Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Tuesday, March 17, as the events unfolded. Click here to see updates for Wednesday, March 18. And 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. He made the order official Monday morning.

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 108 new cases Tuesday, bringing the state total to 1,012 cases, including 55 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County, which has seen 518 people fall ill and 46 of them die, according to the county’s public health department. A Seattle-based 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 Monday 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 Tuesday afternoon. 


Live updates:

Surge of coronavirus patients expected as officials marshal emergency supplies, health workers test positive

Expecting a surge of patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, state and federal officials are trying to marshal emergency resources and supplies to Washington state.

The state could soon have up to 1,000 additional emergency hospital beds supplied by the federal government, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday afternoon. State officials also are trying to stock up on essential medical gear like masks, gloves and ventilators from new sources. And health care centers are beginning to open new drive-through testing centers for the public, widely seen as one of the most effective means to understanding the outbreak’s scope here.

Meanwhile, hospital systems report that testing of their own employees indicates the virus has infected more than two dozen workers, a sign of further stress on the medical system, and a concern that could constrain its ability to deliver service and respond to the crisis.

The positive tests highlight a critical challenge for health care administrators as they struggle to keep employees healthy amid an outbreak that could reach them not only at their workplace at the spearpoint of the crisis, but also at home with their families or during routine activities, like grocery shopping or commuting.

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush and Joseph O'Sullivan

US, Canada working on mutual ban on non-essential travel

Canada and the United States are working out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries amid the new coronavirus pandemic, a Canadian official said late Tuesday.

The official was not authorized to discuss details ahead of an announcement and spoke to The Associated Press on condition anonymity.

Both countries are eager to choke off the spread of the virus but also eager to continue the critical economic relationship. Canada relies on the U.S. for 75 percent of its exports.

Truck drivers are among those expected to get an exemption. Completely closing the border would cause severe economic damage to both the U.S. and Canada as the two economies are integrated. Much of Canada’s food supply comes from or via the U.S.

—Associated Press

University District Trader Joe's closes after employee tests positive for COVID-19

A Trader Joe's employee who works in Seattle's University District has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting an immediate store closure.

The crew member was last in the store -- located at 4555 Roosevelt Way -- on March 7, according to a statement from a Trader Joe's spokeswoman.

The store closed Tuesday evening for cleaning and sanitation, and all its employees who were in contact with the affected staffer have been encouraged to monitor their symptoms.

Trader's Joes will be paying all its store employees for their scheduled shifts during the closure.

"As soon as the store has been fully cleaned and restocked, we plan to reopen," the statement said.

—Elise Takahama

Independent bookstores survived the rise of online retail. Coronavirus poses bigger challenges.

The coronavirus pandemic has had sudden and devastating implications across the retail industry, but there’s a sad irony to what is happening with independent bookstores.

Against the odds, these small shops managed to thrive, despite the ascendancy of Amazon and online retailers, by relying on social interactions that public health experts are now warning against. To survive, they must step up their online presence — and make difficult decisions: canceling events and book orders, cutting employee hours, and turning to online sales to make up for lost foot traffic.

—Washington Post

Police academy’s closure because of coronavirus outbreak delays efforts to train new officers

A group of 30 police recruits, five of them new hires with the Seattle Police Department (SPD), gathered in the lobby of a building on the Burien campus of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC) on Monday night for an informal graduation ceremony, devoid of the usual pomp that accompanies police-academy graduations.

Class 798 graduated 1 1/2 weeks early, just before WSCJTC Director Sue Rahr announced the shutdown of the police training academy for at least the next four weeks because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The nearly 36-acre campus, which includes classrooms, a running track, a gun range and a mock city, is where new police officers from 300 Washington law-enforcement agencies receive basic training and veteran officers receive advanced training in everything from crisis intervention to interviewing victims of sexual assault.

It’s not yet clear how the commission’s 30-day closure will impact police departments working to grow the number of available officers, and much will depend on when public-health officials determine it’s safe enough for large groups of people to gather again.

Read the full story here.

—Sara Jean Green

During coronavirus closures, Seattle schools try to provide pandemic-proof lunch

The cafeteria is the happiest place at David T. Denny International Middle School, said Doree Fazio-Young. She’s determined not to let a pandemic change that.

As she handed out more than 60 free meals at the West Seattle school’s entrance on Tuesday, the first day of state’s mandated six-week closure of all Washington schools to slow the spread of novel coronavirus, she and her colleague sported Leprechaun top hats for St. Patrick’s Day.

She tried to stay positive in the face of an inescapable reality: At a time of deep uncertainty for 1.1 million public school students in the state, nearly half of whom rely on the resources their schools provide to stay afloat, a consistent place to get free food is critical. Seattle Public Schools and dozens more school districts in Washington are stepping up to provide a pandemic-proof version of this service at a select number of school sites while they’re closed.

Read the full story here.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

Coronavirus travel cancellation woes drag down Expedia’s systems, making refunds difficult to obtain

Travelers say miscommunication between Seattle-based travel booking company Expedia, hotels and airlines about refund and cancellation policies is leaving them on the hook for hundreds or thousands of dollars — and with the company’s call system overwhelmed by “unprecedented” call volumes, some are desperate for answers.

Hundreds of thousands of travelers in the U.S. alone are frantically canceling flights and hotel bookings amid far-reaching restrictions on movement and the closure of many tourist destinations to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our teams recognize the challenges our customers have faced in trying to contact us, and they are intently focused on helping them during this very unprecedented situation,” an Expedia spokesperson said in a statement. “Travel remains a vital part of the global economy and we are doing our part to ensure all those in need have the full extent of our help and assistance.”

Read the full story here.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

Tulalip Tribes health clinic closes after patient tests positive for COVID-19

The Tulalip Tribes closed its health clinic for deep cleaning after a patient was transferred to the hospital and later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The clinic was expected to reopen Wednesday. This is believed to be the second positive case within the Tulalip community.

—Lynda V. Mapes

State health officials looking for more medical equipment to combat coronavirus

OLYMPIA — As health workers prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases in Washington’s hospitals, state officials are trying to stock up on essential medical gear like masks, gloves and ventilators.

The Department of Enterprise Services (DES) is working the State Emergency Operations Center to obtain and deliver needed gear for first responders, care facilities and the public-health system.

DES spokeswoman Linda Kent said the agency is looking to get hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, gloves, masks, face shields, respirators and gowns.

“We have had some initial success in finding items like gowns, gloves and face shields,” Kent said.

“So in some cases over the past several days, we ramped up from 0% of what DES has been asked to find, to about 30%,” she added.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Russell Wilson, Ciara to donate 1 million meals to help Seattle food banks amid coronavirus outbreak

In a one-minute video posted to Twitter Tuesday night, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson announced that he and his wife, entertainer Ciara, will donate one million meals to local food banks through the Feeding America nationwide network to help those suffering due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a tone fittingly more somber than his usual enthusiasm, Wilson noted that the outbreak is “changing the world second by second, minute by minute” and noted all the friends the couple knows who are losing jobs or encountering other issues at places they have deep associations with such as Alaska Airlines, the Seattle Sounders soccer team and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

After pledging to donate one million meals, Wilson and Ciara then encouraged those watching to also help by making donations of their own (which can be done here).

Read the full story here.

—Bob Condotta

State health officials confirm more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases in Washington

More than 1,000 people in Washington state have now been confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

New numbers released Tuesday by the department of health bring the total number of cases statewide to 1,012, an increase of 108 from Monday. Seven new deaths were reported by officials Tuesday -- three in King County, two in Snohomish County and two in Clark County -- totaling 55 deaths in the state.

How many new cases were in King County was not clear Tuesday. While Public Health – King County & Seattle reported there were 518 cases in the county – an increase of 30 cases from the day before, the Washington Department of Health reported 569 cases, an increase of 81 cases.

State officials said the discrepancy may have to do with the testing labs assigning the case to the county where it was tested, based on the information they have at the time, rather than the county where the subject of the test lives.

—Diana Samuels

City announces $1.1 million and rent relief to support arts organizations in the coronavirus economic crisis

As the coronavirus economic crisis deepens, local fundraising efforts for the arts-and-culture field — from city government to local foundations to quickly assembled GoFundMe campaigns — are in overdrive.

“This is 9/11 meets The Great Recession meets the snowstorm,” Randy Engstrom, director of the city’s Office of Arts and Culture (OAC), said during an online public meeting Tuesday afternoon. “We know we’re going to get through this together — and this is our time.”

While Engstrom was announcing a first wave of relief efforts — including a $1.1 million, arts-specific recovery package and rent suspension for cultural organizations — Tim Lennon, director of the nonprofit LANGSTON was already onto the next step, sitting in his office, furiously hand-writing checks.

He was trying to get as many out the door as possible before the post office closed.

Read the full story here.

—Brendan Kiley

First Mason County resident tests positive for COVID-19

Public health officials announced Tuesday evening that a Mason County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, marking the county's first confirmed case.

The patient, who tested positive for the virus at Mason Health Clinic, is currently quarantined at home, according to a statement from Mason County Public Health. The department is in the process of conducting interviews with close contacts the patient might have had.

The county health agency asked the public to remember to call ahead before going to the emergency room (unless seriously ill), stay home when sick and avoid visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities or nursing homes.

—Elise Takahama

Citing coronavirus, Trump will announce strict new border controls

The Trump administration plans to immediately turn back all asylum-seekers and other foreigners trying to cross the southwestern border illegally, saying they cannot risk allowing the coronavirus to spread through detention facilities and among Border Patrol agents, four administration officials said on Tuesday.

The administration officials said the ports of entry would remain open to U.S. citizens, green-card holders and some foreigners with proper documentation. Some foreigners would be blocked, including Europeans currently subject to earlier travel restrictions enacted by the administration. The entryways will also be open to commercial traffic.

But under the new rule, set to be announced in the next 48 hours, Border Patrol agents would immediately return to Mexico anyone who tries to cross the southern border between the legal ports of entry. Under the policy, asylum-seekers would not be held for any length of time in an American facility nor would they be given due process. Once caught, they would be driven to the nearest port of entry and returned to Mexico without further detention.

—New York Times

Most encampment removals in Seattle put on ‘pause’ to prioritize coronavirus outreach, city says

Seattle’s Navigation Team, the group of police officers and outreach workers who remove homeless encampments within the city, will pause a significant amount of its encampment-removal work “to prioritize COVID-19 outreach,” according to a Tuesday afternoon announcement from the city’s Human Services Department.

Most of the encampments removed by the city are classified as obstructions, but according to Tuesday’s release, the Navigation Team will not clear these kinds of encampments unless they present “an extreme circumstance” that blocks city streets or sidewalks as well as “an extraordinary public safety hazard” that puts people at risk.

The announcement arrived after both advocates and elected officials urged the city to stop removals during the novel coronavirus pandemic, particularly at a time when shelters are already under pressure to observe social-distancing rules and decrease the number of people crowding into the same spaces.

Read the full story here.

—Sydney Brownstone and Daniel Beekman

Seattle-area health care systems begin drive-through coronavirus testing for patients

As the need and desire for COVID-19 testing grows, area health care systems are opening drive-through testing sites to meet the demand.

From Lynnwood to Puyallup people are driving through makeshift testing locations and having nurses swab the inside of their noses.

On Monday, UW Medicine began testing the public for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, at a drive-through testing location in Northgate, where 15 people were tested. The testing is being done in the parking lot of the University of Washington Medicine’s Northwest Outpatient Medical Center.

The location is designated only for UW Medicine patients who schedule an appointment after their doctor sends them for testing. The tests are being processed at a UW lab, and it is expected to be a least a couple of days before results are available.

On Tuesday morning, the first patient of the day rolled up to the site tucked just west of Interstate 5 in the parking lot’s southeast corner.

Read the full story here.

—Ryan Blethen

Coronavirus puts Seattle-area grocery workers on front lines of pandemic

Customers can be angry and rude. Hoarding is rampant and fights occasionally break out. Hours are longer than usual and filled with more of everything, especially stress. People show up openly sick, coughing and sniffling and touching. And the shelves empty as fast as you can fill them.

There’s a siege mentality among a growing number of grocery-store employees, who feel vulnerable as the novel coronavirus pandemic spreads. As schools, restaurants and bars close, some feel trapped in one of the only places left where Washingtonians can now legally gather in large numbers: the grocery store.

Read the full story here.

—Chris Talbott

Could Seattle tax big businesses for coronavirus relief? Sawant, Morales issue call as crisis worsens

Small businesses have closed because of the novel coronavirus crisis, workers are getting sick and bleeding income, Seattle’s budget is in trouble and two politicians say they have an answer: Tax big businesses.

City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales, who before the virus struck unveiled a plan to tax large corporations for rent-restricted housing and clean-energy upgrades, now say the money could initially fund virus-related relief efforts.

It’s unclear how much appetite there is at City Hall and beyond for action on a new tax right now, with Seattle operating under a state of emergency and with the council holding its meetings by phone.

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman

Area grocery stores to reserve first few hours of opening to 'at-risk' shoppers

Some grocery stores in the area have announced plans to introduce a new system of shopping: reserving the first few hours of the day for those considered higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Safeway and Albertsons stores in Washington will dedicate the first two hours of their opening to senior citizens, pregnant people, those with compromised immune systems or people who have been advised to avoid leaving home, the supermarkets said in a statement.

The stores will reserve the first two hours, from 7 to 9 a.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays for at-risk shoppers, the statement said.

"We are asking for customers to honor the reserved hours and we thank the community in advance for their compassion and understanding toward their neighbors and for helping us maintain these temporary operation guidelines," the statement said.

Local supermarket chain Uwajimaya also said Tuesday that its Seattle location will start dedicating the first of its opening to senior shoppers only.

Beginning Wednesday, the new temporary store hours will be from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Uwajimaya Seattle said in a Facebook post. Starting Wednesday, the store will dedicate the first hour -- 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. -- to seniors.

Whole Foods Market also announced Tuesday that starting Wednesday, all its stores in the U.S. and Canada will service customers who are at least 60 years old one hour before opening to the public.

Other grocery stores in the nation have also started restricting the number of shoppers in their stores or offering seniors-only hours.

—Elise Takahama

Costco employee who died Sunday tested positive for COVID-19

The Costco Travel employee who died Sunday night in their home tested positive for COVID-19, the company confirmed Tuesday in an email to employees.

The retail company closed one of its buildings in Issaquah, LP2, where travel employees work, Monday afternoon for a deep cleaning.

The building reopened Tuesday, and additional sanitation will continue daily, senior management said in the email.

Costco declined to comment for this story.

In an email Monday, a Costco vice president said IT workers should continue to work 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,” the email said.

Employees who feel sick or are concerned should stay home, monitor their health and symptoms, and contact their health care provider.

"We understand this news causes a great deal of concern and anxiety among employees, particularly those at Costco Travel."

—Michelle Baruchman

Metro closes customer service offices

King County Metro will close its customer-service offices, where bus riders can buy passes in person and track down lost items, starting Thursday.

Locations closed to the public include the office at King Street Center on South Jackson Street, the Vanpool Distribution Center in Redmond and the Access Transportation Evaluation Center at Harborview Medical Center.

Riders can purchase tickets online at orcacard.com, by phone at 888-988-6722, on the mobile app Transit Go Ticket and at vending machines or certain grocery stores. To ask about lost items, call 206-553-3000.

Metro’s Vanpool Distribution Center will not provide vans to new customers but will accept returned vehicles. Access customers will continue to be certified online or by phone and can call 206-205-5000 (TTY Relay: 711) with questions, Metro said.

The closure is expected to last until at least March 27.

Metro and Sound Transit announced last week that although transit riders are still expected to pay, fare enforcement officers will no longer inspect fares, to limit hand-to-hand interactions.

—Heidi Groover

State Ferry service between U.S. and Canada suspended until at least April 28

The return of a Washington State Ferry route between the United States and Canada will be pushed back until at least April 28, according to a news release from the agency.

The suspension of the route from Anacortes to Sidney, British Columbia, comes after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he will close the country’s borders to anyone who is not a Canadian or American citizen or permanent resident in efforts to slow the coronavirus pandemic, the agency said.

Service was scheduled to restart March 29, following its annual three-month shutdown during the slower winter months.

The vessel will continue make domestic sailings to the San Juan Islands in the early morning, afternoon and evening.

—Michelle Baruchman

McMenamins restaurant chain closes all but one location, lays off nearly 3,000 employees

Portland-based restaurant chain McMenamins announced Tuesday that it's temporarily closing almost all its locations in Oregon and Washington due to the coronavirus outbreak, a move that will result in nearly 3,000 employees losing their jobs.

McMenamins, which has 55 locations in the Northwest, will close all but one of its locations -- a bottle shop in Portland that's open for to-go sales of beer, wine and spirits.

"It’s taken a lifetime to build this company, together with the help of our employees and customers," the family-owned business said in a statement. "This is something none of us ever could have anticipated."

The layoffs, which impact "almost everyone at the company," are effective as of Tuesday, the statement said.

"This is drastic, but necessary, to allow our employees to file for unemployment benefits and ensure that there will be jobs to come back to when this extraordinary episode ends," the statement said. "And we are confident it will end. Until then, we thank you for your support and understanding and look forward to gathering with you again soon.”

—Elise Takahama

Kaiser Permanente to encourage patients to seek medical advice online

Beginning Wednesday, patients of Kaiser Permanente Washington with routine medical issues are going to be seeking advice online.

The statewide healthcare system is pushing as many patients as possible toward virtual doctor visits in an effort to preserve resources such as protective equipment for healthcare workers and to keep the system from being overloaded as the state deals with a coming crush of patients with COVID-19.

Kaiser Permanente's urgent care facilities in Bellevue, Everett, Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and Tacoma will continue to triage patients in-person.

Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Bellevue, Everett, Federal Way, Olympia, Capitol Hill, Silverdale, and Tacoma will continue to provide in-person appointments, as well as pharmacy, imaging, and laboratory services.

CareClinic by Kaiser Permanente at Bartell Drugs locations will also temporarily close. Kaiser Permanente’s CareClinic providers will begin serving members online.

—Ryan Blethen

With new restaurant ban, some parking will become food pick-up zones

As a way of adjusting to a new reality in which restaurants are not allowed to offer dine-in service, Seattle will convert some on-street parking spaces near restaurants into loading zones intended for meal pickups, the city announced Tuesday.

“Our small businesses, particularly restaurants, are bearing the brunt of our efforts to combat this pandemic. By facilitating easier takeout for restaurants, we can help support these businesses who make up the fabric of our city,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

Crews were installing temporary new signs Tuesday afternoon, the mayor’s office said. Most of the zones will allow two cars to park for three minutes at a time.

To reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine issued orders this week to further reduce public gatherings, including shutting down bars and restaurants for dine-in service through at least the end of March. Restaurants can provide takeout and delivery.

The first new zones will be at the following restaurants with more to come, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation:

  • Mezcaleria Oaxaca, 422 E. Pine St.
  • Bar del Corso, 3057 Beacon Ave S.
  • Breezy Town Pizza, 4864 Beacon Ave. S.
  • Machiavelli, 1215 Pine St.
  • Meet Korean BBQ, 500 E Pike St.
  • El Camino, 607 N. 35th St.
  • Il Lupo, 4303 Fremont Ave. N.
  • Feed Co. Burgers, 1190 24th Ave.
  • Jack's BBQ, 228 9th Ave.
  • Hurry Curry of Tokyo, 825 Harrison St.
  • Loretta's Northwesterner, 8617 14th Ave. S.

Restaurants can request a loading zone near their business at (206) 684-ROAD.

—Heidi Groover

Tulalip Tribes donate nearly 3,000 pounds of food from its casino and restaurants to local food bank

The Tulalip Tribes donated more than 900 pounds of meat, 885 pounds of bread and baked goods and 900 pounds of produce from its Quil Ceda Creek Casino to the Marysville Food Bank on Tuesday.

The donation comes after the tribes temporary closed its tribal government gaming operations to protect the public and its staff.

"With our restaurants closed we have an abundance of food that we would love to share with those in need," said Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin. "The Marysville Food Bank can put this food to good use helping our neighbors feed their families. We care, and we don't want anything to go to waste."

Food Bank Director Dell Deierling was grateful for the donation.

"We really don't know where we're headed with need and supply, so this helps tremendously, Deierling said.

The food will be distributed Tuesday at the Marysville Food Bank, from 3 to 6 p.m. Food bank recipients take a number and drive up to receive their donation. The food bank is located at 4150 88th Street N.E., Marysville.

—Lynda V. Mapes

Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard plans daily live stream from his house

Like many people right now, Death Cab for Cutie frontman and Seattleite Ben Gibbard (also of Postal Service fame) is feeling the effects of isolation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that has canceled all concerts for the time being.

His way of combating that isolation: Live stream himself playing songs from his home studio at his Capitol Hill house. Gibbard announced Monday night he is planning to perform on video each day at 4 p.m. PDT. His post on Instagram and Twitter reads:

Hey Everyone,⁣

I know you are all really freaked out right now. I am too. And while I’m proud that we’re all doing the necessary things at the moment to help flatten the curve, I know it has left us all incredibly isolated.⁣

But because we’re all going through this nightmare together we are quite literally NOT alone. Our lives and stories are all linked, maybe more now than they have ever been.⁣

Be it with DCFC, Postal Service, or solo I have always been grateful for the honor you have bestowed upon us by choosing to congregate en masse around our music. Some of you have traveled great distances and/or shelled out large sums of money to see us play and that has never been lost on me. So in this crazy and unprecedented time, I’d like to return the favor by coming to YOU.⁣

For the next few weeks I will be playing songs everyday from my home studio. We will be streaming on YouTube / Facebook at 4pm PST daily – link in bio. We’re still working out the details but I’m hoping to take some requests and maybe even have a guest or two stop by digitally. The first show will be tomorrow. It will assuredly be a little wonky and glitchy but we’re gonna do our best.⁣

See You Tomorrow.⁣



Watch the first live stream on YouTube above. It can also be heard on the radio via 90.3 KEXP and online at kexp.org.

Click here to read Seattle Times reporter Mike Rietmulder's Q&A with Gibbard from late February.

—Alex Iniguez

State's members of Congress ask feds for more hospital flexibility

Ten of the 12 members of Washington's congressional delegation have written to the Trump administration requesting an emergency health care status that could help officials and doctors respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The request is "critical to meeting the demands of this emergency," the letter says.

The letter, addressed to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, requests a waiver under section 1135 of the Social Security Act.

Gov. Jay Inslee officially requested the waiver on Sunday, a step he could only take after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday.

If granted, the waiver could help relieve pressure now mounting on local health care systems during the outbreak, because Medicaid could help pay for more seniors to move from hospitals into nursing homes, said MaryAnne Lindeblad, Medicaid director at the Washington State Health Care Authority.

The waiver would also allow Washington hospitals to screen and triage patients at off-site locations to free up hospital space, and would waive requirements for cost-sharing associated with testing and screening for the virus, congressional staff said.

Public health experts have been warning that hospitals could be overwhelmed as coronavirus cases soar.

The new letter was sent Tuesday by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell; Democratic Reps. Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal and Kim Schrier; and Republican Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler.

Among the state's congressional delegation, only Republican Reps. Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers were not listed as signatories.

—David Gutman

Individual who visited Bellevue Corporate Plaza tests positive for COVID-19

A person who visited the Bellevue Corporate Plaza on March 7 tested positive Monday for COVID-19, the illness related to the novel coronavirus, according to an administrative email sent to tenants Monday night.

The person visited the 10-story office building to meet with a tenant and has not returned to the tower since.

While the individual was not experiencing symptoms related to the illness at the time, "they may have been infected and could have exposed the individuals in the meeting," administration staff said in the email.

The people who were exposed to the person who tested positive are now self-quarantined. The risk of transmission for employees who were not in close contact with the individual is low.

The office space and common areas where the person visited are being deep cleaned and disinfected, according to the email.

"Please continue to be vigilant, and report any confirmed or suspected cases to building management," the email said.

—Michelle Baruchman

Kevin Durant among four Nets players to test positive for coronavirus

Kevin Durant is one of the four Nets players to test positive for coronavirus but he has been asymptomatic, according to the Athletic.

According to the Nets, only one of the four players, who were not identified by the team, has exhibited symptoms. The Nets have advised all players and members of their traveling party to “remain isolated, closely monitor their health and maintain constant communication” with medical staff, according to a statement.

“Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine,” Durant told the Athletic. “We’re going to get through this.”

The four Nets players join three players – Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, and Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons — who had previously tested positive for coronavirus. Gobert’s positive test last week led the NBA to suspend its 2019-20 season.

—Washington Post

King County reports 30 new COVID-19 cases, including 3 deaths

There are 30 new cases of COVID-19 in King County and three additional people have died from the virus, Public Health – Seattle & King County reported Tuesday. That brings the total number of novel coronavirus cases in King County to 518 and the number of deaths to 46.

The agency reported that two King County employees have tested positive for COVID-19: A correctional officer and a Public Health – Seattle & King County staff member.

The correctional officer did not have any symptoms while working. It is the first case confirmed at one of the county’s jails, and the county said emergency precautions have been taken to protect inmates, visitors and staff.

The public-health staffer began to show mild symptoms at work and then went home, according to the county. Staff are being asked to take precautions including monitoring for symptoms daily, staying home when sick, and going home if they become sick at work.

The three additional people who have died from COVID-19 were: A man in his 70s, who died at Valley Medical Center on Monday; a man in his 90s, who died at EvergreenHealth on Monday; and a woman in her 70s, who died at Evergreen on Friday.

One of them was a resident of Life Care Center of Kirkland, which has been a hotspot for cases, though officials did not say which person.

Meanwhile, the county also noted that two King County residents who needed a safe place for isolation and quarantine have been admitted to the quarantine facility in Kent.

—Diana Samuels

Seattle Rep cancels the rest of its season

The Seattle Repertory Theatre has canceled the remainder of its 2019-2020 season due to the rapidly escalating coronavirus situation.  Two more plays were scheduled this season — “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Lydia and the Troll.” The remaining performances of August Wilson’s “Jitney” have also been canceled.

“The magic of gathering together in a theater can never be matched,” read an announcement on the Rep’s website Tuesday. “But we are working on new ways to stay connected and share artistic and behind-the-scenes content with you on digital platforms.”

The Rep is asking patrons who purchased tickets to the canceled shows to transfer their ticket into a donation to support the Rep. Otherwise, patrons with tickets for canceled shows can request a credit for a future show at the Rep via. a form on the organization's website or call the Patron Services Office for other options.

—Crystal Paul

Small businesses and nonprofits in state hurt by coronavirus can tap up to $2 million in federal loans

Federal disaster loans of up to $2 million have been made available to Washington small businesses and nonprofits significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that working capital loans for fixed debts, accounts payable, payroll and other bills can be accessed in 32 counties statewide including King, Pierce and Snohomish. Repayment plans can stretch up to 30 years at an interest rate of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75 % for nonprofits.

“Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,’’ SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in a news release.

Applicants can apply online or download forms and receive additional relief information there as well. They can also call 1-800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information.

Read the full story here.

—Geoff Baker

Pentagon to provide respirator masks, ventilators to civilian health authorities

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that the Pentagon will provide civilian health authorities with 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to help in a national response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Esper told Pentagon reporters that the ventilators are designed for use by deployed troops, and the military will need to train civilians on how to use them. He said some may have “single-use” limitations. And he said the first million respirator masks will be made available immediately.

U.S. officials have talked about the shortage of ventilators to help treat patients with the virus.

—Associated Press

CenturyLink waives late fees, promises no service shut-offs for 60 days

CenturyLink said it is waiving all late payment fees and won't shut off service for any small business or residential customer for the next 60 days, as a response to the economic woes caused by the novel coronavirus.

The cable and internet provider said it is also suspending its limits on data usage, as thousands of people have switched to telecommuting and have started to rely on video conferences and chats for both business and personal communication.

"We recognize that high-speed internet service plays a crucial role in the everyday lives of our customers," Kerry Zimmer, a company spokeswoman, said.

The company said it is not currently seeing any impacts to its network from increased internet usage, and that its customer service representatives are "trained" how to assess what kind of financial hardships will qualify for relief.

"We have done this for past crises, and we are taking the same approach in determining whether or not their financial challenges are COVID-19 related," said spokesperson Mark Molzen in an email.

Many U.S. internet and wireless providers have announced temporary measures to make getting online less expensive and onerous as enforced social distancing due to the new coronavirus forces more human interaction online.

Among them is Comcast’s free public Wi-Fi for all for 60 days, effective Saturday. Major metropolitan areas are thick with Comcast’s Xfinity-branded hotspots.

“I don’t get to say this often: Bravo Comcast!” tweeted Alex Stamos, a Stanford University internet-security expert.

—David Gutman and Katherine Khashimova Long

2 employees at Hearthstone in Seattle test positive for COVID-19

Two employees at the Hearthstone, a retirement community in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood, have tested positive for COVID-19.

The employees developed symptoms last week and were sent home, then tested last Thursday, according to an update posted on the Hearthstone website. On Monday, the results came back positive.

Other staff members who had close contact with the workers are self-isolating for 14 days, Hearthstone said.

There have been at least 112 coronavirus cases associated with senior facilities in Washington state. The majority are from Life Care Center in Kirkland, where more than 100 residents and employees have tested positive.

—Paige Cornwell

Snohomish County health officials report another death from coronavirus

Snohomish Health District reported another COVID-19 death Tuesday afternoon, bringing its total to five fatalities associated with the virus.

Snohomish County health officials also confirmed 66 more cases, which adds up to 266 infections as of Tuesday.

These recent numbers have not yet been reported by the Washington State Department of Health.

—Elise Takahama

Seattle’s Navigation Team will “pause” most encampment removals during coronavirus crisis unless under extreme circumstances, city says

Seattle’s Navigation Team, the group of police officers and outreach workers who remove encampments within the city, will pause a significant amount of its encampment-removal work during the COVID-19 crisis, according to a Tuesday afternoon announcement from the city’s Human Services Department.

Most of the encampments removed by the city are classified as obstructions, but according to Tuesday’s release, the Navigation Team will not clear these kinds of encampments unless they present “an extreme circumstance” that blocks city streets or sidewalks as well as “an extraordinary public safety hazard” that puts people at risk.

Since the beginning of the month through last Friday, the Navigation Team has been to 172 sites, delivered 462 flyers on COVID-19 and handed out hygiene kits that include soap and water to 126 people.

—Sydney Brownstone

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport joins airports nationwide to seek $10 billion in federal aid as passenger numbers drop

As the coronavirus outbreak has seen a rise in travel restrictions and mandates to limit travel and enact social distancing, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has seen a drop in daily traffic from nearly 50,000 to 60,000 daily passengers down to just 16,000 to 17,000 passengers, not including traffic from connecting flights, Sea-Tac managing director Lance Lyttle announced in a news conference Tuesday.

Lyttle said that the airport continues to see cargo traffic as supplies continue to be flown in.

Nonetheless, Sea-Tac has partnered with other airports around the country to ask the federal government for $10 billion in aid to cope with what losses are being seen.

He said that most stores continue to operate at the airport and that workers are taking extra precautions to stay healthy, keep travelers safe and keep the facilities clean.

“We are grateful for their sacrifices to keep the airport running,”  Lyttle said. “They are some of the unsung heroes in this situation”

—Crystal Paul

King County Sheriff’s Office won’t enforce evictions during coronavirus crisis

Due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the King County Sheriff’s Office is temporarily halting the service and enforcement of evictions.

The move comes after emergency moratoriums on certain residential evictions were ordered in Seattle and Burien.

Sheriff’s deputies normally serve and enforce evictions that have been ordered in King County Superior Court. They will stop doing that “until further notice,” Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht wrote Tuesday in a letter to the court’s presiding judge, James Rogers.

“As we continue to evaluate the resources of the King County Sheriff’s Office and plan for significant increases in COVID-19 cases, I have decided that some of our normal assignments and workload must be revised,” Johanknecht wrote, referring to the illness caused by the virus.

“During this extraordinary time, I am temporarily suspending the service and enforcement of evictions.”

In a news release, the sheriff attributed the step to a need for social distancing, as recommended by public health officials, and to concern “about those who would be without housing during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“This is no time to be putting vulnerable people and families on the street without shelter,” Johanknecht said in the release.

The suspension will take effect Tuesday and “remain in effect until we are confident the threat of COVID-19 has dissipated and we have sufficient resources to resume civil evictions,” she wrote in her letter to the judge.

“I mean no disrespect to the court in temporarily suspending eviction services and will update the court when we are in a position to resume implementing the court’s orders,” the sheriff wrote. "At that time, we can anticipate a backlog while we work through pending eviction orders.”

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman and Sydney Brownstone

Seattle to set up portable toilets, hygiene stations in response to coronavirus outbreak

Seattle will stand up “portable toilets, hand-washing stations and four hygiene trailers” around the city for people who don’t have easy access to hand-washing to protect themselves from COVID-19, according to an announcement from the city’s Human Services Department.

The facilities will be staffed and include both garbage and needle disposal, according to the city. The city will also expand its garbage-collection program with homeless encampments, known as the “purple bag” program, from 12 sites to 16 in coming days.

The announcement did not provide details on the locations of these mobile units but said more information would be available within the week.

The announcement arrived a week after some cities with significant homeless populations in California deployed dozens of hand-washing stations to protect people from contracting and spreading the illness.

Few options for hand-washing have been accessible 24/7 for people who live outside in Seattle. Six city-funded restrooms are available at all hours of the day, and only three have sinks.

With Seattle Public Library locations closed, there are even fewer places to go – although the city Parks Department has continued its shower program at five community centers, and all parks bathrooms remain open despite other parks closures.

—Sydney Brownstone

Grim milestone reached: 100 dead in the U.S.

Across the United States, at least 100 people infected with the highly contagious new virus have now died – a toll that experts expect to rise quickly and a preview of the challenges ahead.

The Washington Post tracked every known U.S. death of a disease that's killed thousands of people worldwide and analyzed data provided by state and local health officials, families of the victims and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the first 100 reported fatalities, many people appear to have had underlying health conditions, making it harder for their bodies to fight off COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Some had diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension or pulmonary ailments.

Nearly all – about 85 percent – were older than 60, and about 45 percent were older than 80. It’s unclear how some of them contracted the disease, but more than a third were living in residential care facilities when they became ill.

What is known about the scale of transmission and the high number of deaths among vulnerable populations – like at the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington, where 27 of the facility’s 120 residents have died – has experts deeply concerned.

Read the full story here.

—Washington Post

Seattle’s coronavirus moratorium on residential evictions is approved, expanded by City Council

Seattle renters in fear of being evicted during the coronavirus outbreak may have a reprieve. The City Council has approved and expanded a moratorium on residential evictions ordered by Mayor Jenny Durkan.

The council's vote Monday comes in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has caused many businesses to close and many workers to lose income.

The mayor unveiled a moratorium on certain evictions Saturday, citing her powers under the city's state of emergency. Her order said residential evictions for non-payment of rent would be suspended for 30 days or until the end of the Seattle's emergency.

The council modified and then approved Durkan's order, extending the moratorium from 30 to 60 days and from rent-related residential evictions to all residential evictions other than those related to tenant actions imminently threatening the health or safety of others. The council's vote was 8-0, according to the City Clerk's office.

Click here to read the full story.

—Daniel Beekman

U.S. taxpayers getting an extra 90 days to pay (but still must file on time)

The Trump administration says individuals and businesses will be allowed to delay paying their 2019 tax bills for 90 days past the usual April 15 deadline.

The extension announced Tuesday is an effort to inject up to $300 billion into the economy at a time when the coronavirus appears on the verge of causing a recession.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said individuals will be able to delay up to $1 million in payments. Corporations will be able to defer payment on up to $10 million.

Taxpayers will still have to file their tax returns by the April 15 deadline. But they won’t have to pay their tax bill for 90 additional days, and no interest or penalties will accrue.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Mariners, MLB create fund to support event staff during coronavirus outbreak

PEORIA, Ariz. — With the Major League Baseball season on hold indefinitely as the world tries to prevent the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, thousands of people who are employed by the 30 teams to work regular-season games at their respective ballparks are now without work and paychecks.

In an effort to offset some of that loss, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that all 30 teams will donate $1 million each to go toward their respective event staff employees.

As part of that commitment, the Mariners announced they also will try provide aid to those event employees in this time of need, creating a fund to support their event staff. The final details of that are being finalized.

—Ryan Divish

Millennials: Stay out of bars!

The scientific community’s message to young Americans about the coronavirus got more pointed on Tuesday: Stay out of bars.

“Don’t get the attitude: ‘Well, I’m young. I’m invulnerable,’” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Fauci said he too felt invulnerable when he was a young man, but he emphasized that young people need to help constrain the spread of the coronavirus by staying out of bars and restaurants.

“In some respects, you are certainly less vulnerable than I am,” the 79-year-old Fauci said. “However, what you might inadvertently do — and I know you don’t want to do that — you don’t want to put your loved ones at risk, particularly the ones who are elderly and the ones who have compromised conditions. We can’t do this without the young people cooperating.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the federal response to the virus, also highlighted the role that millennials, Americans born in the 1980s to mid-1990s, can play in stopping the spread of the virus.

“We hear every night of people, who are not in work, moving that time into bars and other areas of large gatherings,” she said. “If we continue with that process, we will fail in containing this virus.”

Read the whole story online here.

—Associated Press

Drive-through testing for COVID-19 begins at Northgate UW Medicine facility

The first COVID-19 drive-through testing site for the public opened in Northgate on Monday, where 15 people were tested.

The testing is being done in the parking lot of the University of Washington Medicine's Northwest Outpatient Medical Center.

The location is designated only for UW Medicine patients who schedule an appointment after their doctor sends them for testing.

On Tuesday morning, the first patient rolled up to the site tucked just west of Interstate 5 in the parking lot's southeast corner.

The man in a gold Chevrolet SUV halted at a makeshift stop sign and was greeted by a nurse wearing protective gear. He held his driver's license to the window, which he had cracked an inch.

The nurse had him pull forward alongside two white tents where three other nurses were waiting. He rolled his window all the way down as a nurse swabbed the inside of his nose, then he pulled away. The entire process took about three minutes.

Additional drive-through sites for UW Medicine patients could be announced next week, said Dr. Thomas Hei, the medical director for UW Medicine's outpatient clinics.

UW Medicine had been testing employees, UW students, health care workers and first responders on March 6. The decision to broaden testing to those who use UW Medicine was a response to demand, Hei said as traffic rumbled by on I-5.

"We are responding to the broad need for public testing," he said.

The people being sent to the drive-through are not the sickest and should still be able to drive and are encouraged to do so alone, Hei said.

The woman with the second appointment of the day showed up wearing a mask in the back of a small, pink Mitsubishi, sitting next to an infant baby seat.

The nurses quickly swabbed her nose and they were off in about two minutes.

—Ryan Blethen

Safeway agrees to provide 2 weeks pay to workers diagnosed with COVID-19

Safeway and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, which represents workers at several grocery store chains, have reached an agreement to improve working conditions for the grocery company’s employees during the coronavirus outbreak.

Safeway agreed over the weekend to provide up to two weeks pay for workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to self-quarantine before needing to access sick leave or other paid time off, according to a news release from the union.

The grocer also agreed to allow more flexibility in scheduling to accommodate child care and expanded paid sick leave to cover child care needs, to set up a child care fund for employees and to continue discussions about the issue, which is by far the biggest problem employees face, UFCW 21 Chief of Staff Sarah Cherin said.

The agreement also calls for a joint hiring hall to allow for more workers to find work, to work with the state and federal governments to treat grocery-store workers as first responders and to temporarily allow Safeway to bring in outside workers during the crisis.

Cherin said the union is in negotiations with other companies to implement similar standards. UFCW 21 represents more than 20,000 food workers across the state.

—Chris Talbott, Special to The Seattle Times

Washington state health care officials ask feds for emergency Medicaid status

Washington state has submitted a request to the federal government for a special health care status that could help officials and doctors respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

For a week or more, officials here have wanted to pursue the status under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act, saying the move would help them relieve pressure on Washington’s hospital system by moving more seniors on to Medicaid and into nursing homes.

But Section 1135 can only be used during a national emergency, so the option didn’t become available until President Donald Trump declared an emergency last Friday.

The special status, by waiving various normal regulations, would give Washington health care officials more flexibility to use telemedicine; create new treatment facilities; expand nursing homes, partner with community organizations; quickly enroll people in Medicaid; and more, according to a news release Tuesday from the Washington State Health Care Authority.

The state’s request has been sent to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

MaryAnne Lindeblad, Washington’s state Medicaid director, said officials want to reach an agreement with the agency “as quickly as possible, so we can most effectively use Medicaid services” to respond to the pandemic.

—Daniel Beekman

Positive cases grow in Whatcom County

Two additional Whatcom County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of known infections of residents or people who work in the county to seven.

The two most recent are a male in his 40s and a male in his 60s who is hospitalized, according to the Whatcom County Health Department.

“It appears that at least one of the cases has no known contact from a confirmed case,” a health department release states.

The county yesterday confirmed the first positive test of a student at the Western Washington University campus, a female in her 20s who lives off-campus in Bellingham.

—Ron Judd

Clark County reports first two coronavirus deaths

Clark County has reported its first two COVID-19 deaths, with two of four patients with confirmed cases dying on Monday night, according to Clark County Public Health.

The two were a married couple in their 80s who lived at different long-term-care facilities in Clark County, Public Health reported. According to The Columbian, the couple had no recent travel history and were believed to have contracted the infection in the county.

They had both been hospitalized at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center last week.

The two other confirmed cases in the county are a woman in her 40s and a man in his 70s, according to the county health department.

—Christine Clarridge

Advocacy groups ask Gov. Jay Inslee to release thousands of inmates from Washington prisons over coronavirus fears

A coalition of 14 civil liberties and advocacy groups are calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to release thousands of prisoners in Washington state, saying lives could be in danger due to the Department of Corrections’ inability to manage the spread of coronavirus.

The groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Columbia Legal Services and Disability Rights Washington, called for the release in a joint letter to Inslee, saying without such action, a prison sentence could turn into a death sentence for vulnerable people.

The letter asks Inslee to take immediate actions, including releasing more than 1,900 inmates over the age of 56, as well as people within six months of their scheduled release. The groups also want community corrections officers to stop issuing violations to people under supervision -- violations that often lead people to be sent to jail for minor offenses.

A spokeswoman for Inslee says his office is aware of the request and will give it "due consideration."

There have been no announced cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, among Washington prison inmates, but two DOC employees have tested positive and are self-quarantining.

Read more here.

—Jim Brunner

Seattle Children's to serve young adults, freeing up beds for coronavirus patients at other hospitals

Seattle Children’s hospital is planning to begin serving inpatients up to and including age 21, the hospital’s chief executive officer said Tuesday. The executive said the move was intended to give other hospitals more space to treat adults who test positive for the novel coronavirus.

The hospital primarily serves children from birth until teenhood; patients transition to adult providers when they’re 18 to 21. Young adults usually aren’t first-time patients at Children's, officials said.

Seattle Children’s will also begin accepting young patients from nearby hospitals that choose to shut down or shrink pediatric units to make room for adults with the virus. Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

Amazon details local business support fund, extends rent subsidy

Amazon provided more information and application instructions for relief funds it has promised small businesses surrounding its Seattle buildings, and extended the promise to Bellevue.

It also said it would continue offering free rent to retail tenants of its own buildings through April.

Like small businesses everywhere, those serving customers in the South Lake Union and Denny Regrade neighborhoods have seen business evaporate, first with Amazon’s work-from-home guidance to employees and now with a full shutdown of bars and restaurants to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The company last week said it would provide $5 million in emergency grant funding to businesses with less than $7 million in revenue or fewer than 50 employees.

An application page for the so-called Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund says, “Our goal with this fund is to help ensure small businesses are able to maintain their livelihood and keep our community vibrant.”

Applications will be reviewed as they are received, the company said, with funds to be disbursed "as quickly as possible" to businesses that meet Amazon’s eligibility criteria.

Amazon clarified what businesses would be eligible for grant funding: The focus is on independently owned service or retail establishments open to the general public that rely on foot traffic.

Businesses such as a dentist’s office or retail outlets owned by publicly traded companies do not qualify.

“We will prioritize available funding for those businesses closest to the buildings where our employees work and are able to provide evidence of decreased revenue,” the company said on a page explaining the fund.

Amazon is placing no requirements on how a business uses the grants, and said it will not inspect recipients’ spending.

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Romano

23 fun things to do with kids using stuff you probably already have

How do you stay sane if you’re stuck inside with toddlers for the foreseeable future?

You don’t need to order a bunch of fancy, expensive stuff, and you don’t need a complicated setup.

Here are 23 ideas for fun things to do to entertain little kids, using stuff you probably already have lying around.

—JiaYing Grygiel, Special to The Seattle Times

Seattle's small music venues wonder if they can survive coronavirus closures

Even before Gov. Jay Inslee's order this week for increased social distancing restrictions that would halt what was left of Seattle's live music industry, the city's small venue owners had been describing the situation as devastating.

Local venue owners are quick to acknowledge the need for social distancing. But the novel coronavirus and attempts to curb its spread have created a perilous situation for the city's smaller, independently owned clubs.

Read more about it here.

—Michael Rietmulder

Amazon prioritizes household staples and medical supplies over TVs and toys

Amazon is prioritizing the stocking of household staples and medical supplies as it struggles to deal with a surge in demand for online orders from customers avoiding stores during the coronavirus pandemic.

The world’s biggest online retailer said in a blog post updated on Tuesday morning that it was making the move “so we can more quickly receive, restock, and ship these products to customers.”

The aim is to keep warehouses stocked with the items people are buying now — toilet paper, bleach and sanitizing wipes — so Amazon is temporarily not accepting shipments of nonessential goods like flat-screen televisions and toys.

The Seattle-based company wants to be perceived as an indispensable service, which is hard to do when items are out of stock and customers have to wait days for orders to be delivered.

Read more here.

—Bloomberg News

Childcare centers are exempt from limits on gatherings of 50 and up, health officials say

Public Health — Seattle & King County issued new guidance regarding childcare centers and the 50-person group gathering limits late Monday. Because the centers are not community or social events, they are exempt from that order.

A spokesperson from the agency stressed the importance of childcare centers right now. “Child care plays an essential role for parents who don’t have work flexibility, including those who work in healthcare, critical infrastructure, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other services we all need.”

The agency is advising centers to screen children and staff for symptoms of COVID-19 — including coughing, fever and shortness of breath — before they enter, and to make sure everyone washes hands frequently. The agency is also providing information on how to adapt activities to include social distancing, something that providers say is very hard to do with small children.

Read the full story here.

—Anne Hillman

AMC closing all movie theaters as coronavirus spreads around U.S.

AMC Theaters, the country's largest movie-theater chain, said today it's closing all its theaters temporarily, in accordance with local, state and federal guidelines on social distancing and prohibitions on large gatherings during the growing coronavirus crisis.

The move follows yesterday's announcement by Regal Cinemas, the country's second-largest movie-theater chain, that it would temporarily close its theaters.

Read more here.

—Moira Macdonald

Trump calls Boeing 'the greatest company in the world'

President Donald Trump praised Boeing as "the greatest company in the world," and said that we have to help the aerospace giant at a news conference Tuesday.

"We have to protect Boeing, we have to absolutely help Boeing," Trump said, calling it "unthinkable" what happened to the company.

—David Gutman

Uber suspends shared rides in U.S., Canada amid coronavirus outbreak

Uber has suspended its Pool service, a feature that groups riders heading in the same direction for a lower fare, in the United States and Canada, in an effort to control the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Customers can continue to request solo Uber rides, and Uber Eats services will remain available. However, Uber may adjust operations as needed, according to a news release.

The ride-hailing company will also provide two weeks of financial assistance to drivers and delivery people who are diagnosed with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, or placed in individual quarantine by a public health authority.

The amount of assistance drivers receive will be based on average daily earnings over the past six months. For people who have been driving for less than six months, average earnings will be based on how much a driver has earned in the time between his or her first trip and March 6.

For example, a driver who earns an average of $64.28 per day is eligible to receive $900.

Every driver in the U.S. who has completed at least one trip will receive a minimum payment of $50.

Uber says it's working to provide drivers "in cities with the greatest need" with disinfectants to help them keep their vehicles clean.

“Our goal is to help flatten the curve of community spread in the cities we serve," said Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president of Uber Rides and Platform, in a news release. "We remain in close contact with local leaders and will continue to work with them to discourage non-essential travel.”

Starting Tuesday, riders will see a message in the app encouraging them to “travel only when necessary.”

Pool service was available in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and 12 other U.S. cities.

—Michelle Baruchman

Washington state DSHS will stop most visitors at 24/7 facilities amid coronavirus

OLYMPIA – Effective immediately, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) will stop most visitors to its 24/7 facilities.

Sixty-seven state-operated living alternatives and Washington's residential habilitation centers will cease taking visitors except for end-of-life situations, according to a DSHS news release.

Those residential centers include Rainier School in Buckley, Yakima Valley School, Lakeland Village in Medical Lake and Shoreline's Fircrest School.

Other facilities -- such as the state psychiatric hospitals -- will allow visits only by legal professionals and members of advocate groups such as the Northwest Justice Project and Disability Rights Washington. Facilities subject to those restrictions include:

Western State Hospital in Lakewood

Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake

Fort Steilacoom Competency Restoration Program in Lakewood

Maple Lane Competency Restoration Program in Rochester

Yakima Competency Restoration Program in Yakima

Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island

Meanwhile, the Child Study and Treatment Center in Lakewood will allow one adult visitor per day for the children there, according to the news release.

The changes come after DSHS last week put in place screenings for visitors and staff at facilities for symptoms of COVID-19.

Those screenings will continue for the visitors still allowed, until the risk of the virus has decreased, according to the release.

“This was a difficult but necessary decision,” said Sean Murphy, assistant secretary for the DSHS Behavioral Health Administration in the release. “The most important thing right now is to stop the virus from spreading into our institutions and keeping our clients and staff safe.”

—Joseph O'Sullivan

To keep seniors safe at home amid coronavirus, Medicare expands telemedicine

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare said Tuesday it will immediately expand coverage for telemedicine nationwide to help seniors with health problems stay home to avoid the coronavirus.

The new option will allow millions of older people to take care of ongoing medical problems as well as new concerns, while heeding public health advice to stay home during the outbreak.

For example, a patient with diabetes wouldn’t have to postpone a regular follow-up visit with the doctor to keep safe — he or she could do it via Skype. And people concerned they may have the virus could “see” their doctor or nurse practitioner virtually to find out how to get tested in person.

“It helps us prevent the spread of the virus,” said Medicare administrator Seema Verma.

Click here to read the full story.

—Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press

Burien passes 30-day moratorium on residential evictions in response to COVID-19

After passing a citywide declaration of emergency Monday night, Burien's City Council additionally passed a 30-day moratorium on rent-related residential evictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We know that many are one financial emergency away from paying rent, and to be completely honest we know that coronavirus may be that emergency," Burien Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx said at Monday night's City Council meeting.

The moratorium includes a ban on late fees and follows a similar residential eviction moratorium set by the city of Seattle over the weekend.

—Sydney Brownstone

T-Mobile closing 80% of its retail stores

Starting Tuesday, about 80% of T-Mobile's retail stores will close until at least March 31, according to a letter sent to employees by President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert.

Sievert wrote of the need to balance serving customers with protecting employees.

"I take ALL of these responsibilities very seriously and also feel strongly about doing our part to slow the spread of this virus and help 'flatten the curve' to help keep people safe," he wrote.

The company had already temporarily closed its indoor mall stores.

The 20% of retail stores that remain open represent a "critical mass" of locations that are "within a 30-minute drive for most customers in each market," Sievert wrote. They will be open seven hours a day and staffed "ONLY with workers who are willing to come in and support our customers. No employee will be 'REQUIRED' to work in our stores over the next two weeks."

T-Mobile will help retail employees "maintain their target income even during these initial closures this month," he wrote. "... These aren’t simple decisions, but they are the right ones. We’ve said it before – the service we provide to keep our customers connected is essential, particularly right now. This is not a time to focus on tackling the competition. This is our time to focus on our community and do our part to stop COVID-19 from spreading. Please continue to do what is right for you and your family to stay healthy."

—Gina Cole

Scratched: Kentucky Derby now set for September due to virus

The Kentucky Derby was postponed from May to September on Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Churchill Downs officials said the race will move from May 2 to Sept. 5, marking the first time in 75 years it won’t be run on the first Saturday in May.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

Musicians doing free concerts on social media

Bans on large gatherings mean live concerts are out of the question -- in person, anyway.

Social media is allowing musicians to perform for their fans even while everyone self-isolates:

—Gina Cole

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Inside Day 1 of the surreal new world at Seattle's restaurants: With Tuesday as the first full day without dining-room service, and as layoffs and closures multiply, owners of surviving restaurants are "totally in limbo." The new normal, Bethany Jean Clement writes in a personal essay, is delivery and dread. And yet ... the energetic scene at Canlis might give others hope.

Callers to Washington's new coronavirus hotlines have been waiting ... and waiting ... and then getting the runaround. The call centers, caught off guard by massive demand, have been hampered by too few operators, technical snafus and contradicting messages from health care providers. Read the Times Watchdog story.

"This is bigger than all of us." Every Washingtonian must act to slow the spread of novel coronavirus, state leaders said as they outlined how to avoid all unnecessary social interactions. The U.S. government has released its own sweeping guidelines urging, among other things, that all older Americans stay home.

The San Francisco area has screeched to a halt, with 7 million people ordered to shelter at home and only leave for "essential" reasons. Here's what this will look like.

Thousands of families will get supermarket vouchers of $800 each from the city of Seattle. Here's who is eligible. At the same time, the city faces a massive hole in its own budget amid the economic breakdown.

Boeing is asking the White House for aid as it tries to avoid layoffs, and Alaska Air is cutting flights and CEO pay.

Two intrepid lab sleuths in Seattle ramped up tests, working around the clock for days as the virus closed in. Here's a look inside the work that's leading the nation — and becoming increasingly personal for the two UW scientists.

Amazon is hiring 100,000 people to keep up with a crush of orders. It's also raising hourly workers' pay.

Nordstrom is temporarily shutting all of its stores.

Many tribal casinos are closing, too. In some ways, tribes moved faster than other governments to protect their people.

Home-sales activity isn't slowing, brokers say, even though more than 30,000 Western Washington real estate agents have been warned not to host open houses.

King County property-tax bills may be delayed for homeowners and businesses in hardship situations. County leaders are making that request of Gov. Jay Inslee.

"Social distancing is impossible in a preschool." Child care providers are in a scary situation, and so are parents. Meanwhile, schools around the Puget Sound area have had to transform nearly overnight; here's how that's going.

Small-business owners are banding together, and they've already thrown some creative life preservers to each other.

Love in the time of coronavirus: Megan Griffiths and Ben Camp were "really excited to get married," and then the virus arrived. This is their story of starting from scratch to make unexpected memories.

Brawling monkeys and misplaced deer are among the more bizarre side effects of the crisis.

—Kris Higginson

Here's help

If you think you might have COVID-19, call your doctor and stay home unless you have "emergency warning signs," health officials say.

Taking your temperature? Know that 98.6 isn't "normal" anymore, and that's an interesting little mystery.

One less thing to worry about: The toilet-paper supply pipeline is strong. Barring a new craze for mummy costumes, we can all relax about it.

As Gov. Inslee reminds Washingtonians that "we need to make changes," here's what's allowed and what's not under new social-distancing rules:

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.