Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, May 16, as the day unfolded. Click here to find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic.
As “rumors and misinformation” circulate online about coronavirus quarantine orders around Washington, the state Department of Health clarified Friday that people won’t be forced to participate in contact tracing and enforced quarantines are a rare measure used only by local health districts. Gov. Jay Inslee added Friday — in a reversal of his controversial order earlier this week — restaurants will not be required to record diners’ names and phone numbers after all, which was an initial guideline that aimed to aid in contact tracing should any patron test positive for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Friday vowed to use “every plane, truck and soldier” to distribute COVID-19 vaccines he hopes will be ready by year’s end. The goal is to have 300 million doses in stock by January, a huge gamble since a vaccine never has been created from scratch so fast — and one that could waste millions if shots chosen for the production line don’t pan out.
Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday 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 Saturday.
8 more sailors aboard US ship test positive a second time
WASHINGTON — Eight more sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive again for the coronavirus, raising to 13 the number who appear to have become infected a second time while serving aboard the sidelined aircraft carrier.
All the sailors had previously tested positive for the virus and had gone through at least two weeks of isolation. Before they were allowed to go back to the ship, all had to test negative twice in a row, with the tests separated by at least a day or two.
On Saturday, a Navy official confirmed eight additional sailors had tested positive again. A day earlier the Navy had said in a statement that five had tested positive a second time. The Navy official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
That some crew were testing positive again has puzzled officials and raised questions about reintegrating troops into the military if a second infection were possible.
Read the full story here.
Need a break from the news? Watch these middle school students cover 'Juice'
Seattle’s Robert Eagle Staff Middle School is closed for the rest of the year, but its marching band plays on.
The band, with more than 100 students, had to cancel its parade season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but wanted to continue making music, according to band director John Aguilar. So together – but apart, in their homes – they played a cover of “Juice,” by Lizzo.
If I'm shinin', everybody gonna shine (yeah, I'm goals)/ I was born like this, don't even gotta try (now you know)
Aguilar wrote in an email that he wanted to stay connected to his students and their families, and hopes to “prove that the love and joy of learning a subject does not necessarily have to only occur in a classroom.”
Watch the original version here. Note: the song and music video contains profanity.
Obama to Class of 2020: 'This is your generation's world to shape'
Former President Barack Obama urged graduates of the high school Class of 2020 to “ground yourself in values that last,” like honest, fairness and generosity, in a commencement address during a star-studded virtual graduation event Saturday evening.
“This is your generation’s world to shape,” Obama said during the televised speech during “Graduate Together,” created for the nation’s high school seniors who won’t get to take part in in-person graduations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The special also included remarks from famous people including NBA star LeBron James, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, and U.S. women’s national team soccer player and Tacoma-based OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe.
As he did in an earlier commencement speech, Obama criticized the current political environment, though he didn’t identify any leaders by name.
“Do what you think is right,” he said. "Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy, that’s what little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups with fancy titles and important jobs still think that way. That’s why things are so screwed up.”
He closed his speech by saying the Class of 2020 doesn’t need to be told what to do.
“Because in so many ways, you’ve already started to lead,” he said. “Congrats, class of 2020. Keep making us proud.”
Yakima County jail reports its first coronavirus case
Yakima County jail has its first reported case of coronavirus among its inmates, linked to an outbreak at the Sunnyside city jail.
A 48-year-old man who was being held on the jail’s fourth floor tested positive for COVID-19, and was released by Yakima County Superior Court Friday, with health care and quarantine instructions, said Jeremy Welch, the jail’s chief of security operations.
“Up to this point, we have been successful in keeping it out,” Welch said. “Once he came in, we put the procedures in place.”
The inmate was one of two who transferred from the Sunnyside city jail, according to a news release from the Yakima County Department of Corrections, which operates the North Front Street jail. His name is not being released due to federal medical privacy laws
Read the full story here.
Preakness Stakes rescheduled for Oct. 3
The Preakness Stakes will be held Oct. 3 at Pimlico Race Course, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Saturday, the day that the horse race was originally scheduled to run had it not been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a tweet, Hogan described the new date as “wonderful news for the State of Maryland and our historic racing industry.” Pimlico is located in Balitmore.
The Kentucky Derby, normally held on the first Saturday in May, has been rescheduled for Sept. 15. A rescheduled date for Belmont Stakes has not been announced. The date will be announced “in the very near future,” the New York Racing Association said Saturday in a statement.
Number of COVID-19 deaths in Washington reaches 1,000
Washington state has reported its 1,000th death attributed to COVID-19.
State health officials Saturday afternoon confirmed 337 new cases, including eight more deaths. The update brings the state total to 18,288 cases confirmed since the start of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.
There have been 280,993 tests conducted throughout the state as of Friday night. Of those tests, 6.5% have come back positive.
Obama criticizes virus response in online graduation speech
WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama on Saturday criticized some officials overseeing the coronavirus response, telling college graduates in an online commencement address that the pandemic shows many officials “aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
Obama spoke on “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition,” a two-hour livestreaming event for historically black colleges and universities broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. His remarks were surprisingly political and touched on current events beyond the virus and its social and economic impacts.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” he said. “A lot them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
Obama did not name President Donald Trump or any other federal or state officials.
Read the full story here.
Foursomes of non-related golfers are now allowed to play together
Gov. Jay Inslee’s office released new updates to the previous guidelines for reopening golf courses in the state, which went into effect on May 5.
The initial plan limited playing groups for golfers to two non-related members or groups of more than two with related family members. But now playing groups can consist of four non-related members.
From the release: “Foursomes are permitted as long as the course determines that foursomes will not create congestion on the course. Single players should be asked if they would like to be paired together.”
It’s a major step to allow more golfers onto courses at one time. Others states like Oregon, Idaho and Montana have allowed foursomes of non-household members.
There was also an update to the use of power carts, allowing members of the same household to share carts. However, there will still be no sharing of power carts for non-related golfers.
The latest update also clarified rules pertaining to driving ranges — both standalone and on courses — and other practice areas. Ranges are now open for use as long as the guidelines and standards that apply to golf courses, including proper distancing, are followed.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal opposes $3 trillion coronavirus aid bill, saying it doesn’t go far enough
Most of the 14 House Democrats who joined Republicans in voting against a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package Friday opposed the measure as too expensive and overreaching.
But U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, voted no for a different reason - arguing the legislation, dubbed the "HEROES Act," did not go far enough.
“At the core, our response from Congress must match the true scale of this devastating crisis. The Heroes Act—while it contains many important provisions—simply fails to do that,” Jayapal said in a statement announcing her opposition.
While the bill would provide $1 trillion in aid to state, local and tribal governments, as well as direct payments of $1,200 to taxpayers, Jayapal criticized it for failing to do more for distressed workers.
Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was the group’s sole member to vote no, saying the legislation would not guarantee paychecks and healthcare for all Americans. She is a backer of Medicare for All, and has proposed a “Paycheck Guarantee Act” which would have the federal government temporarily cover the salaries of workers earning up to $100,000.
Washington's other U.S. House members voted along party lines, with Republicans opposing it and Democrats voting yes.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, lambasted the Democrats' legislation as a frivolous partisan wish list.
“This is a crisis, and I’m anxious to talk seriously about addressing the devastation happening to our economy, but this is not a serious bill,” she said.
Fed shipment of Q-tip-style coronavirus swabs puzzles Washington State officials
Earlier this week, workers at a state health department warehouse in Tumwater expected to receive a large shipment of 68,000 nasal swabs to help expand coronavirus testing in Washington. Instead, they received a surprise substitution: Dozens of boxes marked “Cotton Comfort Swabs” packed with what appeared to be thousands of Q-tips.
Typically unsuitable for medical tests, the Q-tip style swabs prompted Reed Schuler, a senior adviser to Gov. Jay Inslee, to place a head-scratching call to the White House coronavirus task force.
"I asked, `What exactly is this shipment we’re getting?’ And they said, `Oh sorry, ignore the packaging. You were supposed to get a memo explaining that shipment,'” Schuler said Friday.
The task force later sent a memo from U.S. Cotton, LLC, explaining the Q-tips actually were swabs produced specifically for nasal specimen collection.
But the way the swabs arrived in Washington this week — 22,000 in bulk, packed into the scores of mislabeled boxes — puzzled state health workers, Schuler said. The nasopharyngeal (NP) and nasal swabs widely used for specimen collection typically come individually wrapped in sterile packaging to avoid contamination.
The state must now conduct quality assurance tests before determining whether and how it can use the swabs to enhance the state’s coronavirus testing.
The episode is the latest wrinkle in the Trump Administration’s promise for more testing supplies that has fallen far short of the state’s expectations, according to Inslee's office.
Catch up on the past 24 hours:
Fighting false rumors about Washington's coronavirus response, health officials say people will not be forced to participate in contact tracing, and clarified that enforced quarantines are a rare measure used only by local health districts. Friday night’s statement came as “rumors and misinformation” circulate online “about quarantine orders and specialized quarantine facilities” around Washington, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). Among those circulating false information was embattled state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, who declined to file for reelection on Friday.
Five sailors on a U.S. aircraft carrier sidelined in Guam due to a COVID-19 outbreak have tested positive for the virus for the second time and have been taken off the ship, according to the Navy. The recurrence in the five sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt underscores the befuddling behavior of the highly contagious virus and raises questions about how troops that test positive can be reintegrated into the military, particularly on ships.
The U.S. Attorney for Western Washington said the state should fix "vulnerabilities" in its unemployment system contributing to it becoming a top target for fraudsters. Friday’s statement from U.S. Attorney Brian Moran comes a day after the state Employment Security Department temporarily halted benefits payments while it dealt with a surge of bogus claims for unemployment insurance that were filed using the identities of unsuspecting workers. Here's what you should do if you think a false claim has been filed in your name.
Storied department store chain J.C. Penney has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Penney is the biggest retailer to file for bankruptcy reorganization since the pandemic and joins luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and Stage Stores. Plenty of other retailers are expected to follow as business shutdowns across the country have evaporated sales. In fact, U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April.
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