Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Friday, March 20, 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. Public gatherings are restricted, and places of entertainment and recreation are closed statewide.
Although many patients with symptoms have struggled to access testing, Washington is gaining the capacity to test more people for the virus, and more COVID-19 diagnoses are made each day. The state Department of Health announced 148 newly confirmed cases Friday, bringing the state total to 1,524 cases, including 83 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County, which has seen 793 people fall ill and 67 of them die, according to the county’s public health department.
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 Thursday 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 Friday afternoon.
Starbucks is closing cafes in response to coronavirus crisis; drive-thrus remain open
Starbucks informed staff that it would close its cafes in the United States in response to the coronavirus crisis, though it will remain open for delivery and drive-thru customers, the company said in an emailed statement Friday.
Some cafes close to hospitals or health care centers will remain open, according to the statement, as part of the company’s “efforts to serve first responders and health care workers.” And Starbucks will continue to pay all employees for the next 30 days, whether they come to work or stay at home.
The move is the latest in a series of escalating steps that Starbucks has taken in response to the coronavirus crisis. The coffee chain had already eliminated seating at all its company-owned stores in the country and closed some stores in “high-social gathering locations,” like malls and college campuses.
Grocery-store workers' unions and supermarkets reach agreements on hazard pay
Washington grocery-store workers' unions, which have been thrown onto the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, recently reached agreements with their supermarket chains for better benefits, including paid time off, flexible scheduling and hazard pay.
Safeway, one of the country’s biggest grocery chains, and Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer and QFC, agreed to add several benefits to workers' contracts to help with hours in the store during the virus outbreak, according to a Friday evening statement from UFCW 21.
Last week, the unions, which include UFCW 21, 367 and 1439 and Teamsters 38, were offered two weeks’ pay for those diagnosed with COVID-19.
The new hazard pay benefits include a total of $300 for those working full time and $150 for those working less than full time, which would be paid in early April, the statement said.
"We are also hopeful to be able to announce as early as tomorrow some additional advances for local union grocery store workers and are calling on all grocery stores across the nation (union or not) to adopt all these worker and community protections to help us all during the coronavirus crisis," the Friday statement said.
‘It will not be pretty’: State preparing to make life-or-death decisions if coronavirus overwhelms health care system
Washington state and hospital officials have been meeting to consider what once was almost unthinkable — how to decide who lives and dies if, as feared, the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the state’s health care system.
“We don’t want to do it. We don’t think we should have to do it,” said Cassie Sauer, chief executive of the Washington State Hospital Association, which along with state and local health officials has been involved in refining what Sauer called a”crisis standard of care” — essentially guidelines to health care officials on who should receive treatment and who should be left to die.
“If we have to do this, then we want to do it in a fair and rational and thoughtful way,” Sauer said.
Seattle senior living community Kline Galland confirms a positive case of COVID-19
Kline Galland, a senior living community in Seattle, confirmed this week a resident has tested positive for COVID-19.
The patient, who was in the transitional care unit of the Kline Galland Home in Seattle's Rainier Valley neighborhood, has since been taken to a hospital. The center didn't have any additional information on the patient.
The community reported Friday a staff member at The Summit at First Hill also tested positive for the virus, though a spokeswoman later said the results were inconclusive. The center is still treating it as a positive case.
"As the amount of testing increases in our area and as the virus continues to spread, we are anticipating that more employees will have positive tests, mirroring an anticipated increase of positive tests in the general population," a statement on Kline Galland's website said. "We are administering extra monitoring of patients and staff in affected units. We are following King County Department of Health rules on who can get tested and are advocating for broadening the scope of testing to include asymptomatic patients and staff."
As of Friday afternoon, at least 167 positive cases of COVID-19 associated with 14 senior facilities in Washington have been reported.
Lawmakers call protecting jobs the priority in any bailout for Boeing and aviation industry
Stunned by the rapidity with which the coronavirus crisis has gripped America in a chokehold, Congress on Friday scrambled to agree on a massive financial-relief package that could prevent economic collapse on top of the mounting toll in human lives.
But key players insist that any such government aid — while preventing permanent damage to the nation’s infrastructure, including the aerospace-manufacturing sector topped by Boeing and its major suppliers — should come with conditions that preserve the workforce rather than bailing out shareholders for their losses.
“The money has to be used for the continued operation of the company,” said Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, who chairs the Aviation Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It’s not to be used for anything else. Executives don’t get bonuses. Shareholders don’t get dividends. There are no share buybacks.”
‘Our warehouse is empty’: Washington state epidemiologist describes severe shortages of medical supply amid coronavirus outbreak
Washington’s state epidemiologist on Friday offered a stark assessment of a critical shortage of personal protective gear for health care workers and testing supplies needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic and safeguard workers.
“We have health care workers wearing bandannas at this point,” Dr. Scott Lindquist told The Seattle Times on Friday. “Our warehouse is empty. Literally, we don’t have any [equipment] to be given out. And when we do get it, we give it out right away.”
The shortage of protective equipment for health care workers is escalating their risks of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and depriving overstretched hospitals of their services at a time of great need. It is part of a nationwide dearth of respirator masks, gowns and other types of gear that earlier this week prompted a multitude of health care workers to take to social media — rallying with the Twitter hashtag #GetMePPE — to display the gear they were trying to get by with.
New data shows where coronavirus crisis has hit workers the hardest
Like much else about the coronavirus pandemic, job losses from the escalating public-health crisis haven’t hit evenly across the Seattle area or the state.
Hotel and restaurant workers, education services employees, and artists and entertainers all saw sharp increases in unemployment claims filed last week, while tech workers, finance and insurance workers, and managers filed relatively few, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Security Department.
Claims by workers at accommodation and food-service companies, hit hard as consumers have withdrawn from public interactions, accounted for a quarter of the 14,154 new claims for unemployment benefits filed during the week ending March 14. (The total is slightly lower than the 14,846 claims reported Thursday by the U.S. labor department.)
Member of Vice President Pence’s staff tests positive for coronavirus
A member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced on Friday evening.
Neither Pence nor President Donald Trump “had close contact with the individual,” Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller said in a statement, without naming the staffer. “Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with” guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump has tested negative for the virus. He underwent testing last Friday after questions from reporters about his interactions with people who were infected or were concerned they had the virus. Pence said earlier this week he had not been tested.
Makah tribal community sheltering in place
The most isolated Indian reservation in Washington just became more so.
The Makah Tribe announced Friday night that in addition to cutting off access to outsiders, the tribe also would be sheltering in place. Located at the farthest northwestern tip of the lower 48 states, the reservation is reachable only by one two-lane road, or by boat. The marina has also been closed to all but local access.
The Makah Tribal Council and health officer enacted an official shelter-in-place order for the Makah Community on Friday evening.
Aegis Living Marymoor confirms 16 positive coronavirus cases, including 1 death, in residents and employees
Thirteen Aegis Living Marymoor residents tested positive for COVID-19, including one resident who died, and three staff members were diagnosed with the virus since the Redmond senior care facility reported its first positive case two weeks ago.
Nine residents who tested positive are recuperating at Aegis Marymoor and two remain hospitalized, Aegis Living spokeswoman Nandi Butcher said Friday. One resident has recovered and returned to the facility Thursday.
While other states order residents to stay at home to stem coronavirus, Washington resists; here’s why
By Friday morning, the governors of New York and California had ordered — with significant exceptions — all their residents to stay home, to try to limit, as much as possible, the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Other states soon followed: New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois. At least 1 in 5 Americans have been ordered to stay home.
Residents of Western Washington, where the outbreak hit first and, initially, hardest, have not.
Instead, Gov. Jay Inslee is doing everything he can to keep people from leaving the house without outright ordering it.
“I’m asking you, and you may say I am pleading with you, to stay home; stay home unless it is necessary that you go out,” Inslee said at a teleconference Friday. “I am exercising every ounce of the bully pulpit authority that I have.
“If anyone is living a normal life today, you are not doing what we need for you to do if we are going to save lives in this state,” Inslee said, adding that a legally binding order could still be coming if people don’t change their habits.
The Peace Corps isn’t just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of the coronavirus. It’s firing them.
Because of the coronavirus, the Peace Corps is doing more than evacuating its 7,300 volunteers from 61 countries.
It’s also firing them.
In a March 15 open letter to the volunteers, the agency’s director, Jody Olsen, said, “We are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.”
But nowhere in the statement posted on the agency’s website does it tell the public that all the volunteers are being dismissed. That information is in the agency’s “frequently asked questions” about the evacuations.
“All evacuated Volunteers and trainees, regardless of length of service, will be classified as having undergone a Completion of Service (COS),” it says.
That leaves volunteers like Kimberly Ruck – who have sacrificed in service to two nations, at home and abroad – upset, dismayed and angry.
Child care programs need basic supplies to stay open
More than half of the child care programs that are still open are concerned about being able to get basic supplies such as bleach, toilet paper and food. That’s according to a survey of more than 1,500 programs statewide that the nonprofit Child Care Aware of Washington conducted this week. The needs are greatest in King, Snohomish, Gran, and Yakima counties.
“Supplies have been a real issue,” said Miranda Kirk, who runs Rainbow School in Lakewood. Her program has to be compliant with USDA food regulations to stay open. “We couldn’t get frozen fruit, so parents had to bring some in from personal storage to stay open for fruit requirements.”
The nonprofit identified a supplier who could secure toilet paper and cleaning supplies, said Marianna Ross, a program manager with Child Care Aware Washington. They’ll distribute these to providers around the state.
Ross explained that young children who are just learning to use the toilet need more paper. They’re distributing supplies so that “those most at risk will not be forced to close their doors for lack of toilet paper,” Ross said.
Child Care Aware is asking for donations on their website to help keep child care centers afloat. Of the more than 5,000 child care programs statewide, more than 400 have closed for pandemic-related reasons.
State Patrol crime-lab workers fear potential exposure to coronavirus after janitor tested positive
After a janitor who worked at a Sodo office park that houses various law-enforcement offices tested positive this month for the novel coronavirus, Seattle police reportedly ordered all employees who were potentially exposed to get screened by a doctor.
But the same didn’t happen with the staff of the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, which operates out of the same facilities. Seattle police officers temporarily left the Park 90/5 office park on Airport Way South when it closed down for a deep cleaning Tuesday, according to sources and police communications disclosed to The Seattle Times. But the State Patrol’s lab workers kept working.
Supervisors informed Crime Lab employees “we were not at risk and to move forward with work as usual. The building was deep cleaned and life moved on,” one lab employee who asked not to be identified wrote in an email to The Times.
But some lab workers think the State Patrol’s response was inadequate and they’re worried about their exposure risks, the employee said.
Price gouging complaints pile up in Washington state amid coronavirus outbreak
As the spread of the novel coronavirus strips store shelves of hand sanitizer and other products that ward off germs, opportunistic hustlers on the internet second-hand market are selling the scarce and coveted items at extreme markups.
On the Bellevue-based online marketplace OfferUp.com, a Seattle-area seller this week listed a dented, one-third used bottle of Germ-X sanitizer for $20, twice what someone would pay at a retail store for a full bottle. Another was peddling an unused, 2-liter bottle of hand sanitizer for $150. The same item was priced at $6.98 at Sam’s Club and $10.74 at Walmart — though they were all sold out.
Thousands of similar listings have been posted locally and nationally on OfferUp, which offers a Craigslist-like service allowing people to sell their own items online, with many sellers demanding inflated prices for sanitizer, surgical masks, toilet paper and other items now in short supply amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
King, Pierce and Snohomish counties change coronavirus contact notification policies
Public health investigators are no longer notifying people who may have had contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Faced with a rapidly growing number of cases, contact investigators with King, Pierce and Snohomish counties’ health districts have tightened their focus and are only notifying people who are known to have had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and focusing more on slowing down the spread of the disease.
Boeing halts stockholder dividends and 2020 pay for CEO, chairman
Boeing said Friday it will suspend dividends for stockholders until further notice and will not pay CEO Dave Calhoun and Board Chairman Larry Kellner for the rest of this year, as it wrestles with a deepening crisis from the coronavirus epidemic compounded by its ongoing problems with the 737 MAX.
The company also said it will continue its pause of any share repurchasing until further notice. Boeing suspended its stock buyback program in April 2019, a month after the grounding of its MAX jet fleet following two crashes in five months.
King County and Seattle close playgrounds, sports courts and other recreation locations
King County and the city of Seattle have ordered closures of all playgrounds and sports courts to urge residents to follow social distancing measures amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The closures include picnic shelters, basketball and tennis courts, ballfields and other active recreation locations, according to a Friday statement from King County Executive Dow Constantine's office. Parks, natural lands, regional trails, backcountry trails and beaches where social distancing can be maintained will stay open, the statement said.
Pickup games, picnics and other large gatherings won't be permitted, though ballfields and playfields are open for walking and other nonteam activities.
Restrooms within parks — which will be cleaned and sanitized frequently — will continue to be open to the public, the statement said.
“With schools closed and people adapting to new work habits, our parks and open spaces can provide an important break in these stressful times. It is clear, however, that we must continue to be vigilant in these places as well, and make sure all our residents put into practice Public Health directives,” Constantine said in the statement.
“Go for a hike," he continued. "Take the family for a stroll. Kick a soccer ball around with your kids. But use good sense and avoid gatherings, team sports, pick-up games, and playground equipment.”
Senators press Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s coronavirus workplace safety measures
Four U.S. senators pressed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday for details on how the company is keeping its workers safe, after one of its U.S. warehouse employees tested positive for COVID-19 in New York.
Two New York employees of Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market have also tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, the company confirmed Friday.
A company spokesperson called “accusations” in the letter — from Democratic U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent — “simply unfounded.”
The senators’ questions echo demands made in an online petition to Bezos circulating since Monday by Amazonians United, a group organizing the company’s warehouse workers. They are demanding paid sick leave, child-care subsidies, hazard pay and relief from production quotas to provide time for sanitation.
No evictions of impacted tenants for six months after coronavirus emergency, Seattle City Council member proposes
City Council President M. Lorena González wants to extend Seattle’s moratorium on residential evictions until six months after the city’s coronavirus state of emergency ends, for some tenants.
The city already has an emergency order in place that says many residential tenants can’t be evicted for 60 days or until the emergency is over. The order covers all evictions other than those related to tenant actions that imminently threaten the health or safety of others.
González intends to introduce legislation Monday that would allow tenants to use the pandemic as a defense in eviction court. Landlords would be barred from evicting tenants able to prove a connection between their unpaid or late rent and their coronavirus struggles.
Her legislation would apply to tenants with unpaid or late rent due to a coronavirus-related illness; reduction in income; loss of employment; reduction in work hours; business or office closure; need to miss work to care without compensation for an immediate family member or child; or similar circumstance.
“I have heard from many renters who worry that even after the immediate crisis ends, they will be unable to immediately pay rent,” González said in a news release.
The council president also intends to introduce legislation that would set guidelines for tenant-landlord payment plans in the year after Seattle’s emergency ends.
That legislation would apply to tenants who fall behind on their rent during the emergency and six months after, due to the pandemic. Such tenants would have the right to pay their missing rent in installments over up to a year.
The legislation would cap the installments at ⅓ of monthly rent, unless agreed to by a tenant. It also would prohibit late fees and interest for six months after the emergency.
Community Transit to reduce bus service amid coronavirus outbreak
“Given the current ongoing decrease in ridership and possible future staffing shortages, our desire is to have a solid plan for our communities while caring for our employees. We feel this decision will help achieve those goals,” CEO Emmett Heath said in statement.
Ridership across the system has fallen 57% compared with February, according to the agency. Commuter service to downtown and the University of Washington has dropped nearly 80%.
While details of the service reduction will be released next week, the agency said routes serving Seattle, the University of Washington and Boeing will receive more cuts to closely match ridership.
All routes will provide at least one trip in each direction, but there will be longer gaps between trips.
Service reductions are being planned “to minimize impact on customers” and allow the agency to account for potential staff shortages.
Community Transit said Thursday evening it would stop collecting fares from passengers after four transit operators tested presumptively positive and would ask passengers to board and exit buses through the rear doors to minimize interactions with drivers.
In addition, Community Transit also shared details of its supplemental leave policy, available for all employees.
Full-time employees are eligible for up to 80 hours of supplemental leave, and part-time employees are eligible for up to 40 hours.
Sound Transit goes fare-free to reduce spread of coronavirus
Sound Transit will temporarily stop requiring fares on its trains and buses to reduce hand-to-hand contact between drivers and passengers. On ST Express buses, passengers will also be directed to board buses through the rear doors when possible.
The agency announced the changes Friday, after the same move by King County Metro and Community Transit in Snohomish County.
On Sound Transit trains, “resources normally used for fare enforcement will shift to continuing to maintain a strong security presence on trains and at facilities and to assisting riders,” the agency said.
Sound Transit, King County Metro and Community Transit are all preparing to reduce service as the coronavirus outbreak results in sharp declines in ridership. Riders should check the agencies’ websites for up-to-date information because apps like Google Maps and One Bus Away may no longer be accurate.
“The safety of our riders and employees is our top priority,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said in a statement.
Army Corps of Engineers to convert hotels, dorms for hospital units amid coronavirus’ spread
In a dramatic sign of the coronavirus’s anticipated toll, the Army Corps of Engineers is planning to convert vacant hotels, college dormitories and other facilities into intensive care wards with tens of thousands of makeshift hospital beds, first in New York but probably expanding to California and other states.
That announcement Friday at a Pentagon news conference by Lt. Gen Todd T. Semonite, commander of Army Corps of Engineers, marks an escalation of the U.S. military role. Already it is providing 2,000 ventilators and 5 million protective masks and preparing to dispatch hospital ships on both coasts. Governors are calling up thousands of National Guard troops.
Gov. Inslee says more social distancing is needed in Washington
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a Friday evening news conference that he's not announcing any new legal orders today, and instead discussed concerns about people not following directives to social distance.
While the state's traffic data show social interactions have decreased, Inslee said it's "not enough."
When asked why he's not ordering Washingtonians to shelter-in-place, Inslee said he's concerned about the economic impact that might have.
"We are evaluating whether we can achieve the goal of preventing massive loss of life here," he said. "To avoid something like that, we need powerful volunteers in the state of Washington. We need a powerful volunteer army, and if we do that we might be able to avoid some of the measures other states have taken."
Inslee talking about medical gear --
- says 200 ventilators on order from Mass firm & others on order elsewhere
- 12M disposable gloves
- N95 & other masks coming in
- 74k cannisters of disinfectant
— Joseph O'Sullivan ⛰ (@OlympiaJoe) March 20, 2020
Self-quarantined Lummi Nation medical director cleared as virus free
Dakotah Lane is out of self-quarantine for the novel coronavirus and is back at work with his medical team at the Lummi Nation.
Lane, the tribe's medical director, was alone in self-quarantine in Bellingham after he was exposed to the first person who tested positive at Lummi for the virus. His first test was inconclusive. A second test returned a clean bill of health Friday.
"It's good to be back with my team," Lane said Friday in a text.
Lummi has been running an aggressive campaign against the virus, and got an early start stockpiling medical supplies including test kits. The tribe also is working to set up a field hospital to take care of its people and has enacted extreme social distancing on the reservation. Playgrounds have been closed, and parents have been told to allow their children outside only with supervision.
The tribe also has stepped up emergency assistance, handing out hundreds of meals so far this week to people in their cars.
Lane is the first member of the Lummi Nation to serve his tribe as a physician.
So far three people at Lummi have tested positive for the virus, including one tribal member who lives on the reservation.
Seattle now soliciting donations of personal protective equipment
Seattle is partnering with Goodwill Industries to solicit donations of personal protective equipment and then get the donations to first responders and health-care workers who are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The effort is targeting dental offices, veterinary clinics, other non-emergency facilities, construction companies and individuals.
First responders and health-care workers have been dealing with equipment shortages.
The city has put together an online form where potential donors can submit contact information and information about what equipment they have.
New and unused N95, P100 and surgical masks are needed, along with gloves, disposable gowns, eyewear and more, according to a news release from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office.
Separately, Washington labor unions have launched a site to solicit donations.
“We are facing critical shortages of personal protective equipment for health care workers in our state … forcing nurses to care for COVID-19 and other infectious patients without the masks they need,” Sally Watkins, executive director of the Washington State Nurses Association, said in the news release.
“We urgently need and appreciate any help we can get to keep our nurses and other frontline caregivers healthy and on the job. Your donations will help us be there for you when you need us most.”
City employees will contact potential donors who submit information through the online form to determine drop offs or pick ups. Goodwill will pick up donations. The supplies will be kept in a Sodo facility. Questions should be addressed to PPEdonations@seattle.gov.
Washington state is also working on the equipment shortages. The state is soliciting donations from large companies and help from manufacturers willing to shift their operations. Manufacturers should contact Deloit Wolfe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-681-6798.
Inslee asks Trump to declare major disaster in Washington to unlock unemployment benefits
Gov. Jay Inslee has asked President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster in Washington due to the coronavirus pandemic, Inslee announced Friday, noting the move could secure additional aid for the state’s residents, including expanded unemployment benefits and food assistance.
Unemployment insurance claims are spiking in Washington, where Inslee has shut down bars, restaurants and large gatherings. The claims have been overwhelming the state’s unemployment insurance system.
Cruise ships kept sailing as coronavirus spread. Travelers and health experts question why.
While cruise lines have seen only a small fraction of the pandemic, they have emerged as a particularly tricky battleground to fight the virus.
Health experts said the industry's initial resistance to take drastic action -- coupled with a deference from government officials, who let the companies to come up with their own action plan -- put more passengers at risk.
TV host Andy Cohen tests positive for COVID-19
Andy Cohen, host of Bravo's late night talk show "Watch What Happens Live," announced on Instagram on Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19.
He said he tested positive after self-quarantining for a few days.
"As much as I felt like I could push through whatever I was feeling to do #WWHL from home, we’re putting a pin in that for now so I can focus on getting better," the 51-year-old said in his post. "I want to thank all the medical professionals who are working tirelessly for all of us, and urge everybody to stay home and take care of themselves."
Pacific Science Center lays off most of its employees amid coronavirus closures
The Pacific Science Center has laid off most of its employees due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The center employs about 350 people. A statement from CEO Will Daugherty says a small team continues to handle minimal operations, including caring for animals, fundraising and creating new digital programming.
Seahawks, CenturyLink Field to pay part-time employees during coronavirus outbreak
The Seahawks and CenturyLink Field will pay more than $700,000 to part-time employees impacted by events that will be canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the team announced Friday.
That is one of several steps the team, as well as Vulcan and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, announced Friday as part of an overall plan to support various entities in the days to come.
Other steps include donations to the Seattle Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund, the Chinatown International District and the COVID-19 Arts Emergency Relief Fund. The Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers are also donating thousands of pounds of unused food from their venues to local nonprofit organizations, including 3,000 pounds of food from CenturyLink Field to local organizations such as FareStart, the YMCA and Mercy Housing Northwest.
Washington has 1,524 COVID-19 cases, including 83 deaths, officials say
The Washington State Department of Health has confirmed an additional 148 cases and nine deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The numbers released Friday afternoon bring the total of confirmed cases to 1,524, including 83 deaths. King County has seen about half of the confirmed cases with 793 infections. Cowlitz County reported its first case Friday.
Most of the state’s deaths from COVID-19 have been in King County, where 67 people have died. Of those deaths, 35 were associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland.
The number of confirmed cases has risen as the state has increased its testing capacity, but also as COVID-19 spreads. King County officials said they expect case counts to double every five to seven days unless people follow social-distancing recommendations.
Note: These numbers were updated Friday afternoon due to changes in the state's data.
The drive-in, relic of yesterday, finds itself suited to now
The drive-in theater, long a dwindling nostalgia act in a multiplex world, is experiencing a momentary return to prominence.
With nearly all of the nation’s movie theaters shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, some drive-in owners think they’re in a unique position to give moviegoers a chance to do something out of the house while keeping distance from others. This weekend, some drive-ins aren’t the only show in town. They’re the only show in the country.
Good To Go! customer service centers close due to COVID-19 concerns
The walk-in service centers where customers can go for issues with Washington's electronic tolling system will close beginning Saturday until further notice, according to a news release.
Customers who want to make payments toward their Good To Go! tolling accounts can go online at MyGoodToGo.com or use the automated menu system over the phone.
Drivers can use a prepaid debit card online or over the phone or cashier's check sent by mail.
The Washington State Department of Transportation will work with state officials to determine when customer service centers can reopen.
"However, the priority remains keeping employees and drivers healthy," officials said in the release.
Illinois and New York join California in ordering lockdowns
Illinois and New York state joined California on Friday in ordering all residents to stay in their homes unless they have vital reasons to go out, restricting the movement of more than 70 million people in the most sweeping efforts yet in the U.S. to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The governors of the three states acted in a bid to fend off the kind of onslaught that has caused the health system in southern Europe to buckle. The three states encompass the three biggest cities in America: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“No, this is not life as usual,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the death toll in the U.S. topped 200, with at least 35 in his state. “Accept it and realize it and deal with it.”
Cuomo said that starting Sunday, all workers in nonessential businesses must stay home as much as possible, and all gatherings of any size will be banned in the state of over 19 million people. He acted after California all but confined its 40 million residents Friday in the biggest lockdown in the nation.
Read the full story here.
Metro will stop collecting fares, riders will board through back doors
King County Metro bus riders will not be required to pay fares and will be directed to board buses through the back door starting Saturday, part of efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The changes will be in place “until further notice,” Metro said Friday. Fares will not be required on King County Metro buses, water taxis and Access paratransit, Metro said.
Riders using mobility devices or the boarding ramp can still board through the front door. Metro will let bus drivers know about the change Friday and begin installing signage, the agency said.
Metro reminded riders to “do all they can by avoiding traveling when sick, covering coughs and sneezes.”
Skagit Transit and Community Transit in Snohomish County have also gone fare-free in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Snohomish County Health District will rely on the infected to notify contacts of possible COVID-19 exposure
The increasing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is forcing the Snohomish Health District to change the way it is notifying people who might have been exposed to the virus.
No longer will the public health workers responsible for tracking the contacts of a positive case notify people who may have come into contact with the person.
Instead, the person who tests positive will be responsible for notifying people they might have come in contact with.
The Snohomish Health District will still notify people with direct contact to a person with a confirmed case, according to a report by The Everett Herald.
The county has 348 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 136 cases under investigation and 7 deaths.
Whatcom County registers positive coronavirus test in resident of skilled nursing facility
A man in his 80s testing positive for COVID-19 in Whatcom County is a resident of a skilled nursing facility, county health officials announced today.
The man was one of three new positive tests reported Friday in Whatcom, where 10 residents have tested positive with the coronavirus. One man died Thursday at Bellingham’s PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center from COVID complications.
County health officials, in keeping with a policy to announce only minimal information about individuals testing positive, declined to identify the nursing facility, the town in which it is located, or any additional details.
Local officials, a release states, are “working closely with the Washington State Department of Health and facility administrators to take measures to protect facility residents and staff. This includes testing all residents and testing all symptomatic employees.”
Donations to UW Virology buy equipment, hire staff for more coronavirus testing
Donations are pouring in to the University of Washington Virology lab to help its coronavirus testing program.
In a series of tweets, the lab says people were asking how they could help, so the organization set up a donation page on its website.
The funding will be used to buy equipment and hire staff to increase the number of tests the lab can perform.
"#WeGotThisSeattle," the department said on Twitter on Wednesday after completing more than 3,000 coronavirus tests that day.
3/18 was an amazing day with over 3000 #SARSCoV2 #CoronavirusUSA #HCoV19 tests done @UWVirology @UWMedicine. Well done team! #WhereAreTheTests #WeGotThisSeattle #WeGotThisWA pic.twitter.com/RWq6gtGN49
— UW Virology (@UWVirology) March 19, 2020
“Our most urgent need is to rapidly expand testing. The degree and speed with which we ramp up testing could have enormous impact on how the pandemic plays out within our state,” the website says.
UW Virology was one of the first academic labs in the nation to offer testing, at a time when the federal system was faltering and the virus was spreading unseen. The lab is now processing more than 2,000 samples a day.
Thank you to all who have already donated to @uwvirology to assist our #SARSCoV2 #CoronavirusUSA #HCoV19 testing
efforts. Retweeting a more appropriate link for donations. #gratitude #gratitudeCOVID19 https://t.co/npA0gWo6m6 https://t.co/4KC00T4mkT
— UW Virology (@UWVirology) March 18, 2020
Read the full story here.
What is social distancing? Read this graphic.
OK, so, you already know you're supposed to be distancing yourself from others to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But what exactly does that mean?
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued guidelines on March 17, and we've created a handy graphic to help resolve some common confusion about what you should and shouldn't do when social distancing:
Thinking of hitting the Pacific Crest Trail? Please don't, group asks
Please postpone or cancel your Pacific Crest Trail adventure for now, the association that runs the trail is asking.
In a statement posted on the Pacific Crest Trail Association's website, the association says that no one can travel the long distances required by the trail -- which runs the length of Washington, Oregon and California -- with certainty that they will not have had exposure to the coronavirus, the journey runs "counter to widely accepted medical, government, and scientific recommendations for not only avoiding exposure to the coronavirus, but also for limiting the spread of COVID-19."
Many people have put their PCT trips on indefinite hold, the association said.
"No one can travel long distances on the PCT and be certain of avoiding any exposure to the coronavirus, and because anyone at any time can be a carrier of the virus without knowing it, it is clear that anyone traveling the PCT and resupplying in communities along the trail represents a serious risk to others on the trail and people in those communities — particularly high-risk individuals for whom the virus could be deadly," the statement said.
"We recognize that many have planned their PCT journeys for years and made major life changes such as quitting jobs or selling homes. We also understand that some have traveled to the PCT and have no clear option aside from starting your trek. But these circumstances should not justify putting other lives at risk. Limiting the spread of the virus — and the associated economic fallout — requires sacrifice from everyone."
— Pacific Crest Trail (@PCTAssociation) March 20, 2020
Emergency relief funds launching for Seattle-area arts organizations and artists
ArtsFund, along with a coalition of arts organizations, is working to launch an emergency relief fund for arts organizations in King County. So far, the group has raised $1.5 million.
In addition, Artist Trust is launching a fund to help individual artists with immediate needs. That fund has raised $292,000 so far.
State ferry service between U.S. and Canada suspended until at least April 26
The Washington State Ferries route between the United States and Canada will be pushed back until at least April 26, according to a news release from the agency Friday.
U.S. and Canadian officials said Wednesday the border would be closed to all “nonessential” travel in an attempt to slow the transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Service between Anacortes and Sidney, B.C., was scheduled to restart March 29.
The vessel will continue make domestic sailings to the San Juan Islands in the early morning, afternoon and evening.
Feds approve Washington's coronavirus request for special health care status
The federal government has approved Washington state for a special health care status that could help officials and doctors here respond to the novel coronavirus crisis.
The status under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act -- by allowing the state to waive various regulations -- should give health care providers more flexibility to use telemedicine; create new treatment facilities; partner with community organizations; quickly enroll more people in Medicaid, and more.
It should help officials relieve pressure on Washington’s health care system by moving more hospitalized seniors onto Medicaid and then into nursing homes. The status also should allow hospitals to free up space by screening and triaging patients at off-site locations.
The state requested the status last weekend, after President Donald Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency. Section 1135 can only be used during a national emergency, and Washington officials had been waiting more than a week for Trump to take action.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Washington’s request Thursday, a news release said.
“I recognize that Governor Inslee and his team are working around the clock to respond to the escalating crisis in Washington state,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “We are committed to stripping away any red tape that gets in the way of states or providers effectively managing this public health emergency.”
Washington is the second state to receive 1135 approval; Florida’s request was approved Monday, the news release said.
Ten of the 12 members of Washington's congressional delegation wrote in support of the state’s 1135 request earlier this week.
Tax deadline pushed out to July 15
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the Trump administration has decided to push the income tax filing date to July 15 from April 15.
Mnuchin announced the decision in a tweet Friday, saying that at President Donald Trump’s direction “we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”
The administration had announced earlier in the week that it would delay the payments, a move that Mnuchin said would leave $300 billion in the economy at a critical time.
Playgrounds closing in Sammamish
All Sammamish park playgrounds and the Sammamish Commons Skate Park will close by midday Friday.
The City of Sammamish is also asking residents to avoid congregating in parks and on trails, which remain open.
Olympia and Snoqualmie have also closed playgrounds, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says the novel coronavirus may remain viable on surfaces for hours to days.
Most people could do much better at the sink, health experts say. Here's how to wash up — and how not to.
Which disinfecting sprays are best for fighting the virus? Know what to look for, and save this recipe for a do-it-yourself disinfectant approved by the CDC.
Sanitize that phone! Here's how the CDC and Apple recommend you do it.
How and where to get tested: We'll keep updating this list of where COVID-19 testing is available, and for whom. It remains fairly limited.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Hospital workers, desperate for masks, are making them from office supplies. With the hospital system "a couple days away" from running out, workers hit craft stores and Home Depot, then formed an assembly line. The shortage of protective masks, gowns and eye gear is putting medical workers' lives at risk across the nation.
California has ordered all residents to shelter in place. Here's what 40 million people are and aren't allowed to do.
Why don't we have a shelter-in-place order here? We took that and many more of your questions to Seattle's mayor and two UW experts. Here's what they said.
Laid-off workers can't get through to Washington state's jobless agency. The system is overwhelmed as claims flood in at a level not seen since the Great Recession.
Local Amazon workers say the company hasn't been checking them for coronavirus consistently, even as Amazon confirmed its first U.S. case of an hourly employee with COVID-19.
Behind the coronavirus testing debacle: In past public health emergencies, federal officials have fast-tracked test kits. But this time, that emergency process failed spectacularly. Read the Times Watchdog story.
Seattle has opened what may be the nation's first testing site for first responders. It's a 6-foot-wide rectangle, marked with yellow tape, on the floor of a police warehouse. Take a look at what's happening there.
A Seattle team aims to start human trials soon on a potentially groundbreaking coronavirus treatment. Here's how the scientists hope it will work.
The U.S. wasn't ready for this, and the Trump administration knew it. Before the coronavirus outbreak hit, the White House had a cascade of warnings that accurately predicted the problems we're seeing now. They went unheeded.
Sound Transit and Metro are slashing service. If you're among the dwindling numbers still taking transit, see how you'll be affected as the agencies react to a sudden downturn that's jeopardizing projects down the road.
Steve Shulman, the "heartbeat of Leschi," has died from the effects of COVID-19. Columnist Danny Westneat wrote about how his illness hit home at tiny Leschi Market, where Shulman was a longtime fixture.
No more funerals. Washington state has made this painful addition to the growing list of banned events.
How is this outbreak 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 novel coronavirus?Ask your question 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. You can see questions we've already answered on this FAQ. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.
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