Editor’s note: This was a live account of updates from Saturday, March 21, as 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.
California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut have ordered their residents to stay home. But Gov. Jay Inslee isn’t mandating a “shelter in place” order for Washington. Yet. In a news conference Friday afternoon, Inslee again pleaded with people to stay home, and hinted that the state could move to more stringent measures if people do not comply.
“We’re making a day-to-day assessment of the date that affects Washington state,” Inslee said when asked why he has not ordered citizens to shelter in place. “We are starting to look at what that would look like if we had to make that decision.”
The novel coronavirus continues to spread through Washington, and more COVID-19 diagnoses are made each day. The state Department of Health announced 269 newly confirmed cases Saturday, bringing the state total to 1,793 cases, including 94 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County, which has seen 934 people fall ill and 74 die, according to the county’s Public Health Department.
Throughout today, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Friday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Saturday afternoon.
Hawaii institutes mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving travellers and residents
Hawaii’s governor has instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine starting Thursday of all people traveling to the state as part of efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus, Hawaii News Now reported.
The order applies to returning residents as well as visitors.
“We need to come together as a community to fight this virus,” Gov. David Ige said at a news conference in the state Capitol. “This mandate is the first of its kind in the nation. We want this action to send the message to visitors and residents alike that we appreciate their love for Hawaii but we are asking them to postpone their visit.”
The state announced 11 new cases of people with the coronavirus, bringing Hawaii’s total to 48, according to Hawaii News Now. Three of them are hospitalized.
The U.S. Army announced a soldier with the 25th Infantry Battalion based in Hawaii tested positive for the coronavirus, the first case linked to the Army community in the state, Hawaii News Now reported. The soldier is in isolation.
Swedish hospital system to close its Edmonds birth center
The Swedish hospital system is temporarily closing its Edmonds Family Birth Center on March 26.
The birth center will make space for patients with COVID-19, spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said in an email.
“As our region prepares for an anticipated surge in COVID-positive patients, Swedish and other hospitals in our region are working together to identify areas where services can be safely and efficiently consolidated,” Hobson said of the closure.
Expecting parents will receive information about where they can receive care for delivering their babies, Hobson added.
Police remind Seattle park goers of coronavirus closures, social distancing
On a beautiful spring Saturday, housebound Seattlites made their way to parks, where police reminded them to spread out and, in some cases, clear out voluntarily, or risk full closure of all parks.
On Friday night, Seattle Parks and Recreation and King County Parks announced the closure of all playgrounds, sports courts and picnic shelters, joining other local jurisdictions, and following the guidance from Public Health — Seattle & King County.
Seattle Police Department spokesperson Det. Mark Jamieson said police were supporting the parks department and “amplifying the message.”
Police reminded people at Green Lake Park that the playground was closed. An officer at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill on Saturday afternoon took the message to park goers, who were gathered on ballfields — which remain open for non-team activities — closer together than the 6 feet of space recommended for social distancing.
“The state and local government is requesting voluntary compliance with clearing out the park in an effort to protect the public and end the public health emergency as quickly as possible. Your current conduct is placing yourself and your fellow Seattleites in danger,” the officer said over a loudspeaker, repeating his request that people leave the area. “Lack of voluntary compliance could result in a full closure of all parks, which will eventually result in trespasses, and possibly criminal prosecution.”
Jamieson referred questions to the Parks Department, where a spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
Seattle’s weather is forecast to remain dry Sunday, with rain returning Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
Lost or diminished sense of smell could signal coronavirus in people with no other symptoms
An early warning sign of COVID-19 may be a loss of smell, particularly among patients showing no other symptoms, a medical group in the United Kingdom said Saturday. The observation could help reveal otherwise hidden carriers of the illness, whose lack of symptoms have fueled its rapid spread.
“There is already good evidence from South Korea, China and Italy that significant numbers of patients with proven COVID-19 infection have developed anosmia/hyposmia” – lost or decreased sensitivity to smells, wrote the leaders of the British Rhinological Society and ENT UK, a professional group for ear, nose and throat surgeons. “In Germany it is reported that more than 2 in 3 confirmed cases have anosmia. In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30% of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases.
“In addition, there have been a rapidly growing number of reports of a significant increase in the number of patients presenting with anosmia in the absence of other symptoms – this has been widely shared on medical discussion boards by surgeons from all regions managing a high incidence of cases,” wrote Professors Claire Hopkins and Nirmal Kumar.
They acknowledged the chance that this “apparent increase” may be a result of all the attention on COVID-19, and that more typical viruses – which account for up to 40% of anosmia cases in adults – could be the cause.
That said, they wrote, “There is potential that if any adult with anosmia but no other symptoms was asked to self-isolate for seven days, in addition to the current symptom criteria used to trigger quarantine, we might be able to reduce the number of otherwise asymptomatic individuals who continue to act as vectors, not realising the need to self-isolate.”
Patients arriving with anosmia should also trigger the use of full personal protective equipment by healthcare personnel, they wrote.
Gov. Jay Inslee steps in to halt sale of N95 masks at Target and redirect them to healthcare workers
After scarce N95 masks were spotted for sale to the public at a Target store in West Seattle on Saturday, state and local political leaders worked with the company to get the badly needed items off the store shelves and into the hands of health care workers who are fighting to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Those masks are now on their way to the health care workers who desperately need them,” Gov. Jay Inslee said on Twitter Saturday afternoon.
We heard reports that a @target in Seattle was selling n95 masks.
My staff and others stepped in.
Those masks are now on their way to the health care workers who desperately need them. https://t.co/7sCM5kqyfs
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 21, 2020
Company officials confirmed some Seattle stores had masks for sale Saturday “in error,” adding they are being removed and donated to the Washington state Department of Health (DOH).
“We’re also reviewing inventory for additional masks to be donated,” the company said on Twitter. “Target’s commitment to communities in unwavering & we apologize.”
Today in select Seattle stores, N95 masks were available for purchase in error. We’re removing & donating them to the WA State Dept. of Health. We’re also reviewing inventory for additional masks to be donated. Target’s commitment to communities is unwavering & we apologize.
— Target (@Target) March 21, 2020
Asked whether Target was pulling masks from stores across the country, a company spokesperson said Saturday evening, "We’re reviewing our total supply chain to ensure any additional masks are donated as these have been."
Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda called on “every retail outlet” with critical medical supplies to follow suit.
Face masks are not recommended for people out in public, according to the DOH. They are critically needed for health care workers and first responders.
Washington counties, facilities with most confirmed COVID-19 patients to get PPE first, Department of Health says
Washington health authorities said scarce stores of personal protective equipment will be given first to counties with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases, and to institutions in those counties on the front lines, such as long-term care facilities, hospitals and first-responders treating and transporting the most confirmed cases.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) published the PPE guidelines Saturday as people around the world raced to procure adequate supplies of masks, gowns, gloves and other equipment that can prevent the transmission of coronavirus from patients to caregivers. Several initiatives are under way to gather and make more equipment, but shortages are already dire.
The state's epidemiologist said state stockpiles are empty, but Washington, an epicenter of the outbreak, has been able to tap federal reserves. Some 1.6 million N95 respirator masks, 12 million disposable gloves, 560,000 surgical masks, 650,000 disposable gowns and 74,000 canisters of disinfectant wipes were expected to arrive in the next few days, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday.
The DOH said its prioritization list “does not guarantee that every order that meets the priority criteria will be fulfilled” or that orders will be fulfilled completely.
King and Snohomish counties have by far the most confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 934 and 447, respectively, according to the DOH’s Saturday update. Pierce County has 95. The statewide total stood at 1,793.
Within counties, the guidance breaks PPE recipients into four tiers. The first, which includes facilities and organizations treating and transporting the most confirmed cases, are the only ones who will receive N95 respirators.
- The second tier includes health-care facilities with fewer cases; jails, shelters and dormitories with confirmed cases; other emergency medical services; and isolation and quarantine facilities run by the Department of Health.
- The third tier includes such facilities run by other jurisdictions, skilled nursing facilities, other health-care facilities and outpatient clinics.
- The final tier includes homeless shelters and other locations where people congregate, as well as family members of people with confirmed cases who are staying at home.
The DOH noted that these criteria may be updated as conditions change.
Third patient at Western State Hospital tests positive for COVID-19
A third person has tested positive for the novel coronavirus at Western State Hospital, according to the union representing workers at Washington's largest psychiatric hospital.
The new confirmed case is in the geriatric ward of the hospital, said Justin Lee, a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees.
Western State, where one staff and two patients have tested positive, houses about 800 patients and has about 1,200 staff.
"Staff are concerned that the flu outbreak could be COVID-19," Lee said. "We don't want Western State Hospital to be the next Life Care Center of Kirkland."
Anchorage mayor issues emergency order to ‘hunker down’
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The mayor of Anchorage has announced his third emergency order in response to the coronavirus pandemic as two more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in the state and the city’s supply of swabs needed to test for the disease run low.
Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued the “hunker down” order Friday, telling residents to stay at home as much as possible, KTVA-TV reported. The order is effective Sunday at 10 p.m. until March 31.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for the elderly and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.
“I’m asking people to do the right thing,” Berkowitz said during a conference Friday alongside representatives from Providence Health and Services Alaska, Alaska Regional Hospital and Alaska Native Medical Center.
Meanwhile, multiple Alaska villages have proposed banning or restricting passenger air travel in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Air carrier Wright Air Service confirmed the company received letters from at least eight rural communities announcing travel restrictions, Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.
The villages of Venetie, Arctic Village, Chalkyitsik and Nulato intend to suspend all passenger flights except for medical emergencies, while Fort Yukon and Huslia aim to restrict non-resident travel, airline employee Brett Carlson said.
Grayling, with a population of 190 residents, has also proposed a ban, suspending travel entirely for 30 days, including from other Alaska villages, he said.
Villages across the state are also considering similar restrictions, including having travelers arriving by plane to self-isolate, as tribal and city officials work to enforce measures protecting isolated Alaska Native communities from exposure.
Washington has 1,793 COVID-19 cases, including 94 deaths, officials say
On Saturday afternoon, the Washington State Department of Health confirmed 269 additional cases and 11 additional deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The newly released numbers bring the total of confirmed cases in Washington to 1,793, including 94 deaths. Most deaths have been in King County, where 74 people have died. There are 934 confirmed cases in King County.
The number of cases across Washington has increased as the virus spreads and as testing capacity expands. King County public health officials have said the number of cases could double every five to seven days and have urged people to follow social distancing measures to slow the spread.
Second Western State Hospital patient tests positive for COVID-19
A second patient at Western State Hospital in Lakewood has tested positive for COVID-19, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services said Saturday.
Earlier in the week, the state announced the first patient to test positive at the hospital. That patient was in a different ward, the department said. One patient is currently at a Pierce County hospital; the other is at a "Pierce County-area hospital," the department said.
All patients residing on the same unit at Western State Hospital will be screened for symptoms several times a day, the department said. Staff are also self-screening.
Those who were visitors to Western State Hospital between March 13 and March 16 are encouraged to monitor themselves for symptoms.
Kirkland closes park playgrounds and cancels recreation programming
Like other cities throughout the region, Kirkland has closed its playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts and other active recreation areas until April 27.
Kirkland also canceled all recreation programing, classes and facility rentals, including at community centers and picnic shelters, through April 24. The YMCA has also closed the Kirkland Teen Center at Peter Kirk Park through March 31.
Restrooms in Kirkland parks will remain open, the city said.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to employees on coronavirus crisis: 'We are in uncharted territory'
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an interview with The Seattle Times said he feels Microsoft’s technological and human ability to adapt to a largely remote workplace and meet outside demands “has grown by orders of magnitude in the last month.” He also talked about feeling the personal anxieties many of his employees have shared about the coronavirus pandemic.
Nadella gave the interview shortly before releasing a lengthy email to his more than 140,000 global employees, applauding them for their response to the pandemic and urging them to do the best they can to help others on a personal and professional level.
“We are in uncharted territory,” he wrote. “Much is unknown, and I know how unsettling and uncertain this feels. Like many of you, there have been times over the past weeks where it has felt overwhelming and all-encompassing for me. I worry about the health and safety of my family, my co-workers and friends. My wife and I worry for her aging parents, who are far away from us in India.
“I see the struggle in our local community, and around the world, the empty streets and restaurants, and I wonder when our social fabric will be restored.”
Washington students stuck in Peru after the government closes all borders
Hundreds of U.S. citizens have been stranded in Peru after the Peruvian government instituted a 15-day quarantine and closed all borders on March 16. Now, Peru's minister of defense says that this Saturday will be the last day that Peru allows official flights arranged to repatriate visitors from abroad before the country closes all borders permanently on Sunday.
Among those stranded are several University of Washington students who were in Peru for spring vacations or study abroad programs.
These UW students say canceled flights and exorbitant plane-ticket prices prevented them from getting home before Peru's borders closed, and they are now worried that the new announcement means they won’t be able to get home for the foreseeable future.
The students say after attempting to contact the U.S. Embassy in Peru they were directed to contact commercial airlines and sign-up to “express interest” in chartered flights.
On Friday, the U.S. Embassy flew out several Peace Corps volunteers, U.S. Embassy personnel and their families, as well as a group of U.S. citizens in Peru who are medically vulnerable, according to the U.S. Embassy website.
Seattle suspends 72-hour parking rule
Saying “no one should be punished for following public health guidance,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Saturday the city would temporarily stop enforcing its 72-hour parking rule.
The city will also limit vehicle towing and stop booting vehicles with unpaid parking tickets as long as the Seattle Municipal Court is closed, Durkan’s office said.
“I have heard from many residents about simultaneously being asked to stay at home and to move their car every 72 hours,” said Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss in a statement. “We need to make sure our residents are focusing on staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary trips outside – this policy does just that.”
Other parking rules regarding fire hydrants and bike and transit lanes will still be enforced, and payment will still be required for metered spots, the city said. The change is expected to last at least two weeks. In permitted residential parking zones, drivers without permits must still obey time limits, the city said.
Advocates for people experiencing homelessness have long criticized the 72-hour rule, which can result in people who live in cars or RVs having their belongings and shelter towed.
This week, Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, director of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, urged the mayor and Seattle City Council members to stop enforcing the 72-hour rule if vehicles are parked in a safe place away from others.
The suspension of 72-hour enforcement will include RVs, the city said, but the mayor's office said towing will still be allowed in “situations which create safety hazards, block access, or create other major issues."
Graham J. Pruss, an expert on vehicle residency and lecturer in the department of anthropology at the University of Washington, said the people living in vehicles could still be towed under the city’s “rather subjective” language about safety hazards and blocking access.
"This seems to address 72-hour parking for housed residents, not for the unhoused," Pruss said.
New isolation and recovery center for vulnerable populations to open at Harborview Hall, King County says
To slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, King County and Harborview Medical Center have joined forces to open an isolation and recovery center for vulnerable populations in the county’s Harborview Hall.
The center will preserve hospital beds for those with the most acute health care needs, according to a Saturday news release from King County Executive Dow Constantine's office.
Harborview Hall, across the street from Harborview Medical Center, will be repurposed to serve as a recovery site primarily for people who do not have a home to rest and recover, and who may have other health needs that require monitoring.
This includes those awaiting the result of their COVID-19 test, or COVID-19 patients who have mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization.
The recovery center will have onsite clinical support from Harborview staff.
The shelter at Harborview Hall will be relocated, Constantine said, but he did not say where.
Yakima County's only hospital pleads for residents to stay at home
After Gov. Jay Inslee denied their request to shut down Yakima County, the leadership of the county's only hospital is pleading with residents to stay at home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Carol Peet, the CEO of Virginia Mason Memorial hospital in Yakima, said they asked Inslee's office on Friday to issue a "stay at home" order for the entire county. That request, Peet said, was denied.
Inslee has urged Washington residents, in the strongest possible terms, to stay at home unless it's absolutely necessary they leave the house. But he has resisted calls to order residents to stay home, as governors in California, New York and Illinois have done.
"Our message today is a simple one: To save lives we strongly urge the people of Yakima to go home and stay there," Peet said. "We have seen the COVID-19 projections for Yakima, and if we do not do anything now we will have more critical patients than we can handle by April 8, and people will die. Patients will die not just of COVID-19, but of other chronic illnesses because we will no longer have the equipment to treat them."
Peet said Inslee's administration spoke with the Yakima County Health District and told them they didn't think Yakima needed a "stay at home" order at this time.
"We feel very, very differently from a health care provider standpoint," she said.
Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Inslee, said Saturday that nothing in any of the governor's orders prevents local jurisdictions from taking action on their own.
"As he said yesterday, we continue to monitor public health and other data to drive any decision making," Lee said.
In January, Astria Regional Medical Center in Yakima shut, leaving the 226-bed Virginia Mason Memorial as the county's only hospital.
There have been 10 confirmed cases of the virus in Yakima County, according to the state Health Department.
"We call on all levels of government and everyone in our community to immediately shelter in place for the next 14 days," said Dr. Marty Brueggemann, chief medical officer for the hospital. "It is not too late, but the time is now."
Talks about $1 trillion coronavirus economic-rescue package resume between White House, Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — Negotiators from Congress and the White House were resuming top-level talks Saturday on a ballooning $1 trillion-plus economic rescue package, racing to strike a deal after President Donald Trump unleashed fury on those questioning his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
It was an extraordinary moment in Washington: Congress undertaking the most ambitious federal effort yet to shore up households and the U.S. economy and an angry president lashing out at all comers. All while the global pandemic and the nationwide shutdown grip an anxious, isolated population bracing for a healthcare crisis and looming recession.
Trump, during a briefing at the White House on Saturday, expressed optimism that the stimulus package could be agreed upon before long.
“They’re all negotiating and everybody’s working hard and they want to get to a solution that’s the right solution, I think we’re very close,” said Trump, who continued to strike a confident tone about the nation’s ability to defeat the pandemic soon.
A single Skagit County meeting results in more than 30 cases of COVID-19
In a case that underscores the contagious nature of COVID-19, Skagit County Public Health is investigating a cluster of recently confirmed cases that have been traced to a meeting of about 60 people in March. More than half the attendees at the gathering are confirmed, or probably have, cases of COVID-19, the department said in a statement.
“This situation clearly illustrated the contagious nature of COVID-19 and emphasizes the importance of following social distancing guidelines in order to control the spread of the virus,” the statement said.
Skagit County Public Health (SCPH) is contacting all symptomatic and asymptomatic attendees of the meeting, as well as those who came in contact with symptomatic attendees. They have been told to quarantine or isolate themselves.
The agency continues to receive and investigate notifications of new, confirmed cases unrelated to this group, the statement said.
“The community should expect to see a significant increase in the number of confirmed Skagit County COVID-19 cases in the coming days," the statement said. “With the strongest sense of urgency, the Skagit County Health Officer urges the community to abide by all health officer recommendations.”
Those include postponing or cancelling gatherings outside of immediate household members; assuming anyone you come in contact with could have COVID-19; limiting outside movement to essential activities; and encouraging people over 60, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems to shelter in place.
“The health care system is planning for surge capacity,” the statement said, “but that plan is dependent on us staying home now.”
Updates and resources are available at www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus.
Second person dies in Whatcom County, two more residents of Bellingham facility test positive
A second person in Whatcom County has died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and two more residents of a Bellingham skilled nursing facility have tested positive, the county said in a news release Saturday.
A man in his 80s died at home Friday, according to Whatcom Unified Command. A woman in her 60s and a woman in her 70s, both residents of the Shuksan Healthcare Center in Bellingham, tested positive.
Whatcom County has two confirmed deaths and 14 positive test results as of Saturday morning, the county said. There have been three confirmed cases and no deaths at the Shuksan Healthcare Center.
The deceased man was tested before he died and results came back Saturday morning, the county said. The county Health Department said it was working to identify anyone who had close contacts with those who have tested positive.
Testing continues at the health care center. The county said consenting residents have been tested and staff with respiratory symptoms have been tested and excluded from work. Test results are expected early next week.
Whatcom Unified Command is attempting to get N95 masks and gloves to the Shuksan Healthcare Center and other health care providers, the county said.
Washington prison inmates to make hospital gowns to help with shortage amid coronavirus
OLYMPIA – To help with a shortage of protective gear for medical workers, some Washington prisoners will start producing disposable hospital gowns.
Once production is ramped up, inmates in state prisons could make between 5,000 and 6,000 gowns each day, according to a news release by the state Department of Corrections (DOC).
That work would be done by 12 corrections staffers and 160 inmates via DOC’s Correctional Industries, which oversees work in the state’s prisons.
The prototype of a hospital gown has been approved and DOC expects to begin production within days, beginning with the textiles shop at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Franklin County, according to the release. The agency plans to expand the program to textile shops at Spokane County's Airway Heights Corrections Center, Clallam Bay Corrections Center and Washington Corrections Center in Shelton.
DOC will coordinate with the State Emergency Operations Center to distribute gowns where they are needed.
In a statement, DOC Secretary Stephen Sinclair said officials overseeing prison work “sprang into action to develop a prototype” once the national shortage became clear. He added: “I’m proud of their ingenuity and quick action.”
The announcement comes as health officials scramble to procure medical gear – such as masks, gloves, gowns and ventilators – as the number of new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, continues to climb.
Lynnwood, Shoreline follow Seattle and King County in closing park playgrounds
The city of Lynnwood on Saturday closed all playgrounds in city parks and the off-leash dog area at Lynndale Park, after a similar order from Seattle and King County on Friday.
Trails and all other park areas remain open, and the city encourages people to practice social distancing.
The city of Shoreline also closed picnic shelters, basketball and tennis courts, playground equipment and other active recreation areas in parks.
Large gatherings, picnics and pick-up games are not allowed, Shoreline said, but trails and areas where people can maintain safe distance will be open. Restrooms in Shoreline city parks will be open and cleaned twice a day.
Five Seattle Children’s patients, 18 employees test positive for COVID-19
Five Seattle Children’s hospital patients and 18 staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and are recovering at home, as of the end of the day Friday, the hospital confirmed Saturday afternoon.
Several other patients have had inconclusive results that “should be treated as positive until confirmatory test results are returned,” read an email update that hospital management sent to staff Saturday morning.
Staff symptoms “varied from high fever, cough, and shortness of breath to more mild symptoms, like body aches and headache lasting only a day,” the Saturday update read. “The mild nature of some symptoms illustrates the importance of listening to your body and staying home if you don’t feel well in order to see how your illness evolves.”
Tacoma Dome testing spots filling up quickly
A drive-through coronavirus testing site in Tacoma began to quickly fill up Saturday morning.
The newly opened site at the Tacoma Dome is offering limited testing for people who work in certain key industries, including first responders and grocery store employees.
The site is offering 240 testing spots per day and is fully scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, said Edie Jeffers, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department spokeswoman.
As of Saturday morning, about 40 spots remained for Tuesday and 205 spots for Wednesday, Jeffers said.
Only those who meet certain criteria can be tested at the site and must complete an online survey first to receive a time slot for testing. Those showing up onsite hoping to be tested but without a time slot are turned away, Jeffers said.
The Health Department has about 1,000 additional tests it will likely prioritize for limited groups at a later event, Jeffers said.
COVID-19 testing at the Tacoma Dome is underway. First responders, medical providers, critical infrastructure employees, and those at high risk will receive tests. All slots are full. #Covid_19 #publichealth pic.twitter.com/R3xMy1kxsP
— Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (@TPCHD) March 21, 2020
City of Everett orders residents to stay at home; Boeing can remain open
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin has ordered the city's 110,000 residents to stay home, in what is believed to be the first Washington city to take the drastic step to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"It spreads through person-to-person contact. The best way to slow its impact is by eliminating nonessential interactions," Franklin said Friday evening. "That is why I’m directing Everett residents and businesses to stay home."
The massive Boeing manufacturing plant in Everett falls under an exemption for "essential businesses" and can remain open.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has opted against a similar statewide order, preferring to urge and plead with residents to stay home, even as other states have issued "stay at home" orders.
Franklin's order, which takes effect at noon Monday, directs individuals to stay at home except for necessary errands, walks and caring for friends and relatives.
Nonessential business owners are also directed to stay home.
Grocery stores, pharmacies, health care facilities, child care, laundromats, hardware stores, gas stations and banks are among the businesses defined as essential, which can stay open.
Boeing, the mayor's office said, falls under an exemption for "businesses that supply products or services necessary to both maintain the functionality and/or safety of equipment, facilities, utilities, healthcare, national defense, all modes of transportation and critical supply chains used in other essential businesses."
"A mayor of a city shouldn't make a decision that has worldwide implications," Franklin said of her decision to categorize Boeing as "essential." She said she'd spoken with Boeing several times and had urged them to take aggressive action to stem the spread of the virus.
The Boeing factory in Everett is the largest manufacturing building in the world, but at least 14 Boeing employees in the region have tested positive for the virus and workers inside the factory are growing increasingly restless and angry as jet-assembly work continues while other businesses shut down.
Oregon to announce 'aggressive' social distancing measures
State and local officials in Oregon may announce measures similar to a shelter-in-place policy on Monday, but the details are muddled, The Oregonian reported.
While some Oregon officials say the forthcoming policies are comparable to California's shelter-in-place directive, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler claimed that was misleading. Oregonians would be able to go to grocery stores and certain other sites, but would not be allowed to leave home to meet others for nonurgent reasons, according to The Oregonian.
In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee has urged, but not yet ordered, people to stay home. But officials say the steps already taken, like closing schools and banning large gatherings, are similar to "stay home" orders in other states.
Inslee said Friday, “There are profound economic consequences to families in the state of Washington if we make a decision of that nature.”
Social distancing is happening in Washington but not enough in some areas, Inslee said.
Skagit Valley tulip grower will not open fields to public as planned
RoozenGaarde in Skagit Valley will not open its tulip fields to the public as planned next month for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, citing the spread of the coronavirus.
The closure will leave the tulip grower “feeling crushed,” RoozenGaarde said in a statement Saturday.
The spring season makes up 90% of the company's business, the statement said, and “the decision will have tremendous immediate and long lasting impacts on our business, family, and local community.”
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Festival organizers previously said they planned to go ahead, but some events have been canceled.
Trump touted an anti-malaria drug as treatment for the coronavirus. Now, Nigeria has two cases of chloroquine poisoning
Nigeria reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning after U.S. President Donald Trump praised the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.
Health officials are warning Nigerians against self-medicating after demand for the drug surged in Lagos, a city that's home to 20 million people. Two people were hospitalized in Lagos for chloroquine overdoses, Oreoluwa Finnih, senior health assistant to the governor of Lagos, said in an interview.
"Please don't panic," she said via text message. "Chloroquine is still in a testing phase in combination with other medication and not yet verified as a preventive, treatment or curative option."
Nigeria's Centre for Disease Control warned that the World Health Organization hasn't approved use of the drug against the virus. Africa's most populous country reported 22 infections as of Saturday.
King County council member calls for "stay at home" order
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn has asked County Executive Dow Constantine to issue a "stay at home" order to try to slow the growth of the novel coronavirus.
Constantine and Gov. Jay Inslee have, so far, resisted a mandatory order, preferring instead to urge and plead with residents to stay in their homes, except when absolutely necessary.
But other states, notably New York and California, have taken the plunge and ordered their residents to stay at home except for things like grocery shopping, walks and "essential" business.
In a letter to his fellow county council members on Saturday, Dunn said when he met with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention two weeks ago, he was told a lock-down order needs to be issued at least two weeks ahead of a major spike in cases.
"I believe, based on all of the information I have, that the time to issue a 'stay at home order' is now," Dunn wrote. "Not when the cases start to really skyrocket in a week or two."
"The potential public health benefits, in my judgment, far outweigh the inconveniences of the order. The probability of grave illness and widespread death, is very high compared to the burden of folks being directed to stay home."
County Council is a nonpartisan position, but Dunn has previously run for office as a Republican. Nonetheless, he criticized the federal government's response to the pandemic.
"We have seen the federal government make significant mistakes in handling this disease," Dunn wrote. "I would not like to see King County government added to that list."
'We can't test everyone,' warn health officials in hard-hit areas
Health officials in New York, California and other hard-hit parts of the country are restricting coronavirus testing to health care workers and people who are hospitalized, saying the battle to contain the virus is lost and we are moving into a new phase of the pandemic response.
As cases spike sharply in those places, they are hunkering down for an onslaught, and directing scarce resources where they are needed most to save people’s lives. Instead of encouraging broad testing of the public, they’re focused on conserving masks, ventilators, intensive care beds — and on getting still-limited tests to health care workers and the most vulnerable. The shift in tone and strategy — coming after weeks of clamoring for greater testing capacity — signals another tipping point in the U.S. response to the virus, a change other states are likely to embrace as disease counts climb.
In Washington state, where hospital workers have been fashioning makeshift protective medical gear using parts purchased from Home Depot and craft stores, officials are restricting testing to high-risk populations, including health care workers and people with more severe symptoms.
“We’ve asked the public to understand we can’t test everyone, especially if they have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic,” said Jeff Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County, a hard-hit part of the country.
National Park Service waives entrance fees, encourages social distancing
The National Park Service will temporarily stop collecting entrance fees, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said.
“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing,” Bernhardt said in a news release.
Though parks may be open, the NPS urged people to maintain distances from others, practice good hygiene like frequent hand washing, and take extra precautions if you're part of an at-risk group.
The window for using testing as a means to curb coronavirus transmission is closing, some experts say
When the new coronavirus erupted in China more than three months ago, each country faced a monumental task: manufacturing or acquiring enough tests to track the virus as it spread across its territory and around the globe.
Decisions made at those early, pivotal moments determined the course of the pandemic. China, after early denial-fueled stumbles, improved its response to the virus by deploying a flurry of rapid-fire tests. South Korea, hit hard in early days, mounted a comeback steered by knowledge gained from an avalanche of roadside swabs. In recent weeks, Italy has led the globe in testing, producing results that show the highest caseload and death toll in the world.
And Germany cleared regulatory hurdles to allow biotech firms to make tests available on a scale that the country’s government could not.
But the United States and Japan stumbled, experts say, by initially shutting out the private sector while proceeding sluggishly with public sector efforts, leaving too few tests to track the extent of the virus’ spread. Now, some experts say, the window for testing as a measure to curb transmission could be closing in many places where the virus is widespread.
Catch up on the last 24 hours
New York, California and Illinois have ordered all their residents to stay home. Washington, where the outbreak hit first and, initially, hardest, has not. Here’s why Gov. Jay Inslee is resisting a “shelter in place” order.
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.
Washington’s state epidemiologist said there is a critical shortage of personal protective gear for health care workers and testing supplies needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic and safeguard workers.
Sound Transit and King County Metro will temporarily stop requiring fares to reduce hand-to-hand contact between drivers and passengers.
Job losses from the escalating coronavirus crisis haven’t hit evenly across the Seattle area or the state. Here's which industries have been affected the most, according to new data.
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.
The income tax filing date has been pushed to July 15 from April 15.
Testing for first responders to begin at Tacoma Dome
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will begin drive-through testing at the Tacoma Dome Saturday for people working in key industries.
There are limited tests available and the site is not for the general public, the county Health Department said. People seeking to be tested must first take an online survey about their work and symptoms.
The testing will be open to people who have symptoms like a fever, cough or shortness of breath, and who work in certain jobs, including those in health care, firefighters, police or emergency responders. Pharmacists and people who work in grocery stores, homeless shelters, restaurants, gas stations, public utilities and child care facilities are also eligible.
People with symptoms who are over 60, have underlying conditions or are pregnant can be tested with a doctor’s recommendation, according to the survey.
Testing will run Saturday through Wednesday.
“Health care workers, first responders and people who provide critical infrastructure are on the frontlines of helping residents in need during this public health emergency,” Jessica Gehle, incident commander for the department’s COVID-19 response, said in a statement. “It’s vital we prioritize this testing for them to ensure they are able to protect the health of our communities.”
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