Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, May 17, as the day unfolded. Click here to see updates from Monday, May 18, and click here to find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic.
Washington state on Sunday reported its 1,001st death attributed to COVID-19 since the start of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, one more death than had been reported Saturday. Another 145 new cases were confirmed, bringing the state total 18,433.
Former President Barack Obama urged graduates of the high school Class of 2020 to “ground yourself in values that last,” like honesty, fairness and generosity, in a commencement address during a star-studded virtual graduation event Saturday evening. As he did in an earlier commencement speech, Obama criticized the current political environment, though he didn’t identify any leaders by name.
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.
Throughout Sunday, 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 Saturday 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 Sunday.
Newest member of Spokane's public health board accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 at May 1 rally
Jason Kinley, a naturopathic doctor since 2016, was the only applicant for an open seat on the Spokane Regional Health District’s Board of Health when he was appointed in December to help set local health policy, The Spokesman Review reported.
On May 1, Kinley attended a rally at the Spokane County Courthouse demanding that Gov. Jay Inslee lift his stay-home order — and sounded off on a number of things that contradict accepted public health advice and the mission of the Spokane region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his speech, Kinley discounted the dismissal of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-inflammatory medication known for treating malaria and linked to an increase in risk of death for some COVID-19 patients, and promoted another unproven method to protesters: high-dose vitamin C. Kinley also made misinformed statements about antibody testing and its role in contact tracing, the newspaper reported.
Icons at work: Tom Douglas and Copper River salmon
Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas grills the first Copper River salmon of the year to reach the city as part of his Grilling For Good charity Sunday in his Ballard warehouse. Douglas partnered with Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Alaska Airlines and the Copper River Marketing Association to create 400 dinners, each sold at $45, the proceeds of which went entirely to Food Lifeline. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Maribeth Spencer volunteers helping to sell Hmong flowers on Sunday in Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood, passing by artwork by Anna Zivarts, during the coronavirus outbreak. Spencer is one of several people moving flowers out of storage at the closed Rocket CrossFit gym, which donated the space to help the Hmong farmers’ flower stand outside. Spencer is bringing out fresh flowers to the stand, where she and other gym members are selling along Rainier Avenue South. The gym group still exercises together online.
1 additional death, 145 new cases of coronavirus reported in Washington on Sunday
In the past week, 70 more people in Washington have died from COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 1,001 deaths as of late Saturday, according to new numbers reported Sunday afternoon by the state Department of Health. One new death and 145 confirmed cases were reported Sunday, compared to 8 deaths and 337 new cases reported a day earlier.
King County still accounts for more than half of all deaths in the state since the coronavirus outbreak began: 527 people here have died, up from 500 a week ago, the data shows.
A total of 285,243 tests for the coronavirus have so far been conducted statewide, slightly more than 36,000 more tests than had been administered a week ago. There's been a modest decline in the number of positive tests results, 6.5% as of late Saturday, compared to 6.8% the previous Saturday.
In King County, 8.9% of the 84,232 tests administered have come back positive, compared to 9.6% of the 73,106 tests that had been conducted as of last week.
Canadian acrobatic jet crashes in BC amid pandemic show
KAMLOOPS, British Columbia (AP) — A Canadian Armed Forces Snowbird plane participating in a cross-country tour aimed at boosting the morale of Canadians dealing with the pandemic crashed Sunday in a residential neighborhood, sending people pouring onto the street where they said debris was scattered and a house was on fire.
Canada’s defense department said emergency crews were responding to the crash at the airport in the city of Kamloops in British Columbia. The Snowbirds are Canada’s equivalent of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said one person was in the hospital after paramedics and air ambulances responded to the crash.
Specialty's Café & Bakery, with Seattle and Bellevue locations, will close
Specialty's Café & Bakery, a national chain with locations in Seattle and Bellevue, will close permanently because of the economic fallout of the coronavirus, the company said in a statement on its website.
"Current market conditions attributed to COVID-19 and shelter-in-place policies have decimated company revenues," the statement said.
Across more than 50 locations in California, Washington and Illinois, the cafe and catering business company employed more than 1,400 people, according to an archived version of its website. Specialty’s locations in Seattle include downtown, South Lake Union and the International District.
Tuesday will be the last day of operations for the cafes, the statement said.
Top Trump official says country safe to reopen as governors stress social distancing
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said it's safe to reopen the country because half of the counties reporting "haven't had a single death" and more than 60% of all COVID-19 cases are in just 2% of the reporting counties.
"That's why the local leaders need to lead this," Azar said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Azar said he was not overly concerned by images of people congregating at bars and other places without staying six feet apart or wearing masks.
"I think in any individual instance you are going to see people doing things that are irresponsible," he said. Azar emphasized, "we've got to get this economy open and our people out and about, working and going to school again."
Mayor Bill de Blasio: New Yorkers crowded outside bars put lives in danger
New Yorkers who flouted coronavirus restrictions for a weekend night on the town got the mayor’s wrath on Sunday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio admonished people seen crowding outside bars, many with drinks in hand but no masks on their faces, for putting lives in danger. Officials may go so far as to shut down establishments that are violating social distancing rules, de Blasio said, asking residents to call 311, the city’s non-emergency hotline, if they see this type of crowding.
Bars and restaurants in the city have been restricted to takeout and delivery service since mid-March, when coronavirus cases started to soar, but some in Manhattan were allowing people to dine and drink inside on Saturday.
“We’re not going to tolerate people starting to congregate. It’s as simple as that,” de Blasio said. “If we have to shut places down, we will.”
Virus heads upriver in Brazil Amazon, sickens native people
In the remote Amazon community of Betania, Tikuna tribe members suspect the coronavirus arrived this month after some returned from a two-hour boat trip down the Solimoes River to pick up their government benefit payments.
Dozens subsequently got headaches, fevers and coughs. Two died. And the five government medical workers for the community of about 4,000 are not treating the sick because they lack protective equipment and coronavirus tests, said Sinésio Tikuna, a village leader.
So the Tikuna rely on their traditional remedy for respiratory ailments: Inhaling clouds of smoke from burning medicinal plants and beehives.
The Tikuna’s plight illustrates the danger from the coronavirus as it spreads to rainforest areas where tribe members live in close quarters with limited medical services. Most are reachable only by boat or small aircraft.
“We’re very worried, mainly because help isn’t arriving,” Sinésio Tikuna said in a telephone interview.
Brazil has Latin America’s highest COVID-19 death toll, with more than 15,000 as of Sunday. The country’s hardest hit major city per capita is in the Amazon — Manaus, where mass graves are filling up with bodies.
‘COVID toes’ and other rashes are latest possible rare virus signs
Skin doctors suddenly are looking at a lot of toes — whether by emailed picture or video visit — as concern grows that for some people, a sign of COVID-19 may pop up in an unusual spot.
Boston dermatologist Esther Freeman expected to see skin complaints as the pandemic unfolded — various kinds of rashes occur when people get very ill from other viruses.
“But I was not anticipating those would be toes,” said Freeman of Massachusetts General Hospital, who has viewed via telemedicine more toes in the last several weeks than in her entire career.
They’re being called “COVID toes,” red, sore and sometimes itchy swellings on toes that look like chilblains, something doctors normally see on the feet and hands of people who’ve spent a long time outdoors in the cold.
Stories of strength, resilience as laid off workers cope
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, as many as 1 million Washington workers have lost their jobs, and along with those jobs, so much more.
They’ve lost income, careers and relationships. They’ve lost savings and peace of mind. In some cases, they’ve lost dignity and they’ve lost joy.
Huge numbers of workers are in trouble. They’re waiting for unemployment claims to be resolved. They’re at-risk seniors under pressure to return to work. They’re artists with dreams on hold. They’re undocumented immigrants who can’t access benefits at all.
Hardship is what they share. Resilience, too, because they’re not surrendering to the chaos the pandemic has caused. They’re still parenting, hustling, grieving and building community.
A massive free food drive underway with federal largesse
Contractors suddenly flush with federal cash, including companies in Washington and Oregon, are scrambling to distribute free fresh food to the hungry.
The suppliers are teaming up with Northwest nonprofits to give away more than 900,000 food boxes — some packed with fruits and vegetables, others with dairy or meat products — to those in need during the next six weeks.
The distribution is part of a $3 billion Trump administration program put together this spring at breakneck speed to try to help ease farm surpluses and hunger as unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic reaches the highest level since the Great Depression. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded the first $1.2 billion in federal contracts earlier this month. Ambitious federal deadlines require contractors, in partnerships with nonprofits, to distribute all the food aid by June 30.
The boxes will be packed as many food banks and other hunger organizations are experiencing surging demand. But the short timeline for delivery is likely to prove a challenge.
Letter-writing campaign lifts senior spirits
For seniors picking up food donations, there is a little something special.
A letter-writing campaign to reach out to elders during the coronavirus pandemic is nourishing good spirits, too.
The card-writing project, similar to others in the country, was started by Tinte Cellars owners Tim and Teresa Spellman Gamble, who is the daughter of former Washington state Gov. John Spellman. Spellman died Jan. 16, 2018, and his wife, Lois, died nine days later, from what their daughter believes was a broken heart.
Today’s social distancing means social isolation for some seniors, “which can have a massive negative impact on their mental health,” Spellman Gamble said.
She reached out to Corey Lowell at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell — the largest senior center in the state of Washington — for some ideas about how to get cards to their clients.
“Their response was immediate,” Spellman Gamble said. “They said, ‘This could be a real life-changer.'”
Lowell, who heads programming at the Bothell, Mill Creek and Kenmore senior centers, suggested the cards be put into the grocery bags given out at the twice-weekly food pantry, where seniors can choose from items donated by local businesses and restaurants.
All quiet at the U.S.-Canada border, and closure likely to extend
It's anything but business as usual in the border town of Blaine as the closure of the US Canada border grinds day to day bustle to a halt.
Shutting the border to all but commercial vehicles and “essential” travelers in a region that once saw 14 million annual crossings has reduced auto traffic at Blaine’s Peace Arch border crossing by 98% — down to barely a couple hundred cars per day. closure is likely to be extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington state officials push back on "vulnerabilities" claimed in state unemployment system
Washington officials have pushed back claims of "vulnerabilities" in the state's unemployment system raised by the U.S. Attorney in Seattle, claiming it is a "prime target for an international fraud ring."
The state will likely slow payments to block widespread fraud, which a Secret Service alert linked to a "well-organized Nigerian fraud ring."
State officials expressed frustration with the claim. Read more here.
How well is delivery working for Seattle-area restaurants?
As we near the two-month mark of the dining room closure, a look at how some of the Seattle area's restaurants have fared offers a glimpse into the challenges many dining establishments are facing in a city that loves to eat out but has been asked to stay home.
While some have eased into the transition, incorporating new technologies and repositioning staff to deliver food, the pesky-yet-tantalizing shift has proved to be a particularly trying venture for others.
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