Live coverage: Coronavirus in Seattle and Washington state
This is an archived post. You can read the latest here.
This post will be updated periodically with information about the coronavirus. Scroll down for older information. Top line information:
*195 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported by the Washington State Department of Health as of Monday morning, March 30.
*4,896 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state as of Monday morning, March 30, according to state health officials.
*King County has been struck the hardest with COVID-19 with 2,161 cases and 144 deaths. Snohomish County has had 1,068 cases and 21 deaths. Pierce County has had 288 cases, and 6 deaths.
*If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, or are a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact King County's novel coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. People can also call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.
MONDAY, MARCH 30
9:57 a.m. -- A reminder of a development over the weekend. Public Health - Seattle & King County issued a new order. People who violate the order will be placed under involuntary detention.
The order states if a person is symptomatic, and has been tested for COVID-19, they must stay quarantined until test results are made available.
Those who do test positive must now follow all isolation protocols at home or in a recovery facility.
9:42 a.m. -- The Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett is being converted over to an isolation and quarantine site for coronavirus patients
It's set to open sometime next week and will be used for those who can't recover at home or don't have one.
9 a.m. -- Approximately 300 Army soldiers are transforming Century Link Field into a military hospital for non-coronavirus patients.
The 150-bed space is expected to be ready sometime this week. The field event center at Century Link Field is being transformed into a hospital operated by the military.
It will be used to take care of people who don't have the coronavirus. Instead, it will be slated for people who require other medical needs, freeing up space at hospitals to respond to COVID-19.
Approximately 300 soldiers are setting up the facility.
Gov. Jay Inslee applauded the "tremendous" step by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA for their work.
8 a.m. -- Hospitals across the country are debating whether to allow caregivers to wear face masks throughout their entire shifts.
Some hospitals require it. But in many Seattle hospitals, masks are still in short supply. And some staff who have wanted to wear them constantly have been told not to.
KUOW’s Ashley Hiruko profiled an anesthesiologist at Swedish who raised concerns and reports the company has since changed its policy.
According to Hiruko: “Swedish’s policy on masks has fluctuated during the entire outbreak. Before this weekend for instance, Swedish doctors and nurses were not allowed to wear surgical masks throughout the day. To be clear, this is when they’re not dealing with patients with CV. As of this weekend, Swedish announced they’re changing their policy to permissive universal masking. What that means is caregivers may, but don’t have to, wear surgical masks while in patient care areas.”
Before the policy change, the anesthesiologist told KUOW he wanted to wear the mask full-time at work to protect patients, in case he was an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.
Swedish said they've also started to allow the reuse, and extended use, of N95 masks and face shields due to low supplies.
Read more here.
SUNDAY, MARCH 29
4 p.m. -- Visualizing the spread of coronavirus in Washington state by mapping the deaths over the last month.
1 p.m. -- This spring's marathons, half marathons, and other races have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19. That's why a Seattle-area running company, Orca Running, is hosting a virtual race. They're calling it the "Social Distance Run."
Participants choose one of six distances and run it on their own over Memorial Day weekend. Then the Orca Running Company sends them a race shirt and medal.
Close to a thousand people, some from as far away as Denmark, have already signed up.
11 a.m. -- KUOW has been keeping track of the coronavirus-related deaths internally since the outbreak in region. We have now published that list and will strive to keep it updated on weekdays.
9 a.m. -- Bill Gates said this week that the U.S.’s response to coronavirus has been slow and chaotic.
The Microsoft co-founder called for an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
“We’re entering into a tough period, where If we do it right we only have to do it once, for 6 to 10 weeks,” he said. “But it has to be the whole country. We have to raise the level of testing, and the prioritization of that testing quite dramatically.”
SATURDAY, MARCH 28
8:00 p.m. -- King County public health officials today issued an order that all people who test positive for COVID-19 should remain in quarantine until no longer infectious.
The order also directs people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to remain isolated until they receive test results.
Officials announced they are also opening an additional quarantine and isolation facility this weekend at a former hotel in Issaquah. Those facilities are meant for people who are homeless or who don't have a place that they can self-isolate.
Health officials are ramping up their testing of people living in homeless shelters. Currently four shelters in the county have at least one resident who has tested positive for the disease.
4:15 p.m. -- Five of the largest homeless shelters in Seattle are on lock-down for two weeks.
That’s because a resident of a shelter run by the Union Gospel Mission tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. The patient is now recovering in a hospital.
The Union Gospel Mission locked down all five of its shelters because staff members move back and forth among them.
The person who tested positive for COVID-19 lived in a men’s recovery program near Burien.
The Union Gospel Mission says it’s now testing everyone in that building.
4:00 p.m. -- The number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in Washington state has jumped from 3,723 to 4,300.
That's according to data just released by the state Department of Health.
Almost half of those cases, 2,077, are in King County.
The number of reported deaths is now at 189.
3:15 p.m. -- More than 300 soldiers have begun setting up an army field hospital inside the event center at Century Link Field.
The 150-bed facility will be staffed by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other personnel from the 627th Army Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado.
The hospital will serve patients who do NOT have COVID-19. The goal is to free up space at hospitals as COVID-19 spreads.
"We know that many of our hospitals right now are being overtaxed by COVID and we know that is going to get worse. We want to make sure we can off-load those patients to a hospital setting that is going to be safe and efficient for them," said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who welcomed the Army personnel to CenturyLink Field this afternoon.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee says this is the first of what may be many more temporary hospital facilities set up around the state.
The field hospital is expected to be up and running by Tuesday of next week.
1:30 p.m. -- More specific guidance was issued from Governor Jay Inslee's office today about the current "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.
Funerals in Washington state can go ahead in this time of COVID-19, but can only be attended by immediate family members of the deceased.
The state Department of Licensing sent a letter to funeral homes and cemeteries saying that people attending funerals must practice proper social distancing. The letter says embalming can go ahead.
In addition, the governor's office sent a letter to the real estate industry saying in-person meetings are prohibited "except when necessary for a customer to view a property or sign necessary documents." No real estate open houses shall be permitted.
Property viewings, inspections, appraisals, and final walk-thrus can go ahead but must be arranged in advance and limited to only two people.
The governor also clarified that the proclamation does not apply to sovereign Tribal governments.
1:15 p.m. -- Public health officials in Skagit County are reporting six new confirmed COVID-19 cases at a long-term care facility in Burlington.
One resident and five staff members at Prestige Care and Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility, have tested positive for the illness.
The state's Department of Health is currently identifying and notifying all close contacts and are issuing quarantine instructions, according to a press release. Officials are in the process of testing remaining staff and residents.
10:30 a.m. -- Beginning tomorrow (Sunday) morning, the Washington State Ferries will temporarily reduce service on its central Puget Sound routes in response to COVID-19.
Sailings on the Seattle/Bainbridge and Seattle/Bremerton routes will be cut by about half. The Fauntleroy/Vashon, Fauntleroy/Southworth, and Southworth/ Vashon sailings will be reduced by about a third. The Mulkiteo/Clinton and Edmonds/Kingston schedules will also be affected.
Ridership on the ferries system was down more than 60 percent as of March 26, according to a press release. That includes an 80 percent decrease in walk-on passengers. Availability of crews to staff the sailings is also a concern.
The suspension of these sailings will give crew members more time to clean and sanitize the vessels, according to Amy Scanton, head of the Washington State Ferries. "Further suspensions and adjustments are possible depending on ridership trends," she said.
FRIDAY, MARCH 27
3:54 p.m. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is slated to deploy a military field hospital to CenturyLink Field as part of an effort to help overburdened hospitals in the region.
The field hospital is expected to add at least 150 beds for non-COVID-19 patients. Three hundred soldiers from Fort Carson, Colorado will come to Seattle to staff the hospital when it is constructed. Officials say it should be built within the coming days.
2:40 p.m. -- A new study from the University of Washington projects that COVID-19 could peak in Washington around mid- to late-April with the highest daily deaths and hospitalizations. The projection is based on if -- and only if -- people adhere to strict social distancing.
The study also states that the virus cause more than 80,000 deaths in the U.S. over the next four months, even with social distancing measures in place.
The data from UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations is more hopeful for Washington state. The trajectory of deaths and of demand on hospital capacity is slower, according to institute director Chris Murray.
"What we expect will happen is that the peak will come later, because of the slower build, and be lower ... and so, that’s good news,” he said.
Both locally and nationally, the peak in need for hospital beds would come in the next few weeks, according to the modeling.
Murray said it's hoped that other states can use the new models to help with planning. The models will be updated daily as the epidemic evolves.
1:31 p.m. -- A new report from the CDC and Public Health Seattle and King County looks at the spread of the coronavirus in a King County nursing home.
Just 16 days after coronavirus was introduced to the facility, facility-wide testing showed 30 percent of residents were infected, indicating rapid spread, according to the report.
However, a little over half of those who tested positive weren't showing symptoms of COVID-19 at the time of testing, the report states.
“This analysis suggests that symptom screening could initially fail to identify approximately one half of [skilled nursing facility] residents with [coronavirus] infection. Unrecognized asymptomatic and presymptomatic infections might contribute to transmission in these settings,” the report sates.
The report suggests all long-term care facilities should take steps to prevent the introduction of the coronavirus, like restricting visitors and monitoring staff for symptoms.
Once a COVID-19 case is detected, facilities should take steps to prevent spread, including isolating all residents if possible.
-- Kate Walters
12:47 p.m. -- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to sign an emergency order Friday to fund child care for essential workers in the city.
The order would cover care for 700 children of health care professionals, first responders and grocery store workers.
According to the mayor's office:
In partnership with Seattle Preschool Program providers, the City announced a proposal for more than $1 million per month which will allow the implementation of more than 75 emergency childcare classrooms in five locations near hospitals and 22 other preschool sites across the city, which could serve more than 700 kids of front line workers under current Public Health – Seattle & King County guidance. These classrooms, which will serve preschool as well as school-aged children, will be staffed with Seattle Preschool Program staff and substitute teachers.
The order will cover 30 days of childcare and could be extended if needed.
11:53 a.m. -- Lake Stevens mayor Brett Gailey signed an emergency order for the COVID-19 pandemic which assigns days for grocery shopping and other essential activities by last name.
The order mostly echoes the state's stay-at-home order. But it does ask city residents to take care of business on odd or even days.
Person’s whose last name begins in A-M will conduct Essential Activities on even numbered dates. Person’s whose last name begins in N-Z will conduct Essential Activities on odd numbered dates. Conduct Essential Activities with a maximum of two persons whenever possible.
Following up on the emergency order, the mayor clarified that the assigned shopping days is only a recommendation and cannot be enforced.
11:29 a.m. -- A new assessment from the Centers for Disease Control cites the Life Care Center in Kirkland. It concludes that COVID-19 will rapidly spread in a long-term care facility once introduced. It also notes that not all people infected with COVID-19 wills how symptoms.
Following identification of a case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a health care worker, 76 of 82 residents of an SNF were tested for SARS-CoV-2; 23 (30.3%) had positive test results, approximately half of whom were asymptomatic or presymptomatic on the day of testing.
Symptom-based screening of SNF residents might fail to identify all SARS-CoV-2 infections. Asymptomatic and presymptomatic SNF residents might contribute to SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Once a facility has confirmed a COVID-19 case, all residents should be cared for using CDC-recommended personal protective equipment (PPE), with considerations for extended use or reuse of PPE as needed.
10:53 a.m. -- Washington state is suspending most highway construction for at least the next two weeks.
Washington Transportation Secretary Roger Millar requested contractors suspend work in keeping with the governor's order to "stay home" to slow the spread of COVID-19. A statement from the Department of Transportation says it tried to keep construction going while respecting social distancing guidelines, but determined this wasn't possible.
The suspension affects thousands of well-paid workers, including those on major projects to widen I-5 through Tacoma, I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass, and those building a new ferry terminal on the Seattle waterfront. The governor recently asked for residential and commercial construction to pause unless there's no room for delay. Sound Transit's massive light rail expansion in the Seattle area is under discussion, but continues for now.
10:02 a.m. -- The Army is sending Washington state a 148-bed mobile field hospital. And the state has been getting supply deliveries from the Strategic National Stockpile.
But Governor Jay Inslee says Washington still needs much more help from the federal government to fight COVID-19.
Inslee says he’s appreciative of the cooperation he’s getting from the White House and the resources the state is receiving from the federal government -- including a commitment to send several hundred ventilators to the state.
"But we need more than that and that’s why we are searching the globe for additional ventilators literally as we speak," Inslee said. "Just to let you know how I am concerned about this. I’ve talked to a local businessman in my neighborhood with extensive ties in China -- he is helping us find ventilators.”
Inslee says Washington is in a “mad scramble” competing with all the other states for badly-needed supplies and equipment. He’s urging the White House to launch a World War II like effort to scale up manufacturing and set up a national system of procurement.
8:53 a.m. -- Construction sites across the state shut down Thursday after Governor Jay Inslee made clear most are not essential under his stay-at-home order aimed at fighting coronavirus.
For some small businesses, that meant lay-offs of most employees, like the Yakima and Seattle-based PaintSmith Company. Owner Justin Smith says while the layoffs are devastating to the company and his 130 employees, he knows it’s necessary.
"You both want to keep working for your company, for your customers and your employees but you also want to limit the spread of a virus that you don’t completely understand. It’s the uncertainty of how long this is going to be that’s making it so rough."
Smith says his company is helping laid-off employees get unemployment benefits. For many, it’s their first time.
The State Commerce Department announced $1.8 million dollars in grants for small businesses in rural counties Thursday.
That grant money can be used for food and rental assistance.
7:39 a.m. -- Washington state is looking for medical supplies outside of the national stockpile.
Washington is having some success buying goods or getting them donated. Linda Kent is with the state's Department of Enterprise Services. She notes some things that are on the way:
"(A total of) 300 ventilators, 2,500 disposable stethoscopes, and then we have varying numbers of things like coveralls and gowns sourced, which means they've either been ordered or donated."
She says the state also got its hands on 500 ventilators this week. There are 2.4 million N95 masks and 13,000 thermometers also on the way to the state.
Kent says it takes time for supplies to arrive and delivery schedules vary from days to weeks.
6:40 p.m. -- A new study from the University of Washington shows COVID-19 could cause more than 80,000 deaths in the U.S. over the next four months, even with social distancing measures in place.
But the data from UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations is more hopeful for Washington state. The trajectory of deaths and of demand on hospital capacity is slower, according to institute director Chris Murray.
"What we expect will happen is that the peak will come later, because of the slower build, and be lower ... and so, that’s good news,” he said.
Both locally and nationally, the peak in need for hospital beds would come in the next few weeks, according to the modeling.
Murray said it's hoped that other states can use the new models to help with planning. The models will be updated daily as the epidemic evolves.
-- Kate Walters
THURSDAY, MARCH 26
3:45 p.m. -- There are now 3,207 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 147 deaths reported in Washington, according to the state Department of Health.
3:01 p.m. -- Public Health -- Seattle & King County has launched a new data tool showing which King County communities might be most impacted by COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Vulnerable Communities Data Tool allows users to see indicators such as health care access, social conditions, and health conditions by neighborhood.
1:00 p.m. -- Seattle and King County are opening hundreds of extra beds at new sites to ease crowding in some of the areas busiest homeless shelters, according to an announcement made Wednesday night.
Social distancing is hard for people experiencing homelessness because they’re often gathered together in shelters or encampments.
The new spaces aim to help already crowded shelters allow better social distancing, giving people space to sleep six feet apart and helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The beds are designated for people who have already been staying in busy shelters, as opposed to new clients coming inside.
Some sites will open this week, others in early April. Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center will host 146 people. Garfield, Miller, Loyal Heights and SW Teen Life community centers will each have 50 beds.
In recent weeks, the city and county have also worked to create quarantine sites for people without homes, and extra shelter beds to bring people in from the streets.
Researchers recently released a report that estimated King County would need more than 9,000 units or shelter beds to adequately serve the homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic.
12:11 p.m. -- Unemployment claims have spiked nationally and in Washington state.
About 133,000 people in Washington filed for unemployment last week -- 37,000 from King County.
Nationally, nearly 3.3 million unemployment claims have been filed. The New York Times reports that is more than the 2008 recession.
11:58 a.m. -- The Internet Archive is responding to the many stay-at-home orders in the US by offering a "National Emergency Library." The archive is suspending wait lists for its digital archive of 1.4 million books and is offering them up for free through June.
11:08 a.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee is holding a press briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Washington state. He says Washingtonians should expect his stay-at-home order to be extended beyond the originally slated April 8 lift.
According to the city:
Starting 8 p.m. sharp Thursday evening, we’re asking Seattleites to join a movement that began in European countries, opening our windows, standing on our balconies, from our front yards, backyards and or anywhere you can to make a joyful noise letting the healthcare and front line workers know how much we appreciate them. People can clap their hands, raise their voices, bang some pots and pans to show solidarity and let the front line know how much they are appreciated.
Residents are encouraged to take a photo or a video of the joyful noise event and post on social media with the hashtags #MakeAJoyfulNoise and #SeattleTogether.
10:44 a.m. - A new assessment from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, part of UW Medicine, warns that death tolls from COVID-19 will dramatically rise across the United States through June, even as people practice strict social distancing. Any easing up on social distancing could result in greater numbers of cases and deaths.
U.S. hospitals could be "overwhelmed in the second week of April by demand for ICU beds, and U.S. deaths could total 81,000 by July," according to the report. The full estimated range, according to the study, is between 38,000 and 162,000 US deaths. Demand for ventilators and hospital beds will exceed the available supply.
“Our estimated trajectory of COVID-19 deaths assumes continued and uninterrupted vigilance by the general public, hospital and health workers, and government agencies,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.
“The trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. We encourage everyone to adhere to those precautions to help save lives.”
The assessment makes some recommendations, starting with sticking to strict social distancing for an extended period of time. Other recommendations are underway in Washington, to some degree. Recommendations include: postponing elective procedures; increasing the number of beds above licensed capacity; establishing emergency field hospitals; reducing staff-to-patient ratios.
10:24 a.m. -- Starting April 1, arts groups and individual artists can apply for King County grants of up to $5,000.
The money will be awarded for either immediate emergency relief, or to support creative responses to the crisis.
Earlier this week, Governor Inslee named those online artistic offerings an essential state service. As of this week, almost every King County arts group had cancelled performances or shut down exhibitions.
As a result, almost 2,000 local cultural workers either were laid off or furloughed from their jobs, according to the results of a survey taken between March 12-19.
That’s in addition to musicians and other independent artists who lost their livelihoods when clubs and other alternative performance spaces closed.
9:17 a.m. -- More employees at Western State Hospital in Lakewood have now tested positive for COVID-19. Four new cases were announced Wednesday.
Western State is a sprawling psychiatric hospital with more than 750 patients and roughly 2,700 staff. It’s in this kind of environment that the coronavirus can take hold.
The first confirmed case of a staff member with COVID-19 was reported last week. That person had not been at work during the incubation period, however. Now, four more staff members have tested positive, including two who worked in the same area and two who were on different wards.
Previously, two patients also tested positive -- one remains hospitalized. As did an employee at an adjacent facility that treats kids.
The Department of Social and Health Services says it’s notifying staff who were in close contact. It’s also screening employees for symptoms when they come to work and restricting movement between wards. But unions representing front line workers have expressed concerns recently that not enough is being done.
-- Austin Jenkins
8:43 a.m. -- Washington State University says it will now hold its Spring graduation ceremony online. It is slated for May 9. The university hopes it will have an in-person ceremony for its students in Pullman on August 8.
As for the University of Washington -- its graduation is still scheduled for June 13, but the UW warns the current situation is very fluid and it will keep students and families updated on any changes.
8:24 a.m. -- Alaska Airlines will reduce its flight schedule by 70% in April and May. That's because people aren't flying during the coronovirus pandemic, and it costs too much to keep up the current schedule for the few who are still traveling.
The company also said flights for June and beyond will be based on demand, but it expects the flight reductions will be substantial over the next several months.
Alaska and other airlines across the country are asking the federal government for an aid package of $50 million to assist passenger airlines impacted by a drastic decrease in travelers.
8:06 a.m. -- In his order for social distancing, San Juan County's health officer, Dr. Frank James, ordered the closure of playgrounds and campgrounds, and that all ferry traffic is only to be used for essential purposes. Notices are to posted at these sites, which will refer to the Governor Jay Inslee's order to stay at home.
By limiting ferry traffic to essential purposes, the San Juan Islands are essentially cut off from the rest of Washington.
“This order is necessary to control and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in San Juan County," Dr. James said. "This order has been made to protect all citizens but especially our most vulnerable islanders."
“This was an extremely difficult decision and one I do not take lightly," he said. "This will impact many of our local businesses and our islands’ residents. In my professional judgment, it is necessary to reduce the spread of this infection and move toward ending this pandemic. Every case prevented now is magnified into the future. Those individual cases will multiply many times and each one we prevent will save many lives as the exponential growth in cases occurs.”
7:30 a.m. -- A group of tents is being set up outside the emergency room at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center.
UW Medicine which runs the hospital says they'll be used for patients who are experiencing mild respiratory problems that could be tied to the flu or even coronavirus.
"The tents allow us to expand our capabilities, we hope not to use it, we hope not to use it extensively, but we're looking at the projections where know we need to prepare," said Dr. Steve Mitchell, head of the emergency department at Harborview.
He says if patients need more acute care they will be seen inside the hospital. They hope to have the tents up and running and fully staffed by April 1.
Dr. Mitchell says that the tent operation will allow for more efficiency, instead of having patients go through the emergency room process.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25
6:20 p.m. -- There are now 2,580 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington and 132 deaths, according to the state department of health.
3:50 p.m. --Sounder North service between Seattle and Everett is temporarily suspended Wednesday afternoon and Thursday due to a landslide covering tracks near Milepost 21 in North Seattle.
Sound Transit has issued the following alternate route instructions:
Passengers who would normally ride Sounder 1702 or 1706 can take a special bus to Edmonds and Mukilteo leaving at 4:33 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. from 5th Avenue and Weller Street with a stop at 4th Avenue and Jackson Street. Passengers to Everett should take ST Express Route 510.
Thursday morning Sounder commuters who would normally take the 1703 and 1707 trains can take a special bus from the Mukilteo and Edmonds stations. Buses will leave Mukilteo at 6:26 a.m. and 7:26 a.m. and from Edmonds at 6:41 a.m. and 7:41 a.m. Buses will stop at 5th Avenue and Jackson Street in downtown Seattle. Everett commuters should take ST Express Route 510.
3:45 p.m. -- A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team is identifying facilities that could be converted into alternate-care sites in Washington state. The announcement comes as state officials strategize ways to relieve overburdened hospitals.
3:40 p.m. -- Public Health—Seattle & King County has launched a new data dashboard that will house daily updates on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the county.
King County officials announced 82 new cases of the disease, bringing the total number of cases up to 1,359. Additionally, six new deaths have been reported, bringing the countywide total to 100.
12:58 p.m. -- Advocates for people incarcerated in Washington prisons have filed a petition with the state Supreme Court seeking the immediate release of some inmates to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak behind bars.
On Tuesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an executive order suspending the county’s work release program as part of an effort to decrease the number of people in jail. In a press release, King County said it’s working to reduce its jail population by more than 700 so that inmates can have single cells to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
Read more here.
11:16 a.m. -- International Community Health Services will offer drive-thru appointments to test for COVID-19 March 24-27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Seattle's International District.
Tests will be done by appointment only, and are for ICHS members and non-members. Officials note that since there limited supplies, tests are only for people experiencing symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath).
More information can be found here. Appointments can be made by calling 206-788-3700.
9:43 a.m. -- Nintendo is donating 9,500 N95 face masks and other personal protective equipment to the COVID-19 response in Washington.
Nintendo's North American headquarters is in Redmond and it has a production facility in North Bend. It is sending its supply of N95 face masks (the type that is greatly needed by first responders, doctors, and nurses) to Eastside Fire & Rescue.
According to Jerry Danson with Nintendo, the personal protection equipment was originally intended for emergency preparedness at the North Bend facility. But the COVID-19 pandemic poses a greater need among emergency responders.
Washington currently faces a shortage of personal protection equipment needed by medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state has requested supplies from the federal stockpile -- one shipment was about a quarter of what the state requested, another shipment was less than a tenth.
Nurses and hospitals have resorted to asking the public to help sew masks. One Bellevue hospital has reportedly begun taking privacy curtains and turning them into masks. Another health care facility has purchased robes and converted them into gowns.
8:42 a.m. -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says it's going to donate $3.7 million to help fight the coronavirus outbreak in the greater Seattle area. The money will go toward things like temporary housing, support services, and homeless service providers.
The foundation is also planning to support six regional COVID-19 response funds in places like Snohomish, Pierce, Spokane, and Yakima counties.
8:29 a.m. -- King County Executive Dow Constantine is suspending the county jail's work release program in an effort to protect inmates from catching and spreading COVID-19. The goal is to drop the number of inmates from 1,600 down to 1,200.
Constantine also said those charged with misdemeanors, or who violate community supervision orders, will not be booked into jail.
8:23 a.m. -- No more pet adoptions, at least for now, at the Regional Animal Services of King County. The agency says it's going to hold off on adoptions while the stay at home order is in place.
Animal services will still be able to handle pet licence renewals, calls for animal control, and information on lost pets via its website.
8:11 a.m. -- The city of Seattle says it will stop ticketing people who violate the 72-hour parking rule until further notice.
Parking enforcement says it doesn't want to punish people for being stuck inside during the state's stay-at-home order.
So if you violate a 72-hour parking rule, you won't get ticketed until further notice.
7:59 a.m. -- The mobility website Uncast has used its data to see how people's behavior has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic -- specifically, whether people are traveling less, and practicing social distancing.
According to Uncast's Social Distancing Scoreboard, Washington state gets a B grade for people's efforts to stay indoors. The distance people have traveled has gone down by 36% in recent weeks.
Which is way better than Oregon's C grade, and Idaho's D ranking.
7:30 a.m. -- Washington State is in line to receive a couple of Army field hospitals to help ease the pressure on local healthcare systems amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The Pentagon announced that full-scale Army field hospitals will deploy to Washington state from the Midwest. This type of tented hospital has an emergency department, intensive care beds, X-ray suite and a pharmacy.
Washington's newly appointed COVID-19 health care response coordinator is a former military surgeon. Dr. Raquel Bono says the timing of the Army's arrival and how many beds they'll bring are still being worked out.
"So, we don't have the exact numbers at this time, but we do know that they're inbound," Bono said.
The Army doctors probably won't treat COVID-19 cases. Rather, they would most likely take pressure off regular hospitals by letting them offload patients with other problems. A deployment to the greater Seattle region seems probable given that that area remains the state's hot spot for the coronavirus.
Washington to receive 2 Army field hospitals
Washington will receive two Army field hospitals to help ease the strain on local hospitals dealing with COVID-19.
TUESDAY, MARCH 24
5:35 p.m. -- The Port of Seattle has announced that the start of the 2020 cruise season will be delayed until the COVID-19 state of emergency is over.
5:29 p.m. -- King County health officials have issued new guidelines on childcare during the COVID-19 emergency. That guidance includes the following:
- Create communications plans and stay in touch with parents, children, staff, and volunteers about steps they can take to protect themselves and others. Provide messaging that counters possible discrimination and stigma.
- Ask parents to check their children's temperature and staff to check their own temperatures daily before coming into a child care facility. If one's temperature is at or above 100.4 F, or they have a cough, runny nose, stuffy nose, or sore throat, require that the individual stay home.
- Engage children in activities that encourage physical space between them.
- Clean, sanitize, and disinfect child care centers with increased frequency.
- Create a daily process for identifying and sending home children and staff who are sick. Consider a temporary closure for cleaning if your child care facility has a case of COVID-19 and trace how much the illness may have spread.
- Review, update, and enact emergency plans.
- Plan for and keep track of children and staff who do not attend child care. Document absences and maintain records of illnesses on an illness log per WAC 110-300-0465.
5:15 p.m. -- The King County Council has approved the implementation of a new program, COVID-19 Action and Response Enlistment (C.A.R.E.), that will help connect volunteers to community organizations in need of assistance via online listings.
5:12 p.m. -- State-managed parks, wildlife areas, and water access areas will close for at least two weeks beginning Wednesday, March 25, following the enactment of Gov. Jay Inslee's statewide stay-at-home order.
3:15 p.m. -- Vice President Mike Pence says a large shipment of personal protective equipment is on its way to Washington state via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
2:29 p.m. -- A TSA officer at Sea-Tac Airport has tested positive for COVID-19.
The officer last worked a morning shift on Saturday, March 21 at checkpoint five. That checkpoint is now being cleaned and sanitized.
1:47 p.m. -- Washington state is still waiting for enough supplies from the federal government. A big shipment that was expected last week has not arrived.
On Friday Governor Jay Inslee stepped away from the mic to point out numbers on a poster board.
“We just got some good news this afternoon,” he said.
The poster board said 1.6 million N95 masks and 560,000 surgical masks were “arriving over the weekend” along with large quantities of gowns, gloves and disinfectant wipes.
“That’s coming from the federal stockpile,” Inslee said.
Instead, the next day, less than one tenth of the masks arrived from the national stockpile.
On Tuesday a spokesperson at the Joint Information Center at Camp Murray said the state is also getting supplies from other federal agencies and big donations from businesses and distributing another half a million masks today.
“Please know it takes time for products and supplies to arrive,” said Karina Shagren, Communications Director with the Washington Military Department.
1:46 p.m. -- Seattle arts presenter One Reel just announced a rapid-turnaround emergency artist grant.
King County-based artists working in visual arts, dance, literature, film and performance are eligible to apply for one of five awards, part of the Art Saves Me initiative. The application is an online questionnaire to be finished by March 30. Grants of $500-$1,000 will be announced April 6.
You can find the application form here.
1:38 p.m. -- UW Medicine has asked labs in the area to donate supplies. But some supplies purchased using federal grants can’t be donated.
UW Medicine is getting ready for a wave of COVID-19 patients that may hit emergency rooms in the weeks to come. So they’ve asked labs doing basic research to donate supplies.
Shelly Carpenter works in a lab in the ocean sciences department at the University of Washington. A lot of the labs on campus use things like latex gloves, masks, protective goggles or face shields, and disposable gowns.
Carpenter got word that the donations might violate of federal rules.
"I sent the note around and we started getting people donating things, and we got a notice from our admin that it’s against NSF policy to donate anything from a grant that’s been paid by NSF," she said.
KUOW has contacted the National Science Foundation for comment. UW Medicine says they are receiving a lot of response on their call for donations.
12 p.m. -- King County Executive Dow Constantine has ordered a suspension of the county's Work Release Program. The action is part of a larger effort to reduce the number of people in custody at correctional facilities amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We are working with every partner in the criminal justice system – courts, public defenders, prosecutors, corrections, and law enforcement – to maintain public safety and ensure the health and safety of everyone in our correctional facilities, including our employees who work on the front lines,” Constantine said in a press release.
The Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention has already whittled down its population to 1,638 from 1,940, as of Tuesday. Officials say their aim is to reduce the incarcerated population at King County's two adult correctional facilities to approximately 1,200, and provide single bunks upon the recommendation of Public Health – Seattle & King County.
-- Liz Brazile
11:44 a.m. -- Multiple sources report that Amazon is kicking off a system of home testing for COVID-19. It is utilizing its Amazon Care operation, along with its distribution network in Seattle.
The effort is part of SCAN -- Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network -- which is backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to SCAN's website: "To slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we need to learn more about it. That's where you come in. SCAN is testing both healthy and sick people to understand how the virus is spreading in King County. The findings will help our partners, including Public Health – Seattle & King County, keep people informed and make the best possible, data-driven decisions to protect our community."
Until now, Amazon Care has provided health care to company employees. It's now being used in Seattle to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon Care will deliver tests to people who both feel sick or who are asymptomatic. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they will be notified.
10:37 a.m. -- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington State Ferries is pushing back the spring sailing schedule.
All boats will stay on their winter schedules through at least April 25.
Washington State Ferries notes that ridership was down by 40% last week. That adds up to about 15,000 to 30,000 fewer riders when compared to the same week 2019.
9:11 a.m. -- Amazon cracking down on price gouging in the age of coronavirus.
It says it has suspended nearly 4-thousand accounts [across the country] and has removed more than half-a-million over-priced offers from its site Amazon said in a statement it's constantly monitoring stores for unfair prices and listings that make false claims in regards to COVID-19."
9:03 a.m. -- The Washington Department of Social and Health Services reports that officials discovered on Monday that "a staff member at the Child Study and Treatment Center in Lakewood tested positive for COVID-19." That staff member has been hospitalized and officials are attempting to trace their contacts.
According to DSHS:
"In response to this confirmed case of COVID-19, the Child Study and Treatment Center, which treats children between the ages of five to 17 years old who experience mental illness, continues following proper protocols for infectious diseases. All children who reside at the facility will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms several times a day and all staff will be screened prior to entering CSTC for their shifts. In addition, CSTC will limit movement of patients and minimize movements of staff between cottages at the facility as well.
All CSTC staff have been instructed to continue to self-screen for COVID-19.
No visitors are currently being allowed at the facility. Visitation was halted on Saturday, March 21."
8:56 a.m. -- In case you missed it, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all residents to stay at home for two weeks. The order comes after a sunny weekend with people ignoring official requests for social distancing by going to beaches, parks, and large gatherings.
8:23 a.m. -- A leader of a Northwest tribe says she’s frustrated at the lack of immediate funding for coronavirus measures. Cheryl Kennedy is Chairwoman for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde in Oregon.
She says while she appreciates a recent allocation of $36,000 from the state to monitor, screen, and control potential cases more is needed.
"I have participated on calls to the White House. They are our trustee. There have been appropriations identified for tribes, yet we have not received a dollar yet. And I’m not saying that we won’t. Every tribe has a federal ID number. There’s the mechanism. Cut the red tape, get the funds out now."
A tribal spokesperson says there have been COVID-19 cases in counties adjacent to the Grand Ronde native community, but there’s no reason to believe any were associated or had contact with the tribe.
8 a.m. -- Fact-checking website Snopes (which is based in Washington) has noted that misinformation is spreading quickly about COVID-19. So fast, they are having trouble keeping up with it.
For example -- Russia did not deploy lions to force people to stay home.
Be cautious about online info and make sure you are getting it from a trust source (like KUOW).
MONDAY, MARCH 23
8:48 p.m. Gov. Jay Inslee Monday night ordered all Washingtonians to stay home unless they must leave for vital activities, such buying groceries, seeking medical attention, or reporting for work at an essential business.
The unprecedented action compels all nonessential businesses to temporarily close brick-and-mortar stores, and will also ban all public and private gatherings, including weddings and funerals.
The new state proclamation comes in the wake of several other states, including California, New York, and Oregon taking similar action.
Additionally, the cities of Edmonds and Everett, and Yakima County, announced municipal-level directives for residents to stay home over the weekend.
Inslee's stay-at-home order is effective immediately for banning all gatherings and will take effect for business closures 48 hours after the proclamation is signed. The order will last for at least two weeks.
-- Liz Brazile
5:30 p.m. Workers at PCC Community Markets will see a bump in their paychecks.
The Seattle co-op announced it will temporarily increase its hourly wage for their staff’s tireless work during the coronavirus outbreak. The pay boost of two dollars an hour is effective between March 15 through April 11.
PCC says it has also taken steps to make sure that workers who become ill with the virus, or who are required to self-quarantine do not lose wages.
In addition, the co-op has closed self-serve stations like the salad bar and bakery for safety reasons. And like other grocery stores, PCC has set aside the first two hours of opening to seniors and other medically vulnerable customers to shop.
-Ruby de Luna
4 p.m. -- The number of COVID-19 deaths has jumped into triple digits. There have been 110 coronavirus deaths; an increase of 15 over Sunday.
1:30 p.m. -- Boeing is shutting down production throughout the Puget Sound region for 14 days starting on March 25. The shutdown comes after employees began testing positive for COVID-19 and one worker died.
Read more details here.
11:30 a.m. -- Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed an order Monday to mandate social distancing, requiring that people stay at home as much as possible. This includes signage at public parks, and directing individuals not to travel, except for essential purposes (work, food, shelter). Some public parks will be closed altogether.
Also, childcare operations are limited to groups of 10. Public buildings will close. Similar to Washington, certain businesses are ordered to close too.
10:13 a.m. -- SEIU6 announced Monday that hundreds of contracted passenger service workers at Sea-Tac Airport are expecting layoffs.
Traffic at Seatac has dropped from about 50,000 passengers a day to 8,000, said port spokesperson Perry Cooper.
That’s created a fluid situation requiring layoffs at multiple airports including SeaTac, said Prospect Airline Services' spokesperson Suzanne Mucklow.
Esete Sidelel pushes wheelchairs at Seatac for another company with workers at SeaTac. She was told not to come to work Sunday or Monday. She expects to be laid off Tuesday. “I have to support my family. I have to feed my baby. If you check my bank account I don’t have even one dollar,” she told KUOW.
The layoffs come at a time when the airline industry itself has asked congress for a 60 billion dollar bailout.
8:44 a.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee has named retired Navy Vice Admiral Racquel C. Bono to head the state's COVID-19 health care response team. She will advise him and state agencies on what needs to be done to address the "capacity and strain across the health system."
She'll also work to ensure medical staffing needs are met.
Bono is currently a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Physics Laboratory and is the former chief executive officer and director for the Defense Health Agency. She is also the first woman surgeon in the military to hold the rank of vice admiral.
8:03 a.m. -- A warning from one of Washington’s top public health experts -- Dr. Scott Lindquist, chief epidemiologist for communicable diseases.
Lindquist says the state cannot keep up with the demand for personal protective equipment needed by healthcare workers on the front lines.
“Some of our nurses that are out in skilled nursing facilities are telling me that people are wearing bandannas or making due in the skilled nursing facilities and so this all really disturbing information to me.”
Dr. Lindquist says the state is scheduled to receive more deliveries from the National Strategic Stockpile. But so far Washington has only been getting about 25% of what it has requested
Home Depot is also sending a shipment of protective personal equipment and the state has placed an order for 1 million N95 masks. It is still not clear exactly when those might arrive, however.
7:36 a.m. -- There has been plenty of news about a lot about coronavirus-related layoffs now that restaurants and other gathering spots are closed. But two sectors on the frontl ine -- grocery stores and the healthcare industry -- are actually hiring more workers.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 21 in Seattle represents 46,000 members across both industries.
“We know there are places where people are out of jobs and out of work and limited hours because of the pandemic," said Sarah Cherin, chief of staff for the union. "And we want to make sure that people know that there are good union jobs available in both grocery and healthcare.”
Cherin says her union has launched a website -- UFCWJOBS.com -- to serve as a portal for people to find jobs in the healthcare and grocery industries. Cherin further says there are “thousands and thousands” of union jobs now available. For example, Safeway is hiring 2,000 alone.
7:21 a.m. -- President Trump says a U.S. Naval hospital ship that was previously reportedly coming to Washington state is heading to California instead.
"The naval hospital ship the USNS Mercy, incredible ships, one the East Coast, one on the West Coast, will be deployed to Los Angeles to add emergency surge medical capacity," he said.
Officials say the Mercy will be used to treat patents who are not infected with COVID-19 to take the pressure off of area hospitals.
And even though Washington has more confirmed coronavirus cases the Mercy is going to California because officials say it has a bigger projected need for hospital beds.
The president did say he was sending four small medical stations with 1,000 beds to Washington.
Governor Inslee says he’s disappointed the Mercy won't be coming to Washington, but added he appreciates the help we'll get from those federal field stations and hospitals.
7 a.m. -- All state campgrounds will be closed through April 30 to reduce the spread of coronavirus, announced three agencies: the the state parks commission, department of fish and wildlife, and department of natural resources.
Current campers will be phased out and will receive instructions from land officials.
Day use areas and trails remain open. Ocean beaches also remain open, but officials ask that the public stay clear given their popularity.
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