phase two of Washington’s reopening only days away, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday some counties won’t be able to open small businesses — like barbershops, hair salons and in-store dining — by June 1 under his four-part coronavirus plan. The announcement didn’t say which counties would see those delays, but Inslee’s office released numbers ranking counties by the criteria he used earlier this week to make 10 additional counties eligible to start the second phase before June 1. Here’s more on what each phase means.
While churches and other house of worship in Washington remain closed under Inslee’s plan, President Donald Trump on Friday deemed them “essential” and called on governors to allow them to reopen this weekend. If governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, he said — though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.
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 Friday.
No update available on COVID-19 numbers from state health department
As of 9 p.m. Saturday, the Washington State Department of Health had not updated its numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths since May 22. The Seattle Times' graphic currently reflects numbers as of May 21.
Once the state provides new data, we will update our daily graphic with the latest COVID-19 numbers in Washington state, as usual, at seattletimes.com and in the print edition.
Sorry folks, no Folklife this weekend
The Northwest Folklife Festival announced in April that the Seattle Center institution is postponed. The postponement marks the first time in 49 years that the festival will not be held over Memorial Day weekend. A makeup date was not given. Instead, Folklife is offering online programming.
View the photo gallery here.
More than half of Washington state’s counties get OK to move to second phase of Inslee’s coronavirus reopening plan
Twenty-one of Washington‘s 39 counties have now been approved to move into the second stage of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase coronavirus recovery plan following the governor’s expansion of criteria this week that allowed more counties to apply for reopening.
The second phase of recovery allows several kinds of businesses, including hair salons and restaurants, to welcome back customers two months after Inslee’s stay-at-home order went into effect, albeit with some with restrictions.
As of this week, counties that have fewer than 10 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the span of 14 days were allowed to apply for reopening with the Department of Health (DOH). To be approved for Phase 2, counties must also demonstrate that their hospitals are prepared to handle a return of the disease.
Ten smaller counties had been approved to reopen earlier this month. By Saturday, DOH had approved 11 more: Adams, Cowlitz, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, San Juan and Spokane counties.
Read the full story here.
Kittitas County directs all residents to wear face masks to slow spread of COVID-19
Kittitas County health officials are directing all residents to wear a face covering if they are indoors, or in a confined public setting with anyone who doesn’t live in their household, to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The directive, effective Saturday, applies to spots like grocery and commercial retail stores, restaurants and public transportation. The Kittitas County Public Health Department advises residents to use cloth masks, scarves and bandanna coverings to conserve medical-grade masks for health-care workers.
Residents who violate the directive won’t be issued a citation; the directive “may and should be used to educate, encourage and persuade individuals to wear face coverings,” according to the health department.
There have been 66 positive cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths reported in Kittitas County, according to the Washington State Department of Health. More than half the cases are connected to an outbreak at Twin City Foods in Ellensburg.
Hourslong waits reported at ferry terminals
Though Washington State Ferries has advised customers to limit travel on ferries, the agency reported a two-hour wait Saturday afternoon for drivers departing from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island and a one-hour wait for drivers in Edmonds for the ferry to Kingston.
Travelers on ferries are encouraged to wear face coverings, and drivers should remain in their vehicles whenever possible. Some ferry sailings may limit the number of walk-on passengers, according to the agency.
About 500,000 people typically ride a ferry over Memorial Day weekend each year. On Friday, ridership was down between 7% and 81% on each route compared to the Friday before the holiday last year, according to Washington State Ferries data.
Two dozen employees at Spokane pasta-making plant test positive for COVID-19
A coronavirus outbreak has infected 24 employees and shut down the Philadelphia Macaroni Co. plant in Spokane.
The company confirmed Friday that 24 workers out of 72 tested positive for COVID-19 this week, just as state officials Friday declared Spokane County ready to reopen parts of its economy after two months of pandemic lockdown.
In a news release, the company says it has tested all of its employees and disinfected the facility. It said it is evaluating a reopening timeline.
The outbreak led to a jump in Spokane County’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. Spokane had gone the entire month of May with no more than five COVID-19 cases reported every day. But there have been 31 confirmed cases reported in the county in the last two days.
Employees at the Philadelphia Macaroni plant have been working throughout the pandemic with increased safety protocols, such as more sanitation processes and employee training. The company is considered an essential business, and makes the pasta that goes into macaroni and cheese.
Philadelphia Macaroni requires employees to wear masks, and employees are screened before they enter the factory. The company is working with the Spokane Regional Health District to conduct contact tracing as well as to determine further outbreak prevention measures.
Libraries out, Harborview in? Coronavirus alters calculus for Seattle-area tax measures
Under normal circumstances in a presidential-election year, Puget Sound voters might encounter numerous local government tax requests on summer or fall ballots. But in 2020, political considerations have been reshaped by the coronavirus crisis.
The King County Library System had planned to ask voters in August for a property tax levy to raise about $75 million a year in additional revenues. But officials have called that off.
“With these things, timing is everything. Now is not the right time to ask the voters,” said Lisa Rosenblum, executive director of the 50-library system.
The best bet to reach the November ballot in King County is a property tax increase for Harborview Medical Center, which County Executive Dow Constantine sent to the county council last month.
Backed by unions that represent health care and construction workers, the proposal would authorize a 20-year, $1.74 billion bond to build a new hospital tower and carry out other upgrades at the only Level 1 trauma center in Washington. The annual average cost over that time would be $68 for a home of median assessed value.
Seattle also may ask voters to approve a bus service tax. A so-called “Amazon tax” on large corporations in Seattle could qualify as an initiative, though the virus has complicated signature collecting.
Several other potential measures appear dead in the water. In addition to the county libraries levy, a county transit tax has been ruled out, and the odds are stacked against a county arts tax. Officials in Snohomish and Pierce counties also said they plan no countywide tax ballot measures this year.
Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread
The coronavirus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, particularly in the South and Midwest, according to new research that highlights the risk of a second wave of infections in places that reopen too quickly or without sufficient precautions.
Researchers at Imperial College London created a model that incorporates cellphone data showing that people sharply reduced their movements after stay-at-home orders were broadly imposed in March. With restrictions now easing and mobility increasing with the approach of Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer, the researchers developed an estimate of viral spread as of May 17.
It is a snapshot of a transitional moment in the pandemic and captures the patchwork nature across the country of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Some states have had little viral spread or “crushed the curve” to a great degree and have some wiggle room to reopen their economies without generating a new epidemic-level surge in cases. Others are nowhere near containing the virus.
The model, which has not been peer reviewed, shows that in the majority of states, a second wave looms if people abandon efforts to mitigate the viral spread.
“There’s evidence that the U.S. is not under control, as an entire country,” said Samir Bhatt, a senior lecturer in geostatistics at Imperial College.
Washington Catholic and Muslim leaders reject Trump call to immediately reopen places of worship
Some Washington religious leaders are rejecting President Trump's call to restart large, in-person worship gatherings.
Trump on Friday labeled churches and other houses of worship "essential" and called on governors to let them reopen this weekend despite coronavirus lockdowns. He also threatened to "override" governors who defy him.
In a statement Friday, the Washington Catholic State Conference said the public celebration of Mass was suspended "not out of fear, but out of our deepest respect for human life and health."
The statement was signed by Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne, as well as Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson, Spokane Bishop Thomas Daly, and Auxiliary Seattle Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel Mueggenborg.
Their statement added: "Our love of God and neighbor is always personal and not partisan. While we share the desire to bring people back to Mass as quickly as possible, we will wait to schedule our public worship when it is safe and we are prepared to do so."
Etienne and the other leaders said they are preparing parishes across the state for eventually re-opening in a manner that "not only is safe, but is liturgically reverent." No date for reopening has been set.
A similar message came from the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Washington (CAIR-WA), which said while religious services are "an essential part of our faith" right now "public gatherings are not an option."
The statement by Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR-WA, said at a time when healthcare workers are risking their lives "we must do our part" to protect the workers and the public.
Fouladi added: "And we will not follow the lead of a President who suggests injecting people with “disinfectants” and who refuses to follow basic CDC guidelines like wearing a mask in public."
He said mosques and Muslim leaders "are doing everything they can to keep people safe and connected to their faith as we approach the end of Ramadan and prepare for Eid" and would continue to follow the guidance of Gov. Jay Inslee and public-health officials.
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