Pandemic blog: Updates for western Washington (June 7-11)
This post is archived. Read the latest updates here.
Need a vaccine?
Many locations are now accepting walk-ups. Washington state and the city of Seattle are closing mass vaccination sites in favor of mobile and popup clinics.
As of Thursday, June 10, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 5,815 Covid-19 related deaths; 407,942 confirmed cases; 35,512 probable cases; and a 1.3% death rate among positive cases.
- Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases has been nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
- So far, 7,375,424 doses (not total number of people) of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to Washingtonians. A total of 56% of eligible people in Washington state have been fully vaccinated; and 67% of eligible people in King County have been fully vaccinated.
FRIDAY, JUNE 11
'I got lucky': First $250,000 vaccine lottery winner speaks
11 a.m. — "Icing on the cake" is what the first big winner in the state's vaccination lottery is calling his $250,000 prize.
The first big winner in the state's Covid vaccination lottery, Lance R., says he was lucky, not just because he won the money, but because he didn't get sick with Covid-19.
"Lance R." has yet to come forward publicly, but he released a statement Thursday, encouraging others to get vaccinated.
In full, Lance R. wrote:
"I got lucky.
Mainly, I was lucky that I didn't get hit with Covid before the vaccines were developed and available. Millions around the world haven't had such good luck.
Getting the phone call yesterday that I won the big prize in this week's Washington vaccines lottery is also about luck. Icing on the cake. Totally unexpected.
But if you haven't gotten vaccinated yet, especially when it is so easy now to do, you're taking a very high risk gamble. You can't count on your luck holding out. Besides, the shots are free.
There will be three more lucky Washington winners of this lottery over the next three weeks, and then on July 13, someone who is vaccinated will be even luckier than I am today and win a million dollars. Just for doing the right thing.
For yourself, for those who care for you, and for the whole community that we're all a part of, let's get ourselves vaccinated. To top it off you might just win a lot of money."
The next $250,000 drawing happens next Tuesday. The grand prize for $1 million happens July 13.
— Angela King
State employment department reinstates pre-pandemic requirements
10 a.m. — The Washington State Employment Security Department is reinstating the job search requirement for those receiving unemployment benefits.
Starting in July, recipients will have to show proof they performed three approved job search activities every week . That requirement was suspended right after the pandemic struck in 2020.
The change comes as the the department reported the third straight weekly decline in jobless claims.
Last week, Washingtonians filed 8,868 new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits; a 12.1% decrease from the prior week.
— Angela King
Downtown Seattle business anticipates Amazon's employee return
9 a.m. — Amazon says its employees can now continue work remotely for at least two days per week. That’s a partial reversal from an earlier statement about returning to an “office centric culture” this fall.
What will that mean for nearby businesses?
Matt Garland is the chef at the G.H. Pasta Company restaurant near Amazon's downtown Seattle campus. He says 2020 led to a massive change in their business.
“Before Covid happened, probably 80% of it came from Amazon employees,” Garland said.
Garland adds their core business shifted away from office workers.
"Most of our business has been takeout anyway," he said. "And a lot of people in the hood have been really loyal and kept us afloat over the past year."
Still, Garland says he welcomes the return of more Amazon employees to the downtown campus. Most are expected to return in early September.
— David Hyde
Washington State Fair returns
8 a.m. — After being canceled for the first time in nearly 80 years in 2020 because of the pandemic, the Washington State Fair is returning to Puyallup.
It will run from September 3-26 with Covid precautions put in place.
— Angela King
Ferry ridership rebounds, but commuter routes still haven't rebounded
7 a.m. — People are starting to flock to Washington's ferries once again.
Ferry ridership is coming back slightly faster than buses and trains in Washington state, according to the department of transportation data. The San Juan Island routes are back to pre-pandemic levels. Sometimes, traffic exceeds numbers from the before times.
"Things have come roaring back for state ferries, you know much more so than probably other forms of public transit, whether that's the bus or whatever," said Washington State Ferries Spokesperson Ian Sterling.
However, Bainbridge, Vashon, and Bremerton runs have not entirely rebounded. All those routes happen to carry a lot of commuters to and from the city.
"Traditionally our busiest route is Bainbridge to Seattle, and you get those thousands of commuters that go back and forth every single day. But we have not seen that recover, and that means it is no longer our top route," Sterling said. "So we'll see when people return to offices downtown, or if they do, whether that walk-on ridership recovers."
Sterling said that another factor is that the Bremerton run was down by a boat for an extended period of time.
In other ferry news, galleys will start reopening for passengers to get food and drinks later in June.
— Paige Browning
THURSDAY, JUNE 10
WA Notify "saved an estimated 30-120 lives"
11 a.m. — The Washington State Department of Health is touting that its pandemic app has saved lives and prevented Covid infections.
According to a DOH statement: "Washington state’s COVID-19 exposure notification tool, WA Notify, saved an estimated 30 to 120 lives and likely prevented about 6,000 COVID-19 cases during the first four months that it was in use."
WA Notify is an app that smartphone users can activate. It will notify the user if they have been in the same area as another infected person. Or if they have a positive Covid test, they can use the app to notify anyone who has been around them recently. All the info is private.
WA Notify launched in November 2020. It has about two million users.
Recently, researchers with the University of Washington gauged the app's effectiveness. Their findings conclude that such public health notifications will be valuable moving forward as coronavirus variants continue to emerge and spread, and as pandemic restrictions lessen.
“When we launched WA Notify back in November, it was a new digital public health tool representing an opportunity to help control Covid-19 in Washington,” said Janet G. Baseman, Professor and Associate Dean, University of Washington School of Public Health. “It’s incredibly exciting to now have some preliminary evidence of the value of WA Notify and to have a new tool to add to our public health toolbox for managing pandemics.”
— Dyer Oxley
Is Washington's vaccine lottery working?
10 a.m. — The statewide vaccine lottery seems to be nudging some people to go get their Covid shots.
Lacy Fehrenbach with Washington's Department of Health says that there are some early signs people are aiming to get a dose.
"There's an increase in people calling the hotline to book an appointment this week over last week," Fehrenbach said. "We have heard anecdotally of clinics filling up. So we have hope."
Feherbach says the state will likely have more concrete data about how well the vaccine lottery is working as an incentive by sometime next week.
— Eilis O'Neill
First lottery winner notified
9 a.m. — State officials say they've spoken to the first person to win $250,000 in the Shot of a Lifetime Covid vaccination lottery.
We'll see if that person comes forward. While the state says the winners names will be part of the public record it won't make any public announcements without winners' consent. It's also been getting in touch with the 248 other winners who won a prize during Tuesday's drawing.
The next one happens on June 15 and the $1 million grand prize drawing will take place July 13.
— Angela King
Good news for fans of Jazz Alley in Seattle
8 a.m. — The popular music venue Dimitrious Jazz Alley is reopening Thursday night after being shut down by the pandemic.
Visitors will notice upgrades, including new plasma air ionizers and plastic privacy shields.
A spokesperson said the venue is short staffed right now and not all the upcoming shows have been listed on its website.
During the 15 months it was closed, Jazz Alley's kitchen started a food donation program, providing 180,000 meals to shelters an others in need. That program will conclude as Jazz Alley reopens.
— Angela King
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9
Washington still on track to reopen June 30
5:18 p.m. — Washingtonians can still expect the state to fully reopen, with one exception, by June 30 says Gov. Jay Inslee.
The governor confirmed at a press conference this afternoon that Washington will reopen by the end of the month, with the exception of capacity limits for large indoor event venues.
Capacity at indoor venues that can accommodate 10,000 or more people will still be kept at 75%, and face masks will still be required.
The governor also said that the state will continue to stay at 50% capacity for many indoor venues until Washington fully reopens at the end of the month, but the reopening could happen sooner if 70% of all residents age 16 or older receive at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The governor's message comes the same day Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that Seattle is the first major U.S. city to fully vaccinate 70% of its residents 12 years and older.
— Noel Gasca
Free ORCA cards for some essential workers
4:10 p.m. — The Seattle Department of Transportation will give out up to 2,000 free ORCA "Recovery Cards" to essential workers in the Little Saigon, Chinatown- International District , Japantown, and Pioneer Square neighborhoods in an effort to help workers and small businesses recover from the pandemic.
The mayor's office announced today that the unlimited-ride ORCA cards are fully-subsidized due to the voter-approved Proposition 1, which created a 0.15% sales tax— the equivalent of 15 cents on a $100 purchase — to generate roughly $39 million dollars over six years to fund transit service and transit access programs.
“We are continuing our response to COVID-19 through the ORCA Recovery Card effort. As we understand how peoples’ mobility needs are impacted by the pandemic, we are developing innovative programs so Seattle can move and thrive,” said Sam Zimbabwe, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.
Employees and business owners can pick up ORCA cards at two distribution sites:
- June 23 - June 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: Little Saigon Creative, located at 1227 S Weller St Suite A, Seattle, WA 98144
- June 21 - June 30, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Hing Hay Park, 423 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
Individuals will need to show a proof of ID in order to receive an ORCA card, but the department of transportation says it does not need to be an official document. The distribution sites will also have on-site interpretation services in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Spanish.
— Noel Gasca
This story has been updated with additional details
At 78%, Seattle is USA's most vaccinated city
2 p.m. — Seattle officials are celebrating a milestone Wednesday as the mayor's office reports the city has reached its goal of getting 70% of Seattle residents (12 years and older) fully vaccinated.
In fact, 78% of eligible Seattle has been fully vaccinated. Seattle is now the first city to reach this goal, ahead of others like San Francisco or the state of Vermont, the city reports.
“Seattle is America’s most vaccinated major city, and it would not have been possible without our residents’ commitment to protecting themselves, their loved ones, and our entire community," said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. "...Now that we have reached community protection, we can lead the nation in safely reopening and recovering in earnest. Seattleites - get outside and support a local small business, help revive our historic arts and cultural scene, and enjoy our unparalleled Seattle summers safely. Even with this exciting milestone, our work is not yet done. Please, if you know someone who has not yet been vaccinated, do everything you can to help them get their shot.”
The mayor's office reports that 95% of new Covid cases in King County are among those who are not vaccinated. It also reports that Seattle has the lowest cases and death rates of any major American city.
— Dyer Oxley
Could the US-Canada border finally open soon?
Noon — It's not a Northwest city, but the mayor of a Canadian border town is saying he believes the US-Canada border should open up soon.
The US-Canada border has been closed throughout much of 2020. The closure has been extended many times as the pandemic continued.
The city of Windsor is across the river, and border, from Detroit. KING 5 reports that Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens says he now believes the border will reopen to nonessential traffic within June.
It's just one border mayor, but Dilkens said he has been part of talks with other mayors along the border, as well as with Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair.
— Dyer Oxley
The flu is back
10 a.m. — As pandemic lockdowns prompted people to wear masks and social distance last year, various respiratory illnesses largely went away (aside from the pandemic coronavirus). But now, as the state opens up, people venture out more, and masks come off, doctors are seeing a return of illnesses like the flu return.
Q13 reports that upper respiratory illnesses are making a comeback. It could cause some confusion as the coronavirus continues to spread among unvaccinated people. Symptoms are the same: runny nose and congestion, fever, and a sore throat.
Doctors caution people that after a year away from these other viruses and illnesses, people's immune systems might not be up-to-speed for them.
— Dyer Oxley
Snohomish County considers pandemic hazard pay
8:40 a.m. — The Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers wants county council members to approve hazard (or supplemental) pay for front-line county workers and grocery store employees in unincorporated parts of the county.
My Edmonds News reports that Somers submitted the proposal Tuesday which calls for giving some county employees a one time payment of $1,250 and grocery store workers would get an extra $4 an hour.
With the state set to fully reopen by the end of June, a tightening labor market, and the spread of new variants, Somers office says this supplemental pay will help make sure services are uninterrupted.
— Angela King
First winners of Washington's vaccine lottery
8 a.m. — State lottery officials will be getting in touch with the first winners of the statewide vaccination lotto on Wednesday.
Tuesday's drawing picked one winner of $250,000. Several other prizes were awarded, too, all meant to incentivize people to get their Covid-19 vaccines.
If you do get a call about a prize, how will you know the lottery official on the other end of the line is legit and not a scammer?
"So, lottery officials will never ask for sensitive information like a social security number, or mother's maiden name, or anything like that," said Dan Miller, spokesperson for Washington's Lottery.
Lottery officials also won't ask for any banking information.
Miller says winners will be contacted by phone and asked to verify their address and to confirm they don't work for the Governor's Office, the state health department, or the state lottery.
Three more prizes of$ 250,000 will be given away over the coming Tuesdays. A grand prize drawing for $ 1 million happens on July 13.
— Andy Hurst
TUESDAY, JUNE 8
New travel advisories issued by CDC
6:21 p.m. — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have updated its Covid-19 travel advisories for more than 90 countries and territories.
Several countries were downgraded from the highest risk category — Level 4 — places to avoid travel — to a Level 3, where vaccinated Americans can travel. Among the countries downgraded to a Level 3 is Japan, which is in the midst of a fourth wave of Covid infections. The United States risk level was also dropped from a Level 4 to a Level 3.
The CDC advises travelers to make sure they're fully vaccinated before traveling to Level 4 countries, and that unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to Level 3 destinations.
— Noel Gasca
Snohomish County COVID-19 case rates drop
5:06 p.m. — Officials in Snohomish County say they're continuing to see declining Covid-19 case rates in the county due to a "steady increase" in people getting vaccinated.
According to data from the Snohomish Health District, the rolling case rate for Covid-19 infections stood at 103 new cases per 100,000 residents for the two-week period ending June 6.
As of Tuesday, 427,181 people in Snohomish County have initiated the vaccine process. About 51% of the county's population is fully vaccinated.
— Noel Gasca
MONDAY, JUNE 7
Visitors to state's immunization database struggle to access records
5:06 p.m. — As Washingtonians wait to see who will be the first winner of the state's "Shot of a Lifetime" Covid-19 vaccine lottery, some people are having a hard time finding out if they're even eligible to win.
The lottery is pulling winners from the Washington State Department of Health's immunization database. But many of those who have tried to log into the database to check their records say that the laggy website often times out before they can access their vaccine records.
Others say they're unable to find themselves in the database.
In some cases, that’s because they’re not in it: There are certain federal records, like veterans who got their shots at the VA, that are never reported to the state.
In other cases, that’s due to an administrative error — such as the person entering the vaccine record mistyping the vaccine recipient’s name or phone number.
The state health department has not responded to KUOW’s questions about what role the state database might play in proving vaccination status to employers or for international travel, and what will happen if a person whose data was mis-entered wins the lottery.
The department did recommend the following steps for those who are concerned that their vaccination record might not be in the state database:
- Call 833-VAX-HELP. Call takers at 833-VAX-HELP are able to assist people in verifying their COVID-19 vaccination record in WA IIS, and entering or updating email and phone contact information.
- Contact their vaccine provider or primary care physician.
The drawings for lottery winners will be held on Tuesdays in June, starting June 8, and on Tuesday, July 13.
— Eilís O’Neill, Noel Gasca
Get a jab, get a joint
4:46 p.m. — We've seen businesses give away free ice cream, beers, and burgers as an incentive to get vaccinated for Covid-19. Now, licensed cannabis retailers are getting the chance to join the state's effort to encourage vaccinations.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced Monday that "effective immediately" the board will "provide a limited allowance for retail cannabis licensed businesses to offer COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the retail store, and offer one joint at no cost to customers" who receive a vaccination at the in-store clinics.
The optional allowance is effective from today until Monday, July 7.
— Noel Gasca
Car crashes back to pre-pandemic levels
Noon — The number of traffic collisions across Washington state this spring is nearly back up to pre-pandemic levels. But the fatality rate is slightly higher. It was also higher during the pandemic.
Washington State Patrol Sergeant Darren Wright says a things like distracted driving, speeding, and in some cases road rage are are to blame.
"With the increased traffic volumes again people are having shorter tempers, realizing they have to deal with traffic again," Wright said. "So I think that's contributing to it. But we just want people to relax, allow extra time to get where you're going, and try to be nice to each other."
This year, the state has recorded 25,000 crashes and 160 people have died.
During the pandemic, with roads empty, the number of crashes had dropped significantly.
— Paige Browning
Vancouver high school brings prom outdoors
11 a.m. — A high school tradition that's been wiped out by the pandemic has re-emerged, re-imagined, at Marshall Park in Vancouver, Wash. over the weekend.
Parents organized a pop-up junior/senior prom for students at Hudson Bay High School Saturday night.
“I feel like it's a pretty big deal just because of how this last year went," said Duke Beamer, a senior at the school. "We didn't get homecoming this year, and we didn't get lot of sports, they were kind of crammed together, so it's a pretty big deal having prom this year. It's pretty important to us.”
Students donned their suits and gowns, and of course face-masks, many of which were bedazzled and decorated.
Local businesses helped sponsor a dessert bar and a photographer was on hand to capture the event.
— Angela King
Mariners vaccine offers
10 a.m. — The Mariners are offering another Covid vaccination incentive for fans at its games.
Fans who get their shots at T-Mobile Park between June 14-23 will get a free pair of tickets to an upcoming game and a $20 gift card from Amazon.
The team has been offering free vaccinations at the ballpark since May 4.
— Angela King
Seattle starts closing down vaccination sites
9 a.m. — The city of Seattle is closing two of its mass vaccination sites this week.
The one in West Seattle will shut down Wednesday, June the 9, and the clinic at Lumen Field will administer its last shots Saturday. Lumen Field's operation was once the largest civilian-led vaccination site in the United States.
The hub at Rainier Beach will stay open until June 23.
The drive thru clinic in SODO will remain open throughout the summer.
The city and the fire department will now focus on hosting pop-up and mobile clinics. More than 76% of Seattle residents ages 12 and older have gotten at least one Covid vaccine shot. And more than 60% are fully vaccinated.
— Angela King
Renters and landlords speaking up about eviction moratorium
8 a.m. — Renters are urging state leaders to extend the current ban on evictions, but landlords say they are suffering as the moratorium continues.
The eviction ban is set to expire this month. If it does, renters who have found themselves with out incomes and the ability to pay rents could find themselves facing eviction. KOMO reports that could be between 250,000-300,000 households. About 8% of renters statewide are behind on rent; about 9% are behind in the Seattle area (that adds up to about 80,000 people).
The city of Seattle also has a ban on evictions. The City Council will consider a couple of measures this week. One will extend the city's moratorium on evictions. Another would have landlords prove just cause for evictions.
Landlords are also speaking up during this time and are urging Seattle leaders to confirm people who cannot pay rent are prevented from doing so because of pandemic reasons.
— Dyer Oxley