Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, May 26, as the day unfolded. To find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic, click here.
The COVID-19 pandemic altered Memorial Day observances and canceled traditional gatherings in some places, offering yet another reminder of its dramatic impact on American life.
Many Memorial Day events in the Seattle area were canceled, though people were urged to commemorate veterans in an individual manner or in events broadcast online.
Meanwhile, as more states reduced distancing measures over the weekend, throngs of Americans took to beaches, pools and boardwalks, often packed tightly together. Some public health officials expressed concern.
Throughout Tuesday, 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 Monday 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.
With high school proms canceled due to coronavirus, Seattle-area seniors find new ways to celebrate
The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the country in many terrible ways and has halted virtually all large, in-person gatherings due to associated health risks. While their plight may not be life-threatening, high school seniors everywhere are nonetheless quietly reeling from the loss of major milestone events like graduation and prom.
Still, some have been moved by the small ways in which they’ve been supported by their community.
Lynnwood High School senior Mae Cramer works part time at a Starbucks in Everett. The managers at Cramer’s Starbucks threw all their high school-aged employees a “socially distanced prom” on April 23. Cramer and her co-workers dressed up in what they would have worn to prom and went to work that Thursday. Her managers decorated the store — which was only open for drive-thru at the time — with lights, made a small dance floor and took pictures. One manager even made corsages.
Even if didn’t totally make up for her real prom, Cramer said it was something she would never forget.
Washington’s zoos can reopen in limited capacity under second phase of Inslee’s four-part coronavirus reopening plan
OLYMPIA — Washington zoos will be able to reopen outdoor exhibits and allow people back under limited capacity during the second phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-part coronavirus recovery plan.
Zoos with safety plans can reopen immediately, as long as they are in a county already approved for the plan’s second phase. according to guidance released Tuesday by Inslee’s office. Neither Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle nor Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma are in counties cleared to proceed to the second phase.
The guidelines say zoos can only reopen outdoor exhibits, with their crowd capacity capped at 25%.
Twenty-one counties — most of them outside the Puget Sound region — now have been cleared by state health officials to proceed to the second phase of the reopening.
Inslee provides new guidance on more outdoor activities, including zoos and gondola rides
Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance Tuesday to further clarify requirements for outdoor recreation activities — now including gondola rides, charter boat excursions and zoos — in the first two phases of his four-part coronavirus reopening plan.
Gondolas and lift chair operations will be allowed to restart in counties that have reached the second phase of Inslee's plan. The governor's Tuesday memo stated that only members of the same household are allowed to ride in the same gondola cabin or chairlift chair, and staff must regularly sanitize frequently touched surfaces.
Zoos will also be allowed to reopen Tuesday, or the first date on which their county moves into the plan's second phase, the statement said. Only outdoor exhibits will be allowed to operate, and the total zoo capacity is limited to 25%.
The statement also confirmed 21 counties — now including Klickitat and Walla Walla, Inslee announced Tuesday — have been cleared by state health officials to proceed to the second phase of the reopening.
More information about requirements for charter boat excursions, guided fishing, horseback riding and other guided outdoor activities can be found here.
Boeing factory workers cope with the coronavirus threat as layoffs loom
Classified as essential workers, Boeing employees have continued to go into the aircraft factories for weeks, weighing risks to the safety of themselves and their loved ones against the need for a paycheck, and relying on the efficacy of newly defined company safety protocols. So far, so good.
Five weeks after factory workers returned to work at Boeing following a pandemic-driven shutdown, the safety measures the company put in place have largely worked and constrained the spread of the COVID-19 infection.
The coronavirus has delivered catastrophic economic damage to Boeing’s business. Management has announced thousands of job cuts — with details of the initial round of local layoffs expected as early as Wednesday.
Yet controlling the virus spread within the workforce, at least for now, is Boeing’s tentative first step toward stability.
Amazon’s shareholders to meet virtually amid company’s ‘hardest time’ and unprecedented scrutiny
On Wednesday morning, Amazon’s shareholders — or at least avatars of their proxies — will gather for the commerce giant’s first online-only annual meeting to consider 13 governance proposals and conduct the required business of a public company.
The meeting comes amid a pandemic, record high share prices and “the hardest time we’ve ever faced,” as founder, chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos put it. The company’s response to the pandemic has further intensified scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators, employees and investors, some of whom want to press the board for answers at the meeting.
The virtual format may seem more familiar than it might have been after nearly three months of digital work and communication for many people. But some investors fear losing something when shareholders and management do not gather in person for the annual corporate ritual, including the opportunity for direct questioning.
Wednesday’s meeting will be a test of the virtual format — particularly the question-and-answer portion — in light of the heightened scrutiny on Amazon.
Twitter labels Trump’s tweets with fact check for first time
Twitter on Tuesday slapped a fact-check label on President Donald Trump’s tweets for the first time, a response to long-standing criticism that the company is too hands-off when it comes to policing misinformation and falsehoods from world leaders.
The move, which escalates tensions between Washington and Silicon Valley in an election year, was made in response to two Trump tweets over the past 24 hours. The tweets falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent. Twitter’s label says, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” and redirects users to news articles about Trump’s unsubstantiated claim.
The tweets, said Twitter spokesperson Katie Rosborough, “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”
In a statement, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said, “We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters. Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”
Hunger program’s slow start leaves millions of American children waiting
As child hunger soars to levels without modern precedent, an emergency program Congress created two months ago has reached only a small fraction of the 30 million children it was intended to help.
The program, Pandemic-EBT, aims to compensate for the declining reach of school meals by placing their value on electronic cards that families can use in grocery stores. But collecting lunch lists from thousands of school districts, transferring them to often-outdated state computers and issuing specialized cards has proved much harder than envisioned, leaving millions of needy families waiting to buy food.
Congress approved the effort in mid-March as part of the Families First act, its first major coronavirus relief package. By May 15, only about 15% of eligible children had received benefits, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Just 12 states had started sending money, and Michigan and Rhode Island alone had finished.
The pace is accelerating, with millions of families expected to receive payments in the coming weeks. But 16 states still lack federal approval to begin the payments and Utah declined to participate, saying it did not have the administrative capacity to distribute the money. Many Southern states with high rates of child hunger have gotten a slow start.
Rubio, now intelligence chair, warns of virus misinformation
Sen. Marco Rubio, the new Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is warning that foreign actors will seek to amplify conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and find new ways to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
The Florida Republican said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that one possibility could be an effort to convince people that a new vaccine against the virus, once created, would be more harmful than helpful.
“I think the COVID-19 crisis is one in which you’ve seen efforts to promote false narratives that drive some of the friction in this country,” Rubio said.
Four years after Russian efforts to sow division in the U.S., he warned: “I’m not sure that we’re any less vulnerable than we once were.”
Watchdog who found hospital shortages unfazed by Trump barbs
The author of a federal report that found U.S. hospitals faced severe shortages of coronavirus test supplies says she is not intimidated by criticism from President Donald Trump, even after he moved to replace her as chief watchdog of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Christi Grimm, who has served as acting inspector general since January, told a House panel that there was no “chilling effect” from Trump’s criticism of her last month and his subsequent move to replace her.
“We are plowing ahead” with 14 new reports and audits on the health department’s response to the virus, Grimm said during a videoconference briefing Tuesday with the House Oversight Committee.
Congress can be assured that 14 pending reports and audits of health spending related to the virus outbreak will continue unfettered “to protect people, to protect funds, to protect infrastructure and to ensure effectiveness,” Grimm said.
State health officials confirm 20,181 COVID-19 cases
State health officials confirmed 116 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Tuesday, as well as eight additional deaths.
The recent update brings the state’s totals to 20,181 cases and 1,078 deaths, according the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The dashboard reports 3,338 hospitalizations in Washington.
So far, 332,791 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6.1% have come back positive.
King County, the state's most populous, has reported 7,835 positive test results and 552 deaths (two of which were confirmed today), accounting for 51.2% of the state's death toll.
Coronavirus will come roaring back in King County without contact tracing, other measures, report finds
As King County looks to slowly reopen its economy after months of closures, a comprehensive system of testing, contact tracing and quarantines will be needed to avoid a burst of new infections of the novel coronavirus, according to a new study from the Institute for Disease Modeling.
Such measures could enable economic and social activity in the region to double from current levels, without a corresponding increase in infections, the report from the Bellevue-based Institute found.
But if King County can’t increase testing capacity, fails in its efforts to notify the close contacts of positive cases or can’t convince people to isolate if they’ve been exposed to the virus, new infections could skyrocket, the report says.
King County remains in phase one of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase plan to reopen Washington’s economy. The soonest King County could conceivably move to the next phase is Monday, but it is currently nowhere near the low levels of new cases that is one of the criteria for reopening.
A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds
A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau data shows, the most definitive and alarming sign yet of the psychological toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
When asked questions normally used to screen patients for mental health problems, 24% showed clinically significant symptoms of major depressive disorder and 30% showed symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
The findings suggest a huge jump from before the pandemic. For example, on one question about depressed mood, the percentage reporting such symptoms was double that found in a 2014 national survey.
Oregon amusement park wanted to allow in one family at a time; the state said no
Enchanted Forest’s plan to reopen for private, single-family tours has been rejected before it could begin to materialize.
The storybook-themed amusement park south of Salem, Oregon, had come up with the idea as owners search for a way to bring in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic that has kept the attraction closed since late March.
Read more here.
Death and denial in Brazil’s Amazon capital
Manaus is one of the hardest-hit cities in Brazil, which officially has lost more than 23,000 lives to the coronavirus. But in the absence of evidence proving otherwise, many relatives of the deceased are quick to deny the possibility that COVID-19 claimed their loved ones, meaning that the toll is likely a vast undercount.
As ambulances zip through Manaus with sirens blaring and backhoes dig rows of new graves, the muggy air in this city by the majestic Amazon River feels thicker than usual with such pervasive denial. Manaus has seen nearly triple the usual number of dead in April and May.
Doctors and psychologists say denial at the grassroots stems from a mixture of misinformation, lack of education, insufficient testing and conflicting messages from the country’s leaders.
Chief among skeptics is President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly called COVID-19 a “little flu,” and argued that concern over the virus is overblown.
Amtrak asks Congress for $1.5 billion, warns of service cuts on Cascades route through Seattle
Predicting ridership will not fully recover by next year, Amtrak asked congressional leaders Monday for $1.475 billion in additional funding for 2021 to pay for train service and avoid deep staffing cuts.
“Amtrak — like all other modes — has now seen a dramatic decline in demand for service,” wrote Amtrak President and CEO William Flynn in a letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Today, many of our routes are struggling to reach ten percent of the ridership levels we had only months ago.”
Amtrak projects ridership and revenue will still be down 50% next year, Flynn wrote.
Amtrak plans to cut costs by about $500 million by reducing service on some routes and reducing its workforce through layoffs, furloughs or other measures “in nearly every department in the company,” Flynn wrote. But capital projects should continue in order to address a backlog of needed repairs, particularly on East Coast lines, he wrote. Amtrak received about $1 billion in aid as part of the CARES Act.
In the letter, Amtrak labels many routes as vulnerable to being shut down or “operating on a skeleton schedule” next year if the agency does not receive additional funding. Among them is the Cascades route, which typically runs from Vancouver, B.C., through Seattle to Eugene, Oregon.
Flynn cites polling indicating that half of people surveyed were reluctant to ride a train in the next six months and a third said they may not ride again for more than a year. When ridership does return, he noted, teleworking, economic hardship and social distancing could dampen ridership into the future.
Understanding the new coronavirus is proving to be a difficult task
Scientists are still trying to understand the virus they call SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19. Basic questions are not fully answered: How deadly is this virus? How contagious? Are there different strains with different clinical outcomes? Why does SARS-CoV-2 create a devastating disease in some people while leaving others without symptoms or even knowledge that they were infected?
With stay-at-home orders expiring and businesses reopening, all the scientific data is being scrutinized anew. But the numbers are often ambiguous, with large margins of error. And because this is still an early phase of the pandemic, scientific findings have to be couched in tentative, provisional, sometimes squishy language that is festooned with caveats and admitted limitations.
Genetic analysis raises more questions about the history of Washington state’s outbreak
A Snohomish County man diagnosed Jan. 20 and initially believed to be the country’s first COVID-19 patient was probably not the source of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington, according to a preliminary genetic analysis by an international group of scientists.
That analysis, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, says it’s more likely that most of the infections in Washington were sparked by a separate introduction that occurred around Feb. 13 — which would mean the virus had not been spreading undetected for long before the second case was diagnosed on Feb. 28.
If the virus that seeded Washington’s outbreak didn’t arrive in the United States until mid-February, that would show the restrictions on air travel from China imposed early that month weren’t effective in keeping the pathogen out, according to the new, international analysis. It also suggests that more effective control measures, like widespread testing and surveillance, might have been able to keep the virus under control had they had been implemented earlier.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to stay home
Something to watch: Two Seattle-area teens are competing for $1 million on NBC’s "World of Dance," airing tonight. If that's not your thing, you might like "The Genetic Detective," which debuts tonight with a look at how a 31-year-old Snohomish County case was cracked by a genetic genealogist in just two hours.
Something to do: Libraries can be lifelines, even when they're closed. From Harry Potter to civil law, local librarians are going above and beyond to provide crucial connections.
Something to read: Speaking of Harry Potter ... J.K. Rowling, the creator of that wizarding world, is publishing a new story called “The Ickabog,” which will be free to read online.
Something to cook: Our kids-in-the-kitchen recipes are definitely not just for kids. Witness Sadie's easy, decadent churros with chocolate dipping sauce.
'When can I see my grandkids?' Here’s some advice.
The pandemic has separated many grandparents from their grandchildren, as parents fear exposing an older, more vulnerable generation to the new coronavirus during a family visit. But loneliness is also a general predictor of decline and death in people older than 60.
As reality sets in that pandemic living will be measured in months and possibly years, here’s advice for safely reuniting your family’s oldest and youngest generations.
Worry, haste, retail therapy: What have we bought and why?
NEW YORK — Between technical glitches and food worries, retail therapy and sheer amnesia, something has happened to shopping during the pandemic.
Consumer spending fell off rapidly when businesses shut down, but online retail sales have surged.
For some, it’s impulse shoe purchases, with nowhere to go. For others, shopping madness has been about the essentials, only super-sized: 10-pound bags of rice; 25-pound sacks of flour; 50 pounds worth of sugar; pickles and pancake mix for a crowd. Or, mistakenly, multiple pounds of blueberries when a single container was the goal.
The panic buying, the over-buying, the emotional buying aren’t unique to this extraordinary world-shaking event, but it’s the kind of world-shaking event that sent the world home with plenty of anxiety and few shopping options other than the online kind.
Bell rings but trading floor chaos subdued as NYSE reopens
NEW YORK — The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange reopened for the first time in two months with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ringing the iconic bell, but the controlled chaos was more subdued Tuesday under new pandemic rules.
The floor, known worldwide for an anarchic atmosphere with traders shouting orders over one another, has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak. The NYSE says fewer traders will be on the floor at a given time for now in order to support six-feet social distancing requirements. They also must wear masks.
Anyone entering the Exchange at 11 Wall Street is also being asked to avoid public transportation and they will have their temperature taken before entry, said Stacey Cunningham, president of the NYSE.
The WHO warns that the first wave of the new coronavirus pandemic isn't finished
The new coronavirus pandemic is still surging around the world and isn't close to subsiding, said the executive director of the World Health Organization.
The statement comes after a Memorial Day weekend that saw large crowds gathering at places like beaches.
The first wave of the pandemic hasn't yet subsided and cases are growing around the world, said Mike Ryan, WHO's executive director.
“Right now, we’re not in the second wave. We’re right in the middle of the first wave globally,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s executive director.
“We’re still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up,” Ryan said, pointing to South America, South Asia and other parts of the world.
India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, saw a record single-day jump in new cases for the seventh straight day. It reported 6,535 new infections Tuesday, raising its total to over 145,000, including close to 4,200 deaths.
An empty graduation season
College campuses, which in normal life would be teeming with happy families celebrating their newly minted grads, stand deserted all across the country because of the pandemic. But Seattle Sketcher found signs of hope in UW's Red Square.
Catch up on news from the holiday weekend
UW Medicine is furloughing 4,000 more workers, bringing its total to about 5,500. This will hit neighborhood clinics as well as Harborview Medical Center and both UW Medical Center campuses.
What's contributing to big racial disparities in COVID-19 cases? One of many factors could be household sizes. FYI Guy looks at King County's multigenerational households — which have their advantages, but not when it comes to the likelihood of virus transmission.
Whoa, look at all those people! The holiday weekend brought swarms of visitors and plenty of anxiety to many U.S. beach towns.
The world is "right in the middle of the first wave" of the virus, the WHO is warning as cases rise and risks complicate reopenings today.
Kids still need their usual vaccines on time. That's the message from worried health officials as Washington state sees a steep drop during the lockdown.
The Seattle area's Providence Health system is among the richest U.S. hospital chains. It's also among the wealthy chains that got big bailouts from the federal government, while smaller, poorer hospitals got tiny amounts in comparison.
WHO has halted its trial of the drug touted by President Donald Trump as a "game changer," over a new study that links hydroxychloroquine to a significantly higher risk of death.
Will there be a Major League Baseball season? Reporter Ryan Divish gives a hesitant but hopeful "yes" as he fields a barrage of questions from readers (and his mom) on where this stands.
A bit of positive news: The vast majority of cooped-up couples are still happy together — and some are more blissed out than before the pandemic, according to a new poll that found several encouraging signs.
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