Live updates: COVID-19 in Seattle and Washington state (March 15-22)
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:
*95 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported by the Washington State Department of Health as of Sunday, March 22. Health officials have reported 75 deaths in King County, 10 in Snohomish County, three in Clark County, one in Pierce County, one in Grant County, one in Island County, two in Benton County, and two in Whatcom County.
*1,996 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state as of Sunday afternoon, March 22, according to state health officials. That's 203 more cases since Saturday.
*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.
SUNDAY, MARCH 22
8:18 p.m. -- The U.S. Navy hospital ship that some news outlets reported would be coming to Washington state, the USNS Mercy, is instead heading to California.
President Trump made that announcement Sunday afternoon.
"The naval hospital ship the U-S-N-S 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 during a White House press conference.
Officials say the Mercy would be used to treat NON COVID patients to alleviate the pressure on traditional hospitals.
Washington state has more confirmed cases of coroavirus than California. But the Mercy is going to California because officials say California has a bigger projected need for hospital beds.
Trump did say that he was sending four small medical stations with 1-thousand beds to Washington.
Washington Governor Inslee says he’s disappointed to hear about the Mercy but added that he appreciates that federal field hospitals will be coming.
-- Derek Wang
5:30 p.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.
3:55 p.m. -- Photos of the times:
3 p.m. -- The coronavirus death toll increased by one, to 95, since Saturday. Positive results jumped to 1,996 cases in Washington state.
1:30 p.m. -- The University of Washington virology website shows that 21,801 people have been tested through its lab to date, with 7.4 percent of those people testing positive. That means 1,610 people have tested positive for coronavirus through the UW lab.
12:30 p.m. -- Safety gear for medical workers has been a dangerously short supply, and now the state department of health has come up with guidelines on how this gear – masks, gowns, gloves – will be allocated.
“Personal protective equipment is a scarce resource that is difficult to procure statewide, nationally, and internationally,” a statement from the state DOH said.
First tier includes long-term care facilities with the most cases of coronavirus.
Second tier includes health care facilities with fewer cases of coronavirus – and tight quarters such as jails and shelters.
Third tier includes quarantine and isolation facilities, followed by skilled nursing facilities and other health care facilities.
Fourth tier includes homeless shelters.
12 p.m. -- President Trump has approved Washington state’s Disaster Declaration. This makes federal funding available to state, tribal and eligible local governments and some private, nonprofit groups.
10:30 a.m. – Navy Vice Admiral Raquel C. Bono is named head of the Washington state COVID-19 response team. Bono is a senior fellow with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Bono will advise Gov. Jay Inslee, staff and state agencies and will work closely with acute care facilities, long-term care facilities, tribal facilities.
10 a.m. -- Parenting in a pandemic, and remembering Mount St. Helens. An amusing and beautiful essay by editor Liz Jones.
9:30 a.m. -- Target stocked N95 masks and politicians from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on up swooped in to have those masks diverted to hospitals in need.
9 a.m. -- A resident of the Chandler’s Square Retirement Community in Anacortes has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is hospitalized at Island Hospital and is expected to be released to stay with a family member, where they will remain in isolation. One additional resident is hospitalized and being evaluated.
SATURDAY, MARCH 21
1:20 p.m. -- Seattle is temporarily suspending the enforcement of 72-hour parking violations, booting and towing, the city of Seattle announced.
The city transportation department will also temporary install loading zones at restaurants, to help with food pick up.
The city will continue to enforce rules around special zones like transit zones and shuttle bus zones.
1 p.m. -- King County and Harborview Medical Center will soon open a coronavirus recovery site.
The isolation and recovery center will open in the county’s Harborview Hall Building. It’s located at 326 Ninth Ave., near the Harborview Medical Center.
The building will serve as a site of recovery for people without a home to rest and recover in, and for those who may require extra monitoring due to other health needs.
There will be onsite clinical support. The site is open to people who are waiting for their COVID-19 test results, or a person with coronavirus who has mild symptoms and doesn’t need hospitalization.
“As we press every available county-owned property into the fight against this outbreak, we will convert our Harborview Hall enhanced shelter into a facility for COVID-19 isolation and recovery, especially for those without permanent housing," said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
It took nine days, from the moment the outbreak became known, for an outside medical team to come to Life Care -- a strike team from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. During that time, 18 residents from Life Care died.
Instead, Life Care spokesman Tim Killian said, during those nine days they were swamped with paperwork from government agencies “asking us to spend administrative time searching down email lists and filling out documents and paperwork,” he said. “We were just doing everything we could to provide care to the patients that needed it.”
11:53 a.m. -- Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin has directed all Everett residents and business owners to stay home. However, there are some exceptions.
His mayoral directive, announced today, urges residents to limit their social interactions with others while also authorizing essential services to continue.
“The novel coronavirus is spreading rapidly through our community. It spreads through person-to-person contact. The best way to slow its impact is by eliminating non-essential interactions,” said Franklin. “That is why I’m directing Everett residents and businesses to stay home.”
Essential activities residents may participate in include: errands to maintain health and safety; getting necessary services; engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking; caring for a family member in another household.
The directive does not apply to those going to work in an essential business or government functions, including: health care operations; essential infrastructure; industrial and commercial projects currently underway; and operation of public transportation and utilities.
To see a full list of exemptions, visit the city of Everett website.
11:30 a.m. -- Skagit County Public Health is investigating a cluster of coronavirus cases, traced to a group meeting that happened earlier this month.
Public Health is contacting people who attended the event, regardless if they are showing symptoms, as well as close contacts of symptomatic attendees.
Their investigation has found that more than half of those who attended the event are now confirmed or probable coronavirus cases. Attendees of the event and their close contacts have been directed to isolate themselves as appropriate or quarantine.
Anyone who has been exposed to a confirmed case should quarantine themselves at home for 14 days, Skagit County Public Health said. People with symptoms should stay home for at very least three days after symptoms have subsided, or a minimum of seven days, whichever is longest.
9:30 a.m. -- Starting next week, up to 12 childcare sites in Seattle school buildings will reopen for first responders.
Priority will be given to Seattle Public Schools families who are first responders. According to Seattle Public Schools, this includes: medical personnel, hospital and clinic personnel, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, child care workers, essential SPS staff who are providing meals and other community services, students experiencing homelessness, and students who receive child care subsidies or scholarships.
Ramping up for the reopen, the dedicated care spaces have been cleaned. Breakfast and lunch will be provided at each site. A list of providers and locations can be found on the the COVID-19 Child care Resource webpage.
4:30 p.m. -- The city of Seattle is leading a coordinated effort to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) for people working on the front lines during the coronavirus outbreak.
The city will begin surveying non-emergency medical facilities, veterinaries and dental offices in the area to solicit donations.
“As we continue to seek more supplies from the federal government, we know our hospitals need these supplies urgently. As facilities across the City have temporarily closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are PPE and medical supplies sitting on shelves right now that we can immediately repurpose to save lives,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement.
Supplies needed include N95 masks, gloves, disposable gowns, and more.
Members of the Seattle community who have supplies available can also fill out the survey.
The city is working with Goodwill to coordinate pick up of donations.
3 p.m. -- There are now 1,524 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 83 deaths reported across Washington, according to the state department of health.
3 p.m. -- Washington state is still waiting for more medical equipment from the strategic national stockpile to combat the coronavirus.
The Washington State Department of Health made its most recent request last Friday, March 13. The state sought more than 200,000 N95 and surgical masks, plus face shields and gowns.
It was the third time in less than a month the state asked for additional supplies from the federal government.
Each time supplies have been sent, the state received a fraction of what it asked for -- not enough to meet demand from local hospitals and healthcare facilities.
That's even though, since March 6, the state has received close to 900,000 masks from the federal government, in addition to face shields, gowns and gloves.
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
2:30 p.m. -- No shelter-in-place orders will be handed down by state officials today, according to David Postman, Gov. Jay Inslee's Chief of Staff. Inslee will hold a press conference today at 4:30 p.m., where he will address concerns about at-risk workers still required to report for work in-person.
"The governor's not making any dramatic executive action or emergency order today," Postman said during a media availability to reporters. "I know that a 4:30 Friday thing gets the hair on the back of people's necks up. That's just because we are working quickly."
-- Liz Brazile
2:12 p.m. -- Demand for takeout orders is up in Seattle. One customer driving up to Canlis' long drive-through line reported that the wait for food was 40 minutes on Friday, March 20, 2020.
1:50 p.m. -- You know those sneeze guards that you see at buffets and salad bars? Some grocery stores will start installing Plexiglas partitions at check stands.
Beginning next week Safeway and Albertsons locations will add temporary partitions to provide a protective barrier between customers and checkers.
In addition, store hours will change to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to allow deep cleaning during closure.
-Ruby de Luna
1:27 p.m. -- King County Metro is suspending fare collections beginning Saturday, March 21 until further notice. This applies to all King County Metro services, including buses, water taxi and access transportation.
King County Metro is asking all passengers to board and exit from the rear of buses to keep a clear path for riders with mobility devices or who need to use the boarding ramp.
-- Liz Brazile
1:24 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee has asked the Trump administration to declare a federal major disaster in Washington state so that residents can access a series of federal assistance programs.
In a 74-page letter sent to the White House Thursday, Inslee requested expanded unemployment benefits, citing that "tens of thousands of individuals have found themselves unemployed and will require disaster unemployment assistance that is not otherwise available through state disaster unemployment programs."
Inslee has also requested disaster legal services, basic food assistance, and crisis counseling, among various other forms of aid to respond to the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
-- Liz Brazile
1:15 p.m. -- The City of Seattle plans to give out $1.4 million in grants to small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.
Businesses with five or fewer employees can apply for the grants from the Office of Economic Development. They're up to $10,000.
Thousands of small businesses have already applied for the grants -- so many that the council is working on a lottery system. The deadline to apply is March 25.
-- Eilis O'Neill
11:42 a.m. -- Providence, which has medical centers in Washingtonian, has put a call out for people to make medical masks at home for their hospital staff.
Medical supplies, such as face masks, are running out in Washington as the COVID-19 crisis continues and is expected to get worse in the weeks ahead.
Providence will be handing out kits at its Renton location on Monday between noon and 4 p.m (1801 Lind Avenue SW, Renton). Each kit will have material for 100 masks.
11:01 a.m. -- Swedish Medical Centers in the Seattle area announced a new policy Friday for visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"To enhance the safety of our facilities, patients and caregivers, Swedish will not allow visitors for patients who test positive for COVID-19. We understand how important it is for patients to engage with family and friends while they are in the hospital, so we have begun using technology like video chatting to enable COVID-19 patients to connect with loved ones. Swedish is reviewing each ICU patients’ situation on a case-by-case basis, and may make exceptions to the visitor policy based on the patient’s religious, cultural or spiritual needs."
10:53 a.m. -- The City of Seattle says arts groups and artists that work in city-owned spaces don’t have to pay rent for the next two months.
Mayor Jenny Durkan announced $400,000 in rent waivers -- either outright rent forgiveness, or rent deferments.
Nonprofit organizations like Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Children’s Theatre and Cascade Bicycle Club won’t have to pay rent for the next two months.
Businesses like Arena Sports and vendors in the Seattle Center Armory will have their payments deferred.
The city also plans to work with each organization individually to come up with longer-term plans to help develop longer-term responses.
10 a.m. -- If it's not toilet paper, don't flush it.
Sewer operators are concerned that while people horde toilet paper, shortening the supply for everyone, others may turn to non-toilet paper options to get the job done. And that, in turn, could cause clogs in sewage lines.
A blog for the Puget Sound Institute notes that people in other areas where toilet paper is low have been flushing material that eventually has clogged pipes. It creates an issue for more than one household, and puts utility workers at risk. According to the blog:
"Needless to say, clogs caused by massive amounts of paper, thin plastic sheets and other items, all wrapped together in huge wads, are a pain for sewer workers to remove, and it can expose them to dangerous pathogens and needles. Clogs are also an unnecessary expense for utilities across the country and throughout the world. It is already a problem, and recent reports suggest that things are getting worse with the shortage of old-fashioned toilet paper."
8:32 a.m. -- A U.S. Navy medical ship is being prepped to sail to Seattle, CNN reports. It will reportedly head to Seattle within 5-10 days. The ship will likely not handle COVID-19 cases, rather, it will handle other medical needs to open up space in local hospitals that will be responding to the coronavirus.
Two Army hospital units are also being activated to be sent to the Seattle area.
8:06 a.m. -- Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly is nixing the bag fee at grocery stores to help tackle the COVID-19 response.
In a statement, Mayor Pauly said “I encourage patrons to leave their reusable bags at home when they shop, as they have the potential to increase the transmission of COVID-19. At this time I am suspending the charge for carry-out bags and that will remain in effect until the COVID-19 emergency has been lifted.”
The mayor proclaimed an emergency in Issaquah over the COVID-19 pandemic on March 6.
7:30 a.m. -- Washington's Department of Commerce announced will make $30 million available to every county in the form of grants to help governments create quarantine and isolation sites, as well as funds for sanitation.
The money is slated to house the homeless population, and anyone who cannot self-isolate. A minimum of $250,000 is available to each county. Excess funds from the $30 million will be handed out based on the number of homeless in the area.
“Upfront, the requirement is simple: coordinate with your local public health department and cities, and get going,” said Lisa Brown, Department of Commerce director. “This grant is designed to get the money out into the communities so we can make a difference immediately."
The Department of Commerce stated that it hopes the money will assist in getting the facilities operational as fast as possible.
THURSDAY, MARCH 19
4:33 p.m. -- Washington state has received 8,000 additional COVID-19 sample testing kits from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
3:20 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered the postponement of all elective surgeries and dental services, in an effort to conserve essential equipment for health care workers in Washington state.
The moratorium does not apply to patients needing procedures relating to heart attacks, strokes, or motor vehicle accidents.
3:19 p.m. -- Seattle is now operating the first COVID-19 testing site designated for first responders in the nation, according to city officials.
First responders who are exhibiting symptoms of the disease can drive up to the south Seattle testing site, and have swabs taken by emergency medical technicians through their car windows.
The City of Seattle is also letting fire department and private ambulance personnel from neighboring communities receive testing, given there is capacity and their employers approve. Thirty-eight first responders have been tested at the location as of March 18, according to a press release.
The testing site has the capacity to test more than 50 first responders each day. Results are processed by the University of Washington's Virology lab and are received within 72 hours.
3 p.m. -- 1,376 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 74 deaths have now been reported in Washington, according to the sate department of health. There are currently 24 counties in the state that have reported confirmed cases of the disease.
2:54 p.m. -- The Seattle City Council unanimously passed two bills Thursday meant to address the local coronavirus response.
According to the city:
- Council Bill 119757, sponsored by Councilmember Tammy J. Morales, transfers city budget funds to the Small Business Stabilization Fund, which will support vulnerable small businesses in Seattle that are facing financial uncertainty due to the public’s economic response to COVID-19.
- Council Bill 119758, sponsored by Councilmember Alex Pedersen, temporarily removes the charge of interest on delinquent utility consumption and utilization accounts. This legislation relates to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s announcement that Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities will provide deferred payment plans for residential and commercial customers.
2:30 p.m. -- The U.S. Department of State has issued an advisory urging U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel amid the global COVID-19 outbreak.
The advisory urges American citizens to repatriate as soon as possible if they still reside in the U.S., "unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period."
2:24 p.m. -- Snohomish County has reported its seventh death related to COVID-19.
According to the Snohomish County Health District, the recent case was a "woman in her 90s with underlying health conditions." She was hospitalized and died on March 18.
2:21 p.m. -- Island County has reported its first death related to COVID-19.
According to the Island County Health Department:
Island County has received notice that one of the positive coronavirus cases recently reported has sadly passed away. The COVID-19 related death was an individual in her early 90’s. She had underlying health conditions and passed away at home. Island County Public Health currently has 17 confirmed positive cases.
2:06 p.m. -- Dental offices across Washington state are putting off cleanings and other non-emergency care. The state Department of Health asked dental offices to take such steps.
It's expected that Governor Jay Inslee will make the changes mandatory.
Because of the measure, dental offices are having to lay off staff, including hygienists and receptionists.
Some dental offices are still open, but mostly for emergencies such as uncontrolled bleeding, or severe dental pain.
"Unless there’s an issue relating to pain or infection or trauma, encouraging appointments to be postponed until further notice," said Bracken Killpack, executive director of the Washington State Dental Association.
Dental work such as cleanings, orthodontia, aesthetic procedures are all getting rescheduled.
Killpack says the guidelines are supposed to protect people who work in dental offices and their patients.
"And, also, unless medical or dental procedures need to be done immediately for urgent care, they’re asked to be postponed in order to preserve supplies of personal protective equipment."
Killpack says many dental offices are donating any extra supplies they have to hospitals expected to be at the center of the COVID-19 response.
1:42 p.m. -- The Washington State Department of Health is suspending routine compliance inspections at all health care facilities it regulates.
The action is aimed at helping health care facilities focus on responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, in addition to allowing the Department of Health to focus on "technical assistance, resolution of on-going enforcement actions, and investigations of complaints that pose the greatest risk to patients," according to the agency.
However, the following actions are slated to continue:
- Investigation of complaints that allege immediate risk to patient safety or patient abuse/neglect.
- Investigation of complaints that allege immediate risk to patient safety due to infection control concerns, including facilities with potential or confirmed COVID-19 or other respiratory illness.
- On-site visits as necessary to resolve pending enforcement actions.
- Initial state licensure inspections of new facilities and remodel of facilities to support access to care.
12:52 p.m. -- University of Washington announced that it is moving all of spring quarter to online classes. The move will affect an estimated 45,000 students.
UW students and their families have already begun to pack up their dorms after the announcement.
11:17 a.m. -- Healthcare workers are launching their own donation drive to collect unopened boxes masks, gowns, eye protection, and gloves.
The supply drive is being run by UFCW21, Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, SEIU 1199NW, Washington State Nurses Association, and Washington State Labor Council.
So far the unions have made their first donation to CHI Franciscan’s Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, UFCW21 Chief of Staff, Sarah Cherin said.
The few hundred masks that were donated came from Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, where Executive Secretary Mark Riker has been driving around and collecting what he can, he said.
"I've got another 40 masks in my truck right now," Riker said driving on his way to deliver them.
Construction also relies on protective equipment for workers.
“To keep the jobs open we need the supplies, but to keep the hospitals properly functioning, they need the supplies,” Riker said. “There’s just not enough supply out there.”
10:27 a.m. -- Some Seattle police officers may have been exposed to COVID-19 after is was discovered a janitor who worked at a police facility tested positive for the virus, The Seattle Times reports.
10:23 a.m. -- A University of Washington doctor has died from COVID-19. This is the first reported university death associated with the disease.
Stephen Schwartz was an epidemiologist and had worked in UW Medical School’s pathology department since 1967. He was 78 years old.
Sharona Gordon was one of his colleagues. She says Schwartz was a giant presence on campus.
“I was shocked because even though he wasn't a young man, he was really full of life,” Gordon said.
Gordon also says Schwartz championed for more diversity in medicine.
“Someone in my lab who's an underrepresented minority, who came from a nontraditional career path, and Steve fought tooth and nail to get him included in the training grant program and funded. Even though he didn't qualify by traditional measures.”
Medical school officials say it is unknown how Schwartz contracted the virus.
9:14 a.m. -- A woman in her 50s became the first person in Pierce County to die from COVID-19. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department made the announcement Wednesday.
Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier says she was more than a number.
“She was a beloved daughter. She was a mother. She was an incredible community volunteer and active in her daughter’s school.”
The woman was admitted to MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital on March 6 with multiple underlying health conditions. Doctor Anthony Chen -- the county’s director of health -- says her death is a reminder for people in certain risk groups to pay attention to their health
“If you have diabetes, if you have asthma, if you’re overweight, if you’re smoking or vaping, if you’ve got heart issues, right, any of those can make your health condition worse.”
Dammeier renewed a call for people to follow "social-distancing" practices.
9:04 a.m. -- Bill Gates has jumped into the messaging over coronavirus. Gates hosted an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit, fielding questions about COVID-19 and the pandemic.
Gates said rich countries should have avoided high levels of infection within 2-3 months. But he worries about developing countries who can't do social distancing and don't have the same hospital capacity.
Gates also was asked if we'll see a vaccine against the virus in less than 18 months. He said "maybe" but made no promises. And he added that the first vaccines will go to medical workers on the front lines.
8 a.m. -- A few arts and culture events are being cancelled or rescheduled around Seattle.
- Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) has cancelled the 46th annual event, originally scheduled for May.
- Seattle Repertory Theatre has canceled the remainder of its season, including the current production of August Wilson's "Jitney."
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18
5:56 p.m -- Schwartz Brothers Restaurants, the owner of Daniel's Broiler, laid off 297 people starting March 11, according to a notice from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
We've reached out to the company for comment.
On March 16th Daniel's Broiler announced on social media that it would be "temporarily closing."
Its Facebook post read: "To our amazing customers, culinary team, and staff: Thank you for your support during these unprecedented times. Our community is strong, and we will get through this together. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy, and can't wait to serve you again soon."
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
4:35 p.m. -- A soccer field in Shoreline will become a temporary field hospital for people who fall sick during the coronavirus outbreak or are exposed and have nowhere else to go, according to a city website.
The post notes that King County is creating multiple field hospitals for people who cannot self-isolate at home without endangering others, or who do not have a home.
The county already has a motel in Kent that it’s using, and this weekend said it was preparing an Issaquah motel and a parking lot at the Eastgate Transit Center in Bellevue for similar use.
The Shoreline site would join that list. It’s the Shoreline B Soccer Field at 19030 First Ave N.E. It would have 200 beds, but the city said it was unclear when people would start going there.
-- Gil Aegerter
3:25 p.m. -- 1,187 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 66 deaths statewide have been reported, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
King and Snohomish counties account for most of those cases, reporting 562 and 310, respectively.
3:12 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee announced a series of relief measures to help Washingtonians financially struggling amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The actions include a 30-day moratorium on some evictions, suspended penalties for unpaid utilities, and quicker access to unemployment benefits.
Since Monday, all restaurants, bars, gyms, and various other businesses in Washington have been forced to suspend some or all of their operations in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
-- Liz Brazile
12:07 p.m. -- Firearm sales in Western Washington have spiked alongside concerns for COVID-19. Bellevue police report that background checks for gun purchases are up 176% so far in March.
The King County Sheriff's Office reports that it has noticed an unusually high number of purchases, too. So far in 2020, the office has handled 7,398 background checks for gun sales. To put that in perspective, the sheriff's office handled 11,499 checks over all of 2019.
10:37 a.m. -- Some Costco employees are expressing frustration that their offices are forced to remain open as COVID-19 continues to spread in Washington. This comes after an employee passed away after coming down with COVID-19, Buzzfeed reports.
Buzzfeed reports that the employee who passed away worked at the corporate headquarters in Issaquah and that management is still having staff come to work at the building.
10:10 a.m. -- A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines factors that led to the spread of the coronavirus at the Life Care Center in Kirkland.
Introduction of the coronavirus at the assisted living facility resulted in 81 cases among residents, 34 staff members, and 14 visitors, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
What attributed to coronavirus spread, the report states, were limitations in effective infection control and prevention, ill staff, and staff that worked in multiple facilities.
The CDC report recommends that long-term care facilities identify and exclude “potentially infected staff members,” restrict visitation, and implement appropriate infection control measures.
10:02 a.m. -- Seattle Parks and Recreation spent the morning disinfecting playgrounds. KUOW's Deborah Wang reports that city staff sprayed playground equipment at Roanoke Park with "H2Orange2" which is mix of hydrogen peroxide and orange extract.
9:31 a.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee approved a $200 million withdrawal from state's rainy day fund for the coronavirus response.
The state Legislature approved the emergency spending last week on the last day of the legislative session.
"This bill will create more hospital capacity for sick people," Inslee said while signing the bill. "It will fund expanded virus testing by the University of Washington. It will help the Department of Health with their emergency costs."
9:26 a.m. -- Former Super Sonic Kevin Durant has tested positive for COVID- 19 He now plays for the Brooklyn Nets. Three of his teammates also have the virus, bringing the total number of known cases to seven in the NBA.
-- Angela King
9:23 a.m. -- The Port of Seattle reports that traffic at SeaTac Airport has dropped by about two-thirds in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Normally, approximately 50,000 people pass through the checkpoints everyday. Now that number is down to about 16,000 or 17,000.
That number does not include connecting passengers. Sea-Tac usually would have between 140,000-150,000 passengers in the airport altogether.
-- Angela King
9:11 a.m. -- The YMCA of Greater Seattle will offer child care services to parents who must report for work in-person during the coronavirus shutdown.
All King County branches of the YMCA have been transformed into child care centers, according to a press release. Starting Wednesday March 18, care will be available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Each YMCA facility has capacity for 400 kids. Child care services and include "fun and enrichment-based programming". Lunch and snacks are provided throughout the day.
-- Liz Brazile
9:02 a.m. -- Everett has now joined Seattle and Burien in temporarily banning residential evictions during the coronavirus outbreak.
Landlords will also be prohibited from tacking on late fees and other related charges.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan put a similar measure in place over the weekend and is now expanding the order to protect small businesses and non-profits for at least 60 days.
The King County Sheriff's Office also says it will stop enforcing or executing eviction notices until further notice.
-- Angela King
8:53 a.m. -- Businesses are taking additional steps to protect the elderly and other vulnerable groups to ensure they have access to food and supplies.
Safeway and Albertsons will now reserve every Tuesday and Thursday between 7-9 a.m. for at-risk shoppers.
Whole Foods will let people age 60 and older shop one hour before the doors open to the public. Opening times are usually 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. in Seattle, depending on the location.
Seattle's Uwajimaya is also dedicating the 8-9 a.m. hour for senior shoppers only.
-- Angela King
8:11 a.m. -- Canada and the United States are working on a plan to ban non-essential travel between the two countries.
U.S. citizens are still allowed to enter, currently, but the border is pretty much closed to everyone else. The Associated Press reports that truck drivers and those who live in the U.S. part-time could be exempt from any new restrictions.
Both countries are trying to do what they can to slow the pandemic without crippling their trade relationship.
Much of Canada’s food supply comes from or via the U.S. and and 98% of its oil exports go to the U.S..
About 18% of American exports go to Canada.
-- Angela King
7:51 a.m. -- Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson and Ciara announced they are donating 1 million meals through Seattle's Food Lifeline while the local COVID-19 outbreak plays out.
7:17 a.m. -- Seattleites are preparing for an extended period of time living under a pandemic with businesses closed.
In Ballard, a piece of paper meant to look like a previously issued parking ticket is shown under the windshield wiper of a vehicle with a handwritten note reading 'I got laid off,' on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, on Ballard Avenue Northwest in Seattle.
Andy Aronis, Assistant General Manager of King's Hardware, stood outside the Ballard bar while smoking a cigarette on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The bar, like many other small businesses in Seattle, has been boarded up, windows covered.
Aronis says he's now planning to file for unemployment.
"I always felt good working in the bar industry because it's recession proof," Aronis said. "The only thing you don't consider working in this industry is if there is a medical pandemic and then we are in the worst industry you could be in."
TUESDAY, MARCH 17
4:53 p.m. -- The Washington State Hospital Association says the personal protective equipment (PPE) situation is getting "dire," with some Puget Sound area hospitals down to a three-day supply. Meanwhile, there hasn't been another allocation from the national stockpile, and suppliers aren't able to provide the equipment.
"We’re very concerned about this and have been getting calls from members all day today," said Beth Zborowski, a senior vice president with WSHA. "The supplies of PPE are dwindling just as the volume of patients is picking up. Right now we also have a bunch of patients that are awaiting test results, who are being treated as positive until tests come back."
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
3:02 p.m. -- Public Health -- Seattle & King County report that a correctional officer has tested positive for COVID-19. Also, a staff member at the public health department also tested positive for the virus.
According to a statement from public health: "A correctional officer informed Jail leadership that the officer tested positive for COVID-19; the officer did not demonstrate symptoms while working. This is the first confirmed case at one of King County’s correctional facilities. The King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention has taken several emergency precautions to ensure the health and safety all of inmates, visitors, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic."
2:51 p.m. -- Congress members, including Washington's Pramila Jayapal, sent a letter to President Donald Trump Tuesday asking him to activate the Department of Defense for areas affected by COVID-19 outbreaks.
According to a statement from Jayapal's office, the DOD can assist with: constructing mobile hospitals; aiding vaccine research and development; manufacturing emergency equipment; and making some equipment — like ventilators — available when possible.
The ask the president to notify them within 82 hours of any decision to use the DOD.
Read the full letter here.
2:29 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee signed multiple bills regarding the COVID-19 response in the state, including a bill for $200 million in emergency aid.
The measures signed today also address increased hospital capacity, the hiring of health care workers, the expansion of telehealth service options, and school employee benefits.
Inslee also noted Tuesday that he was please President Trump has changed a requirement for providing supplies and aid to the state. Usually, emergency supplies -- such as masks and gloves -- are distributed according to state population. Now, it will be distributed to areas with more severe cases of COVID-19.
2 p.m. -- Pierce County reports seven new cases of COVID-19.
Snohomish County reports another death from COVID-19, bringing its total to five. It also reports 66 more confirmed cases for a total of 266 in that county.
Clark County reports that two COVID-19 patients died Monday evening -- the first COVID-19 deaths in that county. The patients were husband and wife and were in their 80s. They were hospitalized last week at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
1:13 p.m. -- Two Clark County patients with COVID-19 died Monday evening, marking the county's first fatalities amid the coronavirus outbreak. The patients were a married couple in their 80s, who had been hospitalized at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center sometime last week.
One of the individuals was a resident of the Van Mall senior living community. Clark County health officials say they've identified all close contacts at the facility, who are now under quarantine.
-- Liz Brazile
12:59 p.m. -- A new study indicates that the COVID-19 virus can potentially stay active in the air for up to three hours, and on surfaces for up to days (depending on the material), Reuters reports.
According to Reuters: "On plastic and stainless steel, viable virus could be detected after three days. On cardboard, the virus was not viable after 24 hours. On copper, it took 4 hours for the virus to become inactivated."
12:42 p.m. -- As restaurants and bars close, and gatherings of more than 50 people are banned in Washington state, KUOW's Anna Boiko-Weyrauch looked ahead to other potential actions state officials may take under the emergency order responding to the local COVID-19 epidemic.
According to Washington state's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, appendix 4 ("Communicable Disease and Pandemic Response Concept of Operations"), there are more aspects of daily life that officials have the option to shut down. Such options include: "suspending public transit, preventing non-emergency travel outside home, closing ports of entry, cutting off geographic area aka cordon sanitaire."
11:30 a.m. -- Officials at Sea-Tac airport say an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee worked at an off-site office building and not inside the airport, according to Stephen Metruck, Executive Director of the Port of Seattle.
Metruck said the worker is now self-isolating and that his agency is "taking the measures that are appropriate to notify" others who may have been exposed to the affected employee.
10:47 a.m. -- Sea-Tac Airport will announce new efforts it's taking to protect passengers from coronavirus later Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a Delta flight heading from New York to Seattle was delayed because of coronavirus concerns. The flight touched down in Washington just after 1 a.m.
The airline says a passenger told them they were exposed to someone who may have had COVID-19.
Passengers were taken off and the plane was disinfected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say most viruses and germs do not spread easily on planes because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. But the virus can be left on surfaces.
10:35 a.m. -- Highways around Washington state have been emptier than usual over the past couple of weeks, especially with so many people working from home.
But that doesn't mean things are slow for Washington State Troopers.
"A lot of people right now have a lot of anxiety and fear over their health concerns, over coronavirus, or getting medical supplies, or groceries they need, or they are seriously worried about their employment, paying bills," Trooper Chris Thorson said in a video posted on Twitter Tuesday morning.
"Please, lets all get together and agree on at least one thing, let's drive politely and courteously out on the roadways," he said. "...The last thing that we need is someone to come out on the highway, put everyone in danger and get someone seriously hurt or killed. So let's all agree on the next couple of weeks to drive politely, thanks."
9:45 a.m. -- The Trump administration announced a proposal to send payments directly to U.S. businesses and workers impacted by coronavirus-related shutdowns.
"Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now — and I mean in the next two weeks," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin during a Tuesday briefing at the White House.
He added that President Donald Trump wants to begin sending out checks for approximately $1,000 to Americans within two weeks.
Mnuchin didn't outline what specific income qualifications would be under the plan, but offered, "I think it's clear we don't need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks."
-- Liz Brazile
9:13 a.m. -- Nordstrom is temporarily closing all of its stores nationwide for two weeks starting Tuesday. That includes the company's Rack outlets.
But employees will still get paid and receive benefits as the nation tries to get a grip on the COVID-19 outbreak
7:30 a.m. -- Jennifer Haller, 43, spoke with MSNBC Monday after becoming the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. She received the injection at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.
"All of us, I know we feel so helpless. Like, what can we do? And I am so excited that there was actually something that I could do," she told MSNBC.
She's scheduled to get a second dose of the vaccine in about four weeks. It's an experimental treatment -- one of many that medical professionals are racing to develop as coronavirus continues to spread.
The clinical trial vaccine doesn't have any live virus in it so she's not at risk of developing COVID-19 from it. There are side effects.
"Regular potential side effects from a vaccine, totally up for those," Haller said. "And, then, of course, there's the absolute unknown. This has never been tested in a human. And, I'm up for it. I'm ready."
"I mean, the chance that I could have something to do with helping to save lives is huge," she said. "And, if this isn't the right vaccine, at least I'm part of the process. We're part of figuring this out and getting closer to something to help everybody."
MONDAY, MARCH 16
5 p.m. -- The University of Washington has expanded its drive-through coronavirus testing.
Now first responders and UW Medicine patients with COVID-19 symptoms can drive up and get tested from their cars.
The test involves a swab taken from both nostrils.
Up to 50 people a day can get tested, but they must make an appointment first.
The drive-through testing was rolled out earlier for UW staff.
Practicing social distancing in line (thank you, Royce Morrison!):
4:30 p.m. -- Washington state’s watchdog for long-term care is telling nursing homes: Reach out to families NOW, before coronavirus reaches their facility.
Dozens have been killed or sickened at Life Care Center in Kirkland, and families have complained they're unsure what's happening to their loved ones.
“Getting those lists of family members and residents and resident representatives ready and being ready to interact with the ombudsman program when they come along,” said Amy Freeman an attorney for the long-term care ombudsman program. “Because we could have been in touch with these families two weeks ago.”
Speaking Monday outside Life Care Center, Freeman said the ombudsman program will set up a family council to better communicate with loved ones in Kirkland affected by the disease.
-- Casey Martin
4:11 p.m. -- Kaiser Permanente has launched a vaccine trial against the coronavirus.
On Monday, their research team administered the vaccine to the trial’s first few participants. While the vaccine does include messenger RNA for the viral spike protein, it does not have any “form of the live virus,” according to Kaiser Permanente.
This trial, the first phase of a three-phase process, is testing safety and antibody production, and if doses produce an immune response. A later phase will examine the vaccine’s success in preventing people from contracting coronavirus.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chose Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute to be the first to conduct clinical testing of a vaccine.
The trial will take about 14 months and a research team is in the midst of recruiting 45 healthy people, who reside in the Seattle-area, and are between the age of 18 to 55, to participate.
3 p.m. -- The city of Seattle is in the process of leasing hygiene trailers as part of the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Deputy Mayor Michael Fong told city council members during a briefing Monday that the trailers would include toilets, hand washing facilities, and some may include showers.
He said the hope is to deploy them across the city, potentially staffing them with personnel from the city’s public utilities or finance and administrative services departments.
“We are still working out some of these details, but hoping to make a limited deployment of these start happening perhaps even beginning later this week,” Fong said during the briefing.
Some city council members have expressed concern at the lack of public hygiene facilities available in the city. This can be an issue particularly for people experiencing homelessness.
2:47 p.m. -- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the city is providing $5 million in grocery vouchers to families affected by the response to COVID-19 in the region. The Mayor's office estimates that the vouchers will provide 6,250 families with $800 in vouchers to buy food during this time. They will also work for cleaning supplies.
The vouchers will be good at any Safeway store in the state.
The vouchers will be available to families already enrolled in the city's child care programs and food assistance programs.
2 p.m. -- The Life Care Center updated the public on the situation at its facility in Kirkland where an outbreak of COVID-19 is responsible for a considerable share of infections in the state.
Since February 19:
- There have been at least 26 deaths related to the facility, including 15 at hospitals (13 of those 15 tested positive for COVID-19)
- All residents have been tested. A total of 67 residents tested positive for COVID-19 (in hospitals and in the facility). There have been 12 negative tests, and one pending.
- Out of the 180 staff usually at the facility, 46 have tested positive for COVID-19; 24 negative; and 24 pending.
- 66 patients transferred to hospitals
1:50 p.m. -- The Seattle Police Department has announced "As a proactive measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Seattle Police Department is suspending all police headquarters front counter services and closing our precinct facilities to the public. Re-opening dates have not yet been determined."
SPD is requesting the public contact them regarding issues such as police or collision reports via email (SPDRequest@seattle.gov), fax at 206-684-5240, or mail at "SPD Public Request Unit, 610 5th Ave. PO Box 34986, Seattle WA 98124."
More information can be found here.
1:06 p.m. -- The ACLU and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project are suing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an attempt to get undocumented immigrants who are at high risk of contracting coronavirus out of detention.
Matt Adams, legal director at NWIRP said in a statement: “As people on the ground in what has become the epicenter for coronavirus in the U.S., we have seen firsthand the impact this has on our most vulnerable communities. (ICE) should immediately release our clients who have already been identified by the federal government as being most at risk because of this epidemic. If it waits to react to worst case scenarios once they take hold, it will already be too late.”
KUOW reached out to ICE for comment and was told "ICE does not comment on pending litigation."
12:47 p.m. -- Amazon is aiming to hire more than 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers while the COVID-19 outbreak continues, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The online retailer will also raise base pay by $2 through April.
11:30 a.m. -- State officials including Gov. Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine addressed the public Monday morning about recent measures they are taking to fight the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington.
“If we are living a normal lives right now, we are not doing our job as Washingtonians," Gov. Inslee said. "It is just much too dangerous."
The announcement comes as Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign a new order shutting down restaurants, bars, and other places where people gather for the next two weeks. The governor is also limiting public gatherings to 50 people or less. He also said it is a crime to defy this order.
But he further commented that while he is not ordering it, he is urging all Washingtonians to not gather at all, and self-isolate.
“If every Saturday you met your buddies after basketball like I did for 20 years, you just can’t do that anymore … if you’ve gone to a museum with your friends on a Sunday afternoon, you just can’t do that anymore," he said. "This is not a legal statement by the governor but it is the strongest statement I can make.
He also noted that mortality rates among people 70 years old or older are "skyrocketing."
“If your grandma is going to an art gallery, no, you need to talk to her and say 'not for a couple weeks, maybe longer' … we need to save these people," he said. "If we can keep this group of people out of circulation for the next couple weeks we can save dozens if not hundreds of people."
Jeff Duchin with Public Health - Seattle & King County noted that the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington will likely last "for months." That is why authorities are trying to get people to stay at home and distance themselves from others -- to spread out the rate of infection so that health care facilities can handle the number of people coming in. Essentially, they are attempting to slow the rate of infection so that hospitals are not overwhelmed with people needing medical care.
10:33 a.m. -- Washington's Congressional representatives have sent a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services asking for more resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
In a letter to Alex Azar dated March 15, the representatives state a concern that Washington does not have enough supplies to handle the problem:
"Washington state has been on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 with over 600 confirmed cases and 40 deaths. We appreciate efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide timely delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE), but remain deeply concerned that the current supply of PPE is inadequate to meet the need for PPE in Washington state. As such, we urge you to fulfill requests from Washington state for distribution of PPE from the Strategic National Stockpile now and in the future."
The letter further states that many of Washington's medical centers, nursing facilities, fire departments and other organizations have already depleted their supplies, and others will run out in days. THe Washingotn State Hospital Association reports that hospitals are not receiving the amount of PPE they have requested. They note, for example, that Vancouver firefighters are reusing respirators in an attempt to make their supplies last longer. Rural and island communities are also expected to be low on PPE supplies.
"...it is critical that Washington state have access to sufficient PPE as soon as possible to curtail the spread of COVID-19. We urge you to be fully responsive to Washington state's PPE request from the National Strategic Stockpile."
The letter is signed by: Pramila Jayapal, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Suzan Delbene, Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer, and Kim Schrier.
Congressmembers Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rogers were the only state representatives who did not sign the letter.
10 a.m. -- A "Seattle Hospitality Emergency Fund" has been started on GoFundMe.
According to the statement on the site:
As we all come to terms with the health crisis here in Seattle, our vibrant and essential hospitality industry workers are also staring down the possibility of economic catastrophe. Seattle hospitality workers currently have the ability to apply for full or partial unemployment, and our city is working to pass a ban on evictions during this time. Despite these reliefs, there is no 100% rent forgiveness, unemployment payments take time to arrive--and when they do, the amount is often not enough to cover basic living costs in one of the most expensive cities in the nation. Folks who are laid off from jobs that also pay for their medical insurance may have to buy into COBRA or the open market, which can be a devastating cost while relying on unemployment payments alone. We have started a fund that can be accessed by workers whose hours have been curtailed because of this crisis and who are not being otherwise compensated.
The GoFundMe effort raised $37,000 out of its $100,000 goal as of Monday morning, after 18 hours of going online.
9:30 a.m. -- Scenes from around Seattle as people practice social distancing.
Monday, March 20 is the first weekday after Gov. Jay Inslee tightened restrictions on public gatherings, limiting them to no more than 50 people. He also ordered that all restaurants and bars be shut down while the response to COVID-19 continues.
Starbucks at 2nd Avenue and Seneca.
King County Metro bus in Seattle
8:20 a.m. -- The University of Washington said on Sunday they now have eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to their Seattle campus.
Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Enrique Pérez de la Rosa reports that the UW is not the only Northwest college making dramatic changes.
Eastern and Central Washington Universities have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 right now, but both have announced winter quarter finals will be administered online or via email as a precaution. That policy may be extended through some or all of Spring quarter, according to the schools.
Washington State University said all campuses will transition classes to online instruction starting March 23 -- after spring break. At the main Pullman campus, residential, dining, and healthcare facilities will remain open. WSU employees will report to work as normal.
-- Enrique Pérez de la Rosa
It’s unknown whether the doctor in his 40s caught the virus while working at Evergreen Health or in his off hours.
The Evergreen hospital has handled most of the coronavirus cases from the nearby LifeCare nursing home.
He appears to be the first hospital worker in the state to catch the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
-- John Ryan
SUNDAY, MARCH 15
7:16 p.m. — Gov. Jay Inslee plans to sign an order temporarily banning in-person services at restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues Monday, according to a press release from his office. Takeout and delivery services will still be permitted.
The new measure does not impede the daily operations of grocery stores and pharmacies, but does direct retailers to limit their occupancy.
The governor on Sunday also announced a moratorium on all events consisting of over 50 attendees, mirroring new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The restrictions also extend to smaller events unless they meet officials' criteria for social distancing and public health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping at least six feet between individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The agency also advises that older adults or those with underlying health conditions especially avoid large crowds.
More details will be provided during a joint press conference held by Inslee and King County officials Monday morning.
— Liz Brazile
5:30 p.m. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends postponing or canceling in-person gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.
The agency says events of any capacity should only continue if they adhere to guidelines for the following:
- Protecting vulnerable populations
- Hand hygiene
- Social distancing
The recommendation does not apply to the daily operations of schools, colleges, or businesses.
2:30 p.m. — Starbucks has implemented a to go-only service model for all of its stores in the U.S. and Canada due to coronavirus concerns. The changes will be in place for at least two weeks and here's what customers should expect:
There is a pause on all Starbucks seating, including both the café and patio areas
Customers can still walk up and order at the counter, through the “order ahead” feature in the Starbucks app, via the drive thru and use delivery
- There will be a modified condiment bar in all stores
- You may see modified “order ahead” handoff areas on a store-by-store basis
- Temporary closures for company-owned stores in high-social gathering locations, such as malls and university campuses
- Temporary store closures or reduced operating hours in communities with high clusters of COVID-19 cases
2:03 p.m. — King County now reports a total of 37 COVID-19 deaths and 420 cases of the disease. This brings the reported statewide death toll up to 42 and number of cases up to 675.
11:22 a.m. — Swedish Hospital has authorized online doctor visits and launched a new, digital coronavirus assessment tool. Swedish's Express Care Virtual service allows patients to video chat with a health care provider seven days per week.
President Donald Trump had announced Friday that his administration would waive certain restrictions to make remote health care services more accessible amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
— Liz Brazile
*Read KUOW's past live coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here.