News and updates on the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state (June 26-July 5)
This post is archived. Read the latest here.
As of Friday, July 3, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 1,354 Covid-19 related deaths; 35,247 confirmed cases (5.8% positive rate among those tested, and 3.8% death rate among positive cases). Note that tests have been limited, so there are likely more unreported cases.
- The most heavily hit counties have been King (619 deaths), Snohomish (173 deaths), Yakima (160 deaths), and Pierce (105 deaths).
SUNDAY, JULY 5
Our hairstylists, waxers and threaders are just finally able to see us again. And so ... many of us are trying to figure out what to do about our body hair as our hair continues to grow and grow ... and grow.
The younger generation doesn’t seem to mind. Read on.
THURSDAY, JULY 2
Reopening mostly paused, mask order extended
4:38 p.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state Health Secretary are hitting the pause button on the county-by-county reopening process. And Inslee also announced plans to extend his "no mask, no service" rule statewide.
Gov. Inslee said Thursday that for at least the next two weeks all counties in Washington will stay in whatever reopening phase they're currently in.
Washington state Secretary of Health John Wiesman says the decision responds to a widespread and worrisome increase in COVID infections and hospitalizations.
"What this really does is it gives us a chance to pause, take a look at what is happening, make sure we fully understand where the numbers are going, which we know right now are not in the direction we want them to go," Wiesman said Thursday afternoon during a news briefing in Olympia.
Wiesman said the pause will give time for mandatory mask requirements to make a difference.
In the short term, the pause affects about half a dozen counties that have pending applications to move ahead in reopening.
There will be an exception to allow hard-hit Yakima, Benton and Franklin to open up just slightly. That's meant to lessen the temptation for residents there to travel for services and possibly spread disease.
No mask, no service rule extended
Currently, Inslee's “No mask, no service” rule just applies in hard-hit Yakima County. But the governor announced Thursday that he plans to extend it statewide.
“First, we’re doing this because of the extremely troublesome spike in the number of cases we are experiencing across the state of Washington . And because we know that the better we can protect ourselves from the virus, the better we can avoid repeating the painful shutdowns that we’ve had to experience in the last several months,” Inslee said.
Under the new rule, beginning next Tuesday, Washington businesses will have to refuse service to people who don’t have their face covered.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health Thursday recorded 716 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 -- the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic -- and three additional deaths.
-- Reporting by Tom Banse and Austin Jenkins.
Don’t invite Covid over for July 4th, urge local officials
3:36 p.m. -- Ahead of the holiday weekend, Seattle and King County officials are urging renewed vigilance to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Recently, the daily count of confirmed cases has more than doubled over the course of a month.
At the beginning of June, an average of 40 King County residents per day tested positive for Covid-19, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, officer at Public Health – Seattle & King County on Thursday.
Now, there are more than 100 new cases emerging each day.
People in their 20s and 30s make up more than half of the new local cases of Covid-19. But, the disease can easily spread to older people and others at high risk, he said.
This weekend — and going forward in general — the best thing you can do is stay away from gatherings, he said.
“Everyone can come home from that party incubating Covid-19 and spread it to someone who’s at particularly high risk — a loved one, a parent, a family member, a coworker,” Duchin said.
If you do get together with others, make it a small group, he said. Meet outdoors, stay six feet away from each other, wear masks, and don’t share utensils.
“Don’t pass things back and forth, because you’re passing that virus around as well,” Duchin said. King County Executive Dow Constantine said these messages are not simply reminders — they’re an alarm.
“We can go down the path of places like Texas and Florida that let it get out of control, and now they are at the mercy of the pandemic,” he said. “Or we can take the responsible path of each of us making the right choices and collectively doing the things we need to do to support one another.”
Covid-19 disparities growing; new cases are shifting to younger population
2:25 p.m. -- Two new reports indicate that the disparities among people infected with Covid-19 are widening.
“We know the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the health inequities historically marginalized and oppressed communities already experience,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer at DOH. “These data are deeply concerning and underline the critical need to address the Covid-19 impacts we’re currently seeing by prioritizing outreach, testing, education and related materials for disproportionately impacted communities in ways that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and accessible.”
According to a statement from the Department of Health:
- Case rates over the pandemic for Hispanic people and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander people are nine times higher than those of White people. Hospitalization rates are seven times higher for Hispanics and ten times higher for Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders than those of White people. Case and hospitalization rates for Black people and American Indian or Alaska Native people are three times higher than those of White people.
- Compared to White people, death rates are over three times higher among Hispanic people and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander people, twice as high among American Indian or Alaska Native people, and over 50 percent higher among Black and Asian people.
The report notes that the disparities seem to exist in all regions -- rural or urban.
The report from the IDM echoes the DOH. It also states that while older populations were more affected at the start of the pandemic, recent data shows that cases in younger people are growing. People younger than 35 made up 22% of cases between January and March. They represented 46% by June.
Yakima County gym fined $10,000 for ignoring pandemic restrictions
Yakima County gym fined for ignoring pandemic restrictions
Yakima County gym fined for ignoring pandemic restrictions
8:30 a.m. -- A gym in Yakima County is the first business to get cited for violating the State's Safe Start order.
The Washington Department of Labor and Industries says The Anytime Fitness in Selah was slapped with a nearly $10,000 fine. Spokesperson Tim Church says that’s usually enough to get businesses to comply.
"The great majority of these, they just never get to that point because the businesses have been forthcoming and cooperative and closed if they were told they should be closed," Church said. "Any businesses that are cited has had at least a handful of opportunities to have discussions about what they should be doing and understand what they shouldn’t be doing."
The gym’s owners have until July 5 to close or 15 working days to appeal the fine. If it doesn't close, owners could get fined again.
The department has contacted more than 400 businesses about potential violations.
-- Enrique Perez de la Rosa
Covid-19 cases surging in Seattle and King County
8 a.m. -- Public Health Seattle-King County says the daily average of Covid-19 cases in the county has more than doubled in the past two weeks.
It's up from 40 daily cases in mid-June to an average of 87 daily cases the week of June 21. Officials say their goal is to have about 39 cases or fewer per day.
More than half of all new cases are occurring in people between 20-39 years old. Approximately 40% of cases in this age group over the past two weeks are among Seattle residents.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 1
Growing number of UW fraternity students positive for Covid-19
8:30 a.m. -- A growing number of students at University of Washington fraternities are testing positive for the coronavirus.
On Tuesday afternoon, UW senior Fran Dukic was walking home with his fraternity brothers back to Lambda Chi Alpha. All three were wearing face masks. Dukic just moved here from California and was shocked by how many others on Greek Row were not being cautious.
“I was just kind of really surprised by how lax it really is here,” Dukic said, noting the attitudes on face masks and socially distancing.
The university says there are infected students at at least 10 different fraternities. They have been asked to self-quarantine. A testing station is now set up near the Greek houses. And the UW is asking students who test positive to notify them.
Covid cases rising in King County - what happens next?
8 a.m. -- The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Seattle and King County has increased steadily over the past week to levels not seen since April. County Executive Dow Constantine says our behavior will determine what happens next.
"It is not so much the additional activities that are formally allowed, but rather people becoming less concerned or less diligent in their precautions, and letting their own guard down individually, that is my greatest concern," Constantine said.
With the Fourth of July coming up, public health officials are urging people to keep up with social distancing, wearing masks, and not gathering in groups.
A total of 586 people in Seattle and King County have died from Covid-19 as of July 1.
TUESDAY, JUNE 30
Outbreak at UW fraternities
10 a.m. -- Officials at the University of Washington have provided an update on the Covid-19 outbreak at multiple university fraternities.
The UW reports that at least 38 students -- across nine fraternity houses -- have tested positive for the virus. The fraternities are located north of the Seattle campus. Public Health – Seattle & King County is handling the response to the outbreak.
About 1,000 students live in fraternity houses at UW. Currently, the Seattle campus for the university has the most Covid-19 positive students -- 74.
Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, said that many houses took measures, such as limiting capacity to 50% over the summer. But it hasn't been enough. He adds that without actively wearing masks and social distancing, the virus will quickly spread.
All residents in affected houses are being quarantined. Positive students are isolating in their rooms. No students have been hospitalized. UW Medicine has set up a testing site near Greek Row for students to get tested for Covid-19.
“What is occurring north of campus provides lessons for students as they consider their return to campus this fall," said Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases. "If everyone does their part to keep each other safe, we can continue to engage with one another and with our studies in the University environment by wearing face coverings and remaining physically distant."
"If we don’t, measures such as what are now required on Greek Row will be inevitable. My sense is all students want to return to some sense of normalcy, so I urge all of us to follow public health guidelines so we can do just that."
Seattle sports slowly begin
7:55 a.m. -- Seattle Storm Coach Dan Hughes will sit this season out because of coronavirus concerns. The 65-year-old is considered at risk in part because he underwent surgery last year to remove a cancerous tumor from his digestive tract.
Assistant Coach Gary Kloppenburg will take over for the season which will begin in late July.
Meanwhile, the OL Reign soccer team will start play Tuesday in a 25-game tournament. They'll take on Sky Blue FC in Utah Tuesday night.
Also, the Mariners will have their first full workout at T-Mobile park on Friday.
UW will welcome back some students in the fall
7:30 a.m. -- The University of Washington President Anna Mari Cauce says classes will begin September 30 under a hybrid approach with some online courses and some in-person classes.
In a letter sent Monday, Cauce said UW will prioritize hands-on learning, such as studio, clinical and lab courses, and courses for first-year undergraduate and graduate students.
To maintain safe physical distancing, small classes will meet in big rooms, and large classes will be taught remotely.
Students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks indoors when near other people and outdoors if physical distancing isn’t possible.
There will also be rooms set aside for students living on campus who may need to isolate themselves if they get sick. Cauce’s letter makes it clear that plans could change depending on the trajectory of the Covid-19 outbreak.
UW will follow public health guidelines as well as guidelines set out by the governor’s office as they reopen.
Washington running out of unemployment funds
7:15 a.m. -- Washington state began the current recession with one of the healthiest unemployment trust funds in the nation -- $4.7 billion. But with more than a million individuals filing claims, and thieves stealing from the fund, it's already down to $2.8 billion.
With unemployment expected to remain high, the Employment Security Department says that it may ask the federal government for a loan by the end of the year. If so, Washington would join a dozen states including California, Texas and Colorado.
MONDAY, JUNE 29
Inslee calls out White House for poor Covid-19 rhetoric
8:55 a.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee is calling on the White House to get its act together when it comes to telling people to wear masks amid the pandemic.
He appeared on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday.
"If we can get everybody wearing a MAGA hat to wear a mask, we're going to tame this virus because this masking is very, very effective," Inslee said. "And, I want to reiterate, this is the way to reopen our economy. If that's all people cared about, if we get people to mask up and we get to reopen our economy, that would be a good day for everyone."
Governor Inslee's comments came one day after he announced that Washington state is holding off on letting any counties move to Phase 4 of reopening.
Washington state furloughs start soon
8:40 a.m. -- Government operations have already been disrupted because of Covid-19. Now comes another round of disruption. Starting this week, Washington state agencies must implement the governor’s order to furlough employees one day a week for the month of July. The Department of Licensing just started reopening licensing offices, but with limited capacity and by appointment only. Now those offices will be closed one day a week due to furloughs.
About 2 million Washingtonians are served by the Department of Social and Health Services. It will close its offices across the state on Mondays through July 20. The agency warns that many services won’t be available and clients won’t be able to get in touch with most DSHS staff on furlough days.
And on Washington’s Capitol Campus, the Department of Enterprise Services is implementing what it’s calling “Minimal Maintenance Mondays” for the next month as 70% of its staff will be furloughed. The governor ordered the furloughs as a cost-saving measure ahead of anticipated budget shortfalls.
No Phase 4 for Washington counties for now
8:30 a.m. -- With more than 31,750 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 1,310 deaths, Washington state officials are hitting the pause button when it comes to letting counties move to Phase 4 of the state's Safe Start Plan.
Governor Jay Inslee and the State Health Secretary made the announcement over the weekend noting that the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the state makes it impossible to move to Phase 4. In Phase 4, there would be essentially no restrictions.
Covid-19 outbreaks at UW Greek row
8:15 a.m. -- The Seattle Times reports that an undisclosed number of people living in University of Washington Greek houses have tested positive for Covid-19.
Officials are now trying to track down people who may have been exposed over the past week.
It is unknown which houses were affected. Those who live in or near Greek Row should contact the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Office if they think they've been exposed or are showing symptoms.
Students can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get tested.
Seattle Aquarium reopens
8 a.m. -- The Seattle Aquarium reopens on Monday after being closed for months because of the pandemic.
Everyone will need to wear a mask and guests will have to buy their tickets online. The aquarium will reopen at only 15% capacity, and a one-way path will be set up to help with social distancing measures. Guest won't be allowed to touch the animals in the tide pools. Water fountains will also be covered.
FRIDAY, JUNE 26
Yakima County sheriff will not arrest over face mask rule
Central Washington sheriffs refuse to enforce face mask requirement
Central Washington sheriffs refuse to enforce face mask requirement
Noon -- While it is a misdemeanor to defy the new face covering rule, Washington Governor Jay Inslee said earlier this week that "ideally, there won’t be any criminal or civil sanctions for individuals."
And some state law enforcement leaders say they won't be enforcing the new rule. That includes Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell even though that area's been dealing with an ongoing surge. It now has the second highest number of cases in the state behind King County.
But in a statement, Sheriff Udell said his position from the start of the pandemic has been on engagement and education, adding his deputies won't arrest those violating the new rule.
King County Metro suspends fares during July
11:45 a.m. -- King County Metro Transit announced that it is suspending all fares for the month of July because of the coronavirus.
The agency suspended fares last month to help fight the spread of Covid-19.
Another Covid-19 case cluster in Oregon
11:30 a.m. -- For the second time this week, a Covid-19 case cluster has been identified in the Eugene/Springfield area in Oregon.
Lane County health officials say that five teenagers have tested positive for novel coronavirus after a recent house party in Springfield. Spokesperson Jason Davis says trace investigations began after one individual became symptomatic.
“We do believe there may be more cases in this cluster. There were around 20 individuals at the party,” he said. “From the reports that we’ve heard there was not any social distancing or masking that happened.”
Davis says this demonstrates a general disregard or apathy by some toward public health prevention measures. While the focus should remain on behavior and not necessarily age groups, he still urges parents to have conversations with young people about the importance of distancing, practicing good hygiene and thinking like a responsible member of a community.
--Tiffany Eckert, Northwest News Network
Covid cases strongly spiking in Spokane area
11:10 a.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Thursday that "Spokane is right on the verge of a very dire situation because of this pandemic. It is right on the verge of a runaway pandemic."
Spokane County’s coronavirus caseload has continued to surge since Memorial Day. County health officials reported 31 new cases Thursday, pushing the total to more than 1,100. What’s especially worrying to officials is that hospitalization rates continue to increase.
Despite the growing number of cases in Spokane County, Inslee says he’s encouraged local officials will be able to reverse the trend. Otherwise, he says, the state may have to consider changing Spokane’s status as a phase two community.
Inslee went to the Washington State University Spokane campus with health care leaders, elected officials and members of the Spokane Alliance. He stressed the importance of wearing a mask.
"We know that in Yakima County the percentage of people who wear masks has gone from 35% two weeks ago to 60% last weekend. The reason that is happening is that people are learning what a mask can do."