Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Thursday as the events unfolded. Click here to find extended coverage of the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2; the illness it causes, COVID-19; and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world.

Officials continue to confirm cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, around Washington state. In total, 31 people in Washington state are known to have died from the disease. As society practices “social distancing” to slow the virus’ spread, many people who can work or learn from home are doing so. Gov. Jay Inslee has banned most events with more than 250 people, and King County has gone even further, prohibiting gatherings even smaller than that unless organizers take steps to mitigate transmission of the virus.

The state Department of Health announced 91 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the state total to 457. King and Snohomish counties each reported an additional death.

Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Wednesday 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 as of Thursday afternoon.

Live updates:

Oregon governor closes all K-12 schools until March 31

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered Thursday evening a statewide closure of all K-12 schools due to the threat of coronavirus, according to a statement from her office.

Schools will close beginning Monday and last until March 31, the statement said. The decision was made "in consideration of staffing challenges and health concerns."

"Schools are critical institutions that provide important services for all our students, but especially our most vulnerable, and during this crisis I have worked hard to ensure those critical services continue," Brown said in the statement. "So many of our families depend on school in order for parents to go to their jobs, and for students to access health care and receive nutrition assistance."

—Elise Takahama

Virtual-doctor visits help keep patients, hospital staff safe during coronavirus outbreak

A growing number of people are using technology to stay away from doctor’s offices and emergency rooms in an effort to avoid SARS-CoV-2, which is the name of the novel coronavirus that emerged in China late last year, has ripped through Western Washington and is poised to strain the region’s medical facilities.

Health care systems are preparing to be so overloaded from the COVID-19 response that the state Department of Health (DOH) is seeking volunteer health practitioners to help out. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged people seeking medical advice to avoid going to emergency rooms or their doctors for routine or minor issues so as not to overwhelm the health care system.

People are taking heed, and the pandemic is an opportunity for health care providers to utilize and push telemedicine in ways not possible before the outbreak.

Since confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region have been climbing and people began dying late last month, UW Medicine has seen a tenfold increase from the 20,000 visits the digital service, which encompasses 20 medical specialties, saw last year.

Read the full story here.

—Ryan Blethen

Seattle to offer grants of up to $10K to small businesses impacted by novel coronavirus outbreak

Seattle will spend $1.5 million on grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday.

The grants will be awarded to businesses that have five or fewer employees, are owned by someone at or below 80% of the area’s median income, have a physical establishment and are being hurt by the coronavirus crisis, the mayor’s office said in a news release.

The money will be added to the city’s existing Small Business Stabilization Fund, which was initially allocated $200,000 for 2020, Durkan’s office said.

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman

Short-staffed and undersupplied, coronavirus crisis strains Seattle area’s capacity to deliver care

Amid the first signs that the novel coronavirus was spreading in the Seattle area, a senior officer at the University of Washington Medical Center sent an urgent note to staffers.

“We are currently exceptionally full and are experiencing some challenges with staffing,” Tom Staiger, UW Medical Center’s medical director, wrote on Feb. 29.

That same day, health officials announced King County’s — and the nation’s — first death from the coronavirus. Now as cases of virus-stricken patients suffering from COVID-19 multiply, government and hospital officials are facing the real-life consequences of shortcomings they’ve documented on paper for years.

Medical supplies have run low. Administrators are searching for ways to expand hospital bed capacity. Health care workers are being asked to work extra shifts as their peers self-isolate.

Hand-washing, staying home from work and other measures were no longer enough to sufficiently slow the virus, Lofy said.

Hospital administrators are rapidly changing protocols as the outbreak stresses the system, while frontline health care workers are beginning to feel the effects of disruptions to daily life.

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush and Daniel Gilbert

Seattle-area businesses fear that government relief won’t make up for drop in sales due to coronavirus

As the economic fallout mounts — and as proposed actions to contain the coronavirus outbreak grow more severe —consumers are reacting not only to fears of infection but, increasingly, to worries about their own economic prospects by cutting back on purchases.

Customers are worried “not that they’re going to end up in the hospital, but that they’re going to be out of work,” said Adrienne Heuser, store manager at the Alderwood mall location of Michael Kors, where both sales and traffic have dropped in recent weeks.

“They’re saving their discretionary income,” added a clerk who requested anonymity at nearby Sephora, where sales and traffic were also down.

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts

Space Needle to suspend operations due to COVID-19 pandemic

The Space Needle will suspend operations for almost three weeks due to COVID-19 concerns.

The observation tower will be closed to the public beginning Friday and lasting until March 31, management said in a statement Thursday evening.

"We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this closure and look forward to welcoming Guests and Space Needle Team Members back to the icon of Seattle when we reopen," the statement said.

No further information about the closures was immediately available.

—Elise Takahama

Lack of bathrooms, sanitation leaves unsheltered homeless less protected against coronavirus

Across Seattle, thousands of people in small encampments or RVs have even less access to the basic hygiene and sanitation the U.S. has been relying on to prevent the spread of infectious disease over the last century. During a public health crisis like COVID-19 – which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic Wednesday – those gaps leave homeless communities with less protection against a viral infection.

Being in Seattle makes them, in some ways, even more vulnerable.

Where cities like Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Diego in California have deployed dozens of hand-washing stations for homeless people to use within the last week in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Seattle lacks those mobile tools. City of Seattle officials have said they would give out hygiene kits including soap, water, paper towels and informational pamphlets when they are available, but as of Thursday, they did not have information on how many hygiene kits had already been distributed.

Read the full story here.

—Sydney Brownstone

Biscuit Bitch stores close temporarily after sales plummet

Seattle's beloved Biscuit Bitch shops are temporarily shutting their doors, marking another eatery affected by the coronavirus' economic impact.

Kimmie Spice, owner of the local biscuit chain, said on Facebook Thursday that the White Center and Pioneer Square locations are now closed, and the Belltown and Pike Place locations will only stay open Friday through Sunday.

"Hopefully only for a few months," Spice wrote in her post. "Our customer base for the downtown shops is 90% tourists and, well, there just ain’t no tourists right now. I do appreciate all the locals who have been coming by and supporting us over this past month — but sadly, it just won’t pay the bills."

Because of the declining sales, she said she thought it would be best to let her staff sign up for emergency temporary unemployment funds.

"I analyzed and researched every option to stay open but none of the scenarios worked. Hopefully we can get some relief from local, state or fed government to pay bills the next two months," she said. "Anyway, wanted you to know first. I’m still in shock."

Spice said she'd be working at the Pike Place spot this weekend and urged customers to stop by.

—Elise Takahama

Most Seattle Symphony Orchestra performances were canceled due to coronavirus concerns — but you can still listen to them online

Even though downtown Seattle's Benaroya Hall recently canceled or postponed all of its public events due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra said Thursday we can still listen to their music online.

"As our community confronts a current global health crisis, the Seattle Symphony will continue sharing performances that provide strength, comfort and joy through video rebroadcasts and livestreams throughout the month," the organization said in a statement.

The first rebroadcast will be a live performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, which was originally performed last September, the statement said. It will air Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m. on YouTube and Facebook.

Seattle Symphony is organizing five more free livestreams and rebroadcasts until the orchestra can return to the stage, the statement said.

Benaroya Hall canceled all events through March 31, Seattle Symphony confirmed Wednesday.

“I believe music has the power to transform lives and bring people together in new and surprising ways,” said Seattle Symphony Music Director Thomas Dausgaard in the statement. “Even though we can’t gather at Benaroya Hall, I’m so happy we’ll still be sharing musical moments together, whether you’re at home in Seattle or halfway across the world.”

—Elise Takahama

Washington Legislature passes bill rolling back Boeing tax break to ward off retaliatory trade tariffs

OLYMPIA —  The Washington Legislature has passed a bill to fund the state’s response to the novel coronavirus.

House Bill 2965 draws $200 million from state budget reserves to help state and local health officials combat the outbreak of COVID-19.

The move Thursday was yet another indicator of how quickly measures to limit the outbreak have grown.

Just three weeks ago, lawmakers had proposed between $5 and $10 million to fund any response that might be needed.

That grew to $100 million by early March, as the virus began to be diagnosed in the Puget Sound region.

The rapid developments led lawmakers to put that  bill on hold in order to make adjustments at the last possible moment.

The funding package came Thursday evening, in the final hours of the end of the 2020 legislative session.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Northshore School District calls off current online learning model

Three days after Northshore School District switched to an online-learning model, the district announced it was changing course again.

Beginning Monday, Northshore will pause its current online system, a choice the administration made after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the closure of all K-12 schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties on Thursday.

"As a consequence of these developments, we will be studying ways to iterate our next instructional program design to be in congruence with the ‘new normal’ school expectations for our county and region," said district Superintendent Michelle Reid in a Thursday letter to families.

"Tomorrow, teachers will connect with students as they have this week and both review work accomplished as well as reassure students that while we are pausing our current ‘school system’ (per the Governor and OSPI), we still want them to take advantage of the resources the District will be providing in the coming days."

Next week, Reid said administration would implement a new version of the Classroom to Cloud support for students.

"As schools will be officially closed, the District will provide resources for our students on a macro scale rather than a classroom by classroom basis," she said in the statement. "As we continue our collaboration with our teachers and support professionals, I will share more about this iteration of our support plan in the coming days prior to Monday."

Reid said that as she and other school leaders have discussed what type of distance-learning model to follow, they've encountered several educational equity issues, including special education services, food and nutrition, English learning services and child care.

"Here in Northshore, while we have been able to mitigate several of these challenges, we have not yet been able to mitigate all of them and meet the strict guidelines outlined in federal and state regulations," Reid said in the statement. "We are committed to continuing our work in these and other areas as we pause our current online learning initiative model."

The district is currently taking pre-orders for lunch pick-up at 17 sites to make meals available to all students. Students and families pay according to their current meal pricing eligibility, the statement said. District officials are also offering five child care spots at different community locations.

All athletics, including practices, will be suspended Friday evening, though Reid said she's hopeful that an abbreviated spring sports season may still be possible.

—Elise Takahama

University of Washington confirms first student case of COVID-19

The University of Washington, which canceled in-person classes for the rest of the quarter last week, confirmed Thursday that one of its graduate students has tested positive for COVID-19.

This is the first known case among the student community, said university spokesman Victor Balta. A UW staff member who works four blocks west of campus also tested positive last week.

The affected student is a resident of Mercer Court, a student dorm, and is recovering at home out of state, the email said. The student was last on the main campus on Friday, March 6 and left the dorms on Saturday, March 7.

The Mercer apartment, rooms and common areas have been cleaned and disinfected, the email said, and those who were in close contact with the student are also self-isolating and monitoring their conditions.

"The UW’s Environmental Health & Safety Department (EH&S) has been in direct contact with the student and has been coordinating with Public Health-Seattle King County," the email said. "Based on the information gathered from this case, the risk of transmission for the general community is considered to be low."

—Elise Takahama

Nintendo employee tests positive for COVID-19

An employee at Nintendo of America in Redmond has tested positive for COVID-19 and had contact with other Nintendo workers, the video game company confirmed Thursday evening.

All Nintendo employees who were in contact with the person who tested positive are in self-quarantine, whether they have symptoms or not, Nintendo of America wrote in a statement.

"Nintendo of America is supporting this individual as they recover and will continue to take precautions to safeguard the health and well-being of all our employees and the broader community," the statement said.

Nintendo is allowing all employees in Washington state and California to work from home.

—Paige Cornwell

Washington Department of Corrections to suspend visits to state prisons

OLYMPIA — The Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) announced Thursday evening that starting Friday it would temporarily suspend visitation at the state’s prisons to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The suspension includes extended family visits, according to a news release from the agency. DOC has approved reimbursement for families that were scheduled for such visits.

The suspension comes as the agency “is working to implement enhanced screening protocols for all employees/contract staff, incarcerated individuals and others entering DOC facilities and field offices to include taking temperatures and answering screening questionnaires,” according to the release.

“Until the Department is able to put those protocols into place,” visits are suspended.

DOC is also for now restricting access — except for legal professionals, employees and contract staffers — to the Monroe Correctional Complex, Washington Corrections Center and Washington Corrections Center for Women.

And the agency is putting on hold all events and tours that involve “four or more outside guests at all facilities.”

“This situation is constantly evolving,” according to the release. “Corrections will provide updates as things (change).”

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Housing and homeless assistance providers ask Inslee for more shelter money and suspending homeless camp clean-ups

About 200 housing and homelessness organizations around the state have signed a letter asking Gov. Jay Inslee to put more money into shelter beds, place a moratorium on evictions and effectively suspend clean-ups or sweeps of homeless encampments.

"That doesn’t seem like it should be the priority to us right now," said Rachael Myers, executive director of the Washington Low Income Housing Institute, one of the principal sponsors of the letter. "We should be focused on getting people what they need to stay healthy and getting people sheltered and getting people indoors, and not just moving people around."

The letter also asks Inslee to assign a state agency to act as a “centralized command” for providers and local government, and requests money for more staff. Myers and other organizers circulated the letter at 3 p.m. Thursday and by 6 p.m. had nearly 200 organizations sign on.

"There’s this massive massive need for more to be done to support people," said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. "There are lots of people who are incredibly vulnerable — and they cannot self isolate, and they cannot wash their hands."

—Scott Greenstone

Redmond closes City Hall for a week due to presumptive positive COVID-19 case

The Redmond mayor announced Thursday that a city employee has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a week-long closure of City Hall.

City facilities, which will be cleaned, will close Friday and reopen March 20, a statement from the city said. 

Other city facilities, including the public safety building, the maintenance and operations center and the Redmond Community Center at Marymoor Village, among a few others, will also be closed to the public until further notice. City services deemed critical, such as police and fire, will stay fully operational.

The city also canceled all senior programs and all parks and recreation activities — including sports leagues and outdoor activities.

No further information was available about the city's COVID-19 patient.

—Elise Takahama

Residents at 2 Mercer Island facilities test positive for COVID-19

Residents of two Mercer Island senior facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, the City of Mercer Island said Thursday.

One person lives at Sunrise of Mercer Island and another lives at Covenant Living at the Shores. Both are hospitalized at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue.

The Covenant Living resident had been taken to Overlake for a separate health issue and then was diagnosed with coronavirus, Covenant Living said in an update on its website. The resident will be quarantined at a family member's home when he or she is discharged.

At Sunrise, all residents are staying in their suites, said Carla Sanchez, Sunrise Senior Living’s regional vice president of operations. Meals are being delivered to each room.

The facility is restricting all visitors, except those who provide critical healthcare and other services. Inside the building, employees are conducting temperature checks and respiratory assessments on residents multiple times a day, according to Sunrise Senior Living.

“Our team is working to maintain normalcy for our residents and families despite this situation,” Sanchez said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the trust you place in us every day, and it is our honor and privilege to serve Seattle families.”

—Paige Cornwell

Seattle mayor announces closure of all public library branches, community centers and other recreation facilities

To combat the spread of novel coronavirus, the Seattle Public Library is closing all of its locations and Seattle Parks and Recreation is closing all community centers, pools, environmental learning centers and other recreation facilities, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday.

Parks and Recreation also is canceling all programming, rentals and permitted events, Durkan’s office said in a news release.

Researchers are estimating there are 1,100 active cases in the region of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, the release said. Without actions such as closing library branches and community centers, the region could see 25,000 people infected by early April, according to the release.

The closures will take effect Friday at 6 p.m. and will last until at least April 13.

“We did not take this decision lightly,” Durkan said in a statement. “We know that our libraries and community centers serve as important neighborhood hubs and provide essential services to our residents.”

She added, “But we also know that, given the high volume of people who pass through our facilities each day, it would be extremely difficult to implement the mandatory public health guidance as it relates to social distance.”

Because homeless people and others rely on community centers for hygiene services, Parks and Recreation will continue its shower program at the Delridge, Green Lake, Meadowbrook, Miller and Rainier community centers, and all Parks and Recreation bathrooms and hand washing stations will stay open, the news release said.

The city will allow preschool programs that operate in community centers to stay open for now, the release said.

The library will continue to provide digital services, such as e-books and e-audiobooks, streaming movies, television and music services and free access to magazines and newspapers, the release added.

Also, the library is extending loan periods; patrons will not need to return materials until branches are open again.

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman

UW Medicine to postpone elective procedures

UW Medicine will begin to postpone elective procedures beginning on March 16 through at least March 31, the hospital system's leaders said in a message to staff.

The move is due to impact of COVID-19.

“In preparation for postponing elective care, we are asking that each service who delivers elective care quickly huddle and determine which patients should be postponed,” the message said. “Please review what is truly elective and can wait. We must continue to provide urgent and emergent care to our patients and not cancel anything that will jeopardize the patients’ immediate health status.”

—Evan Bush

UW Medicine could be completing 4,000 coronavirus tests per day by next week

UW Medicine’s lab testing for COVID-19 pushed through 1,300 tests Tuesday and could be doing 4,000 a day by next week.

The lab is also taking on the backlog of tests at the state lab in Shoreline and has gotten the time it takes to get results back down to 10 hours, said Dr. Tim Dellit, UW Medicine’s chief medical officer.

The ramp-up in testing was announced the same day that two patients in its geropsychiatric center at UW Medical Center — Northwest tested positive for COVID-19.

One of the patients had recently arrived from a long-term care facility, said Dr. Santiago Neme, medical director at UW Medical Center — Northwest.

By 1 p.m. Thursday the other 20 patients had been tested and isolated in individual rooms, Neme said.

The geropsychiatric unit is for patients 60 and older who are dealing with a range of issues that includes depression, dementia or psychosis. Two-thirds of the patients in the unit are there involuntary, Neme said.

—Ryan Blethen

Drivers going faster during coronavirus outbreak

Drivers in the Seattle area are going almost 30% faster than usual because the coronavirus crisis is slashing commutes and trips to school, new findings by the Kirkland-based INRIX traffic-data company show.

What may be more surprising, though, is how fast the same trend is developing in other cities, whose outbreaks are perhaps a few weeks behind the Puget Sound area.

Wednesday afternoon, hours after Gov. Jay Inslee declared a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people, traffic moved 28% faster, then again 27% quicker Thursday morning. In Los Angeles, the speed increased 26% and in Chicago 25% Wednesday afternoon. In Boston, it was up 26%.

Seattle-area employers, including Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook, upended local traffic nearly overnight by instructing most employees to work from home as a way to reduce the spread of the virus.

Traffic volumes fell 4% from Everett to Seattle this week and 8% from Renton to Bellevue on highways as of Monday, says the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), still reluctant to call that a trend. Though these figures don’t seem high, the roads here are perennially near the breaking point. “The difference between a smooth commute and a rough one is at the margins,” the department said in an update.

Faster lanes don’t always benefit drivers. Last Friday, March 6, a crashed truck spilled oil and caused 30- to 40-minute delays from Federal Way into Seattle. Then on Monday multiple wrecks briefly slowed I-5 north of downtown. Thursday morning, a concrete truck at high speed crossed a center line and hit a sheriff’s car, breaking a deputy’s leg, according to state Trooper Rick Johnson.

INRIX, based in the same city where the first U.S. cluster of COVID-19 deaths broke out in late February, found speed-ups of 10 mph as early as 11 days ago, as voluntary non-commutes began to take hold.

—Mike Lindblom

West Seattle Trader Joe's customers clean out store

At the West Seattle Trader Joe’s, the credit card system was so overwhelmed by customers Thursday afternoon that it froze.

“The shelves are empty,” said Sean, who, as Trader Joe’s workers do, identified himself as “captain of the store.”

Soups and canned goods seemed particularly popular.

The store opened up a cash-only line.

Sean said more food would be arriving Thursday night.

—Erik Lacitis

Major school closures are coming to Washington. But what does science say about how to contain the coronavirus?

Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to close schools for at least several weeks in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties is extraordinary in scope — together, these counties serve several hundred thousand students.

Schools across several other states and countries hit hard by the new coronavirus, such as Japan, Italy and China have opted to close, too. And officials are using science to justify their choices.

But it’s still unclear whether these measures will slow the virus, or decrease the number of people who ultimately fall ill.

Children are known to be powerful vectors for the flu, and most research pointing to the effectiveness of school closures focuses on influenza outbreaks, experts say. But because the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 is so new, available data on both transmission and infection in children is scant.

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

Clark County health officials recommend banning large gatherings of more than 250 people

A day after Gov. Jay Inslee officially banned large gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, Clark County public-health officials recommended similar measures because of the fast-moving coronavirus outbreak, the agency announced Thursday.

"Public Health is making these recommendations in an abundance of caution," a statement from the Clark County Health Department said. "There is no evidence of widespread transmission of COVID-19 in Clark County."

Clark County had seen one confirmed case of COVID-19 as of Thursday, although health officials said in a statement that the patient had no recent travel history, "which indicates the virus is in our community."

“We’re making these recommendations in an effort to help slow the spread of the virus in our community,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer, in the statement. “By slowing the spread of the virus, we can protect those in our community who are at risk for severe illness and lessen the impact to our health care system.”

The recommendations apply to concerts, festivals, conferences, conventions, worship services, sporting events and other similar events or activities, the statement said. They do not apply to school attendance, businesses, grocery and retail stores.

The county's public-health department isn't recommending school closures now.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also issued a statewide ban on large gatherings of more than 250 people Thursday.

—Elise Takahama

XFL shutting down because of coronavirus concerns

After watching league after league suspend competition because of coronavirus concerns, the XFL followed suit Thursday afternoon.

The league issued this statement: “Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular season games. However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for the 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit towards future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”

The Dragons were 1-4 at the midway point of the first season in the new XFL, and averaged 25,615 fans for their two home games.

Read the full story here.

—Scott Hanson

Seattle Public Schools opening 25 sites where students can pick up lunch

Starting Monday, any Seattle Public School student can pick up food at one of 25 school sites. Serving food is a core function of any school, as many children from low-income families depend on it. The district didn't have plans to distribute food this Thursday or Friday, the first two days of its closure.

Here's a list of all the school lunch sites.

—Joy Resmovits

King County Metro and Sound Transit to temporarily stop fare inspections in effort to limit close interactions

In order to limit hand-to-hand interactions, fare enforcement officers will stop checking fare on Sound Transit trains and King County Metro buses, the agencies announced Thursday.

Officers will still board buses and trains. They will offer information, directions and “safety support,” but will not inspect fares, Metro said.

“Suspending fare enforcement will limit hand-to-hand, close interactions between fare enforcement officers and passengers, protecting their health and – by extension – the health of our community,” Metro said in a statement.

The agencies will not be making rides free. Riders are “still expected to pay or to tap their ORCA card,” Metro said.

On Sound Transit trains, officers will be “reminding people fare is still required to ride, but will not be asking anyone to provide proof of payment,” said Sound Transit spokeswoman Rachelle Cunningham.

On most Metro buses, drivers check for fares as passengers board through the front doors. But on Rapid Ride buses and buses that travel Third Avenue, passengers can board through back doors on the bus, so Metro uses officers to check fares on those routes.

The agencies did not set a date when the new policy would end. “We’ll be following the guidance of the health authorities on this one,” Cunningham said.

—Heidi Groover

An emergency declaration by Trump could unlock Medicaid help in coronavirus crisis in Washington

Washington health care officials say they hope President Trump declares a novel coronavirus emergency in the state soon, because that could clear the way for more people to be enrolled in Medicaid quickly.

The step could help relieve pressure now mounting on local health care systems during the outbreak, because Medicaid could help pay for more seniors to move from hospitals into nursing homes, said MaryAnne Lindeblad, Medicaid director at the Washington State Health Care Authority.

Public health experts have been warning that hospitals could be overwhelmed as coronavirus cases soar.

The state has requested special status under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act, which would allow officials to waive various Medicaid requirements, Lindeblad said, though status can be obtained only in areas where the president has declared an emergency or disaster. Trump has yet to do that for the state of Washington.

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman

As coronavirus slows Seattle’s economy, tenants, advocates and landlords raise concerns about evictions

Since the novel coronavirus crisis began, fewer people have been turning up for their eviction hearings at the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle, and fewer have been seeking help with their cases, said Edmund Witter, the Project’s senior managing attorney.

Witter suspects some renters are staying home because public health officials have recommended people avoid crowded public spaces; about one third of the Project’s clients are at least 60 years old, he said. That worries the attorney, he said, because people who miss their hearings lose by default and are cleared by the court to be evicted.

“Something is going on,” said Witter, whose nonprofit provides legal representation and rent-aid referrals to low-income households facing eviction.

To make matters worse, the virus has begun to wreak havoc with the Seattle area’s economy, resulting in lost hours for many workers and lost jobs for some. That means more and more people are going to have trouble paying their rent.

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman

School hourly employees unsure of future with widespread K-12 closures

Right now, the future of paraeducators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other hourly employees is unclear for the three counties with mandatory 6-week school closures. Across the entire state, schools fill approximately 44,700 positions with these classified workers. Even Gov. Jay Inslee said the school districts weren't sure how they would be paid. Substitute teachers who rely on the income are also concerned about their futures.

Read our past coverage on these vital school employees here.

—Anne Hillman

Pullman mayor declares state of emergency, opens emergency operations center

The mayor of Pullman, Whitman County, declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus crisis Thursday afternoon, according to a statement from the city’s police department.

The declaration allows business assistance from the Small Business Administration and access to regional and state resources, the statement said. The city also opened an emergency operations center at the Pullman Police Department, which will manage “emergency related information” and other necessary resources.

The announcement comes a day after all five Washington State University campuses — including the flagship campus in Pullman — decided to move classes online until after spring break. Residential, dining and health care facilities at the university’s Pullman campus will remain open.

“Mayor Johnson urges Pullman residents to continue to support our local businesses,” the Thursday statement from the police department said. “This support is critical to maintaining our local economy, and he knows that our local businesses have instituted additional measures to protect employees’ and consumers’ health.”

—Elise Takahama

Seattle Sounders cancel all operations at practice facility

Due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, the Sounders have canceled all operations at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, where they practice, including activities for their second-tier USL and academy programs, until further notice.

The announcement Thursday follows Major League Soccer suspending the 2020 season for 30 days to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

For the Sounders, the league shutdown meant the team also canceled their Thursday chartered flight to Houston to play the Dynamo on Saturday. Seattle, which won the MLS Cup in November, will miss four matches during the suspension.

Read the full story here.

—Jayda Evans

In Congress, bipartisan complaints to Trump administration officials about lag in virus testing

Congressional Republicans and Democrats on Thursday complained to Trump administration officials over the lag in U.S. testing for the coronavirus pandemic compared to other nations.

In separate briefings on either side of the Capitol, top public health officials told lawmakers that the U.S. must move to a new testing model that does not rely on the intervention of doctors to combat the coronavirus.

The officials made the statements in response to questions about why U.S. testing capacity has lagged that in South Korea, where hundreds of thousands have already been tested and testing amounts to more than 10,000 per day.

So far, in the U.S., only about 11,000 have so far been tested, according to the briefers.

—The Washington Post

Life Care Center awaiting results of employees' coronavirus tests

Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home at the epicenter of Washington state's coronavirus outbreak, has tested and received results for all but five of its residents. But it has yet to test all of its 180 employees, or receive any results from those who have been tested. Sixty-seven employees have symptoms of COVID-19, a spokesman said Thursday afternoon.

Only about one-third of the Kirkland facility’s employees have been tested for the virus, press liaison Timothy Killian said. The facility now has a person who is calling all employees to see if they have been tested or received their results.

“It was easier when testing was done in our facility,” Killian said. “Because our employees are testing offsite, it’s harder for us to maintain.”

As for the five residents whose test results have not been determined, Killian said he’s “not sure what the delay is and why they haven’t been reported back to us.”

Killian said that, because nurses have been focused on medical care, other services like bathing have been less frequent. Life Care has not been able to bring in mental health counselors or physical therapists, he said.

But, he added, the residents and nurses are slowly returning to their routines.

Standing next to Killian and a group of journalists, Clancy Devery said his father-in-law, Chuck Sedlacek, 87, who remains in the building after testing positive for COVID-19, is regressing in his recovery from a broken ankle because he isn’t getting physical therapy.

“We think he’s getting worse,” Sedlacek said to Killian.

Killian nodded but didn’t comment on when those services might return.

“The nurses share your frustration,” Killian said.

—Paige Cornwell

Seattle U basketball coach disappointed but understands decision to cancel WAC tourney over coronavirus concerns

Seattle University men’s basketball coach Jim Hayford got to coach Thursday, it just wasn’t the kind of coaching he expected after the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournaments were canceled.

The Seattle U men (14-15, 7-7) were No. 3 seed in the tournament, their highest ever, and Hayford was confident his team was peaking at the right time. The winner of the WAC tournament gets a berth into the NCAA tournament, and accomplishing that was the team’s goal all season.

“It’s really disappointing,” Hayford said.

Read the full story here.

—Scott Hanson

State schools chief says K-12 closures serve as chance to plan long-distance instruction

The closures of schools in three counties could require fundamental changes to how teaching and learning works, state and school officials said at a news conference in Olympia. State schools chief Chris Reykdal asked districts to view this closure as a chance to plan long-term for how they could deliver instruction from a distance. Gov. Jay Inslee encouraged districts that are capable of teaching online to do so, but said he realized not everyone was in a position to do that.

Universities have not yet been ordered to close, but Inslee put them — and other school districts across Washington — on notice, too. Standardized tests will be suspended. During the closure, Reykdal said money will continue to flow through schools, and teachers will be paid. But neither official knew whether or how hourly workers would draw a salary.

—Dahlia Bazzaz and Neal Morton

State seeks volunteer health practitioners to help in COVID-19 outbreak

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Health (DOH) will start enrolling and activating volunteer health practitioners to prepare the health systems for overload in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“This will help the state meet emerging demands for healthcare workers,” according to a news statement by the Washington Medical Commission.

State law allows for the volunteer program, since Washington has declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, according to the release.

“If volunteers are registered in the volunteer health practitioner system and verified to be in good standing in all states where they are licensed, they may practice in Washington without obtaining a Washington license once activated and assigned by DOH,” according to the release.

In-state or out-of-state practitioners wishing to register can find more information here or can contact DOH at WAserv@doh.wa.gov or 360-236-4090.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

UW suspends all athletic-related activities

The University of Washington will suspend athletic-related activities and events through March 29 due to concerns about the novel coronavirus.

“The University of Washington athletic department has announced it will suspend all athletic-related activities and events, including workouts, training and practices, through the end of the winter quarter and Spring Break (March 29) for all student-athletes,” the UW said in a statement.

“Department leadership and the medical team will re-assess the situation at the start of the spring quarter (March 30) to make a decision about athletic-related events and activities moving forward.”

—Seattle Times staff

King County health officials confirm 36 new coronavirus cases, including one death

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in King County is now 270, which includes 27 deaths.

At least 25 of the people who died were associated with nursing homes and other residential or care communities.

Public Health – Seattle & King County said it expects the number of cases to double every five to seven days as the disease spreads, though the agency hopes residents will help slow the spread through social distancing measures and by staying home when sick.

The count of cases has also increased because of more capacity for testing in the state.

—Asia Fields

Local travel industry reacts to Trump’s hint he might restrict domestic travel to Washington state

President Donald Trump floated the idea of restricting domestic travel to states like Washington and California if the coronavirus outbreak in these areas gets “too hot,” the New York Times reported Thursday afternoon. This comes a day after Trump announced a 30-day ban on visitors from 26 European nations.

Trump made those comments when he spoke to reporters in the Oval Office and did not elaborate further, other than to say that travel restrictions were “a possibility” if “somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets to hot.”

Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle, doesn’t think a domestic travel ban is necessary. But at this point, he says, it can’t do much more damage to Seattle’s embattled web of tourism-related businesses.

The coronavirus pandemic had mostly emptied out the town before a wide-ranging series of restrictions, postponements and suspensions started to be announced this week, including Gov. Jay Inslee’s ban on gatherings of more than 250 people.

“I think just psychologically it would be terrible, it would be tough,” Norwalk said. “And is it truly warranted? I don’t think so. I think not knowing how much of a bottom is left, I think it just creates more pain and suffering.”

Read the full story here.

—Chris Talbott / Special to The Seattle Times

Disneyland to close through end of March due to coronavirus

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim will close starting Saturday through the end of March, due to the novel coronavirus.

The company said there had not been any cases tied to the parks, but that the closure would be "in the best interests of our guests and employees."

Hotels will remain open through Sunday to give guests time to make arrangements. The Downtown Disney retail area outside the parks will remain open.

The company noted that it would continue to pay employees during the closure.

March Madness canceled due to coronavirus

The National Collegiate Athletic Association said Thursday that it had canceled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments because of the coronavirus pandemic, erasing one the most anticipated annual events on the American sports calendar.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said in a statement that referred to the illness.

The NCAA initially responded to the outbreak by deciding Wednesday to bar spectators from attending the tournament games in dozens of cities across the country. Its latest move, which came the day after the NBA suspended its season when a player tested positive for the virus, means that the association will be unable to fulfill network broadcast contracts that provide much of its revenue.

—New York Times

Inslee to order all K-12 schools in King, Pierce, Snohomish counties to close through April 24

Gov. Jay Inslee is planning to announce the closure of all K-12 schools, public and private, in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties for more than a month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Under the executive order, schools can hold classes until March 16. They must close by March 17 and remain closed until April 24.

Read more here.

—Neal Morton and Dahlia Bazzaz

City delays some required inspections for low-income renters

In an attempt to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Seattle’s public housing office is delaying some required inspections for rental units occupied by low-income-housing voucher recipients.

The Seattle Housing Authority is deciding “on a case by case basis” whether inspectors will be allowed to enter units to ensure they meet standards for Section 8 renters, whose rent is partially covered by the federal government, said spokesperson Kerry Coughlin.

“We are still monitoring for any potential life and safety issues with units, and the delays will not have an impact on continued housing assistance for our participants,” Coughlin said in an email.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

“We’re running out of jurors,” says judge about civil trial delays

With fewer people reporting for jury duty in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, King County Superior Court judges are contacting attorneys involved in pending civil trials to let them know it could be 60 to 90 days before jurors are available to hear those cases, said Presiding Judge Jim Rogers.

“We’re running out of jurors,” and those who do report are being assigned to criminal trials, which take priority, Rogers said.

—Sara Jean Green

The scene at Costco in Seattle amid the coronavirus outbreak

Thirty-seven minutes after its doors opened, the checkout line at the Costco on Fourth Avenue was 10 people deep and a skirmish erupted as workers tried to unload a pallet of toilet paper that was promptly depleted.

“You don’t want to go back there,” one woman muttered after being spit out of the crowd.

Two women loaded their carts with cases of Spam. Two cases each. Then four. Then two more, just in case of, well … no one is really sure.

“Everyone take a deep breath!” someone said at the intersection of Whiteclaw and Cretors popcorn.

“There’s not enough beer!” said a man in a ponytail in mock panic as he smiled and shook his head in disbelief.

Tim Clothier of West Seattle stood in the long line and shrugged.

“I came in for black ink for my printer,” said Clothier, who works at Biojunction Sports Therapy.

He makes a weekly trip to the store for food and office supplies. Nothing major. No drama.

But this.

“I’ve never seen this before,” he said. “Only in pictures. Seven, eight deep? You usually walk right up to the register.”

A harried woman walked in front of him, stopped and looked around .

“Hi!” Clothier said brightly.

She didn’t hear him, and rushed away.

—Nicole Brodeur

Trump might curtail travel to Washington state

President Donald Trump said Thursday he might curtail some domestic travel to Washington state and other places where the coronavirus outbreak "gets too hot," according to The New York Times.

He didn't elaborate when questioned by a reporter in the Oval Office.


—Christine Clarridge

MLB expected to suspend spring training, delays start of season

The rite of spring that is Opening Day for Major League Baseball has been postponed.

Following the examples set by NBA, MLS, NHL and multiple NCAA conferences, multiple reports are saying MLB commissioner Rob Manfred will announce that spring training in Florida and Arizona will be shut on Friday, and the start of the regular season will be postponed.

Just 24 hours earlier, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on social gatherings of more than 250 people, including sporting events.

Mariners chairman John Stanton met with the media at the team’s complex in Arizona and said the team was expecting to move its opening home stand to another venue outside the Seattle area.

—Ryan Divish

Grays Harbor County gets first case of COVID-19

Grays Harbor County Public Health officials reported the county’s first case of COVID-19, a man in his 60s who is in isolation and receiving care at Grays Harbor Community Hospital.

In a news statement released Wednesday, Grays Harbor Community Hospital said it was notified that day of the positive result, according to The Daily World.

The hospital said the person who tested positive for COVID-19 is a Grays Harbor County resident who had visited King County in February. The patient came to the hospital’s emergency department and was evaluated, admitted, and placed in a “droplet isolation room.”

—Christine Clarridge

NHL 'pausing' season amid coronavirus concerns

The NHL is following the NBA’s lead and suspending its season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Thursday it is pausing its season, one day after the NBA suspended play after a player tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19.

“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season beginning with tonight’s games,” Bettman said in a statement.

The NHL is halting play with 189 games left in the season and uncertainty about how many more — if any — could be played before the playoffs. A handful of European hockey leagues have already called off the remainder of their seasons.

—Associated Press

Canlis halts dining room service amid coronavirus outbreak

As the novel coronavirus continues its spread around Washington state, Canlis, Seattle’s premier fine-dining establishing, announced this morning that the restaurant will be closing temporarily.

“Starting Monday, we will close our restaurant and open three in its place: a breakfast bagel shed, a burger drive-thru for lunch and a family meal dinner delivery service,” the restaurant announced via its Facebook page. “Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now. Instead, this is one idea for safely creating jobs for our employees while serving as much of the city as we can.”

Canlis’ closure comes a day after Gov. Jay Inslee’s order that banned gatherings of more than 250 people across three counties.

The coronavirus has hit Seattle’s restaurant industry hard. Earlier this week, several restaurants announced their closures due to the drop in business caused by the pandemic, and on Wednesday night, Seattle restaurant titan Tom Douglas announced that he was temporarily closing 12 of his 13 restaurants.

—Stefanie Loh and Jackie Varriano

PCC on Aurora closing after employee tests positive for Covid19.

PCC Community Markets closed its Green Lake Aurora store today after an employee tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

A statement on the PCC website says the store will reopen on Friday after a deep clean of the building, at 7504 Aurora Ave. N.

The statement said the food co-op’s managers are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health authorities’ guidelines. The staffer who was sick last worked on Sunday, March 8. The company says other staff was in close contact with the infected deli worker and may have been exposed to the virus. They are self-quarantining.

The infected employee worked in the kitchen and is unlikely to have had contact with the public.

The company said it will close the kitchen and deli for 14 days “out of an abundance of caution.”

If anyone who shopped at the store recently exhibits symptoms, they’re encouraged to contact healthinfo@pccmarkets.com.

—Chris Talbott

Some Uber, Lyft, taxi drivers request economic support during coronavirus outbreak

Some drivers for taxis and ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have sent a letter to Seattle, King County, Washington state and national leaders requesting economic relief during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter from Teamsters Local 117, drivers who are members are making the following requests:

  • That drivers receive up to $1,000 per week in emergency income stabilization, plus suspension of fees drivers pay to operate under the service
  • That drivers receive rent and mortgage assistance; that drivers in need receive and emergency food assistance; that authorities halt evictions and do not shut off utilities
  • That Uber and Lyft eliminate all commissions on trips and suspend surge pricing during the state of emergency

“We appreciate the effort state and local elected leaders are taking to respond to this crisis, but we can’t allow drivers at the front lines to fall through the cracks,” said Joshua Welter, a union representative for Teamsters Local 117, in a news call.

Uber and Lyft drivers are classified by the companies as independent contractors, not employees, meaning they do not receive company-provided health insurance nor paid sick leave.

“This month I was able to pay my rent, next month I don’t know,” said Uber driver Ubah Dahraan.

—Michelle Baruchman

Access drivers receive gloves, sanitizer; vehicles get nightly cleanings

MV Transportation, the private company that operates King County Metro Access, has begun providing all its drivers with gloves and hand sanitizer.

Drivers raised concerns for weeks that they were not given protective tools to assist riders on and off the bus. Access, a paratransit program, serves people with disabilities and seniors — individuals who could be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Each bus has been equipped with sanitizer and 4,500 pairs of gloves that arrived Tuesday for more than 300 employees. MV ordered more to accommodate a larger and longer need, said Laura Bolinger, a representative for the union, Teamsters Local 117, that represents MV drivers.

In meetings Tuesday and Wednesday between MV and the union, MV said workers started sanitizing Access vehicles on a nightly basis beginning March 7.

The meetings also addressed the possibility of temporary layoffs, given the reduction in demand during the coronavirus outbreak. More details should be known by the end of the week, Bolinger said.

—Michelle Baruchman

Pac-12 Tournament canceled

Wednesday’s nightcap between No. 11 Washington State and No. 6 Colorado at T-Mobile Arena was the final game of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, after the conference decided to cancel the remainder of the 2020 event due to concerns about the coronavirus illness on Thursday.

"The Pac-12 Conference has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament and all Pac-12 sport competitions and Pac-12 Championship events, effective immediately, until further notice,” the release read. “This decision has been made in consultation with our member universities in an effort to limit the spread of the virus and in the interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes, campus personnel, working and event personnel, and all those who attend Pac-12 events.”

Most other major and mid-major conferences, including the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC, announced their tournaments would not continue due to COVID-19.

—The Spokesman-Review

Iran’s coronavirus burial pits are so vast they’re visible from space

Iran, a nation of about 80 million people, has suffered a particularly deadly surge of coronavirus infections.

Iran's Health Ministry says that 429 people have died of the virus, and more than 10,000 have fallen ill.

Its burial pits are so vast they can be seen from space, according to expert analysis.

At the Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran, the excavation of a new section of the graveyard began as early as Feb. 21, satellite images show, and then rapidly expanded as the virus spread.

By the end of last month, two large trenches – their lengths totaling 100 yards – were visible at the site from space.

According to expert analysis, video testimony and official statements, the graves were dug to accommodate the rising number of virus victims in Qom.

—Washington Post

Some Starbucks may become drive-thru only

Some Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada may become drive-thru only, while others could limit the number of people allowed inside, the company said, a day after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of coronavirus a pandemic.

“As a last resort, we will close a store if we feel it is in the best interest of our customers and partners, or if we are directed to do so by government authorities,” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter to customers.

Johnson emphasized that any closures will be temporary. The company said decisions will be made on a store-by-store basis.


—Associated Press

U.S. Capitol closed to public until April

Congress is shutting the U.S. Capitol to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the coronavirus, officials announced today.

Congressional office buildings and the Congressional Visitor Center, through which tourists enter the Capitol, were also being shuttered.

The Capitol will be closed to all tours, including special ones led by House and Senate members and their aides. No tours will be permitted in the Capitol Visitor Center.

Only lawmakers, staff, journalists and visitors with official business will be permitted to enter the buildings. The closures begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time today, and the buildings are scheduled to reopen April 1.

—Associated Press

Brazilian official who saw Trump in Fla tests positive for coronavirus

A close aide to Brazil’s president who attended a dinner with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend tested positive for coronavirus, the New York Times reported.

Fabio Wajngarten, President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications secretary, had his diagnosis confirmed by a second test on Thursday, according to a statement from the presidential palace. He was part of the presidential entourage during a trip to Florida earlier this week. Pictures posted on social media show him side-by-side with Trump, wearing a “Make Brazil Great Again” hat.

Asked about the news, Trump said he was “not concerned.”


—New York Times

Archdiocese of Seattle suspends public mass

Catholic Archbishop Paul D. Etienne has ordered all parishes in the Archdiocese of Seattle to suspend public celebration of the Eucharist because of the coronavirus outbreak, the archdiocese announced today.

The directive is effective immediately, the archdiocese announced, and comes on the heels of Gov. Jay Inslee’s order prohibiting gatherings of 250 people or more in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

“I want to acknowledge the best science that is out there, that basically says despite our best efforts, this epidemic is going to continue to spread,” the archbishop said. “That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing everything we possibly can to restrict the spread of this virus, of this epidemic.”

Even though public celebration of Mass is suspended, “every priest has an obligation to celebrate the Eucharist every day and certainly I want our priests to continue to do that,” the archbishop said. “And I want all of us to continue to pray for our efforts and the efforts of so many others to care for the sick and to slow down the spread of this virus.”

He asked everyone to practice good hygiene measures, care for loved ones and check on those who are homebound.

—Christine Clarridge

MLS suspending season

Major League Soccer is suspending matches for 30 days amid the coronavirus crisis and plans to reschedule postponed games on the back-end of the season, the league announced Thursday.

The action affects 12 games this weekend, including D.C. United's visit to Cincinnati on Saturday. United was also scheduled to play at Philadelphia on March 22.

The Sounders postponed their March 21 match against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field in compliance with a mandate from Gov. Jay Inslee to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Seattle area.

The team had been planning to travel on Thursday via a charter flight to Houston for a MLS road match against the Dynamo at BBVA Stadium on Saturday.

The next home game is not until April 3 against New York City FC.

—Washington Post

Routine temp and cough checks advised for Seattle and Silicon Valley, says CDC

Regular checks for temperature and cough are recommended for anyone entering workplaces, schools and child-care centers in the nation’s two areas hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic: Silicon Valley and the Seattle area.

The new guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also suggest canceling large gatherings of more than 250 people generally, and canceling gatherings of 10 or more people for organizations that serve high-risk communities, like those with diabetes, a weakened immune system, disease of the kidney, liver, heart, or lung, and those who are pregnant. Those in their 70s can have quadruple the risk of death as that of the general population if they are infected.

Churches and other faith-based and community gatherings should consider canceling meetings of any size and move to video-accessible venues or postpone or cancel events, the recommendations say.


—Los Angeles Times

Oregon, too, bans gatherings of more than 250

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday banned gatherings of more than 250 people statewide for four weeks to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The restriction follows the same ban announced Wednesday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

A gathering is defined as any event in a space in which a minimum of 3 feet cannot be maintained, the order issued late Wednesday specified.

Also late Wednesday, the Oregon Health Authority reported two men in their 80s at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon have become infected with COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 21.

Officials assume that thousands of Oregonians will get the virus.

—Associated Press

Princess Cruises' suspension of global operations for 60 days affects Seattle trips

Princess Cruises, which has had two ships with coronavirus outbreaks, will stop sailing for 60 days because of the pandemic.

The Port of Seattle on Wednesday canceled the April 1 sailing of Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess from Bell Street Pier. And the Ruby Princess will no longer depart from Smith Cove May 9.

The cruise line, which is part of Carnival Corp., said Thursday that 18 ships will cease voyages that were scheduled to depart between March 12 and May 10.

Japanese authorities quarantined the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the port of Yokohama for two weeks after 10 passengers were initially diagnosed with the virus.

The Miami cruise operator said those currently on cruises that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected so that travel arrangements aren’t disrupted. Sailings underway that extend past March 17 will end at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

Trading halted on Wall Street after stocks plunge 7% at open

NEW YORK — The sell-off bludgeoning financial markets around the world got even worse Thursday as the economic pain caused by the coronavirus became more painfully clear. Worries are rising that the White House and other authorities around the world can’t or won’t do what’s needed to help soon.

After the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed in a bear market for the first time in more than a decade, President Donald Trump said late Wednesday he would restrict travel from Europe in hopes of containing the virus. It’s the latest hit for an airline industry already battered by frightened travelers canceling plans, and market losses accelerated around the world as Trump spoke while giving few details about a big stimulus program that could help.

The S&P 500 dropped about 7% within the first few minutes of Thursday’s trading, steep enough to trigger an automatic halt to trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The index is set to join the Dow in entering a bear market after losing more than 20% from its record set last month, and one of the greatest eras in Wall Street’s history is crumbling.

The damage was worldwide and eye-popping. Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Officials in Washington state are taking drastic steps to stem what the World Health Organization now considers a global pandemic, and those moves are sending shock waves through schools, the Seattle area and the nation.

Seattle Public Schools chief Denise Juneau on Wednesday announced the city is among local districts closing down for weeks (see if your school is closed). Gov. Jay Inslee has directed other schools to plan for possible closures. The shutdowns limit access to food, care and instruction for thousands of children. Here's a look inside the decision that Juneau called "something none of us ever expected to face."

Gov. Jay Inslee’s ban on gatherings of more than 250 people is highly likely to extend past March, he says. Can he really do this? Yes. He's using his emergency powers in a way that's rarely seen.

Without social distancing, 400 people could die from COVID-19 in Western Washington by April 7, new modeling from a major Seattle-area research institutions suggests. That's an important number, but so are the vast numbers of patients who recover.

Businesses: You can’t build jets while working from home, so Boeing and other manufacturers are striving to keep the virus out of their factories. As Starbucks and Amazon retool their paid-leave policies, local hospitality workers are taking a big hit.

Transportation: Buses, trains and ferries are running with far fewer riders — but they’re still running. Inslee has even suggested adding more buses.

Sports: Mariners fans won't fill T-Mobile Park on opening day; the team is looking at its options. The Sounders have postponed their next home match.

Restaurants: Famed Seattle chef Tom Douglas will temporarily close 12 of his 13 restaurants. He's talking about when he hopes to reopen and what will happen to his workers.

The arts: From major theaters to small nonprofits, organizations were hit hard by virus fears even before the ban that halted many of their events.

Religion: Faith communities are struggling to adjust at a time when spiritual connection may seem more important than ever.

Nation and world pull inward

Travel from 26 European nations to the U.S. is sharply restricted for 30 days, beginning late Friday, under a new order from President Donald Trump. The State Department has cautioned U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad, and this is a calamity for airlines. "Things will get worse than they are right now," health experts are warning as sweeping travel bans accelerate worldwide.

Tax Day is delayed for “virtually all Americans other than the super-rich,” the Treasury secretary says.

The NBA has suspended its season after the Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert tested positive. Just days ago, he was joking about the virus. And NCAA basketball tournaments will be played with no fans in the stands.

Actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are ill with COVID-19 and isolated in an Australia hospital.

Here's help

Feeling ill? Know when to stay home, when to see a doctor and when to seek a test. Know, too, how to tell whether it's just allergies.

Coronavirus is a growing mental health threat for millions of Americans. Experts are sharing tips and resources.

Disinfect that phone! Here's how. Plus, brush up on recommended ways to wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

Find more prevention advice and news here.

—Kris Higginson

How is the pandemic affecting you?

What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.

Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.