Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, May 20, as the day unfolded. Click here to see updates from Thursday, May 21And click here to find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic.

Ten more Washington counties could start reopening more quickly if they meet newly expanded criteria announced Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee as part of his four-part plan.

In counties that aren’t eligible, some businesses have come back anyway. A Snohomish barbershop, for example, has refused to stop seeing customers. In Pierce and Snohomish counties, which have both continued to report new COVID-19 cases, two gyms that had been keeping their doors open despite state orders agreed to close after the state attorney general sued them.

As stay-home orders stretch on, some researchers and officials wonder: Could the pandemic reset society?

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 Tuesday.

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Live updates:

Seattle Pacific University student sues college for declining to refund tuition during coronavirus pandemic

A Seattle Pacific University student is suing the college, which has completely transitioned to online or remote classes, for declining to refund tuition during the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrew Bolland, an undergraduate student studying theater performance at SPU, filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of all people who paid tuition and fees for the winter and/or spring quarters, yet didn't receive the education they were promised.

SPU transitioned to online or remote classes March 6 and hasn't held any in-person classes since then, according to the lawsuit, which was filed over the weekend.

"As a result of the closure of SPU’s facilities, SPU has not delivered the educational services, facilities, access, and opportunities that Plaintiff and the putative class contracted and paid for," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges the university has provided less to students in multiple aspects, including lack of facilities and materials, limited access to faculty and loss of learning experiences – and students are therefore "entitled to a refund" of tuition and fees.

According to the lawsuit, Bolland is seeking reimbursement from the university.

—Elise Takahama
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All 50 states are reopening, but at what cost?

The United States has crossed an uneasy threshold with all 50 states beginning to reopen in some way, two months after the coronavirus thrust the country into lockdown. But there are vast variations in how states are deciding to open up, with some forging far ahead of others.

The increasing moves to lift restrictions on businesses — or at least open up outdoor spaces like beaches and state parks — reflect the immense political and societal pressures weighing on the nation’s governors, even as epidemiologists remain cautious and warn of a second wave of cases.

With millions of people out of work and many Americans entering their third month isolated at home, the push to take action rivals what states faced at the beginning of the crisis, when governors were urged to shut down.

“You have 50 different governors doing 50 different things,” said Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine. “There will be states that open too soon or states that are too conservative. It is hard to thread the needle.”

—The New York Times

State confirms 18,971 COVID-19 cases in Washington

State health officials confirmed 160 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Wednesday, including six more deaths.

The recent update brings the state's totals to 18,971 cases and 1,037 deaths, according to the state Department of Health's (DOH) data dashboard. DOH also started sharing the total number of hospitalizations, reporting Wednesday that there have been 3,124 in Washington.

So far, 297,942 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, DOH reported. Of those, 6.4% have come back positive.

King County, the state's most populous, has had 7,602 positive test results and 535 deaths (one of which was confirmed today), accounting for about 51.6% half of the state's death toll.

—Elise Takahama

Foursomes are now allowed at Washington golf courses, but not in Seattle. Here’s why.

If you and three of your non-related golfing friends were hoping to find an afternoon with nice weather to play nine or 18 holes to close out the day, you are going to have to leave the city of Seattle to do it.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent modifications to his coronavirus reopening plan for Washington courses allow foursomes of non-related players, but courses located in Seattle city limits have yet to be cleared for foursomes.

They are following the plan’s earlier guidelines, which went into effect May 5 and limits playing groups to two non-related golfers, with exceptions for additional golfers if they are related and living in the same house.

Read the full story here.

—Ryan Divish
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Nothing little about this neighborhood’s ‘little free pantry’

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed to come in,” says Jackie Wyatt about the “little free pantry” she and her husband, John, host in the garage of their Shoreline home.

The couple was  homeless for almost 17 months, then lived for many more in a shelter.  Shelter staff found the home where they are now living.

Jackie  says the community came together to help them out and the “not-so-little” pantry, whose official name is North City Little Free Pantry “Share with Your Neighbor,”  is their way to give back and help other people.

The Wyatts’  garage is filled with food, clothes, shoes, toys, baby items, Christmas decorations, lamps, pet food, books, toys and just about whatever else people might need.

Hot food is available after 8 p.m. Friday to Tuesday, and fresh bread is there every Tuesday after 5 p.m.  Pastries are given away each evening, Monday through Friday, after 8.

Read the full story here.

—Ellen M. Banner

Coronavirus delayed Washington state’s Trout Derby, but the fishing contest now starts this weekend

It’s happening about a month later than planned, but the 2020 Trout Derby kicks off Saturday across Washington state.

The state’s Trout Derby was supposed to start April 25, the same date as opening day of trout season at lowland lakes. When the season’s opening was delayed because of the coronavirus, the derby was delayed as well.

But with Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to allow boating to return, fishing and the Trout Derby have followed.

“People can participate in the derby while following all the [social-distance] guidelines that we have for responsible recreation,” said Carrie McCausland, public affairs and community outreach director for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “They can fish locally, just with their family members, and they can carry all of their supplies so they don’t have to stop anywhere. This activity is actually pretty consistent [with state guidelines].”

Read the full story here.

—Scott Hanson

Silver Reef Casino Resort in Bellingham to begin reopening this week

Bellingham's Silver Reef Casino Resort will begin to reopen this week after months of coronavirus closures, according to a statement from the casino.

The casino will begin with a soft opening for Lummi Nation Tribal members on Thursday, and the general public will be welcomed back on Friday. The extended temporary closure was part of the public solution to contain COVID-19, the Wednesday statement said.

“The closure of Silver Reef Casino Resort has come at a tremendous price for our employees that we had to furlough.” said casino CEO Marty Sauvage in the statement. “We are pleased to be able to bring many of them back to work under the safest possible conditions.”

The casino will implement several requirements to protect guests and staff from spreading the virus, including checking in virtually, wearing masks and checking temperatures. The building will also only operate at 50% capacity.

On the casino floor, table games will only allow three players per table, and players won't be able to touch the cards, the statement said. Staff has also removed machines from the floor and rearranged banks to allow for social distancing.

—Elise Takahama
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They beat the virus. Now they feel like outcasts.

On the day Elizabeth Martucci and her 11-year-old son were deemed to have recovered from the coronavirus, they emerged from their home on the Jersey Shore with some sidewalk chalk to sketch a message in the driveway.

“We are COVID survivors,” they wrote.

“I thought I’m going to tell everybody, ‘I had this, and I’m OK,’ just to show people it’s not a death sentence,” Martucci said.

Martucci soon learned that she had drastically underestimated the anxiety she and her son, Marcus, would encounter. Even now, a month into their recovery, some neighbors see them and run.

Federal health experts and epidemiologists agree that patients fully recovered from COVID-19 no longer pose risk of infection to others. Yet some people who have survived the illness are still confronting a fear-driven stigma from the outside world.

—The New York Times

Starbucks gets cold reception after demanding rent breaks from landlords

When Starbucks landlord Leon Brooks got a letter asking for at least a year’s reduction in rent for the company’s drive-through store in San Clemente, Calif., the property owner knew his answer.

“I am highly disappointed, disgusted and angry,” Brooks wrote back to the global coffee chain. “Shame on you.”

Seattle-based Starbucks, citing the “staggering economic cost” of the pandemic, notified landlords in early May that it wanted to renegotiate rental arrangements across many of its 8,900 company-owned stores. The company has faced plummeting sales amid the temporary closure of many stores due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Starbucks didn’t respond to Brooks’ letter. The company won’t say how such negotiations are proceeding. Nor will it say just how many of landlords got the letter demanding a break — but commercial property owners from the tip of Florida to northwestern Washington received the letter.

Some landlords have said they won’t play along.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine K. Long

Washington trains more than 2,100 callers as it expands contact tracing to battle coronavirus

Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Paul from the Washington State National Guard talks Wednesday about his small unit he organizes called Team Charlie that performs contact tracing, with guidelines from the Department of Health.    (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Paul from the Washington State National Guard talks Wednesday about his small unit he organizes called Team Charlie that performs contact tracing, with guidelines from the Department of Health. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

TUMWATER, Thurston County — In a cubicle farm on the fourth floor of a state office building lie the seeds of Washington’s next effort to slow and eventually halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This is Task Force Kokanee, named for the landlocked salmon, part of the state’s effort to expand tracking and tracing of the virus, and hopefully hem it in, like the salmon.

Washington has trained more than 2,100 people to work as contact tracers, who call every person who tests positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, to find out who they have had close contact with. They then call the contacts to urge them to get tested and quarantine for 14 days, seeking to stop the spread of the virus.

“If done correctly, it is a thorough process that helps identify and quarantine exposed individuals so they cannot then transmit the virus to others,” said Diana Cervantes, a professor of public health at the University of North Texas. “It breaks the chains of transmission.”

Read the full story here.

—David Gutman
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Hawaii is not messing around when it comes to enforcing tourist quarantines

Monday’s “wanted” post on the Maui Police Department Facebook page included all the information one would expect: a photo, physical description, phone number to call with information. And a description of the Colorado woman’s alleged offense: “violating the Rules and Orders for failure to quarantine.”

According to police, the 31-year-old tourist arrived on Maui on Friday, acknowledged the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine and said she would be at a hostel. Later, authorities got a call that she had canceled her reservation; when efforts to reach her failed, police took their search public.

The visitor dragnet is the latest example of how seriously Hawaii is treating the coronavirus threat posed by outsiders as new cases in the state have dwindled.

—The Washington Post

Ed Lab Live recap: Help parents cope with stress to prevent child abuse during coronavirus school closures

One effect of social isolation is that child protective services workers are receiving fewer cases of suspected child abuse and neglect nationwide. Most instances of maltreatment are reported by people who, in non-pandemic times, worked with the same groups of children every day, like teachers and child care workers. Before the pandemic, about a quarter of the reports in Washington state that the Department of Children, Youth and Families investigated further came from educators. After schools closed, that dropped to less than three percent.

Adding to that shift away from the presence of mandated reporters in kids’ lives, periods of high stress in a family, such as when there’s financial stress, can lead to maltreatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Robert Kregenow, the director of the emergency department at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, said this is a major concern. During Ed Lab Live, a Seattle Times virtual event series, he spoke to Education Lab engagement editor Anne Hillman about ways to prevent and detect child abuse and neglect even with stay-at-home orders in place.

Read the full transcript or listen to the audio version here.

Lawmakers reworking Paycheck Protection Program to give businesses more flexibility

House and Senate lawmakers are preparing new legislation that would make it easier for the government to forgive emergency loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic after a lobbying blitz by firms who said they needed more assistance.

The bills would give companies more time to use funding under the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing them additional flexibility to rehire workers later this year rather than rush to bring people back by June.

It’s unclear, though, whether a political compromise to rework the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program is near, even as many businesses argue they are on the verge of shuttering for good.

—The Washington Post
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Unlimited hydroplane races at Seafair canceled because of coronavirus pandemic

There will be no unlimited hydroplane races on Lake Washington this summer. There will be no “five to the five” announced at Stan Sayres pits. No turbine engines spinning around the Ted Jones racecourse.

Seafair announced Wednesday it was canceling the races this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Seafair said the decision came with guidance from local and state governments.

The races, called the HomeStreet Bank Cup this year, would have been July 31 through Aug. 2. Next year’s race will be Aug. 6-8, 2021. Seafair said it already has the Blue Angels confirmed for next year.

“We are deeply disappointed but together we will get through this emergency,” Seafair president and CEO Eric Corning said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

—Nathan Joyce

Small-group fitness classes can resume in Phase 2 of Inslee’s four-part coronavirus reopening plan

OLYMPIA — Some small-group indoor fitness activities like weight training, yoga and martial arts can resume under the second phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-part coronavirus reopening plan.

Inslee’s office issued guidance Tuesday night allowing groups of five or fewer people at gym facilities, or one-on-one fitness sessions by appointment to proceed under the second phase, with safety guidelines.

That guidance requires training facilities to develop plans at each location for controlling and minimizing exposure to COVID-19. People will have to stand six feet or more away from each other, and wear cloth face coverings.

Such plans must have policies spelling out the use of facial coverings and other protective gear and how physical distancing will be accomplished at each location. It requires protocols for sanitation and disinfection procedures, hygiene, the monitoring of coronavirus-like symptoms and incident reporting.

Failing to meet those requirements could mean sanctions for businesses, including being shut down.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Fact checker analysis: Trump’s claims about ‘illegal’ voting in Michigan, Nevada are far from reality

Wednesday morning, Trump claimed two states are breaking the law by allowing voters to mail in their ballots for upcoming elections, disregarding that Americans have been voting by mail for more than a century and that it’s risky to vote in person during the coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan and Nevada are battlegrounds in the November elections, but they’re not the only states planning to use absentee or mail-in ballots to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Trump did not tweet similar threats to Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska or West Virginia, several states doing the same thing as Michigan (but where his reelection prospects are better).

Here are the facts: States and local governments are in charge of running U.S. elections. Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules, but all states offer accommodations for voters who cannot make it to the polls.

Michigan modified its rules two years ago and now lets registered voters cast absentee ballots for any reason, “a change which helped increase absentee voting in the March 10 presidential primary from 18% four years ago to 38% this year,” according to the Detroit Free-Press.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, R, has announced an all-mail election for the state’s June 9 primary, but has not indicated similar plans for November. State law allows absentee voting for any reason.

—The Washington Post
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Snohomish barbershop defying coronavirus closures gets cease-and-desist letter from Washington state Attorney General

The Washington state Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday delivered a cease-and-desist order to the owner of a Snohomish barbershop who refused to follow Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation that nonessential businesses stay closed amid the coronavirus pandemic and has been cutting hair for the past few weeks.

Robert Daniel Martin, of Stag Barber & Styling, was notified in writing by the state Department of Licensing that he was violating Inslee’s order, but he continued to see customers. They agency sent a second notice the next day. Still, Martin remained open.

Two days later, the agency served Martin with a summary suspension of his cosmetology operator license. Then the Snohomish Health District issued Martin a warning letter, and a week later a Health Officer’s Order “because your on-going barbershop operations were in violation of state law and threatened public health,” read the letter from Assistant Attorney General Daniel Allen of the agency’s Consumer Protection Division.

But Martin continued to cut, and was still doing so Tuesday, when he and two other barbers were seeing customers from 8:30 a.m. until well after 5 p.m.

Read the full story here.

—Nicole Brodeur

State won't let Grays Harbor County, Pacific County reopen razor clam digging

Health officers from Pacific and Grays Harbor County wrote to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on Monday expressing their support for reopening razor clamming. But on Tuesday, that appeal was denied, according to a release issued by Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock, public information officer for Pacific County’s Emergency Operations Center.

In a joint letter, Pacific County Deputy Health Officer Steven Krager and Grays Harbor County Health Officer John Bausher had suggested that razor clamming be reopened on Thursday and on May 26 and 28; Krager had issued an order that, given approval from WDFW, would have allowed the razor clamming season to resume.

WDFW’s guidance states that razor clam digs, which “bring thousands of people to travel to the coastal counties from all over the state,” fall under the state’s definition of large gatherings not allowed under Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order.

Though recreational freshwater and saltwater fishing in the state reopened May 5, shellfishing and razor clamming remain closed.

—Megan Burbank

Coronavirus seizes São Paulo as Trump ponders Brazil travel ban

Hospitals nearing capacity. Deaths soaring. A president urging people back to work. São Paulo, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, is emerging as the coronavirus pandemic’s latest global hot spot.

Confirmed cases in the city have soared 34%, and at least 510 people have died in the past week as the public health infrastructure buckles and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to shrug off the crisis.

“This is the picture of Bolsonaro’s Brazil,” said Gerson Salvador, an infectious-disease specialist in the intensive care unit at São Paulo’s University Hospital. “People are being exterminated. There is no organized system to care for them, they are being advised to go out, and given no alternative but to work.”

Across Brazil, more than 1,000 people died of the coronavirus on Tuesday. The country now ranks third worldwide in confirmed cases, with 255,000. It trails the United States and Russia. In São Paulo, a city of 12 million people in a metropolitan area of 22 million, suspected deaths of COVID-19 have surged more than fivefold in the past month.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump, who has maintained friendly ties with fellow populist Bolsonaro, said he was considering banning travel from the country.

Read the whole story.

—Marina Lopes, The Washington Post
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How ‘Plandemic’ and its falsehoods spread widely online

There have been plenty of jaw-dropping digital moments during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet none went as viral as a 26-minute video called “Plandemic,” a slickly produced narration that wrongly claimed a shadowy cabal of elites was using the virus and a potential vaccine to profit and gain power. The video featured a discredited scientist, Judy Mikovits, who said her research about the harm from vaccines had been buried.

“Plandemic” went online May 4 when its maker, Mikki Willis, a little-known film producer, posted it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and a separate website set up to share the video. Just over a week after “Plandemic” was released, it had been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and had generated countless other posts.

“Plandemic” stormed into people’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube feeds even though its claims were widely debunked and the social media companies vowed to remove the video. Yet it has continued spreading online, raising questions about how it might damage trust in the medical community and color people’s views on a coronavirus vaccine.

Read the whole story.

—Sheera Frenkel, Davey Alba and Ben Decker, The New York Times

Tacoma's sister city sends 70,000 masks and gowns

Fuzhou, capital of the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian and Tacoma's Sister City since 1994, has donated 70,000 disposable medical masks and 500 disposable medical gowns to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

The donated masks and gowns will be distributed to shelters for those experiencing homelessness; community food banks; senior centers; local home health care workers and day-care providers; small businesses; Tacoma Public Schools; the Tacoma Dome; and the Greater Tacoma Convention Center, among others.

The remainder of the disposable masks will be held in reserve by the City of Tacoma in preparation for  possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall and winter.

In late January, the City of Tacoma received requests for medical resources and supplies from its international partners in Mianyang and Fuzhou. The Tacoma Sister Cities Council responded by asking local community members to donate funds. More than $1,200 was raised to address the need in China.

The next month, the Tacoma Fire Department donated 15,000 disposable medical masks from its reserves. The masks were shipped by the Washington State Panda Foundation.

In March, Tacoma’s international partners in Mianyang and Fuzhou returned the favor and offered assistance to its sister city.

"We are very grateful for this gesture of support and wish our friends in Fuzhou well, as we all come together globally in response to this public health and economic crisis," Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards said in a statement. "Our relationship with Fuzhou, the ancestral home of many Chinese-Americans who settled in the Pacific Northwest in the 19th century, has been deep and enduring, and I look forward to the day when I can again share my appreciation with them in person."

—Nicole Brodeur

Seafair cancels major summer 2020 events, reschedules to 2021

Organizers of Seafair announced on its website Wednesday it will reschedule its major events to next year.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding public health safety, and combined with guidance from local and state governments, Seafair is rescheduling its major events to next year,” the website says.

Ticket holders for any event will be contacted with an email soon.

Canceled events for this year include the July 4th celebration at Gas Works Park and Lake Union Park, the Milk Carton Derby, the Seafair Triathlon, Torchlight Run, Torchlight Parade, and Seafair Weekend Festival.

Organizers said in their news release that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are confirmed for Aug. 6-8, 2021, and the Fourth of July fireworks show will be back next year as well.

—Yasmeen Wafai
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State reopening by county

Ten more Washington counties could start reopening more quickly if they meet newly expanded criteria announced Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee as part of his four-part plan.

That's in addition to the 10 counties that already were allowed to skip ahead in the process. Having trouble keeping it all straight? Here's where each county stands:

—Christine Clarridge

Trump threatens funding for Michigan, Nevada over absentee, mail-in voting plans

President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to “hold up” federal funds to Michigan and Nevada in response to the states’ planned use of absentee and mail-in ballots in upcoming elections as a means to mitigate risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

In morning tweets, Trump did not specify which funds he might withhold, and he has not always followed through with similar threats. But his message comes as many states grapple with how to safely proceed with elections.

Amid the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in voting, claiming with scant evidence that it is subject to widespread fraud and has hurt Republicans in previous elections.

Trump took aim at Michigan a day after its secretary of state announced a plan to send absentee ballot applications to all of its 7.7 million voters for the state’s primary elections in August and general elections in November.

In Wednesday morning tweets, President Donald Trump did not specify which funds he might withhold.  But his message comes as many states grapple with how to safely proceed with elections. Above, Trump in a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Tuesday. (Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford)
In Wednesday morning tweets, President Donald Trump did not specify which funds he might withhold. But his message comes as many states grapple with how to safely proceed with elections. Above, Trump in a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Tuesday. (Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford)

“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” Trump wrote in his tweet, incorrectly describing the move to send applications for ballots. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

Read more here.

—The Washington Post

Italy’s great beautification: hair salons are back

As Italy further loosened Europe’s first lockdown against the coronavirus and allowed restaurants, bars, churches and stores to open, Lucilla Vettraino went directly to her hair salon.

“I look like a witch with this hair!” Vettraino, 78, said as she held strands the color of Campari.

She said she had washed, colored and then color-sprayed her hair at home during the more than two-month lockdown. But as the coronavirus ravaged Italy, she said she was “desperate” to reconnect with her stylist behind the Pantheon.

Vettraino secured a salon appointment for Monday. Then she held up her hands in disgust.

“Look at these nails,” she said. “I called my aesthetician and I couldn’t get an appointment until June 26!”

Clients get their hair done at a hairdresser in Milan, Italy, on Monday as Italy is slowly lifting sanitary restrictions after a two-month coronavirus lockdown. (Claudio Furlan / The Associated Press)
Clients get their hair done at a hairdresser in Milan, Italy, on Monday as Italy is slowly lifting sanitary restrictions after a two-month coronavirus lockdown. (Claudio Furlan / The Associated Press)

Across the globe, the coronavirus has revealed structural inequalities, the resilience of humanity and the weakness of health care systems. But it has also demonstrated that personal grooming is really central to a segment of society.

That passion for primping is often sharply felt in Italy, where — amid fights between the national and regional governments, concerns about a resurgent epidemic and fears of a coming economic catastrophe — Italians greeted Monday’s opening as a chance for the Great Beautification.

Read the story here.

—The New York Times
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Trump allies lining up doctors to prescribe rapid reopening

Republican political operatives are recruiting “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to go on television to prescribe reviving the U.S. economy as quickly as possible, without waiting to meet safety benchmarks proposed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The plan was discussed in a May 11 conference call with a senior staffer for the Trump reelection campaign organized by CNP Action, an affiliate of the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy. A leaked recording of the hourlong call was provided to The Associated Press by the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog group.

CNP Action is part of the Save Our Country Coalition, an alliance of conservative think tanks and political committees formed in late April to end state lockdowns implemented in response to the pandemic. Other members of the coalition include the FreedomWorks Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Tea Party Patriots.

A resurgent economy is seen as critical to boosting President Donald Trump’s reelection hopes and has become a growing focus of the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence.

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, confirmed to AP that an effort to recruit doctors to publicly support the president is underway, but declined to say when the initiative would be rolled out.

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

Coronavirus cases rising in Russia, spiking in India and Mexico

As the coronavirus outbreak eases in Western Europe and parts of the U.S., cases are rising steadily in Russia in a crisis that has damaged President Vladimir Putin’s standing and stirred suspicion that the true death toll in the country is being concealed.

Russia is now behind only the United States in the number of reported infections. Cases are also spiking in such places as India, South Africa and Mexico.

Russian army officers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Tuesday. Russia has continued to see a steady rise of new COVID-19 infections, and new hot spots have emerged across the vast country of 147 million people that ranks second in the world behind the United States in the number of coronavirus cases. (Dmitri Lovetsky / AP)
Russian army officers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Tuesday. Russia has continued to see a steady rise of new COVID-19 infections, and new hot spots have emerged across the vast country of 147 million people that ranks second in the world behind the United States in the number of coronavirus cases. (Dmitri Lovetsky / AP)

On Tuesday, new hot spots emerged in Russia, and the country recorded nearly 9,300 new infections in 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000, about half of them in Moscow. Authorities say over 2,800 people with COVID-19 have died in Russia, a figure some say is surely higher.

Some experts argue Russian authorities have been listing chronic illnesses as the cause of death for many who tested positive for the virus. Officials angrily deny manipulating statistics, saying Russia’s low death toll reflects early preventive measures and broad screening. Nearly 7.4 million tests have been conducted in the country of 147 million people.

The U.S. has recorded 1.5 million confirmed infections and over 90,000 deaths.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

China’s new outbreak indicates the virus could be changing

China's doctors are seeing the coronavirus manifest differently among patients in its new cluster of cases in the northeast region, compared to the original outbreak in Wuhan, suggesting that the pathogen may be changing in unknown ways and complicating efforts to stamp it out.

Patients in the northern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang appear to carry the virus for a longer period of time and take longer to test negative, Qiu Haibo, one of China’s top critical care doctors, told state television on Tuesday.

Patients in the northeast also appear to be taking longer than the one to two weeks observed in Wuhan to develop symptoms after infection, and this delayed onset is making it harder for authorities to catch cases before they spread, said Qiu, who is now in the northern region treating patients.

“The longer period during which infected patients show no symptoms has created clusters of family infections,” said Qiu, who was earlier sent to Wuhan to help in the original outbreak. Some 46 cases have been reported over the past two weeks spread across three cities — Shulan, Jilin city and Shengyang — in two provinces. The resurgence of infection has sparked renewed lockdown measures over a region of 100 million people.

Scientists still do not fully understand if the virus is changing in significant ways, and the differences Chinese doctors are seeing could be due to the fact that they’re able to observe patients more thoroughly and from an earlier stage than in Wuhan.

Read the story here.

—Bloomberg News
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Accidental poisonings from cleaning agents keep rising

The Washington Poison Center is reporting a continued uptick in the number of accidental exposures to household cleaning products such as bleach, rubbing alcohol, and hand sanitizer — many of which may be attributed to COVID-19 transmission concerns and precautions.

In a statement Wednesday, the poison center said it used a new data dashboard to compare telephone helpline data from the first 118 days of 2019 with the same time period in 2020, and found that this year:

  • Hand sanitizer exposures in children ages 12 and under increased 52%.
  • Exposures from misuse of household cleaning products, bleach and rubbing alcohol increased 53%.
  • Total suspected suicide cases (from all substances) increased 10%.

The center said 87% of patients exposed to hand sanitizer, household cleaning products, bleach and rubbing alcohol were managed at home by its health care professionals. Keeping patients out of emergency departments saved $2,689,500, it said.

“We appreciate the confidence that the public and health care providers place in us by calling when potentially toxic exposures and overdoses occur,” says Dr. Erica Liebelt, executive and medical director of the Washington Poison Center. “By calling us, we are able to compile data, analyze trends, and provide relevant, timely education to communities and public health partners on emerging risks and prevention strategies.”

To prevent poisoning when cleaning or sanitizing:

  • Wear gloves, and open windows and doors for ventilation.
  • Do not mix cleaning products, as mixing can create hazardous gases.
  • Do not use cleaning products on food.
  • Store cleaners, household chemicals, hand sanitizer and other potentially harmful substances in their original containers, up high and out of reach of children.
  • Supervise children when using hand sanitizer to prevent ingestion and eye exposures.
  • Wash masks with soap and water. Never soak or spray masks with bleach, disinfectants or other cleaning chemicals.

If you or your loved ones are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or fearful, ask for help. Extensive resources are listed on the Washington State Coronavirus Response website. Call the Poison Helpline (800-222-1222) for help with any questions or poison emergencies.

—Christine Clarridge

Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to stay home

Chef Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita carries out an order being picked up by one of her long time customers in the parking lot at the restaurant on March 20, 2020.  (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Chef Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita carries out an order being picked up by one of her long time customers in the parking lot at the restaurant on March 20, 2020. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Tired of hitting the same favorite restaurants for take-out? Ready to expand your horizons? We've been updating our interactive list of take-out options, which are searchable by neighborhood.

The explosion in online fitness classes is giving folks a way to ease in comfortably, without anyone watching. Here are some worth checking out.

Coronavirus closed climbing gyms, so these rock climbers built their own indoor wall at home.

—Kris Higginson

Here's help

Kenia Anzarado, right, and Mae Catalan, left, works on finishing and packing face masks at the Georgia Expo in Suwanee, Ga. The company has pivoted from sewing curtains to sewing cloth face masks. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Kenia Anzarado, right, and Mae Catalan, left, works on finishing and packing face masks at the Georgia Expo in Suwanee, Ga. The company has pivoted from sewing curtains to sewing cloth face masks. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Wash that mask "routinely," the CDC says. But what does that mean? Infectious-disease experts explain how, and how often, to do it. And here's a visual guide to wearing your mask properly.

Food Lifeline is passing out thousands of emergency food boxes this week throughout the Seattle area. Here's when and where.

—Kris Higginson
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

Seen through a window, barbers at the Stag Barbershop work on customers in American flag haircut capes on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 in Snohomish. The shop is defying Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Seen through a window, barbers at the Stag Barbershop work on customers in American flag haircut capes on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 in Snohomish. The shop is defying Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

This barber shop is defying the stay-home order — and customers are lining up. The owner of Stag Barber & Styling in Snohomish has been hit with a flurry of official actions and threats, but the "open" light stays on and the chairs are full of supportive customers. Meanwhile, two local gyms that defied the stay-home order have agreed to close after getting sued. Oh, and here's what happened when hair salons came back — with an official blessing — in the world capital of coiffuring.

More Washington counties could be allowed to accelerate their reopening under new guidelines from Gov. Jay Inslee, greatly expanding the number of businesses that can operate. Here's a county-by-county look at what's allowed.

Worry is sweeping the globe as coronavirus infections spike in some countries, including Russia, India, South Africa and Mexico. This map tracks the pandemic's spread across Washington state and the world.

Employees of the Federal State Center for Special Risk Rescue Operations of Russia Emergency Situations walk to disinfect a platform of Leningradsky railway station in Moscow, Russia,  on Tuesday. Russia has continued to see a steady rise of new infections, and new hot spots have emerged across the vast country of 147-million people that ranks the second in the world behind the United States in the number of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Employees of the Federal State Center for Special Risk Rescue Operations of Russia Emergency Situations walk to disinfect a platform of Leningradsky railway station in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday. Russia has continued to see a steady rise of new infections, and new hot spots have emerged across the vast country of 147-million people that ranks the second in the world behind the United States in the number of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Seattle schools are offering summer school to all students starting in July. Registration starts soon for the online program.

Seattle landlords must offer payment plans to tenants who don't pay rent during the coronavirus emergency and for six months afterward, under a bill signed by the mayor yesterday. Here's how it will work.

China’s new outbreak signals the virus could be changing. A doctor in a northeastern hot spot who also worked in Wuhan is describing key differences in how it's showing up.

We’re not all in this together. As many Seattleites are told to keep logging on from the safety of home, workers in Yakima are being shouted back to the front lines in the midst of the West Coast's worst outbreak. It's a study in how the pandemic is widening class divides, columnist Danny Westneat writes.

Weekly home sales are zipping back to nearly last year’s level, our daily coronavirus economy chart shows.

Pier 1 is going out of business and closing all 540 stores, including nine in Washington. But first, it's reopening them.

Will college football players see anybody when they look up into the stands this fall? UW and WSU are preparing for all options when it comes to fan attendance. (Except, perhaps, the crazy sex-doll option that got a South Korean soccer club in hot water.)

—Kris Higginson