Editor’s note: This was a live account of updates from Monday, March 23, as events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Tuesday, March 24. And click here to find the latest extended coverage of the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2; the illness it causes, COVID-19; and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world.

President Donald Trump has issued a “major disaster” declaration for Washington state over the novel coronavirus crisis, freeing up some federal assistance — but Gov. Jay Inslee said the designation is not enough to bolster the state’s fight against the pandemic. Meanwhile, some mayors in Western Washington have issued, or have told Inslee they may issue, more stringent orders than the governor’s to compel social distancing among their residents.

More COVID-19 diagnoses are made in Washington state every day, an indication of both the virus’ spread and expanded testing capacity. The state Department of Health announced 225 newly confirmed cases Monday, bringing the state total to 2,221 cases, including 110 deaths. The bulk of cases remain in King County, which has seen 1,170 people fall ill and 87 die.

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 Sunday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Monday afternoon.

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Live updates:

‘All In Seattle’ effort to help nonprofits, aid agencies during coronavirus crisis raises $27 million

Northwest Harvest Development Director Laura Hamilton is bracing for unprecedented demand for food from her nonprofit relief agency as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy.

With some forecasts showing up to 40% of jobs in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties being disrupted in coming weeks, “We’re going to be seeing people who’ve never used a food bank before,” Hamilton said. “Who’ve always been able to make it even if it’s been paycheck to paycheck, and now that safety net is gone.’’

Grappling with those logistics for the nonprofit’s statewide network of 375 food banks and meal programs will take big money.

That’s why a group of community-minded business leaders have banded together to pledge funding to Northwest Harvest and other local nonprofits and charities, raising $27 million from more than 200 individuals and entities in an All In Seattle initiative launched Monday.

Read the full story here.

—Geoff Baker
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Alaska Airlines is cutting 200 flights a day, parking 30 jets, as coronavirus reduces air travel

The head of flight operations at Alaska Airlines told his pilots late Sunday that the carrier will cut 200 flights per day through March, out of roughly 1,300 a day in normal times. And in the next few days, Alaska will park 30 jets out of its mainline fleet of about 230 aircraft until further notice.

Capt. John Ladner, Alaska’s vice president of flight operations, also said the airline “will likely be pulling down our Hawaii operation to limited essential service,” and he said Alaska is “considering cessation of operations to Costa Rica.”

“We evaluate Canada and Mexico daily but are still operating into these countries,” his note adds.

Read the full story here.

—Dominic Gates

Experts say Inslee’s stay-at-home order will add to Seattle economy’s coronavirus-induced pain

Economists and business owners said Monday that Gov. Jay Inslee’s order for state residents to stay at home will land hard on a local economy already reeling from weeks of closures and declining business.

The order, which closes the physical locations of all nonessential businesses in the state, seemed largely supported by business leaders as a critical step in minimizing the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“We can’t allow certain nonessential activities to undercut our collective efforts to mitigate the spread” of the coronavirus, said Jon Scholes, CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

But the short-term impacts could be massive. Coming on top of an earlier order that closed gyms, recreational and entertainment venues, and many bars and restaurants, it almost certainly means another round of layoffs, including some in higher-wage sectors such as manufacturing, that raises new fears about the depth of the coming recession.

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts

Which food-related industries can stay open under Gov. Jay Inslee’s ‘stay-at-home’ order?

On Monday night, Gov. Jay Inslee banned all social gatherings and ordered Washington residents to “stay at home."

Restaurants and bars throughout the state had previously been directed to close their dining rooms through March 31. This new order extends that for at least a week.

However, Inslee’s office also released a detailed list of “critical” businesses that are allowed to stay open.

From a “food” standpoint, some of the most consumer-facing types of businesses that can remain open include grocery stores, liquor stores that sell food, farmers’ markets and food banks, among many others.

Read the full list here.

—Stefanie Loh
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New drive-thru coronavirus testing site launches in Everett

EVERETT — More COVID-19 testing is available in Snohomish County as of Monday morning, as a new drive-thru testing site opened in the parking lot of Everett Memorial Stadium on Broadway.

However, the free tests aren’t available to everyone.

They are reserved for people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 — such as coughing, a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, sore throat and shortness of breath — who are in any of the following categories:

  • Pregnant.
  • Age 60 or older.
  • Anyone with underlying health conditions.
  • Health care workers.
  • People who work in “critical infrastructure,” such as public safety, grocery stores, restaurants, shelters, gas stations, public utilities, child care and correctional facilities.

Read more about the new testing site and criteria here.

—Percy Allen

Washington education officials: school must continue, even during coronavirus closures

Washington education officials have a new message for the state’s schools: buildings may be closed, but school must go on.

The state’s Education Department released guidance Monday that calls on school districts to provide some form of instruction while schools are closed because of the novel coronavirus.

The guidance represents the first time the state has said that across-the-board, some form of instruction is mandatory. Districts must resume class in some format by March 30, a spokesperson for the state Education Department said. Beyond that, the state offered few mandates of what instruction should look like.

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

Delivery work, other gig jobs, appear on Inslee’s essential-workers list

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home directive appears to exempt many gig-economy workers in several industries, including those delivering food and online purchases, although questions remain.

Inslee’s office produced a list of “essential critical infrastructure workers” to go along with his Monday evening announcement closing nonessential businesses and directing everyone to stay home, except for necessary trips, such as to the grocery store.

Washington’s essential-workers list calls out delivery employees of restaurants providing carry-out and quick-serve food operations; “employees and firms” supporting the distribution of food, feed and beverage, including curbside distribution and delivery; and delivery and transportation drivers for services including transportation and delivery network companies, as well as taxis.

These are just a few of hundreds of roles and occupations across deemed essential across health care and public health, emergency services, public works, food and agriculture, transportation, logistics, utilities, communications and information technologies, critical manufacturing, defense and other sectors. More jobs supporting these industries are also designated as essential critical infrastructure workers.

The list refers mainly to employees and workers by their employer or workplace, but it does not provide detail on individual independent contractors – gig-economy workers. It does refer to contractors in other industries, including for construction and repair of fiber-optic cables and defense subcontractors.

Gig-economy companies themselves have offered little guidance to contract workers who use their platforms, said one gig-economy driver who does work for several of them, though Amazon described itself as exempt from restrictions on nonessential businesses in an email to drivers Saturday.

So far, Amazon and other delivery companies had not provided gig-economy drivers with travel letters or credentials drivers could show to verify they are doing essential work under the stay-at-home directive, the driver said.

“All the drivers are currently freaking out wondering they’ll be able to still deliver,” the driver said. He added that on Saturday – before Inslee’s work-from-home directive – Amazon told drivers, “The restrictions for non-essential businesses issued by Washington does not apply to Amazon's operations. We will stay open to serve our communities.”

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment Monday. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in a letter to employees over the weekend used the word “essential” three times to describe the products Amazon is selling to people and the work it takes to fulfill and deliver orders.

The Washington essential-workers list is similar to California’s and hews closely to an advisory from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) meant to guide state and local governments issuing shelter-in-place orders and closing businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

—Benjamin Romano
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Coronavirus concerns turning Washington’s tourist destinations into ghost towns

Two boys drag surf boards towards the water on Saturday, March 21, 2020, at Ocean City State Park.   (Rachel Leathe / The Seattle Times)
Two boys drag surf boards towards the water on Saturday, March 21, 2020, at Ocean City State Park. (Rachel Leathe / The Seattle Times)

LEAVENWORTH — It was a Chamber of Commerce week here last week, with the mild weather and unimpeded views of the Cascades towering over the Bavarian storefronts under bright blue skies.

The only thing missing were the people.

Leavenworth is certainly not alone. Tourism in the state has essentially stopped at many top destinations amid coronavirus concerns and Gov. Jay Inslee pleading with Washingtonians to stay home.

“We’ve been hit hard and were hit first in the U.S.,” said David Blandford, senior vice president and co-chair of the Washington Tourism Alliance. “We are seeing, perhaps even before the other states, the beginning of the impact.”

The losses are still being calculated, but the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming at all state tourism destinations, from Walla Walla to the San Juan Islands, where officials for more than a week have been asking tourists not to come.

Read the full story here.

—Scott Hanson

Seattle’s best restaurants asking for help from Congress — and from you

More than 100 of the Seattle area’s best independently owned restaurants have joined forces to ask for help as the coronavirus closure appears likely to devastate the industry.

With estimates from experts indicating that 75% of independent restaurants will not survive the COVID-19 crisis and that up to seven million people have lost jobs in the industry nationwide, the calls for action are growing urgent. Acting as Seattle Restaurants United, the brand-new local coalition has dispatched a plea to Congress and created the change.org petition “Seattle Restaurants United: Save Restaurants & Bars, Save the City” for supporters to sign.

Read the full story here.

—Bethany Jean Clement

Kenmore suspends plastic bag policy to reduce spread of COVID-19

The city of Kenmore is temporarily suspending its plastic bag policy, which prohibits retailers from providing single-use plastic bags to customers, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 when buying groceries.

Kenmore city manager Rob Karlinsey signed the proclamation and issuance of the emergency rule Monday. It will be in effect until April 30.

"Suspending the policy allows grocery and retail stores to provide paper or plastic bags to customers and waives the required $.05 charge for the bags," according to the statement from the city.

The new rule also prohibits customers from bringing their own reusable bags from home.

"This rule will provide greater protection to workers in retail and food industries, who continue to provide essential services to the public, while reducing the risk of transmission in the community," the statement said.

—Elise Takahama
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Yakama Nation joins Lummi Nation and Makah Tribe in sheltering in place

The Yakama Nation has joined the Lummi Nation and Makah Tribe in adopting a shelter in place ordinance.

“Now is the time for dramatic action to protect our communities from this coronavirus. All residents must stay in their homes until further notice, unless you need essential items like food, gas, or medical services,” said Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin. “This order carries the weight of Yakama law, and must be followed by all Yakama Reservation and off-Reservation trust allotment residents, regardless of whether you are Indian or non-Indian.”

The Yakama Nation’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order only allows residents to leave their homes for necessities, or if they are critical employees for a tribal, federal, state or local government, or for an exempted industry. This order will be enforced by Yakama Nation Police, and violators may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties.

—Lynda V. Mapes

Gov. Inslee issues "stay-at-home" order to slow spread of coronavirus

Gov. Jay Inslee is ordering all Washington residents to stay at home, except for crucial activities like buying groceries, seeking medical care or going to work at essential businesses.

The stay-at-home order goes into effect immediately, and will last for two weeks, the governor’s office said. It bans all gatherings of people for social, spiritual and recreational purposes, whether by public or private groups. That includes weddings and funerals. Any non-essential businesses still operating must close in 48 hours.

"It is still safe to go outside using social distancing of six feet, but really only for essential purposes," Inslee said at a Monday press conference.

His order follows similar decrees by mayors in Washington cities, including Everett and Edmonds, that in the last few days shuttered non-essential business and ordered residents to shelter in place: stay at home, go outside only for food, medicine and absolute necessities.

"Make no mistake," Inslee said. "This order is enforceable by law and can be enforced."

Washington residents will join those in Illinois, California, New York and other states who are under similar orders issued last week.

In California, which was the first to order the statewide restrictions, 40 million residents were told by Gov. Gavin Newsom to go into home isolation starting Thursday evening, marking the most stringent U.S. effort yet to stymie the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Last week, Inslee said it was not yet time to order Washingtonians to shelter in place, and that the state still had a couple unused tools before the more restrictive order to shelter in place was invoked.

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times staff

Metro and other transit agencies seek $25 billion in federal aid

Warning of a “looming financial catastrophe,” King County Metro and other transit agencies are asking federal lawmakers to include at least $25 billion for public transportation agencies in a federal relief package.

"Scaling back service isn't enough to keep our operating budgets in the black," read a letter to congressional leaders signed by Metro General Manager Rob Gannon and executives from nine other agencies including New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"Public transit agencies are literally on the front lines of that effort" to stabilize the economy, the agencies wrote. "We are helping the heroes most critical in this time of crisis — healthcare professionals, first responders, and grocery, utility and childcare workers — do their job."

Ongoing losses from drops in ridership and tax revenues due to the coronavirus outbreak will have a long-term effect on agencies' ability to borrow money, they wrote, and economies in major metro areas "won't be able to rebound from this crisis without us."

King County Metro estimated it was losing about $6 million a week in fares and sales tax revenue. That was before Metro announced it would stop collecting fares to reduce hand-to-hand contact that could spread the coronavirus. Extra cleaning is costing about $25,000 a week, Metro said. The agency implemented a 25% service cut Monday.

Sound Transit has also reduced service and sought help from the federal government. In a letter last week to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., CEO Peter Rogoff said transit aid should be aimed at agencies that are "highly dependent on sales tax revenue."

—Heidi Groover
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Party Zero: How a soirée in Connecticut became a ‘super spreader’

About 50 guests gathered on March 5 at a home in the stately suburb of Westport, Connecticut, to toast the hostess on her 40th birthday and greet old friends, including one visiting from South Africa. They shared reminiscences, a lavish buffet and, unknown to anyone, the coronavirus.

Then they scattered.

The Westport soirée — Party Zero in southwestern Connecticut and beyond — is a story of how, in the Gilded Age of money, social connectedness and air travel, a pandemic has spread at lightning speed. The partygoers — more than half of whom are now infected — left that evening for Johannesburg, New York City, and other parts of Connecticut and the United States, all seeding infections on the way.

—The New York Times

Snoqualmie mayor tests positive for COVID-19

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson announced Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

He was tested at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital last week after showing symptoms of the illness, including a fever and cough, according to a statement from the city of Snoqualmie. He is currently recovering at home, and his family is also self-isolated.

Although Larson wasn't at work when he first started exhibiting symptoms, the statement said, City Hall will undergo a deep disinfection.

“I do not know anyone with COVID-19 and do not know where I contracted the illness,” Larson said in the statement. “My positive test results underscore that this is an invisible threat. I cannot stress enough the importance of our community sheltering at home at this time.”

All City Hall employees and non-essential city staff were scheduled to begin telecommuting on Monday, the statement said. All Snoqualmie playgrounds are also closed to encourage social distancing.

—Elise Takahama

Nordstrom cuts spending plans in response to coronavirus impact on shopping

Nordstrom will cut a further half billion dollars from its spending plans, suspend its cash dividend and share repurchases, and look for ways to raise additional capital, the Seattle-based retailer said Monday.

CEO Erik Nordstrom said in a news release that “we are proactively taking steps to strengthen our financial flexibility to help us navigate through this unprecedented situation.”

The company on March 16 announced the temporary closure of its full-line and Nordstrom Rack stores to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It had previously disclosed plans to cut $200 million to $250 million in costs. The additional effort to pare an additional $500 million in costs will involve cuts in “operating expenses, capital expenditures and working capital,” as well as “ongoing efforts to realign inventory to sales trends,” the company said in the news release.

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times business staff
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Department of Social and Health Services to close select offices to public due to coronavirus outbreak

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) announced Monday three of its offices are closing to the public in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The agency's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation closed all of its offices Monday, and the Aging and Long-Term Support and the Developmental Disabilities administrations will close Tuesday.

"DSHS understands how challenging and life-changing this has been (for) everyone," according to a statement from the agency. "The hope is that these measures will help slow the spread of the virus."

The offices will remain closed to the public until further notice, though full services will be available by phone at 1-877-501-2233.

—Elise Takahama

Federal regulators find Kirkland nursing home failed to quickly respond to coronavirus outbreak

Federal nursing home regulators have found the Kirkland nursing home at the center of the state’s novel coronavirus outbreak failed to quickly respond, placing residents in imminent danger.

In preliminary findings released Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) identified three areas of serious noncompliance at Life Care Center of Kirkland: failure to rapidly identify and manage sick residents, failure to notify the state Department of Health about an increase in respiratory infections and the lack of a sufficient backup plan after the nursing home’s primary clinician fell ill.

These “immediate jeopardy” findings are the most serious cited by CMS and set into motion the process to terminate the facility’s Medicare reimbursement. Life Care Center of Kirkland’s spokesman, Timothy Killian, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story here.

—Asia Fields

Mukilteo furniture maker converts factory for ‘100 Million Mask Challenge’ to fight coronavirus

To help hospitals survive a dangerous shortage, a Mukilteo furniture maker has converted its tables and machines to sew lightweight surgical masks, at a rate of thousands per day.

Kaas Tailored is leading what Providence Medical Group, based in Washington state, calls the 100 Million Mask Challenge.  The technical specifications are meant to be downloaded by nimble enterprises nationwide, at www.kaastailored.com.

It’s an example of how necessity spawns local innovation. Scientists from the University of Washington started tests when federal response lagged, while health-care workers are resorting to procuring their own protective gear.

Read the full story here.

—Mike Lindblom
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Johnson puts U.K. in lockdown to tackle ‘national emergency’

Britain will go into lockdown from Monday night after Boris Johnson ordered sweeping measures to stop people leaving their homes “at this moment of national emergency.”

As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country, the prime minister approved a radical ban on all unnecessary movement of people for at least three weeks. Police will break up gatherings and have the power to fine individuals who defy the tough new laws.

The unprecedented steps represent the most dramatic and sweeping restrictions on the movement of people the country has faced in peacetime.

—Bloomberg

King County Metro buys hand sanitizer from Bothell distillery

Faced with a possible shortage, King County Metro has found a new source for hand sanitizer: a Bothell-based distiller that has added sanitizer to its usual lineup of vodka, bourbon and gin amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As hand sanitizer has proven nearly impossible to find, Wildwood Spirits in Bothell has been making its own and offering bottles to customers or in exchange for a donation to the nonprofit Big Table.

Metro bought 47 gallons of the sanitizer for about $1,500 and plans to repeat that weekly for the foreseeable future, Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer said. The agency is now distributing it to bus drivers and other employees.

“We faced the real challenge of potentially running out of hand sanitizer for our front-line employees — the bus drivers, water taxi crews, rail and streetcar operators and employees who are maintaining a public transportation lifeline to essential jobs including hospitals,” Metro said in a statement.

Metro has reduced bus service in response to declining ridership and has seen "some indications the level of sick call-outs [among staff] is increasing moderately," Metro's general manager said Friday.

The Seattle Police Department will also get a batch of the sanitizer this week, Wildwood said. The sanitizer is made from 60% ethanol infused with lavender and Seville orange, according to the distiller.

 

—Heidi Groover

President Donald Trump and coronavirus task force share updates on testing and medical supplies

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COVID-19 cases in Washington exceed 2,000, including an additional 15 deaths

The Washington State Department of Health reported Monday that the cases from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have exceeded 2,000, including more than 100 deaths.

The newly released numbers bring the total of confirmed cases in Washington to 2,221 and 110 fatalities.

Snohomish, Clark and Skagit counties reported one additional death each. Twelve of the new deaths occurred in King County, where 87 people have died and 1,170 people have tested positive for the virus. The most recent fatalities involved men and women ranging between 60 and 90 years old.

Of the 87 deaths reported, 37 were associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland.

More than 100 new COVID-19 deaths were reported in the United States on Monday, pushing the country’s total death toll past 500 and marking the first time single-day fatalities have risen into the triple-digits since the pandemic reached U.S. soil, according to the Washington Post.

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.

—Elise Takahama

Federal regulators find Kirkland nursing home failed respond quickly to outbreak

Federal nursing-home regulators have found that the Kirkland nursing home at the center of Washington state’s coronavirus outbreak failed to quickly respond, placing residents in imminent danger.

In preliminary findings released Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) identified three areas of serious noncompliance: failure to rapidly identify and manage sick residents, failure to notify the state Department of Health about an increase in respiratory infections and the lack of a sufficient backup plan after the nursing home’s primary clinician fell ill.

These “immediate jeopardy” findings are the most serious cited by CMS and set into motion the process to terminate the facility’s Medicare reimbursement. Life Care Center of Kirkland’s spokesman, Timothy Killian, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Seattle Times previously reported on the nursing home’s lag in testing and isolating sick residents and notifying officials of a respiratory outbreak, which Life Care staff had noticed by Feb. 10, more than two weeks before public-health officials were notified.

At least 34 Life Care residents and one visitor have died of COVID-19.

Read the full story here.

—Asia Fields

Spit on, yelled at, attacked: Chinese Americans fear for their safety

As the coronavirus upends American life, Chinese Americans and other Asians say they are not only trying to avoid the virus but also facing unprecedented threats and attacks

Nearly two dozen Asian Americans across the country said in interviews with The New York Times that they were afraid to go grocery shopping, to travel alone on subways or buses, to let their children go outside.

Many described being yelled at in public in a sudden spasm of fear and hate reminiscent of the kind faced by American Muslims and other Arabs after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In New York City a woman wearing a mask was kicked and punched in a Manhattan subway station, and a man in Queens was followed to a bus stop, shouted at and then hit over the head in front of his 10-year-old son, The Times reported.

Dr. Edward Chew, head of a Manhattan emergency department, said he's noticed people trying to cover their nose and mouth with their shirts when they are near him.When he was at Home Depot with his cart filled with face shields, masks and Tyvek suits for others, he said he was harassed by three men in their 20s, who followed him into the parking lot.

Gun shop owners in the Washington, D.C., area said they were seeing a surge of first-time Chinese American buyers as people rushed to arm themselves.

Read the whole story here.

—The New York Times
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Olympic Committee member sidesteps confirmation that Tokyo Olympics is off

A longtime International Olympic Committee member gave differing statements Monday on the potential for postponement of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Dick Pound, of Canada, an influential and outspoken figure with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for decades, told the CBC he believes the Games will be moved to a later date.

“We’re all reading the tea leaves and so on, but the Japanese themselves are talking about postponing,” he was quoted as saying. “A lot of national Olympic committees and countries are calling for a postponement.”

That comment seemed to fall short of another interview Pound gave with USA Today, in which he stated that “postponement has been decided.”

Reached at home by The Los Angeles Times, Pound initially agreed to talk but asked a reporter to call back. He then hung up on the return call.

The Games were scheduled to begin on July 24, but the IOC has faced global concerns about proceeding amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Read the full story here.

—Los Angeles Times

Washington State Ferries will remain on a winter schedule through April 25

All Washington State Ferries will remain on a reduced winter sailing schedule until at least April 25, to match the reduced ridership the agency is experiencing due to the novel coronavirus.

Spring service, which includes additional trips on certain routes, had been scheduled to begin March 29.

The announcement comes as system-wide ridership has fallen 40% over the last week compared to the same days last year, and the agency prepares for the possibility that trained and qualified crew, necessary to meet federal requirements, could get sick.

The following routes had been scheduled to receive additional services, but now that will not occur until further notice:

  • Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth
  • Anacortes-San Juan Islands
  • Anacortes-Friday Harbor-Sidney, British Columbia

Washington State Ferries announced Friday that the route to Canada would be suspended until at least April 26.

Any previous vehicle reservations made for the Anacortes-San Juan Islands route through April 25 will be canceled.

No new reservations for the spring schedule will be taken after April 25, and no-show fees for reservations will be waived until further notice, the agency said in a news release.

“We know schedule changes affect many people and we don’t make these decisions lightly,” WSF Director Amy Scarton said in the release. “But following discussions with health authorities and state officials we had to make this difficult decision in order to help slow the spread of the virus while still preserving some service options.”

 

—Michelle Baruchman

Inslee to hold televised address to announce ‘enhanced strategies’ on coronavirus

Gov. Jay Inslee will speak to Washington residents in a televised address Monday evening and lay out new plans for fighting the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The address is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and will be live-streamed on TVW, the state government channel, seattletimes.com and provided to other TV stations.

The announcement will involve “enhanced strategies to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak,” the governor’s office said in a news release.

While details of those strategies were not immediately announced, Inslee has faced increasing pressure to order more restrictions such as shelter-in-pace decrees that have been imposed  by other states and cities.

Read the full story here.

—Jim Brunner and Daniel Beekman
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Oregon governor issues legally enforceable ‘stay at home’ order

Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown issued a more definitive shelter-in-place order Monday morning that establishes legally enforceable restrictions on public activity in a state where 161 residents have been infected with coronavirus and five have died.

Brown had been under fire for issuing a shelter-in-place edict on social distancing Friday that some called ambiguous, according to Oregon Live.

Oregon’s order includes exemptions for some businesses and services deemed essential.

The order says shopping malls, gyms, barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons, spas, theaters and amusement parks are among the businesses that must close.

Brown also directed closure of playgrounds, basketball courts, skate parks and other outdoor recreation facilities.

Earlier on Monday, the state announced that all Oregon State Parks would be closing by 5 p.m. Monday and that all campers  would have to check out of the parks by 1 p.m.

—Christine Clarridge

Traffic-related crashes in Washington fell by two-thirds last week compared to 2019, data show

As more drivers are heeding pleas to avoid unnecessary trips, motor vehicle crashes in Washington fell 67% last week compared to the same time period last year, according to reports from the Washington State Patrol.

During the third week of March last year, there were 2,014 crashes. Using the same time period, weekday collision data compiled by the personal injury firm Davis Law Group show there were 656 crashes.

Across Seattle, the number of traffic crashes was 76% lower between 2019 and 2020. Throughout King County, crashes were reduced by 75%.

Pierce County saw 55% fewer collisions, and Thurston County saw a 56% decrease, while Snohomish County saw a 74% reduction.

Crashes involving three or more vehicles fell by 70%, and those that resulted in a serious injury are down by 78%. No fatal collisions occurred, compared to 12 in 2019 — down 100% year-over-year for the third week of March.

On Interstate 5, there were 79% fewer crashes, falling from 189 in 2019 to 39 last week. On Interstate 405, crashes fell by 83% (42 to 7), and 81% fewer crashes (32 to 6) occurred on Interstate 90.

Along Highway 167, collisions decreased by 91% (22 to 2), and Highway 99 crashes fell by 54% (13 to 6).

 

—Michelle Baruchman

Tokyo Olympics are postponed, USA Today Sports reports

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are going to be postponed, likely until 2021, USA Today Sports reported on Monday afternoon.

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound reportedly said the Games will be postponed and the details will be determined over the next four weeks.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today in a phone interview. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”

Pound, a veteran International Olympic Committee member, reportedly said he expects the IOC to announce its next steps soon.

 

—Christine Clarridge
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FDA warns against phony COVID-19 tests, says no home test approved

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about coronavirus scams with information or products that claim to  diagnose, prevent, treat or test COVID-19.

In a statement released on its website, the agency said it is seeing unauthorized fraudulent test kits being marketed to test for COVID-19 in the home.

"We want to alert the American public that, at this time, the FDA has not authorized any test that is available to purchase for testing yourself at home for COVID-19," the statement said.

The agency asks you to please  report fraudulent COVID-19 test kits to the FDA by emailing FDA-COVID-19-Fraudulent-Products@fda.hhs.gov.

—Christine Clarridge

Bus and train service cuts now in place

Riders still relying on King County Metro or Sound Transit as the coronavirus outbreak continues should be careful to double check whether their usual bus or train will arrive.

Both agencies began reduced service Monday, as the outbreak drastically reduces ridership. Sound Transit and Metro have also stopped collecting fares and are asking riders to board through back doors whenever possible, to reduce hand-to-hand interactions.

King County Metro is cutting service about 25% and most routes will have fewer trips or shorter hours of operation. But Metro has expanded its list of routes that will not be affected since its initial announcement last week. Check Metro’s site for a list of which routes will be cut entirely, reduced or left unchanged.

Sound Transit is reducing its ST Express bus and Sounder commuter rail service. Link light rail trains will run every 14 minutes instead of every 6 to 10 minutes.

Riders should be careful to check for updated information about when their bus route is running. Google Maps and One Bus Away may not have the most updated timetables.

For Metro buses, find information at kingcounty.gov/reducedschedule. Metro’s website includes a trip planner, where the “next departure” section should show accurate times. Riders can also sign up for alerts on Metro’s website or text their stop number to 62550 to receive a message about when the next bus is coming.

For Sound Transit buses and trains, riders can sign up for alerts and find reduced service schedules on Sound Transit's website.

—Heidi Groover

Boeing to suspend Puget Sound production operations

Boeing said Monday it will temporarily suspend its Puget Sound factory operations starting Wednesday in response to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

The company said it will focus on a “safe and orderly temporary suspension of operations.”

The decision comes a day after a Boeing worker died of a COVID-19 infection.

The company said Sunday that 29 of its employees had been confirmed to have the disease.

This story will be updated here.

—Seattle Times business staff
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Sen. Amy Klobuchar's husband hospitalized with coronavirus

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Monday that her husband, John Besser, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The former Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement that Besser began feeling sick when she was in Minnesota and he was in Washington, D.C., and that he immediately quarantined himself. She said he sought a test and chest X-ray after he began coughing up blood, and was checked into a Virginia hospital with “very low oxygen levels, which really haven’t improved.”

She said he now has pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator. Klobuchar said her doctor had advised her not to get a test.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Massachusetts governor issues emergency COVID-19 order

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has issued an emergency order requiring all businesses and organizations that do not provide essential services to close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public.

The governor also said he has asked the state public health department to issue a stay-at-home advisory outlining self-isolation and social distancing protocols.

Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary activities, the governor said on social media.

—Christine Clarridge

Swarms of visitors force closure of Oregon state parks, Multnomah Falls

All Oregon State Parks are set to close Monday in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak and the number of people swarming the parks in defiance of social-distancing directives.

The temporary closure signals the state’s latest effort to prevent the spread of the virus, which has killed five people in Oregon.

The measure was announced Sunday, the same day as 24 new cases of the virus and the fifth Oregon death, according to the Oregonian.

State park day-use areas will close as of 5 p.m. Monday, and campers must check out of the parks no later than 1 p.m.

Campers will get refunds for canceled nights. No reopening date has been set.

“We would have preferred an orderly shutdown of the system and to remain open for daytime visits, but our concern for the effects on rural health care systems requires us to move up and expand our plans,” Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said in a statement.

“We know this will cause a disruption, since we’re suspending service to everyone, even people who live near a park. Reducing contact between people is more important than recreation at the moment.”

The agency said it has the ability to close beaches, as well, and will do so “if social distancing practices are not followed.”

Meanwhile, thousands of Oregonians have swarmed the coast, catching communities off-guard and prompting spirited directives for tourists to return home, the Oregonian reported.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not just an opportunity for a traveling vacation,” said Tillamook Mayor Suzanne Weber in a video message. “It’s a threat to our very lives.”

Travelers have also brought on problems in the Columbia River Gorge, where the famous Historic Columbia River Highway saw mid-summer traffic volumes last week.

“Parking lots and roadside parking overflowed this week with cars parking in ditches and blocking intersections,” the state department of transportation reported.

The viewing areas and trail to Multnomah Falls are also being closed.

“It has become clear that some platforms and viewing areas at Multnomah Falls attract groups, making it nearly impossible for people to practice proper social distancing,” Lynn Burditt, forest supervisor for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said in a statement.

Read the whole story here.

—Christine Clarridge

Edmonds mayor issues 'stay at home' order

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson issued a stay-at-home order for residents of the city north of Seattle.

The order, which took effect just before midnight Sunday is directed at residents, business owners and others who either work or recreate in the city, and it follows a similar measure issued in Everett last week.

The order directs people to stay home, except for certain essential activities and work necessary to provide essential business activity and government services, or perform essential public infrastructure construction.

Homeless people are not subject to this order.

The mayor's statement says essential activities include, but are not limited to, the following:

▪ Errands to maintain health and safety, such as obtaining medicine or seeing a doctor.

▪ Acquiring necessary services or supplies for you, your family or household members, such as getting food and supplies, pet food and supplies necessary for staying home. This can include curbside pickup, delivery, take out or drive-thru food and beverage services. The order also asks that people purchase only items they immediately need and not stockpile.

▪ Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running, provided you keep at least 6 feet of distance between others.

—Christine Clarridge

Catch up on what happened over the weekend

Seattle-area residents are testing the limits of social distancing as they flood outdoors. This raises the specter of legal consequences and stricter measures, as police with loudspeakers blare reminders about keeping your distance. Local officials have ordered closures of playgrounds and sports courts. But from Florida to France, rebels everywhere are flouting their lockdowns.

More than two dozen residents and six staff members at the Shuksan Healthcare Center in Whatcom County are infected with the novel coronavirus, officials announced Sunday night.

Everett has directed its residents to stay home as of noon today, as pressure mounts on Gov. Jay Inslee for a statewide order. The Lummi Nation also is sheltering in place to protect its people.

A Boeing worker at the Everett plant has died after coming down with COVID-19, the first death among infected employees. "Please close your doors and shut down," his brother implored the factory amid workers' fear and anger.

Amy Barber gets on the phone at CHI Franciscan’s “mission control” center in Gig Harbor on Friday. Employees are able to help watch and control the medical needs of patients across the CHI Franciscan hospitals in Washington.  (Amanda Snyder / The Seattle Times)
Amy Barber gets on the phone at CHI Franciscan’s “mission control” center in Gig Harbor on Friday. Employees are able to help watch and control the medical needs of patients across the CHI Franciscan hospitals in Washington. (Amanda Snyder / The Seattle Times)

Inside "mission control" at a hospital system dealing with COVID-19: Staffers at CHI Franciscan in Gig Harbor are "preparing with all our might" for a surge in patients. Their weapons: a wall of screens reflecting the hospital system's own vital signs, and artificial intelligence designed to predict the influx. Take a rare look inside as they manage stress on the system, and watch as doctors and nurses describe how they're getting ready for the worst scenarios.

President Donald Trump has declared a "major disaster" in Washington state and said he would activate the National Guard. Here's what that means, and what it doesn't. Meanwhile, fact-checkers are digging into how Trump's words about the pandemic clash with reality.

Is school really out? Districts — and teachers — are answering that question differently. And Seattle schools have announced child care sites amid tensions with the city and King County.

The novel coronavirus turns the body against itself to kill, and UW researchers are starting to learn how. Other scientists at UW are finding out how keeping our physical selves safe from the pandemic may take a toll on our mental health and our hearts: "We're in this human experiment."

Mike Osborn, right, of Sosio’s Produce in Pike Place Market, talks with customers Sunday. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Mike Osborn, right, of Sosio’s Produce in Pike Place Market, talks with customers Sunday. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Business is down at Sosio’s Produce in Pike Place Market, but Mike Osborn is buying his neighbors' bouquets and selling them with an additional charge that goes to the market's Community Safety Net fund. It's among the ways he and other vendors are banding together and "bootstrapping," changing the market's business models on the fly.

We've been sending health care workers into battle without armor, columnist Naomi Ishisaka writes as shortages of masks, gloves and other crucial gear create risks for everyone. One effort to help: A load of 50,000 N95 surgical masks arrived at the Seattle home of a UW Medicine physician on Sunday — courtesy of Elon Musk and Tesla.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive, triggering quarantines — and fury.

Olympic organizers are looking at postponing this summer's Tokyo Games, and Canada has pulled out.

—Kris Higginson & Paige Cornwell

How is the pandemic affecting you?

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