While this year’s Mother’s Day weekend promises warm weather, Seattle officials are restricting hours in city parks out of fears that large crowds hoping to enjoy the sun could further spread the novel coronavirus. A recent report shows the COVID-19 transmission rate in Western Washington may be steadily increasing, suggesting that the number of virus cases could potentially rise, while the number of COVID-19 cases in Eastern Washington is expected to increase based on current transmission rates.
New figures continue to show evidence of the damage coronavirus has done to a declining economy. Nationally, the unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the highest rate since the Great Depression. Washington also grapples with a tsunami of legitimate unemployment claims — more than 100,000 last week — thought the state also is seeing a rise in attempts by fraudsters to siphon off a portion of the benefits.
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 Saturday.
Sea-Tac Airport to require all passengers, employees to wear face coverings
All passengers traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will be required to wear cloth face coverings starting May 18 to slow the spread of coronavirus, the Port of Seattle announced Saturday evening.
The requirement also applies to airport workers, including Port of Seattle employees, and airport visitors who aren’t flying. People who can’t tolerate facial coverings for medical reasons, as well as very young children, will be exempt.
The announcement follows requirements from major airlines and some airports that all passengers wear masks. Philadelphia International and Los Angeles International airports, for example, will both require all passengers and visitors to wear masks starting Monday. Denver International Airport started requiring all passengers to wear face coverings this past week.
Read the full story here.
3 members of White House virus task force in quarantine
WASHINGTON — Three members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, another stark reminder that not even one of the nation’s most secure buildings is immune from the virus.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the task force, has become nationally known for his simple and direct explanations to the public about the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. Also quarantining are Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn.
Fauci’s institute said that he has tested negative for COVID-19 and will continue to be tested regularly. It added that he is considered at “relatively low risk” based on the degree of his exposure, and that he would be “taking appropriate precautions” to mitigate the risk to personal contacts while still carrying out his duties. While he will stay at home and telework, Fauci will go to the White House if called and take every precaution, the institute said.
Read the full story here.
Delta Airlines to suspend service at 10 airports across U.S.
Delta Airlines will cut service to 10 airports across the U.S. starting Wednesday until September at the earliest in an effort to minimize employees’ exposure to COVID-19.
Services will be suspended at secondary airports, which mean they operate close to a larger primary airport. Delta said Friday that it had reduced its schedule by 85%, and may cut service to more airports in the future. In April, the airline filed a request with the U.S. Department of Transportation to reduce operations at nine other airports.
The airports that will have their service cut Wednesday are:
Chicago Midway International Airport
Oakland International Airport
Hollywood Burbank Airport
Long Beach Airport
T.F. Green International Airport
Westchester County Airport
Stewart International Airport
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport
Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
Groups pack into outdoor spaces enjoy warm weather — in apparent violation of 'Keep It Moving' orders
With Seattle area weather warm enough to sunbathe, people of all ages took to Green Lake Saturday afternoon to lounge, play games, paddle board and socialize.
Clusters of groups gathered on towels and picnic blankets around the lake, not obeying the “Keep It Moving” orders Mayor Jenny Durkan emphasized in an news conference Thursday in anticipation of the sunny forecast.
People of all ages threw Frisbees, tossed beanbags, and set up hammocks between trees.
Signs that informed visitors “Crowded Parks lead to Closed Parks” appeared to be an unenforced threat by Saturday evening.
Another Seattle Parks & Recreation sign that banned skateboarding, rollerblading, and bicycling was largely ignored by scores of people.
Warm weather, cold water and boats lead to a compact crowd along the north bank of the Montlake Cut east of the University Bridge. Many said they were University of Washington students working on tans, enjoying the summer-like temperature.
Selah mayor: City won't enforce Gov. Inslee's stay-at-home order
The city of Selah will not participate in enforcement of Gov. Jay Inslee’s "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" emergency order, the mayor said in a proclamation.
“...The employees of Selah do not work for the governor,” the proclamation reads. “Those wishing to operate or patronize a business, to conduct or attend religious services, to use park facilities or to take any other action that was lawful prior to the Governor’s Proclamations, will not be harassed, investigated or punished by any City of Selah employee.”
Selah is a city of more than 7,000 people in Yakima County, a county that has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases on the West Coast.
The governor’s emergency order was modified on March 23 to prohibit Washingtonians from leaving their homes except to buy groceries, seek medical care, work at essential businesses and exercise. It also forbids participating in gatherings of any size and prevents non-essential businesses from operating.
When Inslee acted, Yakima County already was subject to a countywide stay-at-home order.
The Yakima County Health District on March 22 issued an order that banned gatherings, hair salons, dine-in restaurants, among other activities and businesses.
Washington’s revised code gives Gov. Inslee broad authority during emergencies.
Washington’s emergency statute says the governor can prohibit “any number of persons … from assembling or gathering on the public streets, parks or other open areas of the state, either public or private.” It also says he can ban the sale of goods. There’s a provision that gives him even wider latitude, saying he can bar “other activities as he or she reasonably believes should be prohibited.”
“It is disappointing when elected officials promote illegal activity that puts their community’s well-being at risk.”
The governor’s office also sent a letter to Franklin County saying businesses could be cited and fined if they violated the state order.
Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Inslee had made clear the process by which localities could apply for exemptions from his prohibitions. Counties, not cities, with fewer than 75,000 people and where no COVID-19 cases had appeared within the prior three weeks can apply, Lee noted in an email. (Yakima County does not fit either criteria.)
“Neither Selah, nor any other city in Washington, can make this decision on their own,” Lee said.
The mayor of Selah did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday afternoon.
State confirms 286 new COVID-19 cases, including 16 more deaths
State health officials confirmed 286 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, including 16 more deaths.
The update brings Washington's totals to 16,674 cases and 921 deaths as of Friday. So far, 242,989 tests for the illness have been conducted in Washington, according to the latest data released by the Washington State Department of Health. Approximately 6.9% have come back positive.
In King County, 84 new cases were reported, including four deaths, bringing total cases to 6,947, including 491 deaths.
Whidbey Island city requires visitors to wear face masks to slow spread of COVID-19
The City of Langley on Whidbey Island is requiring all visitors to the city’s central business core to wear a face mask to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The emergency order from Mayor Tim Callison applies to all visitors between Fourth Street to Seawall Park, and Park Avenue to Wharf Street. It doesn’t apply to anyone traveling through the area in a car or in residential homes.
There have been six positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Langley, according to Island County Public Health.
The mask order comes at the start of what would be tourist season for Whidbey Island, though the number of visitors has dwindled because of the state’s stay-at-home order. The tourist numbers will likely rise this weekend; Washington State Ferries on Saturday reported a two-hour wait at Mukilteo for the ferry to Whidbey Island.
A dozen new COVID-19 cases confirmed in outbreak at Bornstein Seafoods' two Oregon processing plants
Twelve more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among workers at a seafood processing company's facilities in Astoria, Oregon, according to a Friday news release from the Clatsop County Public Health Department.
A total of 26 employees at Bornstein Seafoods have tested positive for the virus since May 1, including some workers who live in nearby Washington state in Pacific, Grays Harbor and Cowlitz counties.
Public health officials have tested some 200 workers, according to the news release.
The company’s two Astoria plants have been closed and the company has asked its employees to self-isolate at their homes, according to the news release. In the confirmed cases, public health officials are tracing the contacts of those infected.
Before the outbreak, the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council filed a complaint with the state of Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration over workers' concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment and social distancing inside the company’s plants, according to a report earlier this week in the Daily Astorian.
Andrew Bornstein, the company's co-owner, contested the claims made by workers and told the Daily Astorian the company had been training staff on guidelines and taking safety measures seriously.
Threats made against some who reported businesses violating coronavirus shutdown, as protesters gather at Capitol to assail closures
Some Washington residents say they've been subjected to threats and harassment after reporting businesses possibly violating Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home order.
The threats came after some groups hostile to the coronavirus restrictions, including the Washington Three Percenters, publicized the names, emails and phone numbers of complainants - information obtained through public records.
A woman on the list shared by the group on Facebook said she quickly started getting threatening emails and phone messages. The woman, who lives in King County and asked not to be identified because of threats to her safety, had reported a business she said she believed was operating improperly despite Inslee’s stay-home order.
She sent The Seattle Times a voice message that she said was left on her phone. A man says, “You got 48 hours to get the [expletive] out of Washington, or I am coming for you, and your loved ones.” Another caller, a woman, left a voice message, telling her “I hope you choke on the [expletive] virus.”
The Three Percenters were among the groups promoting a protest Saturday near the state Capitol, where about 1,500 people demanding coronavirus restrictions be lifted gathered in defiance of the stay-at-home order and against the guidance of state and federal public health officials. It was a smaller crowd than 2000-plus who protested at the Capitol last month.
At the demonstration, Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, called for resistance to a state plan to trace contacts that an infected person has had to limit potential flare-ups of COVID-19. Walsh said the approach was “one more slip down that slippery slope of servitude.”
Rep. Matt Shea, a Spokane Valley lawmaker who was suspended last year from the GOP House caucus after a House-commissioned investigation found he planned and participated in domestic terrorism, led the crowd Saturday in a chant of "Freedom is the cure."
Amid Depression-level job losses, congressional Democrats and White House not even talking about plan
WASHINGTON – Confronted with the worst jobs report since the Great Depression, the White House and congressional Democrats aren’t even talking to each other about what — if anything — to do about it.
President Donald Trump says he’s “in no rush” to take additional action given nearly $3 trillion already approved to respond to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus. House Democrats are taking the opposite tack, pressing forward to vote as soon as this coming week on a massive new relief bill that’s unlikely to win any GOP support.
The disconnect shows how the bipartisan consensus that emerged in the early days of the pandemic, allowing Congress to produce four relief bills in rapid succession, has largely disappeared. In its place there is partisan finger-pointing and blame-shifting.
Trump on Friday dismissed Democrats as “stone cold crazy” and said he couldn’t work with them. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that Republicans who failed to act would be “taking the same misguided path as Herbert Hoover,” who failed to pull the nation out of the Great Depression.
Some local small businesses are suing insurers over refusal to cover coronavirus damage
As the coronavirus pandemic has decimated small businesses across the country, shell-shocked owners have turned to their insurance carriers to cover devastating financial losses thrust on them by state shutdown orders.
In many cases, the response from insurers has been: We don’t cover viruses.
Tacoma dentist Arnell Prato was among those who got that answer. That drove him to join a growing number of small-business owners locally and nationally who are suing their insurers, alleging breach of contract after paying their premiums for years.
”I’ve never seen or experienced anything like this,” said Prato, who has practiced dentistry in Washington for 10 years.
He is now in the middle of a battle pitting people like him against a powerful industry that insists it is sympathetic to the plight of small-business owners, but not legally on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in losses that were never anticipated to be covered under a catastrophic economic standstill.
“Pandemic outbreaks are uninsured because they are uninsurable,” David Sampson, president of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, recently said.
Volunteer enrollment plummets for UW clinical trial testing of coronavirus treatment pushed by Trump
One of the hottest debates in the coronavirus pandemic is whether the malaria drugs promoted as possible treatments by President Donald Trump really work. But Americans don’t seem overly eager to help answer the question.
Enrollment in several clinical trials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — including two by the University of Washington — has been anemic so far. Fewer than 260 volunteers, out of a target of 2,000, have signed up for a $9.5 million UW study being conducted in Seattle and six other sites across the country. Another multi-site project coordinated by the UW has only about 30 patients enrolled.
Researchers say enrollment in the trials plummeted after preliminary reports of possible heart arrhythmias associated with the drugs, followed by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning that they should be administered only in hospitals or clinical trials.
"Once that news came out, our enrollment fell almost down to zero," said UW epidemiologist Dr. Ruanne Barnabas, who’s leading a study to find out if hydroxychloroquine can prevent infection in people like health-care workers who have been exposed to the virus.
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