Updates: COVID-19 in Washington state
This post will be updated periodically with information about the coronavirus. Scroll down for older information. Top line information:
*195 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported by the Washington State Department of Health as of Monday morning, March 30.
*4,896 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state as of Monday morning, March 30, according to state health officials.
*King County has been struck the hardest with COVID-19 with 2,161 cases and 144 deaths. Snohomish County has had 1,068 cases and 21 deaths. Pierce County has had 288 cases, and 6 deaths.
*If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, or are a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact King County's novel coronavirus call center at 206-477-3977 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. People can also call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127.
TUESDAY, MARCH 31
1:37 p.m. -- King County Executive Dow Constantine is proposing a $2.2 million plan to cover child care for about 300 children of essential workers.
The legislation sent to the King County Council on Monday would use funding from Sound Transit educational taxes in the Puget Sound Taxpayers Accountability Account. It is expected to go to a vote later this afternoon.
The proposal would pay for spots in an estimated 60 existing sites around the county at a time when many child care facilities have shut their doors due to the coronavirus, while others struggle to pay the bills as families pull their children and tuition dollars.
As of Monday, 890 child care facilities had closed statewide.
“This legislation helps solve child care challenges for those working long hours for our health and safety, while also supporting our region’s dedicated child care providers who want to keep their doors open in these extraordinary times,” said Constantine in a written statement.
Front line workers interested in enrolling can call Child Care Resources, which is working to help identify available child care openings, at 1-800-446-1114.
The proposal would also provide one-time funding to child care providers for hard-to-find safety gear, like protective equipment and cleaning supplies.
The program would be available to residents who work or live in King County outside the City of Seattle. For details, call Child Care Resources at 1-800-446-1114.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan last week announced issued an Emergency Order to create free child care spots for more than 700 preschool- and school-age children of first responders and other essential workers.
The Seattle plan would cost $1 million per month, and be paid for with the city’s Families, Education, Preschool and Promise levy. It would be staffed by workers from the city's subsidized preschool program.
— Ann Dornfeld
12:44 p.m. -- Kitsap County Treasurer Meredith Green is asking property owners to pay their first half or full year of property taxes early, if they are able, to fund essential services.
Property taxes go toward funding state and local governments and act as the primary source of income for local governments, the statement from Green said. Without this cash flow, some districts may be unable to meet their expense or debt obligations.
“We recognize that many families and businesses are struggling to make ends meet during the economic crisis from the COVD-19 pandemic,” Green wrote. She added that the property tax deadline for residential and commercial taxpayers is extended to May 31. This extension won’t apply to late payments from last year.
People who won’t be able to make their payment by May 31, should reach out to the Kitsap County treasurer department at email@example.com.
12:07 p.m. -- Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sent cease and desist letters to certain online sellers for alleged price gouging. According to the AG's office, the sellers, working on Amazon, have dramatically upped the price on items related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as hand sanitizer and N95 face masks.
The AG's office states that after Amazon provided information about the sellers -- which it noticed were considerably raising prices -- the AG sent letters to five independent sellers based in Washington state. It notes that one seller raised the price of an item by more than 600% -- hand sanitizer that was originally $3.50, but went up to $25 (and one customer paid more than $40 for the product).
The AG's office considers the price gauging an "unfair or deceptive practice" under the Consumer Protection Act.
“Price-gouging during an emergency is morally wrong, and a violation of the Consumer Protection Act,” Ferguson said. “These businesses are charging exorbitant prices on products that are essential for the health and well-being of Washingtonians. We will use all of the tools at our disposal to prevent price-gouging during this public health emergency.”
The AG's office notes that more letters are expected for additional accused price gougers.
10:28 a.m. -- Amid the coronavirus pandemic and orders for social distancing, QFC has gone on a hiring spree aiming to add 600 employees across 61 stores.
QFC began hiring more employees about two weeks ago and sped up its new employee on-boarding process to 72 hours. The grocery chain reports that its HR department is working seven days a week for the hiring effort.
According to the company, the new hires are needed to keep up with demand at its stores as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and that "QFC needs to fill e-commerce positions at most of its 61 stores over the next several weeks to fulfill pick-up orders that have drastically increased over the last several weeks."
Parent company Kroger wants to hire 20,000 for its stores nationwide.
“QFC continues to serve our communities by providing customers with food and products on our shelves or by providing a nearly immediate job opportunity to help an unemployed person to begin working again,” QFC President Chris Albi said in a statement. “We are committed to remaining a constant. We have a responsibility to our associates, customers and communities.”
10:13 a.m. -- There is now a phone number for Washington residents to report people who violate the stay-at-home order.
Governor Inslee says most people and non-essential businesses are following his stay at home order. But he also says state and local authorities are getting thousands of calls about scofflaws.
Now a crackdown could be on the way. Instead of calling the police, the state has created a new online reporting form available at: coronavirus.wa.gov. The form is mostly aimed at businesses.
Much of the initial education and enforcement will happen at the local level. But police say don’t call 911 to report violators.
9:56 a.m. -- A warning for businesses and individuals who don’t comply with Washington's social distancing orders. Governor Jay Inslee says they're getting ready to start enforcing the order through a three tier process.
- You'll get a warning.
- Then you'll get cited. Businesses could also get their licenses suspended.
- After that, your case will be referred to the attorney general for possible prosecution.
Read more here.
9:02 a.m. -- New data shows social distancing measures appear to be working in King County with less spread of COVID-19. But that doesn't mean people should ease up on their efforts as the pandemic continues. In fact, Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health - Seattle & King County says it's time to "double down."
“We are being successful together through our extraordinary actions and we need to double down and hold the line now as we continue to manage this epidemic over time. This is a long-haul situation.”
Dr. Duchin warns that the new reports are based on modeling which has limited data. But he says they indicate the county is moving in the right direction.
Read more here.
7:51 a.m. -- Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant says Amazon needs to do more to help the average worker through the coronavirus crisis.
“They’re making a profit at a time when thousands of small businesses in the region who are already struggling have completely gone belly up,” Sawant said.
While many businesses are passing out pink slips, Amazon is hiring 100,000 new employees.
The company has also donated $5 million to help businesses near its headquarters survive the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.
Read more here.
MONDAY, MARCH 30
3:46 p.m. -- Immigration activists are pushing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, arguing the coronavirus outbreak is a threat to the detainees' health.
But under state guidance, the protest that happened today had to get a little creative.
"We kept our social distance by having people driving, staying in their cars and honking," says Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigration activist with La Resistencia.
The caravan of thirty cars was in support of a hunger strike that started last Friday. The detainees and activists are asking for humanitarian visas for those inside and for deportation and immigration proceedings to cease until the pandemic has ended.
Mora estimates 300 detainees are now part of the hunger strike.
A spokesperson for ICE says ‘rumors’ of the hunger strike are ‘inaccurate’ but that the agency respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.
The agencies website says there are no positive cases of COVID-19 at the Northwest Detention Center at this time.
1:02 p.m. -- By now, you have your favorite neighborhood restaurants and eateries for deliveries and take-out while you shelter in place.
The city of Seattle wants you to share that information and has created an interactive map. The goal is to help support small businesses during this time.
Retail and restaurants have been hard hit by the state’s preventative measures, including Gov. Inslee’s March 16 directive that shut down restaurants, bars, and cafes, but allowing for businesses that offer delivery or take out to remain open.
A study by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce shows more than 336,000 workers in Washington are directly affected by the restrictions.
Want to give your neighborhood business a shout out? Add their names here. More information about the city’s #SupportSeattleSmallBiz campaign.
-Ruby de Luna
12 p.m. -- Mandatory social distancing orders implemented in Washington state have slowed the coronavirus epidemic in King County, according to new report from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling.
Using a simulation built on epidemiological data such as COVID-19 testing results and deaths, researchers estimate that the potential for new infections dropped by approximately half between late February and mid-March in King County.
They caution, however, that the "estimates come with high uncertainty" and advise that "compliance with social distancing policies will remain an important facet of daily life" in the coming weeks to effectively stop the spread of the disease.
10:19 a.m. -- As people continue to stock up on food and supplies during Washington's stay-at-home order, Costco says it's changing its store hours.
Starting Monday, all warehouses will close at 6:30 p.m. rather than 8:30 p.m. The gas stations will close at 7 p.m. The new times are only for weekdays. Weekend hours will remain the same.
The stores will be open from 8-9 a.m. for people with health issues or those 60 and older every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
9:57 a.m. -- A reminder of a development occurring over the weekend: Public Health - Seattle & King County has ordered people who are symptomatic or have been tested for COVID-19 to self-isolate until test results are made available.
People who violate the order may be placed under involuntary detention. Those who do test positive must remain in quarantine at home or in a recovery facility until they are no longer infectious.
The order is effective now and will remain in place until further notice.
9:42 a.m. -- The Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett is being converted over to an isolation and quarantine site for coronavirus patients
It's set to open sometime next week and will be used for those who can't recover at home or don't have one.
9 a.m. -- Approximately 300 Army soldiers are transforming Century Link Field into a military hospital for non-coronavirus patients.
The 150-bed space is expected to be ready sometime this week. The field event center at Century Link Field is being transformed into a hospital operated by the military.
It will be used to take care of people who don't have the coronavirus. Instead, it will be slated for people who require other medical needs, freeing up space at hospitals to respond to COVID-19.
Approximately 300 soldiers are setting up the facility.
Gov. Jay Inslee applauded the "tremendous" step by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA for their work.
8 a.m. -- Hospitals across the country are debating whether to allow caregivers to wear face masks throughout their entire shifts.
Some hospitals require it. But in many Seattle hospitals, masks are still in short supply. And some staff who have wanted to wear them constantly have been told not to.
KUOW’s Ashley Hiruko profiled an anesthesiologist at Swedish who raised concerns and reports the company has since changed its policy.
According to Hiruko: “Swedish’s policy on masks has fluctuated during the entire outbreak. Before this weekend for instance, Swedish doctors and nurses were not allowed to wear surgical masks throughout the day. To be clear, this is when they’re not dealing with patients with CV. As of this weekend, Swedish announced they’re changing their policy to permissive universal masking. What that means is caregivers may, but don’t have to, wear surgical masks while in patient care areas.”
Before the policy change, the anesthesiologist told KUOW he wanted to wear the mask full-time at work to protect patients, in case he was an asymptomatic carrier of the virus.
Swedish said they've also started to allow the reuse, and extended use, of N95 masks and face shields due to low supplies.
Read more here.
SUNDAY, MARCH 29
4 p.m. -- Visualizing the spread of coronavirus in Washington state by mapping the deaths over the last month.
1 p.m. -- This spring's marathons, half marathons, and other races have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19. That's why a Seattle-area running company, Orca Running, is hosting a virtual race. They're calling it the "Social Distance Run."
Participants choose one of six distances and run it on their own over Memorial Day weekend. Then the Orca Running Company sends them a race shirt and medal.
Close to a thousand people, some from as far away as Denmark, have already signed up.
11 a.m. -- KUOW has been keeping track of the coronavirus-related deaths internally since the outbreak in region. We have now published that list and will strive to keep it updated on weekdays.
9 a.m. -- Bill Gates said this week that the U.S.’s response to coronavirus has been slow and chaotic.
The Microsoft co-founder called for an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
“We’re entering into a tough period, where If we do it right we only have to do it once, for 6 to 10 weeks,” he said. “But it has to be the whole country. We have to raise the level of testing, and the prioritization of that testing quite dramatically.”
SATURDAY, MARCH 28
8 p.m. -- King County public health officials today issued an order that all people who test positive for COVID-19 should remain in quarantine until no longer infectious.
The order also directs people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to remain isolated until they receive test results.
Officials announced they are also opening an additional quarantine and isolation facility this weekend at a former hotel in Issaquah. Those facilities are meant for people who are homeless or who don't have a place that they can self-isolate.
Health officials are ramping up their testing of people living in homeless shelters. Currently four shelters in the county have at least one resident who has tested positive for the disease.
4:15 p.m. -- Five of the largest homeless shelters in Seattle are on lock-down for two weeks.
That’s because a resident of a shelter run by the Union Gospel Mission tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. The patient is now recovering in a hospital.
The Union Gospel Mission locked down all five of its shelters because staff members move back and forth among them.
The person who tested positive for COVID-19 lived in a men’s recovery program near Burien.
The Union Gospel Mission says it’s now testing everyone in that building.
4 p.m. -- The number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in Washington state has jumped from 3,723 to 4,300.
That's according to data just released by the state Department of Health.
Almost half of those cases, 2,077, are in King County.
The number of reported deaths is now at 189.
3:15 p.m. -- More than 300 soldiers have begun setting up an army field hospital inside the event center at Century Link Field.
The 150-bed facility will be staffed by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other personnel from the 627th Army Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado.
The hospital will serve patients who do NOT have COVID-19. The goal is to free up space at hospitals as COVID-19 spreads.
"We know that many of our hospitals right now are being overtaxed by COVID and we know that is going to get worse. We want to make sure we can off-load those patients to a hospital setting that is going to be safe and efficient for them," said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who welcomed the Army personnel to CenturyLink Field this afternoon.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee says this is the first of what may be many more temporary hospital facilities set up around the state.
The field hospital is expected to be up and running by Tuesday of next week.
1:30 p.m. -- More specific guidance was issued from Governor Jay Inslee's office today about the current "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.
Funerals in Washington state can go ahead in this time of COVID-19, but can only be attended by immediate family members of the deceased.
The state Department of Licensing sent a letter to funeral homes and cemeteries saying that people attending funerals must practice proper social distancing. The letter says embalming can go ahead.
In addition, the governor's office sent a letter to the real estate industry saying in-person meetings are prohibited "except when necessary for a customer to view a property or sign necessary documents." No real estate open houses shall be permitted.
Property viewings, inspections, appraisals, and final walk-thrus can go ahead but must be arranged in advance and limited to only two people.
The governor also clarified that the proclamation does not apply to sovereign Tribal governments.
1:15 p.m. -- Public health officials in Skagit County are reporting six new confirmed COVID-19 cases at a long-term care facility in Burlington.
One resident and five staff members at Prestige Care and Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility, have tested positive for the illness.
The state's Department of Health is currently identifying and notifying all close contacts and are issuing quarantine instructions, according to a press release. Officials are in the process of testing remaining staff and residents.
10:30 a.m. -- Beginning tomorrow (Sunday) morning, the Washington State Ferries will temporarily reduce service on its central Puget Sound routes in response to COVID-19.
Sailings on the Seattle/Bainbridge and Seattle/Bremerton routes will be cut by about half. The Fauntleroy/Vashon, Fauntleroy/Southworth, and Southworth/ Vashon sailings will be reduced by about a third. The Mulkiteo/Clinton and Edmonds/Kingston schedules will also be affected.
Ridership on the ferries system was down more than 60 percent as of March 26, according to a press release. That includes an 80 percent decrease in walk-on passengers. Availability of crews to staff the sailings is also a concern.
The suspension of these sailings will give crew members more time to clean and sanitize the vessels, according to Amy Scanton, head of the Washington State Ferries. "Further suspensions and adjustments are possible depending on ridership trends," she said.
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