Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, May 25, as the day unfolded. Click here to see updates from Tuesday, May 26. To find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic, click here.
On a Memorial Day unlike any other, many ceremonies and parades to honor fallen veterans — both locally and across the country — have been canceled or curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing ban on large gatherings. But people are still being encouraged to honor veterans independently.
The gates of Seattle’s Evergreen Washelli Cemetery will remain open Monday, with “an avenue of flags” leading from the entrance to the veterans’ section, where staff have placed decorated buckets by each veteran’s headstone so visitors can leave flowers or flags. At Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, members of the Washington National Guard will attend a private ceremony Monday morning to lay a ceremonial wreath, fire a rifle salute and hold a moment of silence. Video of the ceremony will be posted on the cemetery’s Facebook page. Edmonds Memorial Cemetery will be closed Monday but city employees spent Friday placing about 650 white crosses and American flags at each veteran’s grave.
This year’s observance is even more somber given the many veterans who have contracted the virus and died, including Harold “Lucky” Bourgoin of Bellevue. The 97-year-old — who served in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War — died April 25 from complications from the coronavirus.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 1,000 veterans have been killed by the coronavirus, The Associated Press reported. That does not include hundreds more who have died in state-run veterans homes, including hard-hit facilities in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Louisiana.
As of late Monday, the Washington State Department of Health reported 237 new COVID-19 cases and nine additional deaths from the previous day, according to data released Monday.
The statewide death toll now stands at 1,070.
Throughout Monday, on this page, we’ll post 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 Sunday 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 Monday afternoon.
UW Medicine furloughs 4,000 more workers, citing coronavirus budget hit
UW Medicine, citing a budget shortfall caused by COVID-19, will furlough another 4,000 members of its workforce after bargaining last week with the unions that represent many of its employees, the hospital system announced Monday.
UW Medicine employs about 30,000 people at its hospitals and neighborhood clinics. These reductions, along with furloughs announced for 1,500 nonunion staffers last week, mean that more than 15% of the workforce will go without pay for one to eight weeks. The workers will keep health insurance and other benefits, according to a UW Medicine news release.
State health officials confirm 20,065 cases of COVID-19 in Washington
State health officials confirmed 237 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Monday, as well as nine additional deaths.
The recent update brings the state’s totals to 20,065 cases and 1,070 deaths, according the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The dashboard reports 3,290 hospitalizations in Washington.
So far, 330,598 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6.1% have come back positive.
The coronavirus is deadliest where Democrats live
The staggering American death toll from the coronavirus, now approaching 100,000, has touched every part of the country, but the losses have been especially acute along its coasts, in its major cities, across the industrial Midwest, and in New York City.
The devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the past two decades are thinking about the virus differently. It is not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to reopen businesses, schools and the country as a whole. Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.
Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price. Counties won by President Donald Trump in 2016 have reported just 27% of the virus infections and 21% of the deaths — even though 45% of Americans live in these communities, a New York Times analysis has found.
The very real difference in death rates has helped fuel deep disagreement over the dangers of the pandemic and how the country should proceed. Right-wing media, which moved swiftly from downplaying the severity of the crisis to calling it a Democratic plot to bring down the president, has exacerbated the rift. And even as the nation’s top medical experts note the danger of easing restrictions, communities across the country are doing so, creating a patchwork of regulations, often along ideological lines.
Read the full story here.
Japan lifts coronavirus emergency in all remaining areas
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and four other remaining areas on Monday, ending the restrictions nationwide as businesses begin to reopen.
Abe also unveiled a plan for a new stimulus package to support businesses hit by the pandemic.
Experts on a government-commissioned panel approved the lifting of the emergency in Tokyo, neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures, and in Hokkaido to the north, which had more cases and remained under the emergency declaration after it was removed in most of Japan earlier this month.
Under the emergency, people were asked to stay at home and non-essential businesses were requested to close or reduce operations, but there was no enforcement. Since May 14, when the measures were lifted in most of Japan, more people have been leaving their homes and stores have begun reopening.
Japan, with about 16,600 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 850 deaths, has so far avoided a large outbreak like those experienced in the U.S. and Europe despite its softer restrictions.
Portland veterans hospital makes changes after COVID-19 outbreak
PORTLAND — The Veterans Affairs Hospital in Portland is making changes after a recent outbreak of coronavirus.
A doctor tells KATU News a patient came in for another issue, and two days later was determined to be positive for COVID-19. Officials say 28 employees and at least six others became infected.
The hospital is now testing every patient who comes into the hospital. They are also testing staff and patients who have longer stays every three to seven days.
Staff said increasing the number of tests has become easier as resources become available.
The hospital is also changing cleaning efforts and increasing supplies of personal protective equipment.
U.N. virus therapy trial pauses hydroxychloroquine testing
GENEVA — The World Health Organization said Monday that it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine — the antimalarial drug U.S. President Donald Trump says he is taking — from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, saying that its experts need to review all available evidence to date.
In a press briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in light of a paper published last week in the Lancet that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems, there would be “a temporary pause” on the hydroxychloroquine arm of its global clinical trial.
“This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19,” Tedros said, adding that the drugs are approved treatments for people with malaria or autoimmune diseases. Other treatments in the trial, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being tested.
Tedros said the executive group behind WHO’s global “Solidarity” trial met on Saturday and decided to conduct a comprehensive review of all available data on hydroxychloroquine and that its use in the trial would be suspended for now.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, said there was no indication of any safety problems with hydroxychloroquine in the WHO trial to date, but that statisticians would now analyze the information.
“We’re just acting on an abundance of caution based on the recent results of all the studies to ensure that we can continue safely with that arm of the trial,” he said. WHO said it expected to have more details within the next two weeks.
Thousands wait to take U.S. citizenship oath amid virus delays
BOSTON — Wendy De Los Santos passed the test to become a U.S. citizen just days before government offices shut down nationwide because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In mid-March, officials said they would tell her in a few weeks when she could publicly recite the oath of allegiance, the final step before becoming an American citizen.
More than two months later, she’s still waiting.
“It is causing some anxiety. It would be nice to finish the process, even if it has to be done virtually,” said De Los Santos, a 38-year-old Boston-area medical assistant originally from the Dominican Republic. “I mean, my daughter is taking classes on Zoom. We’re here. What’s the problem?”
While many parts of American life have pivoted online or are beginning to reemerge from weeks of lockdowns, the citizenship process has ground to a halt.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles citizenship, visa, refugee and asylum claims, postponed in-person services on Mar. 18, citing concerns about the virus spreading. It’s extended the suspension at least through June 3.
Virus stalls work to keep alive a rare rhino subspecies
NANYUKI, Kenya — Efforts to create a very special baby are on hold. Blame the pandemic.
Groundbreaking work to keep alive the nearly extinct northern white rhino subspecies — population, two — by in-vitro fertilization has been stalled by travel restrictions. And time is running out.
The two northern white rhinos are female. The goal is to create viable embryos in a lab by inseminating their eggs with frozen sperm from dead males, then transfer the embryos into a surrogate mother, a more common southern white rhino.
As of January, three embryos had been created and stored in liquid nitrogen. But further key steps now have to wait.
“It has been disrupted by COVID-19, like everything else,” said Richard Vigne, managing director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, home of the two remaining rhinos. “That is, the process of collecting more eggs from the females as well as the process of developing the technique to introduce the northern white rhino embryo into the southern white rhino females.”
Biden makes first in-person appearance in more than 2 months
NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) — Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in more than two months on Monday as he marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a veterans park near his Delaware home.
Since abruptly canceling a March 10 rally in Cleveland at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has waged much of his campaign from his home in Wilmington. When Biden emerged on Monday, he wore a face mask, in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has refused to cover his face in public as health officials suggest.
Biden and his wife, Jill, laid a wreath of white flowers tied with a white bow, and bowed their heads in silence at the park. He saluted. “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made,” he said after. “Never, ever, forget.”
“I feel great to be out here,” Biden told reporters, his words muffled through his black cloth mask. His visit to the park was unannounced, and there was no crowd waiting for him.
People are wearing hazmat suits on planes, but should they?
With the world battling a highly contagious global health threat, supermodel Naomi Campbell has taken her in-flight hygiene habits a step further by wearing a hazmat suit on board.
Campbell is not alone in wearing hazmat suits on planes. The behavior is becoming more common for regular air travelers, as well as airline staff.
Disposable PPE suits can cost less than $20 online, but health experts aren’t advocating wearing them on planes during the pandemic.
“Wearing a hazmat suit on an airplane is unnecessary and could cause undue concern for other travelers,” Scott Pauley, a press officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told The Washington Post by email. “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
Wealthiest hospitals — including Providence Health System — got billions in bailout for struggling health providers
A multibillion-dollar institution in the Seattle area invests in hedge funds, runs a pair of venture capital funds and works with elite private equity firms like the Carlyle Group.
But it is not just another deep-pocketed investor hunting for high returns. It is the Providence Health System, one of the country’s largest and richest hospital chains. It is sitting on nearly $12 billion in cash, which it invests, Wall Street-style, in a good year generating more than $1 billion in profits.
And this spring, Providence received at least $509 million in government funds, one of many wealthy beneficiaries of a federal program that is supposed to prevent health care providers from capsizing during the coronavirus pandemic.
With states restricting hospitals from performing elective surgery and other nonessential services, their revenue has shriveled. The Department of Health and Human Services has disbursed $72 billion in grants since April to hospitals and other health care providers through the bailout program, which was part of the coronavirus economic stimulus package. The department plans to eventually distribute more than $100 billion more.
So far, the riches are flowing in large part to hospitals that had already built up deep financial reserves to help them withstand an economic storm. Smaller, poorer hospitals are receiving tiny amounts of federal aid by comparison.
Twenty large recipients, including Providence, have received a total of more than $5 billion in recent weeks, according to an analysis of federal data by Good Jobs First, a research group. Those hospital chains were already sitting on more than $108 billion in cash, according to regulatory filings and the bond-rating firms S&P Global and Fitch. A Providence spokeswoman said the grants helped make up for losses from the coronavirus.
Trump Administration vows in new report to distribute 100 million swabs to states by year’s end
WASHINGTON — In a report to Congress, the Trump administration is pledging to buy 100 million swabs by the year’s end and distribute them to states to help expand the nation’s capacity to test for the novel coronavirus.
But the report, delivered on the Sunday deadline Congress set for a national testing strategy for the novel coronavirus, doubles down on the administration’s stance that individual states, not the federal government, should bear primary responsibility for carrying out diagnostic tests to help curb the pandemic.
The Washington Post obtained the 81-page document, called COVID-19 Strategic Testing Plan, from an individual on Capitol Hill who was not authorized to disclose it. Federal health officials did not release it publicly, submitting it to four congressional committees as required by law.
Lock your cars! Vehicle theft spikes in COVID-19 pandemic
LOS ANGELES (AP) — With more people than ever staying home to lessen the spread of COVID-19, their sedans, pickup trucks and SUVs are parked unattended on the streets, making them easy targets for opportunistic thieves.
Despite silent streets and nearly non-existent traffic, vehicle larcenies shot up 63% in New York and nearly 17% in Los Angeles from Jan. 1 through mid-May, compared with the same period last year.
And many other law enforcement agencies around the U.S. are reporting an increase in stolen cars and vehicle burglaries, even as violent crime has dropped dramatically nationwide in the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a low-risk crime with a potentially high reward, police say, especially when many drivers leave their doors unlocked or their keys inside.
Trump doubles up with Maryland, Virginia Memorial Day events
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump booked back-to-back Memorial Day appearances despite the coronavirus pandemic, at Arlington National Cemetery and at a historic fort in Baltimore. Trump recently called Baltimore a “rat and rodent infested mess,” and its mayor has suggested Trump stay home.
Presidents typically honor fallen military members by laying a wreath and delivering a speech at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But the pandemic, which is expected to claim its 100,000th American this week, has led to changes this year. Trump will only lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
He is expected to speak later at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. It’s where a poem, written after a huge American flag was hoisted to celebrate an important victory over the British during the War of 1812, became “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Trump has been steadily ramping up his schedule in an effort to portray the nation as returning to its pre-pandemic ways as it emerges from a devastating economic shutdown intended to slow the virus.
The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 97,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
U.S. faces a Memorial Day like no other; Greek islands reopen
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Americans prepared to mark a Memorial Day like no other as the coronavirus pandemic upended traditional commemorations, while Greece sought to revive its crucial tourism sector by restoring ferry services to its popular Aegean islands.
U.S. authorities warned beach-goers to heed social distancing rules to avoid a resurgence of the virus that has infected 5.4 million people worldwide and killed over 345,000, including nearly 100,000 Americans, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
In New York City, honoring fallen military members will be done with car convoys and small ceremonies this year instead of parades to conform with coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
“It’s something we’re upset about, but we understand,” said Raymond Aalbue, chairman of the United Military Veterans of Kings County, which usually puts on a parade in Brooklyn.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Stubbornly high rates of coronavirus infection will delay reopening in some Washington counties. Here's where things stand.
At least three times over the weekend, people of Asian descent were the target of threats and slurs in incidents in Ballard. Seattle police are searching for a suspect.
As scammers swooped in to collect enhanced unemployment benefits amid the coronavirus, Washington state officials failed to note warning signs of fraud. Read the Times Watchdog report. And here's what to do if you've been a victim.
How's it going in hotels temporarily repurposed to help people out of homelessness? Some surprising upsides have emerged, but not all neighbors are thrilled.
Is it safe to go out to eat? That's the big question as restaurants prepare to reopen. Doctors and public health experts have suggestions for handling the risks.
The U.S. is denying entry to people coming from Brazil as Latin America's hardest-hit country struggles to contain the coronavirus.
Be careful: Car theft is on the rise around the country as people leave their vehicles parked and unused for long periods.
This Memorial Day, spend some time with our Lives Remembered package and learn about local people lost to COVID-19.
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