Editor’s note: This was a live account of updates from Wednesday, March 25, as events unfolded. Click here to see updates from Thursday, March 26. 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.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday night unanimously passed an unprecedented $2 trillion measure that expands unemployment benefits and aids businesses struggling with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The passage came as Washington state workers continue to raise questions about the recent statewide stay-at-home measure, which left plenty of gray area on which businesses are considered essential and thus allowed to remain open.

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 111 newly confirmed cases Wednesday, bringing the state total to 2,580 cases, including 132 deaths. The bulk of Washington’s cases remain in King County, which has seen 1,359 people fall ill and 100 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 Tuesday 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 Wednesday evening.


Live updates:

Truck manufacturer Paccar closing factories worldwide until April 6 due to coronavirus market woes

Bellevue-based truck and engine manufacturer Paccar has halted production at its factories worldwide due to “recent changes in customer demand and a weaker outlook for the global economy, as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic,” the company said Tuesday.

The company employs about 27,000 from Renton to Brazil and Europe in building, selling and financing commercial trucks.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

New Inslee edict: Most construction work is not authorized during coronavirus shutdown

In a major clarification to the statewide stay-at-home order, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said Wednesday evening that workers on most commercial and residential construction sites should stay home to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Nearly all construction is a nonessential activity under the state’s new stay-at-home order, according to a memo issued by the governor’s office.

The clarification is sure to frustrate some construction industry leaders who, since Inslee announced the stay-at-home order Monday evening, have insisted they are essential businesses allowed to continue operating.

“Under the Order ‘construction workers who support … construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction)’ are listed as an ‘essential service,'” the Building Industry Association of Washington wrote in an email to its members Monday. “Based upon this language, homebuilders and remodelers may continue with operations while the stay-at-home order is in effect.”

The clarification rejects that interpretation, exempting only a very few categories of construction from the statewide mandate that all nonessential workers should stay at home.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

Senate passes $2 trillion virus rescue plan; sends bill to House

The U.S. Senate late Wednesday passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The unanimous vote came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced.

The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote — and he released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed.

Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which will most likely pass it Friday.

—Associated Press

Amazon gives contract drivers detailed delivery guidance for working amid coronavirus

Use your phone to knock on doors. Don’t sneeze on the packages. Ask customers to set their identification on the ground and step away before you check it.

Amazon provided its contract delivery drivers Wednesday evening with its most detailed guidance yet for collecting and distributing packages while maintaining good hygiene and social distance to slow the spread of coronavirus.

In an email to Flex drivers that was reviewed by The Seattle Times, Amazon said they must maintain a distance of six feet from others when picking up packages, which the company said will be “strictly enforced.”

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Romano

UW study shows new, self-administered COVID-19 test could protect workers, speed up process

University of Washington health science experts, along with a team of researchers, confirmed Wednesday that they've identified a "significantly less invasive" method people can use to collect their own samples to be tested for COVID-19.

The new method could "help protect health care workers, preserve limited personal protective equipment and significantly speed up the testing process," a UW statement said.

Self-collected swab samples can accurately detect the virus in more than 90% of positive patients, according to a recent study from the UnitedHealth Group Research & Development and the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences.

"The current COVID-19 test regimen requires a trained health care worker to collect samples from deep inside the patient’s nasal cavity," the statement said. "The process requires the use of personal protective equipment, is uncomfortable for the patient and puts unnecessary strain on the health care system."

This method, the statement said, instead allows patients to just swab the front part of their nostrils and mid-nose.

“Nasal swabs are extremely easy for anyone to self-collect, in any setting, so it's an excellent way to expand screening while reducing worker exposure,” said UW professor Gerard Cangelosi in the statement.

—Elise Takahama

Seattle, King County to open up new spaces to decrease crowding in shelters during coronavirus pandemic

Seattle and King County will temporarily open six additional spaces for people experiencing homelessness in an effort to help already crowded shelters follow coronavirus pandemic social distancing rules, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s offices said in a release Wednesday night.

It’s the largest expansion of its kind four weeks into the local COVID-19 outbreak. The new spaces are not for new shelter clients, but for people who have already been living in crowded shelter conditions.

Shelters have struggled to protect both clients and staff in recent weeks, as a run on cleaning supplies and masks have made protective equipment scarce. Crowded shelters have also decreased capacity in order to try and keep clients a safe distance apart, which in some cases has meant turning people seeking emergency shelter away.

Read the full story here.

—Sydney Brownstone

As Latin America shuts down to fight virus, Brazil and Mexico are holdouts

RIO DE JANEIRO — Most leaders in Latin America reacted to the arrival of the coronavirus in the region with speed and severity: Borders were shut. Flights were halted. Soldiers roamed deserted streets enforcing quarantines, and medical professionals braced for an onslaught of patients by building field hospitals.

But the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, who govern more than half of Latin America’s population — Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and, to a lesser degree, his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador — have remained strikingly dismissive. They’ve scoffed at calls to shut down business and sharply limit public transportation, calling such measures far more devastating to people’s welfare than the virus.

In a region with high poverty rates, where hundreds of millions of people live in close quarters without access to proper sanitation or health care, experts say that approach could create an ideal breeding ground for the virus, with devastating consequences for public health, the economy and the social fabric.

—The New York Times

Aerospace supplier Safran closing Washington plants for two weeks

Aircraft interiors company Safran Cabin is suspending production for two weeks starting Thursday at sites  in Bellingham, Marysville and Newport that employ about 1,500.

All three sites were formerly part of Zodiac, which was acquired by French aerospace manufacturing giant Safran in 2017. Production will resume April 10 after a thorough cleaning of the sites, the company said.

Safran’s spokesman in France, in an email, did not say whether employees will be paid during the production suspension.

Read the full story here.

—Dominic Gates

State health officials report 2,580 COVID-19 cases, including 132 deaths

The Washington State Department of Health announced Wednesday 111 more cases and nine new deaths from COVID-19, though it didn't say where the new deaths occurred and noted on its website that it's experiencing technical difficulties.

"The state's notifiable conditions database is currently experiencing a slowdown because of a 10-fold increase in the number of lab reports received. Our IT team is working to correct the issue," the department said.

Cory Portner, a spokesman for state's Joint Information Center, said that as a result, it's possible not all data was included in the report used to update numbers.

The newly released numbers bring the total of confirmed cases in Washington to 2,580, with 132 fatalities.

Although the state didn't have an updated count of which counties the new deaths occurred in, Public Health — Seattle & King County reported six additional fatalities Wednesday. The county has confirmed 100 deaths and 1,359 cases.

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

‘A real lifeline’ or too little? What the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus could mean for Washington state

The unprecedented $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package agreed to by Congress and President Donald Trump is expected to potentially unlock billions of dollars in aid for Washington state governments, transit, businesses and hospitals — as well as send direct payments to most adults.

Exactly how and when the money will flow here was not immediately clear as the final package had not yet been voted on as of late Wednesday afternoon and negotiations were ongoing amid partisan disagreements over last-minute changes.

The package — which some are already arguing is insufficient and may need to be revisited — reportedly would send $1,200 payments to most American adults; establish a $367-billion loan program for small businesses; and a $500 billion loan fund for industries. It also reportedly extends unemployment benefits and includes $100 billion nationally for hospitals, which are struggling financially while on the front line of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the money may dry up fast for Washingtonians who get laid off, even accounting for unemployment benefits, said Jacob Vigdor, an economist at the University of Washington.

Read the full story here.

—Jim Brunner and Daniel Beekman

Cantwell: Boeing may not like strings attached to U.S. help for aviation in coronavirus crisis

As the leaders of the U.S. Senate worked Wednesday evening to finalize details of a roughly $2 trillion emergency relief package, Sen. Maria Cantwell expressed doubt that Boeing will accept the direct government loans it offers.

Boeing, in response, said it’s premature to speculate before details of the final legislation emerge.

Cantwell, in an interview, welcomed the aid for the aviation world. But she cited Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun’s recent comment on TV that he didn’t want government taking an equity stake in the company in exchange for financial support.

Cantwell said the Senate bill includes $500 billion in support for large businesses, with up to about $85 billion of that for aviation, including airlines, aircraft repair firms, airports and aerospace manufacturers.

But the money comes with strings attached.

Read the full story here.

—Dominic Gates

Army seeks retired medical personnel to rejoin service to combat the coronavirus

The Army has launched an effort to see if retired doctors, nurses and medics who have served in the service may be willing to be recalled to military service, citing the “extraordinary challenges” that the coronavirus pandemic has created.

An Army general said in a message to eligible veterans that the Army is turning to “trusted professionals capable of operating under constantly changing conditions” and “reaching out to gauge the interest” of those who qualify. The solicitation, obtained by The Washington Post, applies to both retired and former officers and enlisted soldiers.

“When the Nation called — you answered, and now, that call may come again,” wrote Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the deputy chief of staff for Army Personnel Command.

The message states that the Army is interested in people who served in eight jobs: critical care officer, anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist, critical care nurse, nurse practitioner, emergency-room nurse, respiratory specialist and medic.

—The Washington Post

Seattle-based Coast Guard icebreaker returns to a very different city

On Nov. 23, 2019, the nation’s only heavy icebreaker left its homeport in Seattle for an Antarctica mission at a time when Amazon workers still thronged downtown, Pike Place Market hummed with shoppers and freeways were clogged with cars.

On Wednesday, the 150-member crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star returned to Washington’s largest city during a vastly different time of quiet streets and social isolation that will make for a very different sort of homecoming.

This was the Polar Star’s sixth deployment in as many years, and was in support of Operation Deep Freeze, which resupplies U.S. Antarctica stations in support of the National Science Foundation, according to a Coast Guard statement released Wednesday.

The crew broke through nearly 500 miles of pack ice and 23 miles of fast ice to create a nearly 18-square-mile navigable channel to McMurdo Station. The cutter’s work enabled three resupply ships to offload 19.6 million pounds of cargo and 7.6 million gallons of fuel.

“I am very proud of the tenacity off this Polar Star Crew,” said Capt. Greg Stanclik, the vessel’s commander officer.

—Hal Bernton

1.6 million N95 masks, 12 million gloves ready to be distributed to state health care workers

Three shipments of personal protective equipment from a federal stockpile arrived in Washington last weekend. They have been unloaded and prepared for distribution to front-line health care workers who face critical shortages of masks and other gear as they treat patients with the COVID-19 disease.

The order approved by the federal government is part of a larger series of supply acquisitions that includes 1.6 million N95 respirator masks, 12 million disposal gloves, 560,000 surgical masks, 650,000 disposal gowns and 74,000 canisters of disinfectant wipes, according to Casey Katims, Gov. Jay Inslee’s director of Federal and Inter-State Affairs.

This was the third major release of such supplies to Washington from the National Strategic Stockpile, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to supplement local stocks during public health emergencies.

Last Friday, Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist, said that the state warehouse was bare and that some health care workers had resorted to wearing bandannas due to the shortage of masks.

Editor's note: This report was updated Thursday, March 26, to reflect clarified information provided by Gov. Jay Inslee's office.

—Hal Bernton

Sounders FC launches coronavirus relief fund, with $500,000 investment from Adrian Hanauer

In an effort to help local communities as they struggle with the adverse impacts brought on by the spread of the novel coronavirus, Seattle Sounders FC announced Wednesday that it is launching a relief fund, with an initial investment of $500,000 from Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer and his family.

The fund will primarily target neighborhoods surrounding CenturyLink Field which have been impacted by the club’s lack of matches, including SoDo, Pioneer Square and the Chinatown-International District.

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times sports staff

Infographic: Do’s and don’ts of the stay-at-home order for coronavirus in Washington state

On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Washington state residents to stay hometo combat the spread of the coronavirus. His directive adds to previous orders to close schools, restaurants and social gatherings. Here’s a look what is allowed and not under the new “Stay at home, stay healthy” mandate.

View the full graphic here.

—Seattle Times graphics staff

Alaska Airlines slashes flight schedule by 70% for coming months due to coronavirus crisis

Alaska Airlines plans to reduce its flight schedule for April and May by approximately 70%, it said Wednesday, citing the “historic and unprecedented falloff in demand related to the COVID-19 outbreak across the U.S. and beyond.”

The Seattle-based airline,part of Alaska Air Group, said its schedules for June and beyond will be based on demand, “but it is our expectation that reductions will be substantial for at least the next several months.”

Its statement continued: “Alaska – like other airlines – is seeing demand reductions of more than 80%.”

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times business staff

Desperate airlines switch passengers for cargo to stay alive

Unable to fill planes with passengers as the coronavirus destroys travel demand, airlines are instead using their fleets to transport more cargo, including medicines, smartphones and Korean strawberries.

The likes of Cathay Pacific Airways, Korean Air Lines and American Airlines Group are hauling a greater amount of goods in the belly of their passenger planes to keep up with demand. Cargo rates have risen over 10% in recent weeks as some companies are prepared to pay more to ship goods after drastic cuts in passenger flights left airlines with less capacity for cargo.

Airlines typically don’t operate in this fashion. Yet they are desperate to use whatever capacity they can for cargo as earnings from passenger operations have almost vanished with traffic down 90%.


Tacoma homeless shelter sees rise in COVID-19 cases

Three new COVID-19 cases have been reported at Nativity House, an overnight homeless shelter in Tacoma, according to KNKX.

Last week Nativity House, which is operated by Catholic Community Services, announced its first confirmed novel coronavirus case among its clients. Since that announcement, three additional clients have contracted COVID-19.

To try and beef up safety measures, Nativity House moved 55 of its older and more vulnerable clients into individual rooms at a Tacoma hotel. In addition, it has closed its day shelter, which normally receives high traffic, and it has started serving meals outside.

To date, this is the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases out of a single homeless-shelter provider in the state.

—Anna Patrick

Number of daily tests for COVID-19 dipped over the weekend

The number of daily tests for COVID-19 being completed by labs in Washington dipped during the weekend and at the beginning of the week.

The drop off was because of a weekend slowdown when most of the testing involves patients admitted to area hospitals and less outpatient testing, said Alex Greninger, assistant director of the University of Washington’s Virology Lab, which is doing about 80% of the testing done in the state.

The number of tests completed daily dropped from 4,261 on Friday to 3,058 on Monday. The total number of tests completed Tuesday is unknown because the state Department of Health only released the number of positive tests, which was 248.

Volumes are starting to pick up again, with more than 2,000 samples going through the Virology Lab on Tuesday, Greninger said.

—Ryan Blethen

Seattle teachers, district reach agreement allows teaching to resume during school closure

Seattle educators will be expected to teach while school buildings are closed, the school district announced Wednesday evening. Under an agreement with its teachers union, most educators will be able to provide services remotely, unless there is a "critical" need for a teacher to be in a school building to complete their work.

The district will continue paying both salaried and hourly employees while schools are closed. Substitute teachers who logged more than 200 hours and qualified for health insurance will be paid "an amount equal to the average hours worked per week" before the district closed, according to the Seattle Public Schools news release.

Before this agreement, and the state's declaration on Monday that education must continue, the Seattle Education Association union told its 6,000 members that teaching new material wasn't required. It was also unclear whether hourly employees, including instructional assistants, would still get paid during closures. This agreement guarantees they will.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

King County reports COVID-19 deaths have reached 100

King County public health officials confirmed 100 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, making it the first Washington county to reach a death count in triple digits.

Eighty-two more COVID-19 cases were also reported, bringing the total of confirmed cases in King County to 1,359. The county has also received 9,484 negative tests.

State health officials have not yet released updated numbers for Washington.

—Elise Takahama

Five staff members have now tested positive for COVID-19 at Western State Hospital

The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has confirmed a that an updated total of five employees at Western State Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. This number includes the two cases reported earlier Wednesday.

The hospital, which has 2,700 state and contracted staff members, said there are now two patients and five staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

Last week, DSHS announced that two patients and one staff member had tested positive for the virus.

Since that announcement, one patient and one Western employee have recovered. The other patient remains hospitalized, the state's social-service agency said in a statement.

“This is a trying time for the world, and especially health care systems, trying to keep ahead of this illness,” said Sean Murphy, DSHS assistant secretary for the Behavioral Health Administration, in the statement. “I’m so appreciative of the staff who come to work every day to ensure our patients are receiving the treatment they need while simultaneously working equally hard to combat this virus.”

The hospital has implemented restrictions for patient and staff movement between wards and screens all staff before their shift for symptoms, the statement said.

—Elise Takahama

Seattle’s indie bookstores are now closed due to the ‘stay-at-home’ order — but you can still support them (and buy books!)

Though many of us would argue that providing books is an essential service, the governor’s stay-at-home order earlier this week dictated that all bookstores (and other “nonessential” businesses) must close their doors by Wednesday night to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Many of the Seattle area’s independent bookstores, however, will still able to get books to you during that closure. Check your favorite bookstore’s website: If it was offering online ordering and shipping before this week, it is likely still able to do so. (A local bookstore rep explained to me that booksellers working remotely can still place orders through their regular channels, which involve shipping from out-of-state distributors. The seller would then send the book directly to you, rather than to the store.) Some stores may also be offering remote service via email as well.

Ordering through independent bookstores helps keep them functioning during this time of closure — and makes it more possible that they can reopen again. (And, if you’re not in need of a book at the moment, consider buying a gift card.) Here are some Seattle-area indie bookstores from whom you can still shop online and support a neighborhood business; this is an evolving list, so please let me know of any stores I’ve missed.

View the full list here.

—Moira Macdonald

Amazon workers say coronavirus safety measures are missing despite what company says

As at least 11 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Amazon warehouses and Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S., employees say the company’s statements on safety measures don’t line up with what they’re seeing. Some fear for their safety and the safety of customers.

“People are trusting they will use sanitary practices, but it is nothing of the sort,” said an employee at an Amazon warehouse in Kirkland that handles groceries. “Most employees are handling all the food without gloves…. I think this is a serious health risk to the Seattle area as thousands of bags of groceries are being delivered each day from this one location.”

A lack of gloves was one of several deficits this employee and several others have described in recent days at local Amazon facilities and Whole Foods stores. Other inadequacies they cited include a lack of time to properly wash hands or sanitize shared equipment, a constant emphasis on speed and management indifference.

Moreover, the employees, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said Amazon is still not performing recommended regular health checks, including temperature and respiratory symptom screening, as employees arrive at work.

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Romano

Tony Awards, Broadway’s biggest night, postponed because of virus’ spread

NEW YORK — Citing concerns for “the health and safety of the Broadway community,” representatives of the Tony Awards announced Wednesday a postponement of the June 7 ceremony. They added that the event would be produced at some future date “when it is safe to do so.”

The terse statement from the awards’ press office said that rescheduling the 74th annual presentation of the awards, which was to take place at Radio City Music Hall and telecast live by CBS, would be made “in coordination with our broadcast partner.” The awards are administered jointly by the Broadway League, a trade group for producers and theater owners, and the American Theater Wing, a theater education and philanthropic group.

The announcement is a further blow to a Broadway season that was just about to get into full spring swing when COVID-19 compelled the theater district’s 41 Broadway houses to shutter on March 12.

—The Washington Post

Rural America watches pandemic erupt in cities as fear grows

DUFUR, Ore. — The social distancing rules repeated like a mantra in America’s urban centers, where the coronavirus is spreading exponentially, might seem silly in wide-open places where neighbors live miles apart and “working from home” means another day spent branding calves or driving a tractor alone through a field.

But as the pandemic spreads through the U.S., those living in rural areas, too, are increasingly threatened. Tiny towns tucked into Oregon’s windswept plains and cattle ranches miles from anywhere in South Dakota might not have had a single case of the new coronavirus, but their main streets are also empty and their medical clinics overwhelmed by the worried.

Residents from rural Alabama to the woods of Vermont to the frozen reaches of Alaska fear the spread of the disease from outsiders, the social isolation that comes when the town’s only diner closes, and economic collapse in places where jobs were already scarce.

“Nobody knows what to do and they’re just running in circles, so stay away from me is what I’m saying,” said Mike Filbin, a 70-year-old cattle rancher in Wasco County, Oregon, one of the few parts of the state that has yet to see a case of COVID-19.

—Associated Press

Shelters struggle to get clients into isolation and quarantine, as county motel opens slowly

At the beginning of March, King County bought a motel in Kent for people who needed to be isolated or quarantined because they had symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but who had no homes to isolate or quarantine themselves in.

The idea was to get anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 out of a shelter, where the disease could potentially travel very quickly.

But more than three weeks later, a number of shelter providers say it’s been extremely difficult to get their clients who are symptomatic and waiting on test results into this motel — even when they were referred by nurses in shelters or Harborview Medical Center, according to staff at the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), one of the largest shelter providers in Seattle.

Most of the Kent motel’s units have been sitting empty for the last three weeks. As of Tuesday, only five people were staying at the facility, which has 79 rooms set aside for isolation and quarantine, according to Public Health — Seattle and King County.

Read the full story here.

—Scott Greenstone

L.A. threatens to shut off water, power of businesses breaking coronavirus rules

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed frustration and outrage that some nonessential businesses remain open despite coronavirus restrictions and vowed the city would take action against them.

Garcetti said that his office is still receiving daily reports of nonessential businesses that continue to operate as normal — behavior he called “irresponsible and selfish.”

He also announced a Safer at Home business ambassadors initiative that aims to help push greater adherence from nonessential businesses that aren’t complying with the city’s order to close.

Such businesses should also expect to get a warning call from local prosecutors before the city takes more aggressive action, including turning off their water and power, he said.

Read the full story here.

—Los Angeles Times

Chef Floyd Cardoz dies of COVID-19 complications

NEW YORK — Chef Floyd Cardoz, who competed on “Top Chef,” won “Top Chef Masters” and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York, died Wednesday of complications from the coronavirus, his company said in a statement. He was 59.

Cardoz had traveled from Mumbai to New York through Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8. He was admitted a week ago to Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, New Jersey, with a fever and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, the statement said.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Amtrak Cascades will reduce service following declining ridership

Amtrak Cascades is cutting all service in Washington except two daily round trips between Seattle and Portland, in response to declining ridership from efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Trains that once carried an average of 2,300 people have dropped to fewer than 300 per day — an 85% reduction in ridership, according to a news release.

Evening trains between Seattle and Portland have been suspended since Saturday, for at least two weeks.

In addition, all Amtrak Cascades trips north of Seattle have been canceled since March 17. Canadian officials closed the Vancouver, British Columbia, station.

All trains will continue to stop at all stations between Seattle and Eugene, but in Olympia/Lacey and Kelso only the platforms will be accessible. Station buildings will not be open, and ticketing and boarding services will not be available.

The passenger rail service in Washington, operated by the state Department of Transportation, has also suspended onboard food and beverage services.

—Michelle Baruchman

Inslee suspends some parts of open-government laws amid coronavirus crisis

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in response to the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis, suspended several key parts of the state's government transparency laws late Tuesday, including portions of laws granting the public access to government meetings and records.

Inslee's proclamation temporarily waives some requirements in Washington's Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) that compel government bodies to hold meetings in public areas open to citizens, and in the state's Public Records Act (PRA) that requires agencies to allow citizens access to public facilities where they can submit requests and copy and review public records in person.

The governor's order also temporarily suspends the records law's requirement that local and state public agencies must provide an initial response to a records request within five days, though it retains a general provision that agencies must respond to requests promptly.

Inslee's proclamation contends "strict compliance" with the records law's "regulatory obligations or limitations will prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action for coping with the COVID-19 State of Emergency in responding to public records requests by bringing people in contact with one another at a time when the virus is rapidly spreading."

The proclamation extends until midnight April 23.

Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, wrote in a journalism list-serve Tuesday that because most people already request and obtain records electronically, the changes "will not impact most requesters."

Nixon also said his group is "encouraging the public to follow their local agencies via electronic participation when meetings are convened, and to submit the records requests they would normally make also through online means."

—Lewis Kamb

State's Department of Natural Resources closes all public land it oversees, including recreation sites

The Washington Department of Natural Resources is temporarily closing all the public land it manages, nearly 6 million acres, in another effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

All DNR-managed lands will be closed from Thursday through at least April 8, the agency announced in a news release.

Earlier this week, the agency closed all state campgrounds through the end of April.

The new closure shutters DNR's 1,200 miles of trails and more than 160 recreation sites throughout Washington and applies to all trailheads, water-access sites and day-use areas. It does not apply to DNR-managed logging and agricultural lands.

DNR staff will be patrolling state lands, but will only issue citations to people who refuse to leave.

"I cannot ignore the unfortunate reality of what we saw this weekend: crowded trails, people shoulder to shoulder, and large gatherings," Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a prepared statement.

"This behavior undercuts the sacrifices that Washingtonians of all means and ability are making in order to adhere to social distancing. And it undercuts the heroic efforts of our doctors, nurses, and first responders who risk their lives each day responding to this unrelenting epidemic."

—David Gutman

5 more Community Transit employees test presumptively positive for COVID-19

Five more Community Transit employees have tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, CEO Emmett Heath said in a news release.

It has been eight to 20 days since the employees have been at work. The cases are presumed positive until public health officials confirm the tests.

In addition, eight employees told the Snohomish County transit agency that they have tests pending. Those workers are at home self-quarantining and none have been to work since March 17, he said in the release.

Eight other employees said they experienced flu-like symptoms but tested negative for the coronavirus.

The five presumed positive cases come after Community Transit said four transit operators tested presumptively positive last Thursday.

After that announcement, the agency said it would stop collecting fares from rides, move riders to board and exit buses through rear doors, and reduce bus service by about 25%.

Community Transit also detailed a supplemental leave policy for employees.

Crews are disinfecting buses and cleaning frequently used and high-touch areas of bus bases nightly.

—Michelle Baruchman

Will California's corona crisis soon look like Italy's?

If residents respect California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to stay home as much as possible, illnesses and deaths from coronavirus may be avoided or delayed, but if a single asymptomatic person enters the state and becomes a superspreader — transmitting the virus to a large number of people — he or she could ignite a new outbreak, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Dr. Roberto Cosentini, a doctor in the northern city of Bergamo near Milan, Italy, said in a podcast for emergency room physicians that it's hard to see so many people sick at the same time.

“It’s like a regular daily earthquake," he said.

Health officials in the U.S. have hinted it’s possible we could in Italy's footsteps.

More than 2,600 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Golden State and 55 people have died of the respiratory disease.

That’s a far cry from the 69,000 cases and 6,820 deaths reported in Italy.

But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 5,707 new coronavirus cases on Monday night and the next day there were an additional 4,790 cases, bringing the Empire State’s total to 25,665.

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health in San Francisco, is bracing for a surge in hospitalized patients within the next week or two. “The worst is yet to come,” he said.

Read the full story here.

—Los Angeles Times

Army medical unit headed to Washington from Colorado

Medical staff from the 627th Hospital Center at Colorado’s Fort Carson are being deployed to Washington state to back up doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients in one of the nation’s hardest hit regions.

More than 300 members are being sent to Washington to provide routine and emergency medical care so that Washington providers can focus on treating patients believed to have been exposed to COVID-19, Fort Carson announced in a statement Tuesday.

The Army did not indicate when the deployment will occur.

The unit is capable of establishing a 148-bed, full-service hospital in customized tents or re-purposed civilian buildings, according to The Gazette of Colorado Springs.


—Christine Clarridge

Two additional Western State Hospital employees test positive for COVID-19

The Department of Social and Health Services said Wednesday that two employees who work on separate wards at Western State Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19.

Hospital staff who have been in close contact with these employees have been notified.

Last week, DSHS announced that two patients and one staff member had tested positive for the virus.

Since that announcement, one patient and one Western employee have recovered. The other patient remains hospitalized, the state's social-service agency said in a statement.

—Christine Clarridge

Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus

Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, his office said Wednesday.

The 71-year-old is showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and is self-isolating at a royal estate in Scotland, his Clarence House office said.

His wife Camilla, 72, has tested negative.

“The Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus,’’ Clarence House said. “He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.’’

Britain’s Press Association, citing a source, said the prince and the duchess remained in good spirits, and that Charles was not bedridden.

The tests were carried out by the National Health Service in Scotland.

—Associated Press

FAQ: What is PPE? What is an N95 respirator?

With hospitals and medical workers battling a shortage of key safety and treatment supplies, a few terms keep coming up: PPEs, N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, ventilators and more.

Here's a Q-and-A to help you know what these things are, how they work and why they're so desperately needed.

—Chicago Tribune

Catch up on the past 24 hours

The White House and Senate leaders have announced a deal on a $2 trillion emergency package to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and the health care system. President Donald Trump spoke of putting the U.S. economy back in business by Easter — "this cure is worse than the problem" — but scientists warn the worst is yet to come.

Will two weeks be enough? Washington state's stay-at-home order may need to stretch longer, public health experts say.

What counts as an 'essential business' that can stay open under the stay-home order? "If you asked our customers, they'd say we're essential," says Ambika Singh, founder of Armoire, a clothing rental company. But the state may not agree. Its definition of essential businesses that can keep the doors open during the stay-home order is causing plenty of confusion. Farmers markets have been controversial, for example, while pot and liquor stores are staying open and enjoying a boom. Here's a full list of who's allowed to keep working.

How many people aren't social-distancing? FYI Guy digs into the small percentage (which translates to a big number) of Seattleites who said they hadn't changed their behavior, and the sizable chunk of people who did it only "some of the time."

More than 250 people were hospitalized in the state last week, and officials are watching for a bigger surge. Our interactive map shows the spread of the virus across our state and the world.

What can you do outside? Many adventures will have to wait under Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest coronavirus mandates. Here's a quick look at which outdoor spaces are open and closed.

Layoffs have begun as the aviation collapse hits Washington companies, for which "Boeing's health is a huge, huge worry."

The Gates Foundation is pouring $3.7 million into the Seattle area to help respond to the pandemic. The foundation last night described where the money will go.

There’s a "moon shot" to save the school year from coronavirus, but it isn't happening in Seattle. This is not the district's finest moment, columnist Danny Westneat writes.

240,000 masks, 15,000 pairs of goggles, 850 protective suits: Getting medical gear to Washington state is all in a day's work for Microsoft lately.

The world's biggest lockdown starts today. India's 1.3 billion people face "a total ban on coming out of your homes,” a staggering challenge in a country where hundreds of millions are destitute. The photos show a startlingly different version of India.

Here's help

Know what you can and can't do under Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home order.

How can you get a coronavirus test? It might not be easy. Here's where tests are happening and who qualifies.

Workers and businesses affected by the outbreak: We've pulled together a page of resources to help you find information on grants, unemployment benefits, emergency food programs, rent assistance and more.

Your turn to help? There are ample opportunities to support coronavirus causes in Seattle, from donating cash to making masks for health workers. Here’s how to get involved.

A few weeks ago, "social distancing" just meant the Seattle Freeze. As words take on new meaning, here's a pandemic glossary and a guide to the medical gear you're hearing about, from PPEs to N95 masks.

Even as restaurants are hurting, many of them are helping people in need. Frelard Tamales, below, is buzzing with activity these days as the owner, his parents and others make free sack lunches for children who are out of school. "It's a cost, but it's not a burden," Osbaldo Hernández says. It's among several Seattle-area restaurants sacrificing profit to help their communities.

—Kris Higginson

How is the pandemic affecting you?

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

Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.