Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, May 13, as the day unfolded. Click here to see updates from Thursday, May 14, and click here to find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic.
As parts of the state move toward the next phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase reopening plan, Washington has intensified its efforts to track the spread of the novel coronavirus. New rules for restaurants and nearly 1,400 contact tracers are all part of the push to find other people COVID-19 patients might have infected.
Public health officials continue to warn against easing restrictions too quickly. In long-awaited testimony, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday that returning to business as usual right now would lead to needless suffering and death. He also cited concerns about the accuracy of the current death toll.
Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic 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.
Trump presses for schools to reopen, takes dig at Fauci
President Donald Trump called on governors across the nation Wednesday to work to reopen schools that were closed because of the coronavirus, pointedly taking issue with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s caution against moving too quickly in sending students back to class.
The president accused Fauci of wanting “to play all sides of the equation,” a comment that suggested he is tiring of the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
“I think they should open the schools, absolutely. I think they should,” Trump told reporters at the White House, echoing comments he had made in a television interview. “Our country’s got to get back and it’s got to get back as soon as possible. And I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed.”
Fauci had urged caution in testimony before a Senate committee Tuesday, although he made clear that he believes reopening decisions will likely differ from one region to the next.
“We don’t know everything about this virus and we really better be pretty careful, particularly when it comes to children,” Fauci told the committee. At one point, he told members that “the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far.”
Princess cancels summer cruises from Seattle to Alaska and all its cruises to the Caribbean
Princess Cruises has scrapped its 2020 summer season because of closed ports and disrupted air travel related to the global coronavirus pandemic, a recent company announcement said. Summer sailings to Alaska and the Caribbean as well as remaining European, trans-Atlantic and Canada/New England itineraries have been canceled.
The Santa Clarita, Calif.-based cruise line in April had canceled Alaska Gulf cruise and land tours, but had hoped to operate round-trip sailings from Seattle to Alaska when cruise operations in the U.S. resume. Now those plans have been scuttled.
Cruises from Japan, Taiwan and Australia as well as cruises to Hawaii and French Polynesia through November also are canceled. However, the company’s L.A.-to-Mexico itineraries are expected to start in October.
Passengers may request a refund or a fare credit plus extra perks worth 25% of what they paid.
Arlington casino becomes first in Western Washington to reopen since coronavirus outbreak
The Stillaguamish tribe’s Angel of the Winds Casino Resort on Wednesday became the first casino in Western Washington to reopen since the coronavirus outbreak began, though several parts of the check-in process now look different.
One of the new changes requires all guests to bring a cellphone, because texting is now part of the check-in process, according to the casino’s website.
Before guests can enter the casino, the Stillaguamish tribe is also requiring a temperature and ID check of every patron. All guests must bring their own face covering. The tribe also is instituting an all-smoke-free policy, the first in the state in a tribal casino, as a way to create and maintain a more healthy environment.
Sur La Table creditors signal doubts about the Seattle kitchenware retailer’s financial outlook
Two of Sur La Table’s publicly traded creditors have signaled increased doubts the Seattle-based kitchenware retailer will repay more than $31 million in senior debt, suggesting the operator of 130 stores is in financial peril in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns around the nation.
The two creditors slashed their combined valuation of the debt by more than a third in regulatory filings last month. The moves lend credence to a May 1 report by Bloomberg News that Sur La Table, owned by the private equity firm Investcorp, is headed for a bankruptcy reorganization or sale.
Sur La Table, launched from a Pike Place Market store in 1972, now runs mostly mall-based locations across the country, including 85 that offer cooking classes, as well as an online business. It temporarily closed its retail outlets March 20 as many states issued stay-home orders, and said last week on its blog that it would begin to reopen some “in select locations where permitted by government order.”
Starbucks demands landlords lower its rent for the next year, citing ‘staggering economic crisis’ of coronavirus
Starbucks wants landlords to give it a break on rent for at least a year as coronavirus social-distancing measures batter sales at the Seattle-based global coffee chain.
“Effective June 1 and for at least a period of 12 consecutive months, Starbucks will require concessions to support modified operations and adjustments to lease terms and base rent structures,” read a May 5 letter to landlords, signed by Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer.
Starbucks demanded the rent relief one day after the company announced it would reopen 90% of its 8,900 company-owned U.S. stores by early June. In a May 4 post on Starbucks’ website, President and CEO Kevin Johnson wrote that Starbucks “will not just survive, but with adaptations and new routines, it will thrive.”
Art therapy for adults recovering from trauma adapts to keep its mission alive during coronavirus
Art needs to go on, now more than ever because of the isolation caused by the coronavirus.
That need is what drove Path with Art, a nonprofit organization since 2008 that uses art to help transform the lives of adults recovering from homelessness, addiction and other trauma, to quickly change from in-person classes to online classes.
With help from volunteers across the country who are helping teachers and students with the new online experience, Path with Art quickly pivoted to distance learning, and is offering classes in poetry, drama, choir, music improv and visual art.
Seattle council bill, if signed by Durkan, would allow for rental payment plans after coronavirus crisis
The Seattle City Council has passed a bill that would require landlords to offer payment plans to residential tenants after the coronavirus emergency ends.
Tenants who fail to pay rent during Seattle’s declared emergency and during the six months after the emergency is ended would have the right to pay those debts in installments. The council voted unanimously Monday.
Because the payment-schedule bill written by Council President M. Lorena González and Councilmember Lisa Herbold is emergency legislation, it needs Durkan’s signature to take effect. The mayor has yet to review it, spokeswoman Kelsey Nyland said Wednesday.
Abbott coronavirus test missed a large number of positive results caught by a rival firm, preliminary study says
The Abbott coronavirus test hailed by President Donald Trump and used by the White House failed to detect infected samples in a large number of cases that were caught by a rival firm, a preliminary study says.
The speedy Abbott test, which says it can determine in as little as five minutes whether a person has the virus, missed a third of positive samples found by the diagnostic company Cepheid when using nasopharyngeal swabs and more than 48 percent when using dry nasal swabs, said the study done by a group from New York University.
As the pandemic was creating a sense of urgency about testing, the Abbott test triggered a scramble among governors and other state officials because bottlenecks were causing waits of as long as a week or more for test results.
Abbott denied Wednesday that there were major flaws in its test.
Inslee orders freeze on hiring, contracts, eyes budget cuts as coronavirus slowdown hits revenue
OLYMPIA — Washington state agencies will freeze most hiring, equipment purchases and personal service contracts as the coronavirus pandemic continues to takes a toll on state coffers, Gov. Jay Inslee declared Wednesday.
And as lawmakers and Inslee ponder steep budget cuts and wait to see if the federal government will provide aid, state agencies will conduct an exercise to show how they could slash their budgets by 15% for the coming fiscal year.
Preliminary projections released this month show Washington could face a $7 billion shortfall in state revenue through 2023. About $3.8 billion of that shortfall is expected to hit the current, 2019-21, $52.9 billion state operating budget that pays for schools, parks, prisons and social-service programs.
If 15% cuts are ultimately enacted by the Legislature, the state agencies handling Washington’s most vulnerable residents could be hit the hardest, according to estimates by the state Office of Financial Management (OFM).
Canada and the U.S. working on extending border closure
TORONTO — Canada and the U.S. are working on an agreement to extend the closing of their border to nonessential travel during the coronavirus pandemic, a Canadian government official said Wednesday.
The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name to discuss the talks, said it is too early to lift the restrictions, which are set to expire next week. The Trump administration and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced a 30-day extension of the restrictions last month.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said that the U.S.-Canada border will be among the first borders to open and that the U.S. and Canada are doing well in handling the pandemic.
But many Canadians fear a reopening. The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world, though its per-capita numbers are well below many other nations’.
The U.S. and Canada agreed in March to limit border crossings to essential travel amid the pandemic. Nearly 200,000 people cross that border daily in normal times.
In Guam, the aircraft carrier Roosevelt is still battling the coronavirus
WASHINGTON — The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt continued its monthslong fight against the novel coronavirus, with at least one sailor aboard the ship testing positive, according to crew members.
The infected sailor, who had tested negative before reboarding the Roosevelt, was quickly whisked off the ship, which is docked in Guam as Navy officials make preparations for the vessel to deploy. The episode underscores the stubborn challenges facing top Navy officials as a second investigation into the service’s handling of the virus — this one by the Defense Department’s inspector general — got underway this week.
Navy officials said they had been aggressively screening and testing as crew members return to the Roosevelt after quarantining in Guam over the past month. Officials on the ship, they say, are requiring masks and repeatedly cleaning and sanitizing to prevent another outbreak of the virus that struck in March, which infected about 1,100 crew members.
The crew’s attempts to stop the virus from returning have turned into a frantic game of cat and mouse. Sailors in what looked like biohazard suits were assigned to clean one area of the ship this week, while two hangar bays were unexpectedly sealed off Tuesday — right before food was served pier-side — to transfer to shore a sailor, most likely infected with the virus, according to those on board.
In one email sent to much of the crew Tuesday, a sailor in the medical department said that a current crew member who was undergoing medical screening had failed for four days to report an inability to smell, often a symptom of the virus.
“Please stress the importance of being truthful,” the email read. “So we don’t potentially have Covid+ aboard this ship.”
Low-tech way to help some COVID-19 patients: Flip them over
Hospitals across the country are filled with a curious sight these days: patients lying on their bellies.
Patients almost always lie on their backs, a position that helps nurses tend to them and allows them to look around if they’re awake. But for many patients, the coronavirus crisis is literally flipping the script.
The surprisingly low-tech concept called proning can improve breathing in patients stricken by the respiratory distress that is the hallmark of the virus, doctors have found. It draws from basic principles of physiology and gravity. Lying on one’s stomach helps open airways in lungs that have become compressed by the fluid and inflammation unleashed by the coronavirus infection.
Face mask rules grow among airlines, ride-hail services and other modes of transit but enforcement proves a challenge
NEW YORK — Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft are requiring drivers and passengers to wear masks while using their services, joining a growing list of transportation companies hoping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as some cities emerge from lockdown.
All major U.S. airlines have already rolled out requirements for passengers and crew to wear face coverings in response to concerns over contagion, particularly in small or confined spaces that present higher risks of infection than well-ventilated or outdoor settings.
Greyhound Lines started requiring passengers to wear face coverings on its buses May 13. Amtrak also requires masks.
But the rules are only effective if people are willing to follow them and if the companies ferrying passengers are serious about enforcement.
17,512 cases in Washington, health officials confirm
State health officials confirmed 182 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Wednesday, including 13 more deaths.
The recent update brings the state's totals to 17,512 confirmed cases and 975 deaths.
So far, 261,080 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in Washington, according to the state. Of those, 6.7% have come back positive.
King County, the state's most populous, has had 7,212 positive test results and 518 deaths (five of which were announced Wednesday), accounting for more than half of the state's death toll.
Coronavirus surveillance program in King County put on hold due to FDA concerns
A surveillance program designed to help determine the prevalence of novel coronavirus infections across King County has been put on hold due concerns raised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The SCAN program, launched on March 23, relies on home-testing kits that allow volunteers to swab their own noses and send the specimens to a central lab for analysis. The technique was allowed by the Washington state Department of Health under an emergency use authorization, but now the FDA says a federal emergency use authorization is also required, according to a statement posted Wednesday on the SCAN website.
The statement says the FDA has raised questions about the safety and reliability of the self-swab system. The approach was pioneered by a project called the Seattle Flu Study, which had been using it for nearly two years to track the spread of flu and other respiratory diseases.
More than 8,500 specimens have been collected from volunteers so far, with a 1.3% positive rate among people with symptoms. At least five people with no symptoms also tested positive.
The results confirmed that many infections are not being diagnosed, and that the number of confirmed cases represents the tip of a much bigger iceberg.
Companies are rushing to develop home-testing for coronavirus, but the FDA in late March blocked sales of commercial kits, arguing that they might be unreliable. The Gates Foundation has been funding research to determine the reliability and usefulness of self-swabbing systems.
It's not clear when the SCAN program will resume testing.
Public health authorities recommend that anyone with mild COVID-like symptoms be tested
In a media release sent Wednesday, Public Health - Seattle & King County released new recommendations that anyone with mild symptoms of COVID-19 self-isolate, contact their doctor and be tested immediately for the illness. Public Health is also recommending testing for people who have come into close contact with anyone with COVID-19.
“With more healthcare providers offering testing, we now recommend that anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 be tested,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in the release.
This is a change from previous recommendations, which had focused on testing health care providers, first responders and those most vulnerable to serious cases of the illness. Cough and shortness of breath are the most potentially serious symptoms to watch out for, but Public Health is now suggesting anyone with two or more of several other symptoms be screened for possible testing. The other symptoms are fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell.
“Testing as soon as possible after symptoms develop is important to both ensure timely medical care when necessary and to stop COVID-19 from spreading,” said Duchin. “It also allows people who test positive and their close contacts to more quickly separate themselves from others in the household and the community to prevent spreading the infection.”
Testing is typically performed through primary care providers, but Washingtonians without primary care providers can seek testing through King County’s COVID-19 call center from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week by calling 206-477-3977. More information is available at Public Health’s website and blog.
Uber to require drivers, passengers to wear masks in cars
Uber outlined new safety procedures at a virtual event Wednesday, a move aimed to inspire more drivers and riders to feel comfortable getting into a shared car again.
The rules will require drivers, passengers and food-delivery couriers to wear face masks as cities begin to reopen across the U.S. After the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading rapidly in the U.S. more than two months ago, Uber urged riders to stay home and shuttered its carpool service. Drivers often were conflicted about continuing to pick up the few remaining passengers or putting their health at risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing face coverings in public since April 3 to prevent the spread of the virus.
But masks have become a polarizing sign. Some people believe that masks aren’t necessary and that the economic effects of the lockdown outweigh the health risks. President Donald Trump has long defended his decision to not wear a mask, helping to fuel an anti-mask movement across the U.S. that has spurred protests, fights and at least one fatal shooting.
Uber will also ask drivers to submit a selfie showing them wearing a mask. Drivers who refuse the verification in the U.S., Canada, India and most of Europe and Latin America will not be able to go online beginning Monday.
China seals off cities near North Korea as new coronavirus clusters grow
China is sealing off cities in a northeastern province that borders North Korea as a growing cluster of cases threatens to undermine its hard-won containment of the coronavirus epidemic.
Jilin city, the second-largest city in Jilin province, saw bus and rail services halted and residential compounds closed off on Wednesday after the discovery of six new cases of infection. Recently reopened schools were closed again.
These six people had contact with another cluster in the adjacent city of Shulan, which was put under lockdown on Sunday, suggesting that some amount of undetected spread has taken place before authorities ordered renewed restrictions.
Overall, at least 22 infections spread across three cities in two provinces — Jilin city and Shulan in Jilin province, and Shenyang city in Liaoning province — have been linked, making it one of China’s biggest clusters that has emerged in months.
While there has been no confirmed link between the cluster and North Korea, the cities’ proximity to the isolated country has ignited fears that an outbreak there is spilling over to China. North Korea has yet to confirm any COVID-19 infections, but the U.S. military said it suspects there are cases, and Kim Jong Un’s regime has accepted help from other nations to fight the virus.
Read the story here.
First case of COVID-19 related childhood disease reported in Seattle
Public Health -- Seattle & King County says Seattle has had its first confirmed case of a rare inflammatory pediatric disease closely linked to COVID-19.
The disease, which presents as a multisystem inflammatory syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock, was identified and treated at Seattle Children’s hospital, according to KUOW.
The local media outlet reported Wednesday that the patient is a Snohomish County resident and that there have been no other reported cases.
Dr. Michael Portman, who directs pediatric cardiovascular research at Children’s, told KUOW the disease remains extremely rare and that parents ought not "freak out," but should have a persistent fever in a child checked.
Free potatoes in Tacoma on Thursday for spud lovers
Washington potato growers will distribute 200,000 pounds of potatoes in a giveaway that will begin 11 a.m. Thursday at two Tacoma Dome parking lots --- G and F.
These growers specialize in french fry potatoes, and some 90 percent are sold to restaurants and other food services. These markets have imploded during the coronavirus pandemic, so potatoes have piled up in storage.
Food banks can make arrangements to pick up a pallet of potatoes by calling the Washington Potato Commission at 509-765-8845. The commission is spending 7 cents a pond to wash, bag and transport the potatoes to the giveaway site.
A Go Fund Me site has been set up to help fund these potato giveaways, which to date have involved more than 320,000 pounds of potatoes.
The commission estimates that 1 billion pounds of potatoes could be left over from last year’s harvest as the new crop begins in the summer. The commission hopes to raise enough fund to organize giveaways for 1 million pounds.
Free, drive-thru COVID-19 testing Wednesday and Thursday at T-Mobile Park in Seattle
There will be free, drive-thru COVID-19 testing available Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
The testing site will be at the T-Mobile Park parking garage. The address for the garage is 1250 First Ave. S., and the testing site will be accessed through the garage’s south entrance, at South Massachusetts Street and Occidental Avenue South.
QFC and Fred Meyer are making the testing available, initially at T-Mobile Park with the city of Seattle and the Seattle Mariners as partners, according to a news release.
People seeking a test must register at krogerhealth.com/covidtesting or at 1-888-852-2567 (select option 1, then option 3). Those determined eligible will be able to select appointment times.
People remain in their cars for the tests and will use self-administered nasal swabs. Test results will be expected within 48 hours, with laboratory services by eTrueNorth, according to the news release.
The Seattle site should be able to accommodate 250 vehicles a day.
These Oregon counties want to reopen Friday. Their COVID-19 cases are surging
Five Oregon counties are pushing full speed ahead to reopen at the end of this week despite sudden surges in their reported coronavirus cases.
Clatsop, Jefferson, Polk and Umatilla counties each have seen their known COVID-19 infections more than double in the last two weeks, even as statewide restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus remained in place.
Marion County, which has Oregon’s highest rate of coronavirus infections, reported nearly 270 new cases during that time — more than any other county, including the Portland metro area’s three counties.
Yet elected and public health officials in all five counties said they meet the infection criteria issued by Gov. Kate Brown to enter the state’s “Phase 1” for reviving public life and the economy, which begins Friday.
On their own, the state’s guidelines are weaker than the “Opening Up America” guidance circulated by the White House and promoted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert who warned U.S. senators against moving to open the country too quickly.
Read the story here.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to stay home
Are those trending recipes worth the hype? We picked five that have been all over Instagram during the shutdown. Some are very good — and some are decidedly not.
The "Survivor" season finale airs tonight. It's been a sanity lifeline for a reporter in the thick of our coronavirus coverage. Here's what else you can watch this week on streaming services.
Lose yourself in a great crime novel. Here are a whydunit, a classic and several series recommended by Seattle Times readers.
Pets and the coronavirus
Can you infect your dog, cat or ferret with the coronavirus? Researchers from UW and WSU are studying how readily the coronavirus passes from infected people to their pets. They hope to collect samples from at least 100 more pets across King County.
Your dining experience will be dramatically different when restaurants reopen
Brace for major changes as restaurants reopen their dining rooms, ranging from masked servers to the recording of your contact information.
Here's a refresher on when other things might reopen, from campgrounds to hair salons and more.
Everything we know about what Washington school districts have been doing since being shut down
Nearly all Washington school districts are offering meals, but technology is another story.
A survey offers a window into schools' successes and struggles since coronavirus shut down their buildings.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington has 1,371 people trained and ready to begin tracking down the coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee said as he outlined how this will work. With our tracker, you can see the spread of the virus across Washington state and the globe.
Two top U.S. health officials painted a grim picture of the months ahead in Senate testimony yesterday that clashed sharply with President Donald Trump's portrayal. The scene was extraordinary. Here are the key takeaways.
Travel is picking up at Sea-Tac Airport, which is adding social distancing measures. Some travelers are wondering what took so long.
What's opening (partly): Six Seattle-area REI stores, but don't expect the same shopping experience.
What's closing: All 23 California state university campuses, which are keeping classes online for the fall. It's the most sweeping fallout yet for higher education.
What's itching for a return: Washington's drive-in theaters, whose owners are chafing at their closure. And five Oregon counties, which are pushing to reopen Friday despite surges in their reported coronavirus cases.
Millions of counterfeit medical masks, gloves and gowns are reaching frontline health workers across the country, putting lives at risk.
A Mount Vernon choir practice was a "superspreader event" that infected 52 members, perhaps through the act of singing itself. The March 10 practice and its deadly consequences are highlighted in a CDC report on how easily the coronavirus can spread.
The Port of Seattle put a police officer on leave after he posted a video telling fellow officers they shouldn't enforce social-distancing orders, which he called "tyrannical."
Can the coronavirus survive on your money? Yes, although the risk is comparatively low. The CDC has recommendations on this.
Stop the presses: The pandemic has sidelined the Real Change street newspaper and its mission of bringing homeless people out of isolation, columnist Danny Westneat writes.
Seattle-area listings of houses for sale are down sharply from last year, our daily economy chart shows.
Calls for mental-health help are rising as the pandemic makes a "huge and lasting impact." Seattle-area organizations are offering resources and recommendations on taking care of your mental health.
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