Editor’s note: This was a live account of updates from Tuesday, March 24, as events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Wednesday, March 25. 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.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Monday evening that all Washingtonians stay at home — except for essential activities such as grocery shopping or doctor’s appointments — in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, “a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project.” While Inslee focused on the need to save lives and assured residents the directive was temporary, some business owners are concerned about the effect on the local economy, which has already suffered during the pandemic.

More COVID-19 diagnoses are made in Washington state every day, an indication of both the virus’ spread and of expanded testing capacity. The state Department of Health announced 248 newly confirmed cases Tuesday, bringing the state total to 2,469 cases, including 123 deaths. The bulk of Washington’s cases remain in King County, which has seen 1,277 people fall ill and 94 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 Monday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

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

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Live updates:

Federal officials reach deal on $2 trillion aid package

The White House and Senate leaders of both parties have struck an agreement on a sweeping $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and a health care system strained by the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight.

The agreement came after days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure and still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” Ueland said.

The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

—Associated Press
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How Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend $3.7 million on Seattle-area coronavirus response

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Tuesday it’s planning to donate $3.7 million to support various response efforts to the novel coronavirus pandemic in the greater Seattle area.

The funding is part of a local commitment of up to $5 million the foundation announced in early March, according to a statement from the foundation. Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company founded by Melinda Gates, is also committing an additional $500,000 to support Seattle-area communities disproportionately impacted by the disease, the statement said.

“The pandemic feels like a universal experience, but we have to recognize that not all of us will experience it equally,” Melinda Gates said in the statement. “By supporting local community response efforts, we can help make sure that, in this moment of crisis, we’re not leaving the most vulnerable behind.”

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama

17-year-old boy in California might have died from coronavirus, LA County officials report

Los Angeles County health officials backtracked Tuesday on their announcement that a child died from coronavirus, saying it’s possible the death was caused by something else.

During their daily briefing, the county health department said the unidentified child from the city of Lancaster was among four new deaths.

Hours later, after Gov. Gavin Newsom had cited the death of the teenager as evidence the virus can strike anyone, the county issued a new statement.

“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality” and the case will need evaluation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statement said.

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said a 17-year-old boy had been hospitalized with respiratory problems and died from septic shock, a reaction to a widespread infection that can cause dangerously low blood pressure and organ failure.

The mayor said the boy may have had long-term health problems in the past but was healthy recently. He said he doesn’t doubt that the teen died from complications of COVID-19.

“We’re the first city in the nation to lose a child and that is unbearable to me,” he said.

A report last week by the CDC found no coronavirus deaths in the U.S. among people 19 and under. That age group accounted for less than 3% of all hospitalizations.

—Associated Press

Virus knocks thousands of health workers out of action in Europe

MADRID — It has been hard for any health care system to fight the coronavirus, but when the doctors and nurses themselves become infected, the situation can rapidly spiral out of control.

Across Western Europe, health care professionals have used the language of war to describe a struggle that has left some hospitals on the brink of collapse. In that war, there is no doubt that they are the ones battling on the front lines.

Extraordinary numbers of health workers are catching the virus and getting sick. More than 30 have died in Italy, France and Spain, and thousands of others have had to self-isolate.

Spain stands out as the country facing the severest crisis among its health workers. Out of Spain’s 40,000 confirmed cases, 5,400 — nearly 14% — are medical professionals, the health ministry said on Tuesday. No other country has reported health care staff accounting for a double-digit percentage of total infections.

—The New York Times
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What’s an essential business amid the spread of coronavirus? Washington has some gray areas

Dasha Minich works at Armoire in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood Tuesday. The women’s clothing rental company says they hear from their customers that their rented clothing is one of the bright moments of their day. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Dasha Minich works at Armoire in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood Tuesday. The women’s clothing rental company says they hear from their customers that their rented clothing is one of the bright moments of their day. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Pizza delivery drivers, zookeepers and weather forecasters.

Those were among the less-obvious professions that Gov. Jay Inslee, in his Monday executive order mandating that Washingtonians seclude themselves as much as possible, identified as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” exempt from his directive that everyone who can must work from home starting Wednesday evening.

The top of the list of workers deemed indispensable  “to fight this virus,” as Inslee said, is a no-brainer: Health care workers and workers in adjacent industries — everyone from medical equipment distributors to insurance adjusters and security guards at hospitals — were named essential to combat the growing pandemic.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

Construction industry’s workers divided over staying on the job during coronavirus shutdown

Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s Monday mandate, workers on projects including new Amazon office buildings and the KeyArena overhaul won’t be allowed to come to work starting Wednesday evening.

That will alleviate the concerns of some workers about novel coronavirus transmission at construction job sites, which can be hard to keep sanitized.

But in a move sure to please the construction industry, Inslee’s order contained a wide-ranging exemption for construction of health-care facilities, transportation infrastructure, housing and other “essential” projects.

“You can’t stop building in the middle of SR-520,” said Monty Anderson, executive secretary of the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 15,000 construction workers across 19 unions. “Maintenance workers at Seattle Housing Authority. Those are essential services.”

Read the full story here.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

Inmates with health problems sue Inslee to force release of thousands from prison over coronavirus fears

Five people serving time in Washington prisons are suing Gov. Jay Inslee and Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Steve Sinclair, seeking release for themselves and thousands of other inmates at serious risk if the novel coronavirus pandemic were to sweep through crowded cell blocks.

In a 70-page petition to the Washington State Supreme Court, filed Tuesday, attorneys with Columbia Legal Services argue Inslee and Sinclair are violating the state constitution by failing to act swiftly to protect the health of inmates confined in prisons ill-equipped to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak.

The lawsuit seeks the release of all people in DOC custody who are 50 years or older, as well as any who have serious health problems, and anyone with scheduled early release dates within the next 18 months. Nick Straley, one of the attorneys, said with few exceptions such people should be let go, no matter the reason for their incarceration.

“This pandemic does not make a distinction based on the crime,” he said.

Read the full story here.

—Jim Brunner
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Microsoft push brings medical supplies from overseas to aid in state’s coronavirus fight

There wasn’t much left in Microsoft President Brad Smith’s bag of tricks by the time he picked up a phone late last Saturday and called the White House.

Smith already had spent the prior week helping his overseas teams negotiate the release of 240,000 desperately needed N-95 surgical masks from an undisclosed foreign government so they could be shipped to the United States in anticipation of an onslaught of hospitalizations caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. But after subsequently being flown overseas by Federal Express to a distribution center in Memphis, the masks sat untouched for 48 hours awaiting a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspector to arrive and sign them onward.

Smith was getting worried, knowing additional logistical challenges lay beyond that one transfer point. And like many Americans bracing for the worst of the pandemic, he wasn’t sure when increasing numbers of patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, could start overwhelming local hospitals.

Read the full story here.

—Geoff Baker

Are Seattle’s farmers markets allowed to operate through the coronavirus ‘stay-at-home’ period?

Seattle’s farmers markets will remain closed until at least April 13, despite being declared essential businesses by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee when he issued his stay-at-home order on Monday evening.

A spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday that permits for farmers markets will remain suspended as the city tries to limit the extent of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Protecting the public health and safety of our Seattle communities is our top priority,” Durkan’s office wrote in a statement. “Farmer’s markets, while they are a treasured resource, also attract large crowds of people who often come into close contact with each other. Currently, the citywide ban on permitted events, which includes farmer’s markets, will continue until April 13.”

Permits were suspended March 13 to help stem the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The Neighborhood Farmers Markets Alliance launched a petition on March 20 to help show support for the popular markets. Jennifer Antos, the Alliance’s executive director, said 99% of the 1,200 signees so far have agreed that markets are essential and should remain open.

“It’s our firm stance that farmers, no matter what size they are, are an essential part of the food supply,” Antos said. “So, it’s really a food security issue even though that’s not the problem currently. But we’re really concerned about the impact of this closure on the food supply in the next four to six months.”

Read the full story here.

—Chris Talbott

Layoffs begin as aviation collapse due to coronavirus hits state aerospace companies

With airlines drastically reducing their flights and parking their aircraft, Everett’s large aircraft repair and maintenance firm ATS laid off about 150 workers Monday.

“We are fighting for our lives up here right now,” said CEO Matt Yerbic. “With the airlines in crisis, our work is at about 50% of where we thought we’d be in the next couple of weeks. It’s pretty ugly.”

Largely due to the Boeing production shutdown, Skills, which employs about 400 people at three facilities in Auburn doing machining and metal finishing work, is temporarily laying off 80% to 90% of them.

“We’ll have a skeleton crew over the next two weeks,” said Skills CEO Todd Dunnington. “We’re all just trying to adapt as best we can.

Read the full story here.

—Dominic Gates
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Regional Animal Services of King County temporarily stops its pet adoption process

The Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) announced Tuesday that it will temporarily halt its pet-adoption services.

The agency, which had been continuing to run its Kent Adoption Center while practicing social distancing, said it made the decision after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the statewide stay-at-home order.

RASKC will continue to run some online services, including purchasing or renewing a pet license, obtaining information on lost pets or found pets, requesting for animal-control response or pet-ownership assistance.

—Elise Takahama

Seattle closes parking lots at eight destination parks, access to Rattlesnake Ledge Trail

Seattle Parks and Recreation has shut down parking lots at eight destination parks to help slow the spread of coronavirus and has closed public beaches for gatherings, the city said in a news release Tuesday, warning parks could be closed completely if people continue to congregate.

Additionally, Seattle Public Utilities has closed the Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area and Rattlesnake Ledge Trail, which are located in the city's Cedar River Watershed near North Bend.

Seattle last Friday directed people to stop using city playgrounds, picnic areas and sports courts, and Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-home order Monday that bans all social gatherings, including pick-up games, barbecues, parties and bonfires.

But some beaches were crowded over the weekend, and the Rattlesnake Ledge Trail saw more than 4,000 people visit, the Seattle's news release said.

Beaches will remain open for walking and “general exercise,” as will the city’s 479 neighborhood parks, the release said. Outdoor activities that can be done six feet away from other people, such as walking, hiking and biking, are allowed under Inslee’s order.

The eight destination parks -- Green Lake Park, Lincoln Park, Golden Gardens Park, Seward Park, Magnuson Park, Gas Works Park, Alki Beach and Discovery Park -- also will remain open for those activities, just without dedicated parking.

Parks staff and Seattle police officers will continue to visit those and other popular parks, such as Cal Anderson Park and Volunteer Park, to remind people to keep apart.

“We still want people to be able to enjoy our parks during this stressful time. But we have seen many of our parks have become too busy to allow folks to properly create social distance,” Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre said. “Our hope is that closing parking lots will reduce crowds. If folks are not able to maintain six feet of space, we will need to close parks.”

—Daniel Beekman

Kitsap Transit will refund riders who purchased April passes

Kitsap Transit will issue refunds to any passengers who purchased passes for the month of April, the agency announced Tuesday.

April pass holders will receive E-purse credit for the value of their monthly pass.

Riders who have questions are encouraged to call customer service at 1-800-501-7433 or email kitsapride@kitsaptransit.com.

—Michelle Baruchman
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State health officials report 2,469 COVID-19 cases, including an additional 13 deaths

The Washington state Department of Health confirmed Tuesday an additional 248 cases and 13 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The newly released numbers bring the total of confirmed cases in Washington to 2,469 and 123 fatalities.

Yakima County reported its first virus-related death, and five more deaths were confirmed in Snohomish County. The seven remaining newly reported fatalities occurred in King County, where 94 people have died and 1,277 people have tested positive for the virus.

Public Health - Seattle & King County noted the Tuesday numbers are an "approximation," as the state's database is in the process of updating. The agency will report an official count Wednesday, it said on its website.

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

Why Germany’s coronavirus death rate is so much lower than other countries’ rates

For weeks, virologists in Berlin have been asked a persistent question: Why, compared to other countries, are so few of the Germans who are diagnosed with coronavirus dying?

In Italy, 9.5% of the people who have tested positive for the virus have succumbed to COVID-19, according to data compiled at the Johns Hopkins University. In France, the rate is 4.3%. But in Germany, it’s 0.4%.

The biggest reason for the difference, infectious disease experts say, is Germany’s work in the early days of its outbreak to track, test and contain infection clusters. That means Germany has a truer picture of the size of its outbreak than places that test only the obviously symptomatic, most seriously ill or highest-risk patients.

—Washington Post

More positive tests at Bellingham nursing facility

Five more employees of Bellingham’s Shuksan Healthcare Center have tested positive for COVID-19 illness, the facility announced Tuesday.

That brings to 37 the number of residents and staff to test positive at the nursing facility in Bellingham’s York neighborhood. Twenty-six residents and 11 staff members have tested positive at the facility, which has 38 current residents.

One former resident of Shuksan, a man in his 80s, died at home last week.

Whatcom Health authorities said Monday they don’t plan to compel testing of all 98 employees who have worked at the facility during recent weeks, and have no plan to quarantine untested employees who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. All employees of the facility have been barred from working at other health care facilities until they are cleared. Some employees might be seeking testing on their own, a Health Department spokesperson said.

“We are testing per health department directives,” Shuksan spokesman David Kiefer said in a statement. “Those directives call for staff testing only if staff members present the symptoms outlined by the health department and CDC."

Shuksan is waiting for test results from one additional resident. One declined to be tested, authorities said.

—Ron Judd
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HomeStreet suspends $27M stock buyback plan during coronavirus crisis

HomeStreet Bank’s parent company has suspended plans to spend about $27 million on stock buybacks, following in the footsteps of the nation’s eight largest banks as lenders turn to cushioning their balance sheets and keeping cash on hand for borrowers during the coronavirus crisis.

Seattle-based HomeStreet said in a securities filing Tuesday it is halting purchases of its own stock with the remaining $17 million of an approved $25 million buyback program, and is withdrawing a request to regulators to authorize an additional $10 million.

HomeStreet’s stock closed Monday at $19.31, down from highs above $33 in February. It had spent $7.9 million buying back stock at an average price of $23.55, according to data in the filing.

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times business staff

U.S. climate activists to livestream Earth Day due to coronavirus

As the coronavirus causes shut-downs across the U.S., a coalition of youth-led organizations that had planned massive marches for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next month are now planning a three-day livestream event instead, organizers said Tuesday.

“Earth Day Live” will happen April 22-24 and will include speakers, voter registration, protests against financial institutions that support the fossil fuel industry, and entertainment. The event will be accessible on computers and mobile devices in the hopes that it will encourage engagement and action among people who are secluded at home and who may have planned to march in Washington and other places.

“It’s a time to really rethink our strategy,” said Katie Eder, the 20-year-old executive director of the Future Coalition, one of nine youth-led organizations that are coordinating the event. “We are really looking at this as a way to reimagine what a social movement can look like in a digital age.”

—Associated Press

Resources for businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state

With the ongoing economic fallout from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, business owners and employees alike have numerous questions about where to get help. These resources offer access to government and relief agency services that can help with keeping a business afloat, maintaining food and housing after a job loss, and more.

View the full list of resources here.

—Geoff Baker
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State parks, wildlife areas close

All state-managed parks, wildlife areas and water access areas will close for at least two weeks beginning Wednesday, according to a news release from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Essential staff will remain at sites “to preserve and protect resources," the release said.

Camping on state-managed grounds will remain closed through April.

—Evan Bush

Nature Conservancy lands close to public access

The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit land manager, has shuttered public access to the lands it manages and owns in Washington until further notice, according to a news release.

“... Our popular preserves and trails have seen heavy crowding and overuse,” the news release said, adding the decision to close access was made to “safeguard the health and safety of our staff and volunteers and out of our responsibility to do all we can to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The closures include: Central Cascades Forests, Moses Coulee-Beezley Hills preserves, Clearwater River Forest Reserve, Hoh River Forest Reserve, Ellsworth Creek Preserve, Foulweather Bluff Preserve, Port Susan Bay Preserve, Yellow Island, the Robert Y. Pratt Preserve at Ebey’s Landing, and other areas in the state.

—Evan Bush

Mapping a pandemic: Track the spread of coronavirus across Washington and the world

 

 

Washington state, site of the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the country on Jan. 20, also became the nation’s first epicenter of the outbreak on Feb. 29 with the publicly announced death of a person, at a Kirkland hospital, and an eruption of cases at a nursing home.

The coronavirus has continued to spread across the state. Public health agencies agree that the number of confirmed cases greatly underrepresents the true number of people infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Most people experience only mild illness, and testing is still not widely available.

Here’s what we know so far about the statewide spread of the illness and its global impacts.

View the global map here.

—Seattle Times graphics staff
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North Cascades National Park to close down several services

The North Cascades National Park Service is halting several services to comply with the state's limits on gatherings and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Beginning Wednesday, the park service said it's suspending any service outside those that "support visitor or resource protection."

Canceled services include providing restrooms, collecting trash, maintaining access roads and operating campgrounds, boat ramps and visitor information, according to a statement from park officials.

The park will also close campgrounds at Hozomeen, Colonial, Newhalem, Gorge, Goodell, Lakeview, Purple Point, Harlequin and High Bridge, as well as all group sites. Boat ramps at Colonial, Goodell and Gorge will also be shut down, and access roads to Cascade River Road, Thornton Lakes and Upper Goodell Road will be blocked off.

—Elise Takahama

Nintendo donates 9,500 N95 masks to Eastside Fire & Rescue

The city of North Bend announced Tuesday that Nintendo is planning to donate more than 9,500 N95 masks to Eastside Fire & Rescue in an attempt to support first responders and health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The gaming company, which is headquartered in Redmond and has a distribution center in North Bend, said the masks were originally purchased for emergency preparedness planning, but -- amid the virus outbreak -- knew they were needed elsewhere, according to a statement from the city of North Bend.

Eastside Fire & Rescue staff will distribute the respirator masks throughout the region to "address immediate needs," the statement said.

"This crisis is unprecedented. The safety and security of community members is paramount in our daily mission," the statement said. "The communities served by City of North Bend and Eastside Fire & Rescue deeply appreciate the generous donation from Nintendo."

—Elise Takahama

Job search requirement waived to increase access to unemployment benefits

The Washington State Employment Security Department announced Tuesday that workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic won't be required to be actively searching for a job in order to qualify for unemployment benefits.

The change, which will be retroactive to March 8, is "another in a series of measures by Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Employment Security Department to increase access to unemployment benefits for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a statement from the department.

Anyone laid off as a result of Inslee's stay-at-home order is eligible for unemployment benefits, the department's website said.

“Our top priorities in this crisis are to get benefits out to eligible Washingtonians as quickly as possible, help more people become eligible and help employers who are hiring get the staff they need right now,” said Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine in the statement. “Waiving the job search requirement helps make it easier for people to use the benefit."

Although the job search component is optional, LeVine said, the department is hoping to encourage those recently laid off to pursue as many jobs as possible, especially those "we so deeply need filled in our state right now."

"Especially since Unemployment Insurance is partial wage replacement, we recognize that the best option is for people to obtain a job rather than Unemployment Insurance," she said in the statement. "We encourage anyone who has been laid off to continue in their job search through WorkSource or other online job search websites.”

Inslee's order also waived the program's waiting week, which allows unemployment insurance payments to start from the first week someone is eligible.

—Elise Takahama
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Roads to Mount Rainier National Park closed because of health and safety concerns

The National Park Service has closed all public road access to Mount Rainier National Park because of health and safety concerns during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

This closure will prohibit all vehicles, including cars, buses, motorcycles and nonmotorized vehicles such as bicycles,  from entering the park. The park’s main gate near Ashford will also be closed.

The park access road starting at the Nisqually Entrance also remains closed to pedestrians. The park will not conduct on-site public or educational programs, collect trash from public areas, or operate or provide public restrooms anywhere in the park. Access to the Carbon River area in the northwest corner of the park remains closed because of  the washout of the Fairfax Forest Reserve Road.

The National Park Inn, gift shop and restaurant operated by Rainier Guest Services are also closed.

The backcountry remains accessible for dispersed recreation, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, on the sections of Highway 410 (via Enumclaw) and Highway 123 (near Packwood) that are located within the boundaries of the park. All regulations concerning backcountry-access use apply at this time to these roads, including the restrictions on pets. Visit the park’s website to learn about safe recreation in the park. Once snow clearing on Highways 410/123 begins, winter recreation access on roads also will cease.

Updated guidelines for acquiring backcountry and climbing permits will be announced on the park’s webpage — www.nps.gov/mora.

—Lynda V. Mapes

King County Metro maintenance base employee tests positive for COVID-19

A King County Metro maintenance employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the agency said Tuesday.

The employee, who works in vehicle maintenance at Ryerson Base in Sodo, has not worked since March 17 and shared the diagnosis Sunday, Metro said. The employee is self-isolating at home.

Metro expects more cases among its employees, but does not plan to share all new cases publicly for fear that “could lead to individuals being identified and could cause other spaces to be mistakenly seen as being without risk,” Metro said in a statement posted online.

"Additionally, if employees fear their privacy will be compromised, they may not seek needed medical care, which hinders the ability of public health officials to respond," Metro said. "We can’t emphasize enough that, at this point, we all have to assume there is a risk of exposure in any public space and act accordingly."

Employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 are directed to self-isolate for two weeks and employees with possible symptoms are sent home until they are symptom-free for at least 72 hours, Metro said.

Citing steep reductions in ridership and the possibility of employees needing to call out sick because of the virus, Metro cut bus service by about 25% starting this week. Fares are no longer required and riders are being instructed to board through the back door to reduce hand-to-hand interactions.

 

—Heidi Groover

Washington state Democratic lawmakers seek unemployment assistance for independent contractors and gig workers

Washington’s congressional delegation should ask the Trump administration to expand unemployment assistance for independent contractors, four Democratic state senators and representatives wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is generally available to any unemployed or self-employed person who lived, worked, or was scheduled to work in the area impacted by the disaster.

Because of the disaster, those workers either cannot reach their place of work, cannot work because of damage to their workplace, cannot work because of an injury they received from the disaster, or because they no longer have a job or place to work.

The DUA benefits are available for individuals who qualify for up to 26 weeks after the date the president declares a disaster.

The four legislators — Sen. Karen Keiser, Sen. Andy Billig, Rep. Mike Sells and Rep. Laurie Jinkins — are asking President Donald Trump’s administration to ensure DUA benefits can be applied to pandemics in the same manner they apply under natural disasters.

Independent contractors in the gig economy and those who are self-employed do not have access to unemployment-insurance benefits.

“We are hearing from these workers about the economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” the legislators wrote in the letter. “This threatens their livelihoods and the strength of the broader economy.”

Trump has approved Gov. Jay Inslee’s request to declare the COVID-19 outbreak a disaster in Washington, but his administration is still considering the request to activate DUA.

“We urge the Congressional Delegation to request the Administration unlock these vital benefits for our workers and businesses,” the lawmakers wrote.

—Michelle Baruchman
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Gov. Brown says Oregon may have trouble providing ‘basic services’

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday that she is "gravely concerned" about Oregon’s financial ability to deliver basic services over the next six months to a year because of the economic fallout from statewide closures, layoffs by affected businesses and stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“The bottom line … is that we have far more needs than we have resources and the economy is tumbling down and we don’t know what that will look like until we have the forecast in mid-May,” she said in a conference with reporters.

“I am gravely concerned about our ability to deliver basic services over the next six months to a year given the drop in revenues and that’s why I am encouraging the Legislature to be extremely fiscally prudent,” Brown said.

Brown plans to call a special session of the Legislature as early as next week to earmark $250 million for the COVID-19 response and to ensure there is enough money for the upcoming wildfire season, she said.

The full damage to Oregon’s revenue won’t be clear until mid-May, when the revenue forecast comes out. State lawmakers have also expressed concerns, saying a spike in unemployment means far less money coming into Oregon coffers through an income tax.

On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority said eight Oregonians had died from COVID-19 and 209 had tested positive for coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

TSA agent at Sea-Tac tests positive for coronavirus

A Transportation Security Administration agent at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a spokesperson for the Port of Seattle, which runs the airport.

The agent last worked Saturday at checkpoint five, Perry Cooper said. The checkpoint has been shut down and the airport is following sanitation and public health protocols to limit infection, he said.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Great Smoky Mountains close their gates Tuesday

Three of America’s most well-known national parks — Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Great Smoky Mountains — closed their gates Tuesday to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

They join a growing list of parks closing despite an announcement last week by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt that the agency would temporarily waive entrance fees at national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges to make it easier for people to get outdoors and “implement some social distancing.”

Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, and neighboring Grand Teton, announced their closures hours after the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. They follow closures at Yosemite in California and Rocky Mountain in Colorado in previous days.

The National Park Service also previously closed the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor and Alcatraz in San Francisco.

Other parks have closed shuttles, campgrounds, visitor centers and some trails to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The decision to close Yellowstone came after Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and local officials urged the park to keep visitors out to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press
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Trump weighs scaling back social-distancing guidelines

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter and said he is looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said Tuesday during a Fox News virtual town hall.

The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities. Health experts have advised people to stay home from work and isolate themselves to limit the spread of infection they say will otherwise overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy.

“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said during the virtual town hall from the Rose Garden. He said that tens of thousands of Americans die from the seasonal flu or in automobile accidents and “we don’t turn the country off.”

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Health officials warn against self-medicating for COVID-19 with Trump-touted drug

Health system administrators in Arizona are warning people not to self medicate with chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug incorrectly recommended for treatment of COVID-19 by President Donald Trump last week, or its sibling, chloroquine phosphate.

The warning comes after a Phoenix-area man died and his wife was in critical condition after the they each took chloroquine phosphate,an additive used to clean fish tanks that can be bought in pet stores.

Trump erroneously said last week that the Food and Drug Administration had just approved the use of an anti-malaria medication called chloroquine to treat patients infected with coronavirus.

Even after the FDA chief clarified that the drug still needs to be tested for that use, Trump stated again the drug’s potential upside in battling the virus.

The nonprofit Banner Health said Monday that the couple in their 60s got sick within half an hour of ingesting the additive. The man couldn’t be resuscitated when he arrived at a hospital, but the woman was able to throw up much of the chemical and survived, Banner said.

“Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” the woman told NBC. She said her advice for people would be, “Don’t take anything. Don’t believe anything. Don’t believe anything that the president says and his people … call your doctor.”

“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director. “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.”

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

This is how Washington’s stay-at-home order addresses people experiencing homelessness

The “stay-at-home” instructions that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday do not apply to people experiencing homelessness, who by definition can’t stay at home.

“But they are urged to obtain shelter, and governmental and other entities are strongly encouraged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the maximum extent practicable,” the order says.

A report released last week by leading researchers estimated it would cost more than $11 billion nationally and nearly $260 million in King County alone to shelter all homeless people at least six feet apart and to isolate and quarantine them when appropriate.

Read more about how the order affects people who are unsheltered.

—Daniel Beekman
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Tokyo Olympics postponed because of coronavirus

The Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021 on Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee finally made the decision after speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers.

The IOC said the games will be held “not later than summer 2021” but that they will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

—Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Gov. Jay Inslee is ordering all Washington residents to stay at home, except for crucial activities, to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. He’s shown here preparing for his address to the state. (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)
Gov. Jay Inslee is ordering all Washington residents to stay at home, except for crucial activities, to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. He’s shown here preparing for his address to the state. (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order went into effect immediately and will last at least two weeks. Here's what's allowed, what isn't, and where to read the order. While many parks and outdoor spaces are now closed, others can stay open, and so can a long list of food-related businesses. Business owners and economists are forecasting which sectors of the local economy will be most vulnerable to this new wave of impacts.

Health officials are delivering home-test kits as they launch a new way to track the spread of COVID-19. Here's how to volunteer for a test.

Boeing is halting work at its factories in the Puget Sound region and making plans for the workers who will be affected in the temporary shutdown. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines is cutting 200 flights a day as air travel falls off a cliff.

Emergency personnel wheel a resident out of Life Care Center of Kirkland, Thursday, March 5, headed for a hospital. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Emergency personnel wheel a resident out of Life Care Center of Kirkland, Thursday, March 5, headed for a hospital. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Federal regulators have found the Kirkland nursing home at the center of the state’s coronavirus outbreak failed to quickly respond, placing residents in imminent danger. Life Care Center has been linked to 35 coronavirus deaths.

School must go on. Washington state officials yesterday laid out what schools are required to do for students.

A stay-at-home order is a start. The world's leading experts on epidemics are describing the other drastic steps that must be taken to shut down the virus.

Skokomish tribal member Elena Prest gathers licorice fern, a traditional medicinal plant material for remedies usually made into teas.  It’s considered a strong anti-inflammatory used for sore throat, either a bit held in a cheek or taken in a tea. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Skokomish tribal member Elena Prest gathers licorice fern, a traditional medicinal plant material for remedies usually made into teas. It’s considered a strong anti-inflammatory used for sore throat, either a bit held in a cheek or taken in a tea. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Tribal communities know about death by pandemic. Several in Washington state are turning to their teachings and each other for protection.

Washington’s top tourist destinations are becoming ghost towns, and some of them are trying to scare visitors away.

Forget about whiskey. Seattle-area distilleries are pivoting to churn out a newly coveted liquid. And a Mukilteo furniture maker has quickly converted its factory to carry out a "100 Million Mask Challenge."

The Trump National Golf Club had an uninvited guest: COVID-19, which sickened party-goers.

As some high-school seniors hold out hope that the pandemic won't take their final shot at athletic glory, others are coming to terms with the possibility that "we probably won’t get another game."

Redmond’s Jennifer Cummings hits a double while playing in the third-place game at the Class 3A state tournament in 2018.  (Jason Redmond / The Seattle Times)
Redmond’s Jennifer Cummings hits a double while playing in the third-place game at the Class 3A state tournament in 2018. (Jason Redmond / The Seattle Times)

Here's help

Grocery shop wisely in the coronavirus era: Nutritionist Carrie Dennett tackles what to pick up, how much food is reasonable to buy, and how often it makes sense to stock up. And here's a partial list of stores that have announced special hours for senior citizens and other vulnerable shoppers.

Cough, cough. Is that allergies or COVID-19? Here's how to tell them apart.

How long can the virus live on surfaces or in the air around you? Here's a breakdown.

—Kris Higginson

How is this outbreak affecting you?

What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.

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