Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, May 14, as the day unfolded. Click here to see updates from Friday, May 15, and click here to find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic.
The U.S. faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders take steps to keep the virus from rebounding, Dr. Rick Bright is telling members of Congress today. The whistleblower says he was ousted from his federal job after warning the Trump administration. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is clashing with top scientists as he pushes to reopen schools.
Scientists are working to develop better tests to detect the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. A rapid test that has been used by the White House failed to detect a large number of positive cases, according to a preliminary study.
In King County, the public health department is recommending that anyone with even mild symptoms self-isolate, contact their doctor and be tested immediately for the virus. Seattleites can sign up for free, drive-thru COVID-19 testing at T-Mobile Park this week. Here’s a list of other testing sites in the Puget Sound region.
Washington state could face a $7 billion revenue shortfall through 2023 under the economic strain of the pandemic. Gov. Jay Inslee announced a hiring freeze for state agencies and is eyeing steep budget cuts.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday 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 Thursday.
‘Lives were lost’ as warnings went unheeded, whistleblower tells House
The whistleblower who was ousted as the head of a federal medical research agency charged Thursday that top Trump administration officials failed to heed his early warnings to stock up on masks and other supplies to combat the coronavirus, and that Americans died as a result.
“Lives were endangered, and I believe lives were lost,” Dr. Rick Bright, who was removed in April as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, told a House subcommittee as he warned, “The window is closing to address this pandemic.”
Throughout nearly four hours of testimony, Bright told lawmakers that the outbreak would “get worse and be prolonged” if the United States did not swiftly develop a national testing strategy. He also predicted vaccine shortages if the administration did not draft a distribution plan now.
Bright’s testimony was the first time a federal scientist — or any federal official — had gone before Congress and openly accused the administration of endangering American lives by bungling its coronavirus response.
Antibody test results of 2 Snohomish County residents throw into question timeline of coronavirus’s U.S. arrival
Two Snohomish County residents have positive serology tests potentially linked to COVID-like illnesses dating back to December, throwing into question whether the coronavirus arrived in Washington, and the United States, earlier than previously known.
Although neither case offers ironclad proof of that – an antibody test can’t pinpoint exactly when someone was exposed to the virus – each patient’s test results, combined with the clinical symptoms in December, appear to meet the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) case definitions for COVID-19.
One of the patients, a 64-year-old retired nurse, came down with a bug two days after Christmas and suffered through a series of worsening symptoms: a dry, hacking cough, a fever and body aches, and finally, a wheeze that rattled her lungs.
“When I got sick, I didn’t even know what COVID-19 was,” said Jean, a resident of rural Snohomish County who asked only to be identified by her middle name.
But after Jean received word from her doctor earlier this month that a highly touted serology test found a sample of her blood positive for antibodies to COVID-19, she’s now convinced the official timeline is wrong — and public health officials say she may be right.
Donate food, pick out a mask in this Greenwood neighborhood
With a bush decorated with a mask and a neighborhood set out to make a small difference, Mike Fletcher and his neighbors have started a food donation site for their Greenwood community. “People want to help, and this is the opportunity to take care of people and get people to wear masks,” Fletcher said about the project.
The decorated bush was inspired by a similar one Fletcher had seen in the neighborhood north of them. He thought it would be a great idea to put up the face on his mother Loretta Fletcher’s house. She has lived there since the late 1950s; Mike Fletcher now lives next door.
Five women in the Greenwood neighborhood have been hard at work making masks that are free to take in exchange for a donation of three cans of food — all on the honor system.
The site has been up for six days on the corner of Northwest 81st Street and First Avenue Northwest. So far, it has collected about 200 donations, which will be given to the local Ballard food bank, Fletcher says.
“We would love to have more mask makers to help our cause,” Fletcher said.
As reopening continues amid coronavirus, Inslee says he’ll be confident going to a restaurant, but concerned about open casinos
OLYMPIA — As Washington’s economy slowly reopens, Gov. Jay Inslee said he would “be very confident to go out to a restaurant” with new safety guidelines to protect people against the coronavirus pandemic.
But in a news conference, Inslee also expressed concern about the crowds of people seen at one tribal casino that reopened this week — and said he had urged Native American leaders to not reopen those facilities so quickly, though Inslee doesn’t have authority over 22 tribes on whether they reopen their casinos.
“I have expressed to the tribes that I would very much be more pleased if their openings were consistent with some of the business openings in our state,” he said. “And so, I, on several occasions, I have expressed the wish that they would wait … for obvious reasons.
“But I have been hearing from them that they are going to be very diligent in their hygiene efforts, and I hope that they are very, very successful,” Inslee said.
More tribal casinos opening in Washington state, with coronavirus precautions
More tribal casinos are opening around the region, with precautions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Puyallup, Suquamish, Squaxin Island and Nisqually tribes all are reopening their facilities Monday, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will open its Twelve Tribes facility in Omak, Okanogan County, on Tuesday. But patrons will not find it’s back to business as usual.
Precautions vary by facility, but include reduced capacity in order to ensure more space between customers, temperature checks before entry, limited hours to allow time for deep cleaning, and mandatory masks and gloves for all customers. Hotels and many restaurants will remain closed.
Plastic shielding and social-distancing tape will help prevent customers from being in close contact. And if big crowds turn out, customers will have to wait their turn in a virtual line tracked by cellphone.
More people are flying again. Here’s what to expect at airports and on planes.
The number of people flying is steadily increasing since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported its record low checkpoint traffic numbers.
On April 14, TSA announced just 87,534 travelers passed through its security checkpoints nationwide. On Monday, that number was back up to 215,645.
As more people return to the airport, they’ll notice that it’s not business as usual. There’s new infrastructure in place, and new protocols being followed to protect travelers and air travel employees from the coronavirus.
In addition to deep-cleaning procedures, here are some of the top line changes to expect.
Ex-UW golfers eager for PGA Tour to resume after coronavirus shutdown
Nick Taylor, Joel Dahmen and Cheng-Tsung Pan were never all teammates at once, but at some point all three were on the University of Washington men’s golf team. Andrew Putnam still lives in University Place, where he and his brother, Michael, came up as part of a strong contingent of golfers hailing from the south end.
All four have established themselves as successful PGA Tour players and had high hopes for this season until it came to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. The PGA Tour shut down March 12 during The Players Championship.
Since then all four have lived a life similar to most — at home, binge-watching TV shows and relishing time with their families. But golf’s return should bring back energy for them and fans.
“I just can’t wait to get to be back,” Pan said. “I think everyone wants it. There’ll be some normalcy of being back, if that’s possible.”
Study shows human speech creates long-lasting airborne droplets — a coronavirus transmission risk
Ordinary speech can emit small respiratory droplets that linger in the air for at least eight minutes and potentially much longer, according to a new study that could help explain why infections of the coronavirus so often cluster in nursing homes, households, conferences, cruise ships and other confined spaces with limited air circulation.
This new study, published Wednesday, did not involve the coronavirus or any other virus, but instead looked at how people generate respiratory droplets when they speak. The experiment did not look at large droplets but instead focused on small droplets that can linger in the air much longer.
These droplets still could potentially contain enough virus particles to represent an infectious dose, according to the authors, who are researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the University of Pennsylvania. Louder speech produces more droplets, they noted.
Washington’s busy wildfire season will be impacted by coronavirus pandemic
Washington state has already had a busy wildfire season, and that’s before the full effects of summer heat and the coronavirus pandemic kick in.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said Thursday that the pandemic will require special precautions to keep firefighters and support crews safe during what is shaping up as a busy wildfire season.
Franz said already this year there have been 263 wildfires reported in Washington, the majority caused by humans. That compares to a 10-year average of 103 fires by this time.
“People are staying at home,” Franz said. “They have time to work on their yards. Unfortunately, they are starting them on fire in burn piles in unprecedented numbers.”
The potential for wildfires is especially high in Eastern Washington this year, where the weather is expected to be warmer and drier than usual, Franz said. Normal fire conditions are expected in Western Washington.
UW staff hold demonstration to call for more protections, protest furloughs and layoffs
Unionized UW Medicine staff and labor organizers demonstrated outside Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Thursday to call for better protections from the novel coronavirus and to protest furloughs and layoffs the system is planning in the face of $500 million in losses during the pandemic.
Workers from the University of Washington campus and UW Medicine's medical facilities participating in the demonstration accuse the university of failing to implement "basic public health guidance designed to flatten the curve, including proper notification to staff regarding exposure, the installation of sneeze guards to protect staff and the public, and the distribution of personal protective equipment," according to a Thursday news release from the Washington Federation of State Employees.
The "unity break" demonstration comes as UW Medicine is in protracted contract negotiations with the University of Washington Housestaff Association, a union that represents resident physicians, who are pushing for better working conditions, pay and benefits. The bargaining has produced tensions exacerbated by COVID-19 and the strain it has put on health care workers.
U.S. poll: Virus, economic crisis drive fears about having enough to eat
Kate Maehr has never seen anything like it: lines stretching for blocks as people, many with children, inch forward to get boxes of food they hope will last until the next giveaway, until the next paycheck or until they can get government food assistance.
The number of people seeking help from her organization — the Greater Chicago Food Depository — and affiliated food pantries has surged 60% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down the nation’s economy and thrown tens of millions of people out of work. Across the country, worries about having enough to eat are adding to the anxiety of millions of people, according to a survey that found 37% of unemployed Americans ran out of food in the past month and 46% said they worried about running out.
Even those who are working often struggle. Two in 10 working adults said that in the past 30 days, they ran out of food before they could earn enough money to buy more. One-quarter worried that would happen.
Those results come from the second wave of the COVID Impact Survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Data Foundation. The survey aims to provide an ongoing assessment of the nation’s mental, physical and financial health during the pandemic.
As coronavirus overruns Russia, doctors are dying on the front lines
MOSCOW — Dr. Rimma Kamalova says her hospital’s leadership ignored her warnings about an unexplained pneumonia outbreak back in March. She kept working.
The hospital admitted more than 50 people for planned procedures the day that the staff learned a deceased patient had tested positive for the coronavirus, records show. She kept working.
The hospital was ordered quarantined, with Kamalova and more than 1,200 other staff members and patients trapped inside. Days later, she grew feverish, but she kept working, relying on her own intravenous line for relief.
“Give yourself a drip, get up, treat, lie down, give yourself another drip, get up, treat,” Kamalova, head of the rheumatology department at Kuvatova Republican Clinical Hospital in the south-central Russian city of Ufa, said in a telephone interview. “You had no choice.”
Russia is hailing its medical workers as heroes, their photographs plastered on billboards and their stories glamorized on state TV. But as the country develops into one of the global epicenters of the disease, those workers are suffering astonishing levels of infection and death in their ranks.
And as the number of reported coronavirus cases in Russia grows, many fear the worst is yet to come.
17,773 cases in Washington, health officials confirm
State health officials confirmed 261 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Thursday, including eight more deaths.
The recent update brings the state's totals to 17,773 confirmed cases and 983 deaths.
So far, 267,931 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in Washington, according to the state. Of those, 6.6% have come back positive.
King County, the state's most populous, has had 7,290 positive test results and 519 deaths (one of which was announced Thursday), accounting for more than half of the state's death toll.
UW will participate another study of COVID-19 treatment touted by Trump
Medical researchers at the University of Washington will examine whether a treatment combining a low dose of two drugs can prevent hospitalization and death in people with COVID-19.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will administer the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine with the antibiotic azithromycin to 2,000 people nationwide who have tested positive for COVID-19. The UW is one of 31 test sites across the country.
UW Medicine is already running another smaller trial testing the same regimen. Normally, the larger study would have been launched after the smaller had wrapped up. But because of the time-sensitive need to develop treatments for COVID-19, the two trials are being launched simultaneously.
"The smaller study will provide more insight into the virology of the virus," said UW Medicine spokesperson Bobbi Nodell, in a statement. "And the larger trial will provide definitive clinical outcomes data."
No treatments for COVID-19 have yet been approved by federal drug regulators. That hasn't stopped President Donald Trump from enthusing about hydroxychloroquine's potential in the fight against the pandemic, leading to a spike in off-label prescriptions and depleting some hospitals' supplies in late March and early April.
“There is a lot of excitement about hydroxychloroquine, and a lot of chatter,” Dr. Christine Johnston, an infectious-diseases specialist at the UW School of Medicine and co-leader of clinical trials that will be conducted at several universities and medical centers across the country, told The Seattle Times in April.
"There is conflicting evidence on whether it works, which is why stronger evidence is needed," Nodell said.
Officials release edited coronavirus reopening guidance
NEW YORK — U.S. health officials Thursday released some of their long-delayed guidance that schools, businesses and other organizations can use as states reopen from coronavirus shutdowns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted six one-page “decision tool” documents that use traffic signs and other graphics to tell organizations what they should consider before reopening.
The tools are for schools, workplaces, camps, childcare centers, mass transit systems, and bars and restaurants.
Churches and other places of worship, though, were left out.
Seattle will install pickup zones next to businesses open for curbside pickup
As businesses begin partial reopening under phase one of Gov. Jay Inslee’s pandemic plan, new, temporary pickup zones will be installed next to storefronts like restaurants open for curbside pickup.
Starting Friday, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will install temporary vehicle loading zones to give customers 15 minutes to park, pick up orders and head home, according to a news release from the city.
Curbside pickup zones will be designated with signs attached to easels.
Seattle temporarily eliminated paid and time-limited street parking rules and suspended its 72-hour parking rule during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city converted some on-street parking spaces near restaurants into loading zones intended for meal pickups and offered free on-street parking to staff at several hospitals in Seattle. Towing, the city said, would be limited to “situations which create safety hazards, block access or create other major issues.”
Paid parking will be phased back in when the stay-at-home order is lifted, the city said previously. SDOT will adjust rates based on demand as customers return to business districts.
Washington halts unemployment payments for two days after finding $1.6 million in fraudulent claims
Washington state officials said Thursday they’re stopping unemployment payments for two days while they attempt to block a gush of fraudulent claims aimed at stealing some of the billions of dollars that Congress directed to workers left jobless amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Between March and April, the number of fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits jumped 27-fold to 700, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) told The Seattle Times. During that same period, the amount of money bled off by suspected fraudsters jumped from about $40,000 to nearly $1.6 million.
Those estimates may rise further, as reports of “sophisticated” fraudulent activity surged during the first two weeks of May, and especially over the last few days, state officials said. The ESD fraud hotline has been inundated with calls — with many callers saying they were unable to get through to make a report — and so many emails came into the department’s fraud inbox last weekend that it temporarily shut down.
The surge comes as the state is trying to process a massive wave of legitimate claims for jobless benefits — and has already complicated efforts to get financial relief to tens of thousands of workers laid off during the pandemic.
Agriculture workers walk off job in Yakima County over coronavirus concerns
Protests by Yakima County agricultural workers over what they consider unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 outbreak continued Wednesday, with employees walking out of the Monson Fruit Co. in Selah.
More than 100 workers gathered in the company’s parking lot and outside the plant Wednesday morning, some holding cardboard signs demanding justice — “¡Demandos Justicia!” — or “Workers over Profit.”
Kathy Mendoza, who has worked for the company on and off for seven years, said workers were protesting an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment, sanitizing and social distancing inside the plant. Workers also are afraid to call in sick, fearing their jobs won’t be there for them when they come back, she said.
Adrian Mendoza said workers also weren’t being informed when their colleagues tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“They didn’t tell us that people were sick until three weeks later,” said Adrian Mendoza, a Monson employee for two years. “A lot of people are scared and stressed in the workplace. Some of us have kids, and we don’t want to go home and infect people.”
Workers at other companies have voiced similar concerns. This week workers also walked out of Frosty Packing in Yakima, Allan Bros. in Naches and Matson Fruit Co. in Selah.
Read the story here.
Financial impact on UW athletics ranges from ‘kind of manageable to devastating’
On Wednesday, in their annual financial review with the University of Washington’s Board of Regents, athletics director Jen Cohen and chief financial officer Kate Cullen presented an athletics budget for fiscal year 2021 based on what Cohen called “our very best-case scenario — students coming back to campus, student-athletes back in our footprint, student-athletes and programs competing (this fall) with spectators involved.”
But the best-case scenario may not be the most realistic one. It’s entirely possible that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, UW sporting events could be played this fall without fans in attendance, pushed to the winter or spring — or, in the most painful projections, they might not be played at all.
Around the world in photos
The pandemic is creating a new normal across the globe. This collection of photos from today shows how that's playing out in different places.
Here's just one snapshot:
Sea-Tac Airport extends rent relief again, but tenants say more help needed
The Port of Seattle announced another round of rent relief for airport tenants this week, but many owners of restaurants and shops said the terms don’t go far enough.
Dining and retail tenants at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are eligible for four months of rent deferral on their storefronts. Port executive Steve Metruck said Tuesday the airport won’t collect marketing fees until the end of the year. Sea-Tac will also extend lease terms and defer utilities charges and office and storage rent.
Sixty-two of the 89 shops and restaurants at Sea-Tac temporarily closed due to declining travel and stay-at-home orders limiting them to takeout only service, as of late April.
Seattle-based Holland America Line announces 2,000 layoffs, other measures as coronavirus halts cruise sailings worldwide
Cruise line Holland America, headquartered in Seattle, will lay off, furlough or reduce the hours or pay of all of its shoreside employees, the company announced today.
Nearly 2,000 people will be laid off. The company did not respond immediately to questions about how many employees will be furloughed.
Most of Holland America’s landbound staff work in Seattle and Santa Clarita, California. Nearly half the company’s workforce in Washington state has been laid off or furloughed, a company spokesperson said.
A no-sail order from federal health officials means the company is not generating revenue, Holland America Line said in a statement. It’s not yet clear when the U.S. moratorium on cruising, or similar measures in Canada, will be lifted. The cruise line canceled all of its voyages out of Seattle last week.
“These difficult decisions were necessary because our pause in global ship operations has extended well beyond what we could have ever predicted,” the statement read.
The staff reductions are the latest in a series of cutbacks by parent company Carnival Corp.
Washington adds more than 116,000 unemployment claims as state slowly reopens from coronavirus
Washington workers filed more than 116,000 initial weekly claims for unemployment insurance — an increase from the previous week and a clear reminder that the job market may lag behind the state’s efforts to emerge from the coronavirus shutdown.
For the week ending May 9, the state received 116,210 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a 13.7% increase over the previous week, according to figures released Thursday morning by the U.S. Labor Department. Washington was among the few states reporting an increase in initial claims. The nation as a whole saw 2.98 million initial claims for the week ending May 9, a 6.1% decrease from the prior week, the Labor Department reported.
Although those numbers often differ slightly from the Labor Department figures for the state, they tend to track the same trend–and they’re likely to indicate that the total number of workers who have filed for unemployment in Washington since March 7 is now well above 900,000.
It’s also a clear indication of just how long it may take to reverse the damage to the state’s job market even as Washington and most other states move toward fewer coronavirus-related restrictions on some business activities.
New, mysterious ailment in child in Washington could be linked to coronavirus
A new and mysterious ailment with similarities to a rare inflammatory disease has been identified in at least one child in Washington and researchers suspect it could have links to the virus that causes COVID-19.
The new illness is called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome. It was first identified in Europe. The New York City health department put out an alert May 4 about the disease and a handful of other states have identified it, too.
“We’re starting to see these cases in other parts of the country, including Seattle,” said Dr. Michael Portman, director of research in the cardiology division at Seattle Children’s hospital and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We’ve reported to the Department of Health one case that fits the definition. There are other children who have presented with inflammatory-type symptoms.”
Portman said the patients have symptoms that resemble a rare illness called Kawasaki disease.
Symptoms of Kawasaki disease include persistent fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, swollen hands or feet, swollen lymph nodes and red, swollen lips.
Portman said the newly identified syndrome remains rare and said parents should “not panic,” but added they should not delay seeking care if children have fevers that last four to five days or if they exhibit other unusual symptoms.
The patient at Seattle Children’s whose case was reported as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome tested positive for antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, meaning the patient had, at some point, become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Other patients, some who were admitted in the past week at Seattle Children’s, also had these antibodies.
Wisconsin bars reopen after court ruling praised by Trump
A court ruling tossing out Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order threw communities into chaos Thursday, after some bars opened immediately and were packed with customers while other local leaders moved to keep strict restrictions in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The conservative majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court late Wednesday afternoon ruled that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order was invalid. To enact a new plan, Evers will have to work with the GOP-controlled Legislature, a process that could take weeks.
Evers and Republican leaders scheduled a Thursday morning meeting to discuss next steps.
The court ruling drew praise Thursday from President Donald Trump, who called it a “win” in a post on Twitter and added: “Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open. The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!”
The Tavern League of Wisconsin swiftly posted the news on its website, telling members, “You can OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”
Some bars did just that. Nick’s Bar in Platteville, in far southwest Wisconsin, posted a 30-second video late Wednesday that showed the bar teeming with people drinking, talking and bobbing their heads to music. Bars in Appleton and Kaukauna in northeast Wisconsin also opened and were packed with people.
Stockpiling germaphobes ignite boom in appliance sales
In the coronavirus era, stuck-at-home Americans are loading up on more than just bread makers.
Even Peter Camardella, the 63-year-old owner of a small appliance store in Pelham, New York, couldn’t find a deep freezer for his own daughter after his shop sold out.
“Customers have bought one, and they already have two or three,” Camardella said. “Many buyers are afraid of food shortages.”
Even as personal spending in the U.S. plunged the most on record amid stay-at-home orders, people bought all kinds of appliances. Sales from March 15 to April 11 rose for about 70% of the 88 subcategories for home and kitchen goods tracked by market researcher NPD Group. Some of the gains were just staggering, including electric pasta makers (462%), soda machines (283%), handheld cleaning devices (284%), water filtration machines (152%) and air purifiers (144%). The much-written-about baking trend also showed up, with purchases of those bread makers surging more than sixfold.
The phenomenon is global, with regional differences. In countries where people ate out a lot, like Singapore, there are now more pots and pans to clean, thus new interest in dishwashers. In places where domestic help was common, such as Brazil, the practice has ended due to social distancing, leading to a boom in cleaning devices.
Read the story here.
Uplifting idea: Cranes reunite families in corona crisis
Something he saw as he drove to work one morning gave Tristan Van den Bosch an uplifting idea.
“I saw a man shouting at his mother,” said Van den Bosc, of Watermael-Boitsfort, Belgium.
Not unusual — except that the man was on the ground and his mother was three stories up. She was, like many seniors, locked down in a care home to avoid the COVID-19 virus. But as days have turned to weeks and months, families like this one have struggled.
“We can help this man!” Van den Bosch thought.
As operations manager at a cleaning and maintenance company, Van der Bosch had a problem. The pandemic had reduced business to a trickle, leaving many of his cranes standing idle in the depot.
Why not use those cranes to lift people, so they can see relatives on the upper floors of homes for the aged?
Since then, Van den Bosch has been driving his cranes to homes in several towns across Belgium. A platform carries families to their relatives’ windows. A daughter or grandson waves, and worries vanish from faces creased by age. No internet connection does as well.
Read the story here.
Calgary Zoo returning pandas to China due to lack of flights to deliver fresh bamboo
The Calgary Zoo in Canada will be returning two giant pandas on loan from China because a scarcity of flights due to COVID-19 has caused problems with getting enough bamboo to feed them.
Er Shun and Da Mao arrived in Calgary in 2018 after spending five years at the Toronto Zoo and were to remain in the Alberta city until 2023.
But the zoo’s president, Clement Lanthier, said this week the facility cannot overcome transportation barriers in acquiring fresh bamboo and decided it’s best for the animals to be in China, where their main food source is abundant.
Read the story here.
So long, L.A. summer; Hollywood Bowl canceled for first time in 98 years
For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, the Hollywood Bowl is canceling its entire season — a loss that amounts to far more than opening night with Brandi Carlile, the film screenings and singalongs, the concerts starring Diana Ross, Yuja Wang and Janelle Monae that were to have followed.
For Los Angelenos, the Hollywood Bowl is summer: running down Highland Avenue with friends after a drink at the Frolic Room, standing outside the gate, barefoot and tanned, the scent of sizzling bacon-wrapped hot dogs and street corn slathered in mayonnaise blending with shouts of “tacos, tortas, aguas frescas!”
The Hollywood Bowl, managed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, is music: resplendent strings, cascading guitars, heartbeat drums. Classical, rock, jazz, funk, reggae, electronic. Blues, country, gospel, pop, punk. Hip-hop, metal, a cappella.
The shows have never stopped for more than two weeks during the last 100 summers at the Bowl. Until now.
See the story here.
Fast COVID-19 test used at White House missed positive results caught by a rival firm, early 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 5 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. The former penetrates deeply into the nasal passages, while the latter is less invasive.
The study, while preliminary and not yet peer-reviewed, raised questions about a test that has been praised by Trump, who displayed it at a Rose Garden news conference on April 2 and said it created “a whole new ballgame.” 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 that there were major flaws in its test.
As coronavirus rolls on in U.S., Republicans hit ‘pause’ on new aid for now
Businesses are going belly up, tens of millions of workers have been laid off and, by some measures, the U.S. seems headed for another Great Depression. But Republicans surveying the wreckage aren’t ready for another round of coronavirus aid, instead urging a “pause.”
Polls show GOP voters think the government is already doing enough, Republicans on Capitol Hill are divided over the best approach and billions approved by Congress have yet to be spent. It’s unclear what President Donald Trump wants to do next, if anything, to help the economy. His payroll tax cut idea hasn’t gained any traction in Congress.
For these and other reasons, GOP leaders see an unfolding crisis that does not yet cry out for further action.
“There’s just a pragmatic piece to this, which is, if we’re going to do another bill, let’s get into June and July so we know how people are re-emerging,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.
The political balancing act comes as the long-dormant deficit-hawk wing of the GOP lumbers back to life, recoiling from the House Democratic proposal to spend another $3 trillion in taxpayer money. Yet many Republicans acknowledge there is a risk to standing pat, given the massive unemployment, financial struggles for local governments and growing COVID-19 caseloads, particularly with the November election approaching.
Despite their distaste for further negotiations with Democrats, many Republicans privately see passage of another coronavirus measure as inevitable.
Read the story here.
Drive-in movie theaters in Washington state can’t open yet. These drive-in owners want to change that.
Around the country, drive-in theaters are reopening as a socially distanced way of going to the movies — but Washington state’s five drive-ins remained closed.
“We’re ready to open, we’re doing all the safety precautions, all the CDC guidelines,” said Darrell Bratt, owner of the Blue Fox Drive-In in Oak Harbor.
On behalf of his theater and the four other drive-ins in the state (the Skyline in Shelton, the Rodeo in Bremerton, the Auto-Vue in Colville and the Wheel-In in Port Townsend), Bratt launched a change.org petition last week that, as of this writing, has more than 54,000 signatures.
The petition asks that drive-in theaters be allowed to operate during the COVID-19 restrictions, arguing that it isn’t fair or consistent to consider a drive-in to be the equivalent of an indoor movie theater. It states that patrons would be isolated within their cars, food service is all-takeout, and that many other states have allowed drive-ins to remain open.
Read more here.
Ousted U.S. immunologist warns of ‘darkest winter’ if virus rebounds
America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.
Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright makes his sobering prediction in testimony prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Aspects of his complaint about the administration's early handling of the crisis are expected to be backed up by testimony from an executive of a company that manufactures respirator masks.
A federal watchdog agency has found “reasonable grounds” that Bright was removed from his post as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after sounding the alarm at the Department of Health and Human Services. Bright says he became a target of criticism when he urged early efforts to invest in vaccine development and stock up on supplies.
“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright says in his prepared testimony, posted on the House committee website. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
Bright’s testimony follows this week’s warning by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, that a rushed lifting of store-closing and stay-at-home restrictions could “turn back the clock,” seeding more suffering and death and complicating efforts to get the economy rolling again.
President Donald Trump on Thursday dismissed Bright in a tweet as “a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!” It’s a sentiment some of the president’s political allies have expressed about Fauci as well.
Ramadan can be lonely during a pandemic, but the spirit of generosity remains for Washington's Muslim community
Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims that commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, is observed by fasting between sunrise and sunset, praying, and giving back to the community, said Issa Hassan, Youth and Family Resource Center director.
Iftar, the nightly meal served at the end of fast, can feel like a family reunion, with mosque members meeting people they haven't seen in a year, and some congregants even staying until fasting begins the next morning.
The holiday is not the same under social distancing orders. But Muslim communities have used their ingenuity to adapt Ramadan observances to the state’s stay-home order.
Washington approves bunk beds for farmworkers despite coronavirus risks
Fruit growers will be allowed to house farm workers in bunk beds, according to newly issued Washington state regulations that overrule unions' concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
Growers provide housing for as many as 30,000 temporary laborers who work in the state each summer.
State officials acknowledged that bunk beds could increase the risk of contagion because they pack more workers into tight quarters. But they ultimately sided with growers who argued that a loss of the top beds would leave half their workers without housing and wreck the state’s $4.5 billion fruit industry, leading to price hikes for consumers and shortages of apples, pears and cherries.
In the final rules issued Wednesday, state health, labor and industry agencies put some conditions on the use of bunks.
Any workers using bunk beds must be organized into household-like groups of no more than 15 people, who must then stay together while living, working and moving around in vehicles. Groups must keep the same members all season, and cannot live or work closely with others.
Workers in top and bottom bunks must sleep head-to-toe, to preserve physical distance. Bunk beds must be at least six feet apart, or separated by floor-to-ceiling barriers.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to stay home
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Catch up on the past 24 hours
Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered a hiring freeze for state agencies as he and lawmakers look at steep budget cuts. The agencies helping Washington's most vulnerable residents could be hit hardest.
Starbucks is demanding landlords lower its rent for the next year because of the "staggering economic crisis." The move could have broad ripple effects in Seattle and elsewhere.
At least one child in Washington has a new, mysterious ailment that researchers suspect could be linked to the virus that causes COVID-19. The potentially life-threatening inflammatory syndrome appears to have struck dozens of children in New York.
An Arlington casino's machines started dinging again yesterday as it became the first in Western Washington to reopen. Going there is a different experience these days.
Fights and anxiety over reopening: In Texas, business owners are turning to armed defiance. In Wisconsin, the state's high court struck down the governor’s stay-home order. Around the world, communities are trying to forge the "new normal" amid chilling uncertainties.
Face-mask rules for passengers are growing, with Uber and Lyft joining a growing list of transportation companies that require them. But enforcing the rules may be another story.
A major coronavirus test missed a large number of positive results, a preliminary study says. It's the speedy test used by the White House.
Seattle landlords would have to offer payment plans to residential tenants for months after the coronavirus emergency ends, under a bill passed by the City Council. Mayor Jenny Durkan will decide whether it goes into effect.
Washington state is allowing bunk beds for farmworkers despite coronavirus risks, after fruit growers argued that doing otherwise would wreck the industry and cause food shortages. They'll still have new rules to follow.
Stockpiling germaphobes are igniting an unlikely boom: Everyone's buying appliances.