
The U.S. surgeon general said Monday that the United States is about where Italy was two weeks ago in the coronavirus struggle, a sign that infections are expected to rise in America as the government steps up testing and financial markets continue to fall.
“We are at a critical inflection point in this country, people,” Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told Fox News. "When you look at the projections, there’s every chance that we could be Italy.”
Yet he said the U.S. has opportunities to mitigate the public health crisis.
As arts organizations temporarily go dark, here's how to help or get help
The struggle for arts workers — gigging artists, teachers, staffers at arts institutions — is getting worse almost by the hour.
“Those workers are going to have really critical needs and really quickly,” said Kate Becker, creative economy strategist for King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I’m hearing from many, many musicians and artists who aren’t going to make rent on April 1.”
If you are an artist, Becker said, keep track of your financial losses from canceled gigs or other setbacks. Whatever relief packages emerge from this situation, documentation of hardships will come in handy.
For arts patrons and the general public, if you want to help quietly, be generous and don't ask for a refund when an event is canceled.
“If 200 people donated the cost of one ticket right now, that would really help,” said Charly McCreary, co-founder of aerial dance group The Cabiri, which has watched its revenue dry up in the past few weeks, even before social-distancing mandates from the state and county effectively shut down the local arts and culture sector.
'Stealth' transmissions responsible for most COVID-19 cases, researchers report
Undetected cases of COVID-19, many of which were mildly or not at all symptomatic, were largely responsible for the rapid spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, according to new research by scientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
The findings based on a computer model of the outbreak were published online in Science Magazine on Monday.
“The explosion of COVID-19 cases in China was largely driven by individuals with mild, limited, or no symptoms who went undetected,” said co-author Jeffrey Shaman, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School.
“Depending on their contagiousness and numbers, undetected cases can expose a far greater portion of the population to virus than would otherwise occur," he said. "We find for COVID-19 in China these undetected infected individuals are numerous and contagious. These stealth transmissions will continue to present a major challenge to the containment of this outbreak going forward."
Modeling study suggests stealth transmission of SARS-CoV2 due to a high number of contagious, undocumented infections supported rapid geographic spread of #coronavirus outbreak in China. https://t.co/KoVPQ38nX5 pic.twitter.com/TVA9gJmn1o
— Science Magazine (@ScienceMagazine) March 16, 2020
Among the researchers' findings:
- Some 86 percent of all infections were undocumented prior to January 23, when travel was shut down in Wuhan, China.
- Though these undocumented infections were only half as contagious as documented infections, they were ultimately the source of two-thirds of documented infections.
- The infection spread less quickly once travel restrictions and control measures were imposed in China.
Don't go to doctor even if sick, CDC now saying
Experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are advising people who are mildly sick with what might be COVID-19 to call a doctor about the symptoms but stay home. That’s because of the scarcity of tests for the novel coronavirus, even in the Seattle area, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak.
Knowing the symptoms of COVID-19 is important, but medical providers say they need to save tests and treatment right now for the sickest of the sick. They also say a trip to a clinic or hospital could be dangerous because of possibly getting exposed to the virus or spreading it.
If you develop a fever, cough and shortness of breath, the CDC says, call your doctor. Get immediate help if you have “emergency warning signs” such as trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion or bluish lips or face.
But numerous Seattle-area residents have said they’ve called their health care provider with those symptoms and been told to stay home, isolate and come back only if they get worse.
The CDC recommends that if your symptoms aren’t in one of the danger categories, you should stay home and set up a network of people who can help you, along with a backup in case your helpers get sick, too.
As of Monday, CDC officials recommend the following steps for people who think they are sick:
Stay home. Do not go to work, school or public areas.
Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis.
Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
Stay away from others. As much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom if possible.
If possible, have another person feed your pets.
People who feel sick and want to be tested should call — not show up to — their doctor, said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin of Public Health — Seattle & King County. For those who don’t have a regular doctor, Duchin suggested calling — not visiting — a hospital or emergency room.
AMC Theaters limits screenings to 50 people in effort to stay open
AMC Theaters, the largest movie chain in North America, will limit attendance at all screenings to 50 people to adhere to the CDC’s latest social distancing guidelines.
Cinemas in New York City and Los Angeles on Sunday were order closed by the city’s respective mayors and in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee temporarily shuttered bars and restaurants and places of entertainment and recreation statewide.
But the largest movie theater chains in North America — AMC, Regal Cinemas, Cinemark — have tried to keep their doors open. Over the weekend, the chains began to limit theater capacity to 50%. They have pledged to thoroughly clean theaters in between showings.
AMC said in any theaters smaller than 100 seats, it wouldn’t fill them more than half. Regal and Cinemark didn’t immediately respond to messages Monday.
Sunny, beautiful weather is here this week
If self-isolating or social-distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus has been stressful, you can get a much-needed mental-health boost by getting some sunshine, exercise and fresh air — as long as you stay away from others.
Kitsap Transit reduces passenger loads on ferries
Kitsap Transit’s foot ferries and fast ferries will carry fewer passengers than usual in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday evening announcement that he would bar public gatherings of 50 or more people.
Each sailing will now carry a maximum of 46 passengers. Fast ferry boats typically seat between 118 and 240 passengers.
The emergency policy will be in place “until further notice,” the agency said.
Riders with reservations on the Bremerton route will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, Kitsap Transit said, so not everyone with a reservation is guaranteed a spot.
On the Kingston route, people who ride a Kitsap Transit bus to the ferry terminal will get priority boarding, the agency said.
Kitsap Transit said it would continue to disinfect its ferries “at the end of each shift daily” and apologized for the inconvenience.
Stocks nosedive on Wall Street, triggering trading halt
NEW YORK — Stocks dropped 8% in the first minutes of trading Monday on Wall Street and triggered another temporary halt to trading as huge swaths of the economy come closer to shutting down, from airlines to restaurants. Emergency actions taken by the Federal Reserve late Sunday to prop up the economy and get financial markets running smoothly again may have raised fears even further, some investors said.
The selling was just as aggressive in markets around the world. European stocks and crude oil were both down close to 10%. The world’s brightest spot may have been Japan, where the central bank announced more stimulus for the economy, and stocks still lost 2.5%.
The spreading coronavirus is causing businesses around the world to shut their doors, which is draining away revenue. That has economists slashing their expectations for upcoming months, and JPMorgan Chase says the U.S. economy may shrink at a 2% annual rate this quarter and 3% in the April-through-June quarter. To many investors, that meets the definition of a recession.
This is the first weekday without school for many children and teachers. Here are some helpful resources, from finding food and childcare to keeping kids' brains engaged.
Beware of coronavirus scams like these fake testing kits. And sorry, there is no such thing as anti-coronavirus toothpaste. Some "precautions" are pointless, maybe even dangerous. Here are five debunked myths about the virus.
Are you struggling to get refunds on travel? Travel Troubleshooter has some advice for you.
People in 12-step groups are finding new ways to stay connected as meetings get canceled.
Catch up on what happened over the weekend
Washington state shuts all restaurants and bars: Gov. Jay Inslee's declaration today will close restaurants' doors to customers, allowing only takeout and delivery. It also caps all public gatherings at 50 people to slow the spread of the virus. And King County officials are ordering a halt to operations at businesses ranging from fitness clubs to dance halls. Here's what will change in our daily lives.
How big will the outbreak get? State officials facing agonizing decisions are leaning on Bellevue researchers who are "building the plane as we're flying it." Their models show how a small delay in action can produce terrible consequences, but they also provide some reasons to be hopeful.
An ER doctor at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland is in critical condition with COVID-19.
"There is plenty of food in the country." Just not on your local store shelves, maybe, as fearful Americans stockpile food at an unprecedented rate. The nation's biggest retailers, farmers and meat producers are talking about what's happening and what you can expect.
The people who weren't emptying store shelves this weekend were ordering groceries on Amazon, and the overload of deliveries created a big mess.
The Federal Reserve took massive emergency action Sunday to try to help the economy withstand the coronavirus. Among its steps: slashing the benchmark interest rate to near zero.
COVID-19 claimed a life in rural Washington, and now the small, heartbroken community of Quincy is preparing for what could come next.
Seattle is not empty, but it is eerie. Looking at these photos is a bit like peering into an alternate universe.
The emergency calls started stacking up, and in a matter of hours, Kirkland found itself at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. This is the story of how the city and its residents responded to their head-spinning new reality.
Three major Northwest ski areas have suspended operations.
Most dancers smiled gamely, but several wiped away tears. A ballet that (almost) nobody saw faded away, quietly and beautifully, as the curtain went down. Moira Macdonald writes about what it's like to watch a Pacific Northwest Ballet performance in a nearly empty McCaw Hall. Here are a few ways you can help artists, musicians and other arts-and-culture workers get through this crisis.
Putting all college classes online is daunting, even for a tech-rich place like UW. Local professors and students alike are learning how to build a better online classroom.
How is the pandemic affecting you?What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.
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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