Updates on the coronavirus epidemic in Washington (April 27-May 3)
This is an archived post. You can read the latest here.
As of Sunday, May 3, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
*834 Covid-19 related deaths; 14,637 confirmed cases. Note that tests have been limited, so there are likely more cases.
*The most heavily hit counties have been King (459 deaths), Pierce (50 deaths), Snohomish (109 deaths), and Yakima (47 deaths).
SUNDAY, MAY 3
10 a.m. -- Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture is encouraging residents to make public artworks at home, anything from a poster for your front window to a sculpture for your front yard. Post a photo of your creative output with the hashtag #artdisplays4homestays.
SATURDAY, MAY 2
More than 100 Washington state parks on list to reopen, but Coast and Gorge excluded
9 p.m. -- The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on Saturday published an eagerly awaited list of which state parks will reopen first and which will be kept closed until further notice in deference to the concerns of neighboring communities.
...Camping is not reopening, however.
According to Washington State Parks: "All camping and overnight accommodations on state lands remains closed until further notice. Campers with reservations through May 11 will be contacted and issued a full refund."
FRIDAY, MAY 1
8 p.m. -- These Seattle clinics say they now test lower-risk people and wide range of Covid-19 symptoms
Many Seattle-area testing sites are encouraging more people to get testing appointments for Covid-19, thanks to increased testing supplies and an expanded list of qualifying symptoms.
For months, people in the Seattle area have complained that it was hard to get referred for Covid-19 testing unless they were in a high-risk group or had severe symptoms.
“While previously we were asking people to stay home unless they were very sick, that has now changed," said Dr. Meena Mital, chief medical officer for Neighborcare Health.
Mital said the previous, stricter messaging should no longer prevent ill people from seeking tests and care.
Even Washington state isn't getting essential supplies it ordered from Amazon
5:30 p.m. -- Washington state is finding that Amazon hasn’t come through on some important orders.
The state is still waiting for some of the face masks it ordered from Amazon, even though they were promised by April 20 and the order was placed at the end of March.
Also around that time, the state ordered N95 respirators. But Amazon has not been able to deliver them all -- and hasn't come through on hand sanitizer either.
New King County data show Covid-19 inequalities by race/ethnicity
3:25 p.m. – New data from King County show stark inequalities in how Covid-19 is affecting certain communities of color - the most complete picture yet on who’s been hardest-hit by the virus.
The data show Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and Hispanic people are testing positive at four times the rate of white and Asian people.
Black people are testing positive at twice the rate of whites.
Hospitalization rates are similarly disproportionate.
And Hispanic people appear to be dying of Covid-19 in King County at more than twice the rate of white people.
Public Health - Seattle & King County health officer Jeff Duchin said his agency wants to learn more about the specific factors causing the disproportionalities.
“Different racial and ethnic groups may differ in their access to testing, in their access to health care, or in their health-care-seeking behavior. And they have different risk factors for infection related to the type of work they do, their household size, and other exposures in the community," Duchin said.
Duchin said the county would also like demographic data for all positive tests, something the state does not currently require - but which is under consideration by the State Board of Health.
Public Health plans to expand outreach and resources to the most-affected communities.
– Ann Dornfeld
Seattle to close 11 more miles of streets to non-essential traffic
3:15 p.m. -- Neighborhoods slated to get new “Stay Healthy” streets – for people to exercise on while avoiding crowded sidewalks and parks – by early next week include Ballard, the Central District, Delridge/Highland Park and Lake City.
The city’s announcement Friday more than doubles the 6-mile expansion announced earlier in the week. It would boost the city’s total mileage of pedestrian-oriented streets from 9 to 20.
Other cities are closing many more roads than Seattle plans to, including Portland (100 miles) and Oakland (74 miles).
Advocacy group Seattle Greenways is calling for a dramatic boost in spaces for pedestrians, bikers and skaters to spread out on. The group has a proposal for a 132-mile network of “Stay Healthy” streets, or about five percent of all Seattle streets.
As of late April, car traffic in Seattle was down 40 percent below normal levels but rising slowly.
– John Ryan
Washington's stay home order extended through May 31, state to reopen in four phases
2:30 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee will extend his stay-at-home order through at least May 31, he announced on Friday. He said he'd officially issue the extension on Monday, May 4.
Inslee also outlined four phases for reopening the state's economy, to be guided by Covid-19 outbreak data.
"I would like to tell you that you can make reservations for June 1, but I cannot," Inslee said during a press conference on Friday. "We will have to monitor, assess, and adapt."
He added that smaller counties with less of a Covid-19 impact may be permitted to reopen earlier than larger ones or those considered to be hot spots.
However, Inslee reiterated that "our return to normal will still not look the way they did before this virus hit us until we have pharmaceutical interventions, such as a vaccine."
– Liz Brazile
Washington state rejects 6.4 million masks, citing poor quality
2:30 p.m. -- The state canceled orders for more than 6.4 million KN95 masks from mid to late April, according to the Department of Enterprise Services, which is working to acquire such safety supplies.
KN95 masks are the Chinese version of the N95 mask, and are supposed to be an equivalent.
But the masks the state ordered didn’t pass a quality inspection, spokesperson Linda Kent said, because they didn’t correctly guard the face. An improper seal can allow air to leak around the edges of the mask.
Filed for unemployment in Washington state and have received zilch? You're not alone
11 a.m. -- Nearly 800,000 people in Washington state have filed for unemployment since early March. One in three of them have not received money, according to the state's employment security department.
QFC's Online Grocery Pickup is hiring
10:43 a.m. – The supermarket’s online service is busier than ever. It’s hosting a virtual hiring event Tuesday, May 5th, between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST. The company is hiring full time and part time E-commerce clerks to fill online orders.
–Ruby de Luna
Face masks now required on flights out of Sea-Tac
10:04 a.m. -- Alaska, Delta and other airlines flying out of Sea-Tac say they'll require that passengers wear masks on flights.
Delta and United say their new rules for passengers will take effect on Monday, May 4. But Alaska and American Airlines won't make it mandatory until May 11.
Alaska said passengers will be expected to bring their own masks, but masks will be available for those who forget.
Alaska's new rules will also apply to employees who can't safely distance themselves from others.
The airline says that includes pilots, flight attendants and customer service agents.
Starbucks will start reopening stores
9:39 a.m. -- Starbucks says it's going to gradually start reopening some of it's stores in the U.S. and Canada this upcoming Monday.
Employees will get their temperatures taken before they start their shift and the company will give them protective gear to wear.
Customers may be required to send in their orders via the company's phone app, or use a drive through, or delivery services.
Amazon working from home through October
9:26 a.m. -- Amazon says employees with the ability to work from home can continue doing so through October 2. This will largely affect tech and corporate employees.
And in a statement released Thursday a spokesperson said the company is investing significant funds to keep those who eventually choose to come to the office safe through physical distancing, deep cleaning, temperature checks, and providing masks and hand sanitizer.
Whole Foods asks customers to wear face masks
9:23 a.m. -- Whole Foods is now asking customers to wear masks.
The chain says it will provide free masks to those who don't have their own in the coming days.
Aside from making special shopping hours for at-risk customers, and increasing distribution through Amazon, Whole Foods states on its website:
"Over the next week, we will begin requesting that all customers wear masks while shopping in our stores to protect the health and safety of our team members and communities. Whole Foods Market will be providing face masks at the entrance of all stores for customers who do not have their own face covering."
"Gargantuan" number of unemployment claims in Washington
9 a.m. -- The head of Washington's unemployment office calls it "a staggering amount."
One in five workers has now applied for unemployment in Washington state since the coronavirus pandemic began.
The renewed surge in unemployment claims is the result of Congress expanding eligibility. It phased in Washington state on April 19. Oregon made the same change on Tuesday. This means previously ineligible independent contractors, part-timers and the self-employed can apply for unemployment.
Given the opportunity, a "gargantuan" number did. That adjective coming from Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the Washington State Employment Security Department.
"This is by far the largest week of unemployment benefits delivered in our state's history," LeVine said.
Unprecedented volumes of claims continue to overwhelm the phone lines and processing capabilities of state employment departments. LeVine reiterated that even if it takes several weeks or more to have your application approved, you will be paid back to the date of eligibility.
More Covid-19 cases at Tyson meat plant near Pasco
8 a.m. -- Health officials in central Washington say there are 56 new positive coronavirus cases at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant near Pasco.
That's on top of the more than 100 workers who were already infected. The 56 new positive cases include: four workers from Walla Walla County; 31 in Benton and Franklin counties; one in Umatilla County and 20 from as yet unknown locations.
In all, there are 1,400 workers at the plant. Only 1,100 have been tested so far, and test results have been slow to come. Health officials say they expect more results back soon.
Before the mass testing began last week, there were already more than 100 known cases of coronavirus among workers at the plant. Tyson has kept the plant shuttered since Friday, telling workers to quarantine until their results are back.
County health officials say Tyson will decide on any reopening of the plant. There are about a dozen languages spoken by workers there.
THURSDAY, APRIL 30
Everett Cares Grant Program
9:55 a.m. -- The city of Everett will start accepting applications Thursday for the new Everett Cares Grant Program.
It's designed to help small businesses hurt by the coronavirus crisis. A total of 50 grants of $10,000 will be handed out.
Outbreak of Covid-19 at state veterans home
9:30 a.m. -- At least 36 residents of the Spokane Veterans Home have tested positive for coronavirus. At the state’s three other veterans homes, there’s been only one positive case.
It’s the largest outbreak at any of the state’s four veterans homes, and the biggest of any long-term care facility in Spokane.
The outbreak began after an employee tested positive and then treated two residents who died from Covid-19.
But Dr. Robert Fischer who directs Spokane’s federal VA hospital, says the state-run home did nothing wrong.
“What long term home is fully prepared for a pandemic?" Fischer said. "I looked it up. I think the last one was in 1957. This one is relatively deadly, as you know, and tends to affect elderly people. So no one is perfectly prepared.”
The hospital was asked to take the residents two weeks ago, after an infectious disease team from MultiCare and the county’s public health officer recommended the move.
To prepare, the hospital doubled the number of beds it has, to 140, and tripled its intensive care capacity to 12 beds.
Fischer said the patients ages 77 to 96, aren’t showing signs of Covid-19. They won’t return to the veterans home until they’ve had two negative tests, 24 hours apart.
More Covid-19 deaths forecast for Washington state
9 a.m. -- A new forecast model out this week is predicting an increase in the total number of Covid-19 deaths in Washington state.
Professor Theo Vos at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington says their forecasts are constantly updated based on information from around the world.
"By having more experience with places that have gone past the peak we also have a better way of predicting out what determines the shape of the curve," Vos said. "That also influences then what we project going forward for Washington."
The institute now expects the death rate will drop more slowly here and in other states than previously forecast.
It estimates Washington will see nearly 900 total deaths by late May. Other models are predicting even higher numbers.
Contact tracing? There's an app for that
8 a.m. -- A team of University of Washington researchers and Microsoft volunteers have built a smart-phone app to help with contact-tracing efforts.
It’s called Covid-Safe.
UW professor Sham Kakede is leading the effort.
“Your phone can give you a message that you might be exposed. Coordinating with local public health services, it can suggest getting a test, or various next steps.”
Kakede says the app traces potential exposures to Covid-19, while maintaining your anonymity.
And he stresses the only way technology like the Covid-Safe app can work is if extensive testing is made available in the United States.
He says countries like South Korea and Singapore have used the combination of testing and contact tracing with high degrees of success.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29
Proposed payroll tax gets another look
3:30 p.m.- The Seattle City Council's select budget committee continues to look at the possibility of a payroll tax to help small businesses that are struggling due to the coronavirus shutdown. The proposal, sponsored by Council members Kshama Sawant and Tammy Morales, would tax companies with annual payrolls of $7 million dollars or more.
Molly Moon, founder and CEO of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, told council members she supports the policy. But she’s concerned about divisive language. She says talking about the proposal in a more unifying way would be more effective.
“I have friends who work at Amazon and they also think Amazon should pay more taxes," said Moon. "Many of my customers work at Amazon. But I think we can invite large companies to help be a solution to the city where they want to be and operate.”
If approved, the tax would take effect in June. It’s estimated to raise more than $500,000 million in revenue each year.
The city is facing a $300 million shortfall because of the pandemic. Mayor Jenny Durkan has said a payroll tax won’t solve that gap. She says it’s unrealistic to expect funds to be available when people need them most.
-Ruby de Luna
Zillow employees allowed to work from home until end of 2020
9:14 a.m. -- Zillow employees will have the option to work remotely through the rest of the year, regardless of whether businesses are allowed to open doors sooner.
Zillow's CEO Rich Barton announced the news in a tweet recently. He notes that his personal opinions about working from home have "turned upside down over the past two months," and he expects it to have a lasting influence on work.
Costco now requires customers to wear masks
9:08 a.m. -- Starting May 4, customers must wear face masks while shopping at Costco.
The company announced the new requirement on its website saying customers will have to wear a mask or face covering at all times while in its stores.
According to the policy stated on Costco's website:
To protect our members and employees, effective May 4, all Costco members and guests must wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth and nose at all times while at Costco. This requirement does not apply to children under the age of 2 or to individuals who are unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition.
The company also reminds customers that wearing a face mask is not a substitute for social distancing and the stores will continue current social distancing rules.
Everett-based Navy ship returns to US with coronavirus cases
9:04 a.m. -- The Everett-based U.S.S. Kidd is back in the United States.
It docked in San Diego Tuesday after a coronavirus outbreak sickened dozens of sailors.
At last check, the count was up to 64 cases.
The naval ship, which was the second to suffer an outbreak while at sea, will now be cleaned and disinfected.
-- Angela King
Washington state parks will start re-opening
9:01 a.m. -- Some Washington state parks will start re-opening next week.
The parks that re-open next Tuesday are only available for day trips. Camping overnight is still prohibited. Anna Gill with Washington State Parks says that’s because camping is like you’re living out in the woods.
“So you're doing more of your personal hygiene routine, you potentially brushing our teeth right next to somebody. So we want to make sure that we can mitigate those risks and keep people safe before we open our camping.”
Bathrooms will be available in open parks. Masks and gloves won’t be required. And there will be no enforcement at parks making sure people are socially distancing.
“If we find that a park is becoming overcrowded and putting the public at risk, we may close specific location so we're really relying on our visitors.”
Not all parks will open next week. But Gill says a list will be online by the end of the week.
-- Casey Martin
Non-FDA approved Covid-19 antibody test opens up in Seattle
8:49 a.m. -- Got around $200 bucks? Then you can get a test in Seattle to see if you've had Covid-19.
Dr. Eric Friedland is an ER doctor in Kirkland who just opened an Covid-19 test center on Capitol Hill this week.
He says their antibody test is about 96% accurate. But Friedland says there's a lot of unknowns with this new virus. Like, how much protection you'll get from antibodies and for how long.
The test itself has not been approved by the FDA. But due to the crisis the agency allows tests like this one to be marketed without approval.
King County public health makes no recommendation about antibody testing. But they do say that people shouldn't draw definite conclusions about your protection based on any of the available tests.
Wearing a mask could eventually be required in King County
8:30 a.m. -- Some local grocery stores are starting to require customers wear masks.
King County Executive Dow Constantine says that public officials are considering a broad mask requirement which could include grocery stores and buses.
"There's continued debate on whether the use of non-medical masks has much impacts but I as a lay person believe that it at a minimum reduces the chance that you might infect someone else," Constantine told KUOW.
Washington state is still short on medical-grade masks, and any shipments that come in are prioritized for hospitals and first responders.
But once the supply catches up to demand, people could be required to wear masks in some public places.
TUESDAY, APRIL 28
More groups prioritized for Covid-19 testing in Washington State
Washington state health officials are expanding who they say should be tested for COVID-19. The new guidelines cover the list of symptoms the CDC recently adopted, such as shaking chills, muscle aches, and loss of taste or smell. And, the symptoms don’t have to be severe.
“Before we were really focusing testing on people who were really sick,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos who leading the state’s testing strategy. “Now it’s even mild symptoms, because we want to know where people are who might be infected.”
The Washington State Department of Health is also recommending people in a few high-risk groups be tested, even if they don’t have symptoms. That includes people who live in so-called congregate settings, such as shelters or nursing homes, and others who've come in contact with Covid-positive patients.
The state already recommends people in congregate settings be tested if they are symptomatic.
That is, Fotinos added, as long as enough testing kits are available. Washington state is still lacking needed supplies, such as swabs, and is currently waiting on shipments to arrive from China.
Gov. Inslee's take
- Inslee suggested most social distancing rules will remain in place after May 4.
- He said he's not ready to make dramatic changes to the restrictions because new cases, deaths and hospitalizations have not fallen fast/far enough.
- The governor said he's looking at 12 metrics as he weighs his decisions.
- He said elective surgeries and some retail businesses (with some restrictions) will likely be the next things to be allowed although gave no timeline.
- Inslee also said quarantines will be needed.
- Derek Wang
9:58 a.m. -- It's been just over one month since Washingtonians were asked to stay home and stay healthy. Other states have implemented their own orders. And now "quarantine fatigue" may be starting to set in.
Researchers at the University of Maryland looked at anonymous cell phone data and found a 3% drop in social distancing nationwide last week.
Washington ranked 17th, with just 29% of people staying home with an average of three trips per person over the last month.
Another organization has also been looking at how people are moving around. Human-mobility company Unacast grades Washingtonians with a D+ for keeping their movement down.
Breaking it down, some counties have done better than others. King County gets a C- and Snohomish County gets a D. Chelan County gets a B- grade.
--Kim Shepard, Dyer Oxley
Senator says meat plant acted too slow to respond to Covid-19
9:30 a.m. -- Washington Senator Patty Murray is chastising a meat processing plant for failing to act quickly enough to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus.
A total of 34 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed among employees of the Tyson meats facility near Pasco, Wash.
In a letter to the company, Senator Murray says she's heard from a number of the 1,400 employees who are concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment on the job. Murray writes that it seems those concerns were well-founded.
The plant was shut down on Friday so that all employees can be tested. The senator is asking Tyson foods to continue paying it's workers during the closure.
Seattle radio station cites pandemic as reason for layoffs
9 a.m. -- Seattle's classical music station, KING FM, is laying off staff because of the pandemic.
That's according to an email the radio station sent to arts groups and an anonymous employee.
KING FM expects to lose about 17 percent of its revenue and cites that as the reason for making staff reductions. The cuts affect seven employees, but the station says that won’t affect its core programming.
Correction, 4 p.m., 4/28/2020: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of people being laid off. The cuts involve seven employees, and the station says core programming won’t be affected.
Covid-19 is slowing, but still too many cases to ease restrictions
8:30 a.m. -- Updated predictions on the spread of Covid-19 in King County show the stay-at-home order has been effective. But health officials say it’s still not time to loosen the order yet.
A report from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling shows the spread of the disease is gradually slowing. But there are still way too many Covid-19 cases occurring every day in King County, according to the county public health agency.
And health officials say we’re still vulnerable to a rebound where transmission would quicken and a spike of people would get sick. That could potentially overwhelm the healthcare system, which has been a top concern amid the pandemic.
Instead, the report urges more steps to suppress the spread. Investigating and tracing cases of the disease, for example, could help.
Local health leaders want to figure out more specifics about what jobs and behaviors are putting people at risk.
Washington still in need of testing supplies
8 a.m. -- Washington state's social distancing restrictions will continue to stay in place, in part because the state doesn't have enough testing supplies.
State medical officer Doctor Kathy Lofy says that Washington is still coming up short when it comes to having things like vials and liquid to perform coronavirus tests. Add to that -- the state has hit some snags.
"We did have a quality control issue with some transport media that had come into the state, and that set us back, so those orders were canceled because we need to make sure that the supplies that we're using work well," Lofy said.
The number of tests being done actually decreased too. The last count was down to 4,000 possible tests per day. The state wants to at least double that amount.
Washington's stay-at-home order will last until at least May 4, but could be extended beyond that.
MONDAY, APRIL 27
Seattle to create 6 more miles of “Stay Healthy Streets” this weekend
6:10 p.m. -- To give Seattleites at least a few places where social distancing and outdoor exercise can go together, the city has already closed nine miles of streets to non-essential traffic.
“We have 2,400 miles of residential streets, and 15 miles obviously is not a huge portion,” city traffic engineer Dongho Chang said.
Chang said Mayor Jenny Durkan is reviewing proposals for the next round of “Stay Healthy Streets” in West Seattle, north/central Seattle, Ballard and Lake City.
Advocates say many city parks and sidewalks remain dangerously crowded. The group Seattle Greenways is finalizing a proposal to more than double the 15 miles the city is planning.
Oakland, California, has turned 74 miles, or 10% of its road network, into safe exercise spaces.
Other uses of Seattle roads have plummeted: car traffic is down by half since February, and transit use is down 75%.
Chang says it doesn’t cost much to close a street but the cost has gone up: At first the city could use the “STREET CLOSED” signs from its snow emergency supply. The winter signage ran out, forcing the city to order new signs.
Colorado, Nevada join Western States Pact
2:42 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday that Colorado and Nevada are joining the Western States Pact -- an agreement initially between California, Washington, and Oregon to coordinate the reopening of their economies while maintaining safe public health practices.
The pact between the three West Coast states was first announced on April 13. No specific plan has been put forth, and each state will develop their own approaches.
"Coloradans are working together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and have important information to share with and to gain from other states. I’m thrilled Colorado is joining the Western States Pact," Gov. Jared Polis said.
"There’s no silver bullet that will solve this pandemic until there is a cure so we must have a multifaceted and bold approach in order to slow the spread of the virus, keep our people safe and help our economy rebound.”
“I’m honored to have the state of Nevada join the Western States Pact and believe the sharing of critical information and best practices on how to mitigate the spread, protect the health and safety of our residents, and reopen responsibly will be invaluable as we chart our paths forward,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said.
“Millions of visitors from our fellow Western states travel to Nevada every year as a premier tourism destination and this partnership will be vital to our immediate recovery and long-term economic comeback.”
The pact states that governments will use health outcomes and science to guide decisions, such as how and when to ease up on social distancing measures. It also states that vulnerable communities should be protected, and that various factors must be in place to reopen economies. Such factors include testing, tracking, and isolating.
United Nations point to Tacoma facility citing perilous conditions amid Covid-19 pandemic
12:30 p.m. -- Human rights experts from the United Nations called on U.S. officials to use alternatives to detention specifically citing perilous conditions for detainees at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, WA.
Felipe González Morales is the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
In the release, he said, “We heard that there is a lack of protective measures for detainees, that it is impossible to keep the recommended physical distance, and that new arrivals are not being put into isolation for medical observation. This raises grave concerns that the coronavirus could spread in the centre– a facility that has reported issues with providing inadequate healthcare and unsanitary conditions."
The Northwest ICE Processing Center is run by a private company, the GEO Group, for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and can hold about 1,500 people.
Immigrants at the detention center have led hunger strikes to protest conditions in the last few months.
Boaters protest in South Lake Union
9:53 a.m. -- Dozens of demonstrators took to the waters of South Lake Union in Seattle Sunday. They were protesting the ban on recreational fishing during Washington's stay-at-home order.
They argue they can maintain safe social distances while on the water, but it was crowding on shore, and on the boat ramps, that led the department of fish and wildlife to make its decision last month.
Department heads also said certain monitoring they have to do under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) would require they conduct face-to-face interviews with fishers which could increase coronavirus exposures. Gov. Jay Inslee hinted last week that he was considering easing some restrictions on certain outdoor activities, but we've yet to receive those details.
Bellingham events cancelled
9:46 a.m. -- The Mayor of Bellingham has canceled all city-sponsored summer events through the end of August.
That includes festivals, concerts, park/sporting activities and street closures, according to the executive order signed by Mayor Seth Fleetwood.
Major events affected include Downtown Sounds, the Tour de Whatcom bicycle ride, and the Lake Whatcom Triathlon.
Drive-up Wi-Fi hot spots appear in communities with limited internet access
9 a.m. -- Drive-up Wi-Fi hot spots are popping up around Washington to provide high-speed internet service to people like students in rural areas who don't have access at home.
Distance learning, ordering groceries online, applying for unemployment are all difficult without a good internet connection. Traditional public Wi-Fi access points such as libraries and coffee shops are closed. So at least seven public utilities in Washington are stepping up to provide an alternative. They're setting up free community Wi-Fi hotspots outdoors.
The latest is Mason PUD No. 3, where Justin Holzgrove is director of engineering and utility services in Shelton, Washington.
"What we picture is that people will be able to drive up to one of these designated locations, pull up to the hotspot -- and stay in their car for appropriate social distancing -- and then log in," Holzgrove said.
Pend Oreille and Franklin PUDs in Eastern Washington have their first community Wi-Fi hotspots up and running. Chelan, Jefferson County and Mason PUD plan to roll out a whole bunch more over the next three weeks.
Covid-19 outbreaks at Washington food processing plants
8 a.m. -- More than 100 workers at a Tyson beef plant near Pasco have tested positive for Covid-19. And a Stemilt fruit operation in the Wenatchee Valley has seen more than 30 employees test positive.
Both companies are grappling with how to protect their other workers and contain the spread of the coronavirus. Companies are worried as they are an essential business and they need to keep producing food for the nation. They are therefore hesitant to shut down. So the question is how to keep workers safe through the pandemic. They’re doing things like extra cleaning. They’re putting up partitions and clear dividers between workers. Separating workers is difficult at the facilities.
It’s hard to know whether this will contain the spread of coronavirus within these plants.
King says both companies produce large amounts of food for the nation and the world. Stemilt also has another facility in the Yakima area with more than 900 employees.
-Kim Shepard and Anna King
SUNDAY, APRIL 26
2 p.m. -- A single coronavirus test contains parts from around the world. Swabs -- which look like long Q-tips -- are made in Italy and a tiny town in Maine. Liquids to preserve samples in Shanghai, China.
Covid-19 has escalated the need for these products, part of a supply chain that is built for flu season, not a global pandemic.
Without negotiations for these supplies happening at a federal level, University of Washington researchers in Seattle have turned into business negotiators practically overnight, locating the makers of these supplies, and then striking a deal.
Beware the quarantini
11 a.m. -- As the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the globe, I find myself, as a doctor, dealing with another viral spread –information. Good information, bad information, and very dangerous information.
Until the president suggested that injecting household cleaners could cure coronavirus, my biggest concern was the rise in alcohol consumption as people battle their fears and anxieties without healthy outlets.
Even at supposedly “safe” levels, alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, dementia, and insomnia.
The rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is a serious problem, not least because it actually suppresses your immune system.
--Elisabeth Poorman, M.D.
SATURDAY, APRIL 25
Many Seattle students not logging onto learning portal
9 a.m. -- Seattle Public Schools data show that as of last week, only 72% of students had logged on to the district’s online portal for distance learning assignments. Just 60% of Black boys – who are at the center of a strategic plan the district adopted last year – had logged on.