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caption: Leah Silver tends to her patient on the Covid ICU at the University of Washington Medical Center on April 24, 2020. There are photos of his family on the window.
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Leah Silver tends to her patient on the Covid ICU at the University of Washington Medical Center on April 24, 2020. There are photos of his family on the window.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Updates on the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state (June 1-7)

This is an archived post. You can read the latest here.

As of Friday June 12, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

*1,204 Covid-19 related deaths; 25,171 confirmed cases (5.7% positive rate among those tested, and 4.8% 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 (571 deaths), Snohomish (153 deaths), Pierce (83 deaths), and Yakima (114 deaths).

Versión en español aquí / Read KUOW's coronavirus coverage in Spanish


Increased cases in eastern Washington, possibly from Memorial Day travel

11:56 a.m. -- Washington state officials warned Saturday of increased cases of Covid-19, specifically in Benton, Franklin, Spokane and Yakima counties. In a statement, the Washington State Department of Health said those counties are of the "greatest concern" and that "these counties are in a comparable position to King County at its peak in March."

If Covid-19 continues to spread at current levels in those counties, officials said they expect cases and deaths to "increase substantially." Hospital capacity and testing may need to be expanded, they said.

A state issued situation report said the "results include possible transmission over Memorial Day weekend but not increases that may have occurred from protests."

Officials said case counts in western Washington are trending flat but that "small increases are being observed."

Meanwhile in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown paused her state's reopening plans on Friday, just as the Oregon Health Authority announced the most new cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

- Derek Wang


Lawsuit filed over church gatherings during the pandemic

9:30 a.m. -- he Department of Justice is getting involved in a lawsuit a Pierce County Church filed against the state of Washington.

It argues that Governor Jay Inslee isn't giving churches the same "preferable treatment of secular gatherings such as restaurants, taverns, and outdoor protests compared to the restrictions imposed on indoor and outdoor religious services triggers heightened scrutiny under the Constitution."

It argues the governor's restrictions on religious services during this pandemic are unconstitutional

Last month the governor said indoor church services can restart but only at 25% capacity or up to 50 people. Drive-in services are allowed.

The statement of interest from the DOJ said the state can't treat churches differently than other large gatherings. The statement notes that "Governor Inslee has placed no limit on total numbers for outdoor protests, only requesting that participants “be safe for themselves and the people around them” by “wearing a mask and . . . distancing as much as you can.”

The DOJ says that a church must be treated the same unless the state can persuasively show that there are material differences between a restaurant or tavern and a house of worship; or between an outdoor protest and an outdoor worship service.

--Angela King

National Guard activated to help with unemployment claims

9 a.m. -- First it was to help with food banks slammed by people needing help during the pandemic. Then they were called on to help with contact-tracing. Now the Washington National Guard is being brought in to help the state unemployment office process tens of thousands of unemployment applications.

They were stalled after impostors filed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fake claims. Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine says the Guard will help verify legitimate claimants, starting next week.

--Angela King

Spike in Covid-19 cases in Cowlitz County

8:30 a.m. -- Cowlitz County had planned to move into Phase 3 of Washington's Safe Start plan on Saturday. But, now officials are walking that back.

The county reports 22 new cases of Covid-19 between June 8-11 -- nine cases are connected to outbreaks in neighboring Clark County.

Officials are going to take a little more time to consider how and when they will move forward.

--Kim Shepard

In-person classes could start in the fall

8:15 a.m. -- In-person classes will resume this fall in Washington state, but students and teachers will need to wear face masks at all times.

Most K-12 school districts can start face-to-face classes this fall, as long as their local health authority approves. That's according to state schools superintendent Chris Reykdal. He says the move to return is partly due to the difficulties students face without their routines, school computers, and meals.

"What we know for sure is that distance learning is fundamentally a disproportionate impact on students who can't connect, who may not have the supports they need," Reykdal said. "The model that we were in was driven by the need to close and every state did that. So the opportunity to come back to school is certainly our better opportunity."

He says schools that open in-person must require face masks, daily health checks, and keep students separated in classrooms and by staggering their break times.

School districts can also decide to continue remote education, if they deem it necessary for public health.

--Paige Browning

More problems, more taxes?

Washington state lawmakers are expected to get a bleak revenue report

Washington state lawmakers are expected to get a bleak revenue report

8 a.m. -- Taxes usually aren't a topic Democrats want to talk about during an election year. But that may be different this year, especially after next week when state lawmakers are expecting to get a bleak revenue forecast.

About lessons learned from that period.

“We cut too much and it ended up costing us a lot more in the long run, that doesn’t make sense,” said Andy Billig, state senator from Spokane.

On TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program, Billig said that Democrats are talking much more freely about new taxes. In fact, Governor Jay Inslee’s budget director says the Democrat would be unlikely to sign an all cuts budget.

Republicans counter that taxes should be a last resort.

--Austin Jenkins


Washington schools may reopen face to face in Fall 2020

12:00 p.m. - The majority of public schools in Washington state could go back to in-person learning again this coming fall. The state's top school's official, superintendent Chris Reykdal, announced new guidelines for school districts today in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Students and teachers will need to wear face masks at all times, among other measures.

K-12 school districts can resume face-to-face classes as long as their local health authority okays it. If they are still in a region of the state that's in phase one of the "Safe Start" plan, they may need to follow extra requirements in order to welcome students back.

Reykdal says the move to return is partly due to the difficulties students face without access to school buildings, which has taken away their routines, school computers, and school meals. "What we know for sure is that distance learning is fundamentally a disproportionate impact on students who can't connect, who may not have the supports they need," says Reykdal. " So the opportunity to come back to school is certainly our better opportunity."

He says schools that open in-person must require face masks, daily health checks, and keep students separated in classrooms (and stagger their break times).

School districts can also decide to continue remote education, if they deem it necessary for public health.

-Paige Browning

Washington counties continue to phase into opening up

10:30 a.m. -- Three more Washington state counties have received approval to move into the next phase of the state's Safe Start Plan. Chelan and Douglas counties can enter a modified Phase 1, and Asotin County has gotten the green light to move into Phase 3.

A total of three counties are still in Phase 1; three counties are in a modified version of Phase 1; 24 counties are in Phase 2; and nine counties are in Phase 3. Benton and Franklin counties have applied to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2, and Skamania County has applied to move from Phase 2 to 3.

--Angela King

Pre-flight health questionnaire for airline passengers

10 a.m. -- Alaska and United airlines are going to start asking passengers to fill out a pre-flight health questionnaire. It's part of an ongoing effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

I met passenger Katy Charlston between flights bound for New York.

"I flew from Portland to Seattle just this morning and that felt fine," said Katy Charlston. "There was lots of space. It felt clean."

Charlston was between flights at Sea-Tac Airport, bound for New York.

Her chosen airline, Alaska Air, is currently capping bookings on any given flight at 65% of capacity. Alaska Air senior vice president Sangita Woerner says the plan is to leave middle seats empty through July 31.

"It's definitely not a super long term solution for sure to keep an airline profitable," Woerner said. "That being said, we want our guests to feel safe, particularly to feel safe when they come back to flying for the first time, right."

Woerner is counting on a combination of dozens of operational changes to give travelers confidence. Her airline and others are touting enhanced cleaning, a mask requirement, and now this new preflight Covid symptoms check off.

--Tom Banse

King County's infection rate has leveled off, but the risk has not gone away

9:30 a.m. --It’s been a week since limited businesses and recreational activities were allowed to resume under King County’s modified Phase 1.5 plan. Dr. Jeff Duchin told the Board of Health that overall, the levels of infection have leveled off.

But Duchin cautions the risk for coronavirus has not gone away.

“What that means is we need to continue distancing to the extent possible," said Duchin. "We need to be meticulous about our mask use in public, we need to pay continued attention to hand washing and use hand sanitizers and cleaning frequently touch surfaces.”

The county might apply for Phase 2 reopening next week, at the earliest, depending on what the trend looks like.

Under Phase 2, restrictions would still be in place, but eased up. For example, restaurants may offer indoor dining at half capacity instead of 25 percent.

-Ruby de Luna


New pandemic travel requirements for passengers on Alaska Airlines

8:43 a.m. -- New requirements are about to go into effect for anyone who flies Alaska Airlines.

Starting June 30, you'll have to submit a pre-travel wellness agreement upon check in stating that you've not exhibited any Covid-19 symptoms within 72 hours.

Passengers older than 12 will now have to wear a face mask.

Flights will be capped at 65% capacity. The middle seats will also be blocked through July 31 to help with social distancing.

Sanitizing wipes will be also made available to passengers starting in July. The airline said planes will be equipped with two hospital-grade HEPA filters that remove 99.95% of airborne contaminants like Covid-19.

--Angela King

Popular Rattlesnake Lake reopening, but no hiking to the ridge

8:30 a.m. -- One of King County's most popular recreation areas is reopening Thursday. Rattlesnake Lake will be open for boating, fishing, swimming and picknicking.

But Seattle Public Utilities, which manages the area, says hiking will still be prohibited.

They say crowding on the trails and at the viewpoint at the top don't allow for proper social distancing.

--Kim Shepard

Starbucks is losing bucks

8 a.m. -- Starbucks expects to swing to a loss in its fiscal third quarter.

The company is now predicting a loss of as much as $3.2 billion in revenue due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

CNBC reports that Starbucks expects they will be back in the black by the end of June.


Washington state officials: state has almost all of the testing supplies it needs

5:41 p.m. -- Washington state has made progress on a long-standing barrier in its response to Covid-19: getting enough testing supplies.

State officials announced Tuesday that they had enough nasal swabs to test over one million people.

Reed Schuler, an adviser to the governor, told reporters on a conference call that the state got the supplies through different channels.

“We finally attained sufficient testing supplies through a combination of federal support and our own commercial procurement to be able to meaningfully expand and move us to a broad set of access to testing, with some caveats." he said.

Now, a limiting factor is having enough shipping materials to keep the collected specimens cold when sending them to a lab.

Washington state is aiming to test the residents and staff in all nursing homes by the end of the week.

State health officials are also urging anyone with symptoms that resemble Covid-19 to get tested.

-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

High risk workers to remain protected through August 1

4:30 p.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee has extended a proclamation that allows high-risk workers to continue to work from home, or remotely from other locations, without jeopardizing their employment or unemployment benefits. The proclamation extends through August 1.

Those considered “high risk” are workers age 65 and older, and those with underlying health conditions. This means that these individuals could use accrued leave or access unemployment benefits if alternative work is not feasible. Insurance benefits must continue for these employees. Employers may not permanently replace these workers.

Millions of N95 masks coming to Washington

10:45 a.m. -- A total of 55 million N95 respirator masks could be coming to Washington state now that a federal agency has signed off on a design by the Chinese firm BYD.

The Seattle Times reports Washington's order for the masks has been on hold following federal concerns about the design and quality of manufacturing.

BYD now says the mask has passed the agency's physical tests.

--Kim Malcolm

Canada eases up on border restrictions for families

10:30 a.m. -- Canada is easing some of its border crossing restrictions for those who are immediate relatives of permanent residents -- such as spouses, common-law partners, dependent children, parents and legal guardians.

But these folks will have to quarantine for two weeks and will have to remain in Canada for at least 15 days.

--Angela King

Alderwood Mall reopens

10 a.m. -- The Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood is reopening Tuesday after being closed for 11 weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It's the first regional mall in King or Snohomish counties to reopen under Phase 2.

It'll be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Only about 30, of the 160, retailers and restaurants will be open. Half of the seating in the food court has been removed. Shoppers are being urged to wear masks, and those who don't have a mask will be provided one at the mall

Westfield Southcenter in South Seattle and Bellevue Square remain closed. Most of Seattle’s Northgate Mall has been closed since last fall for renovation.

--Angela King

Health experts urge protesters to quarantine for 14 days

9:30 a.m. -- As demonstrations continue around the Seattle region, state health officials are encouraging participants to self-quarantine at home for 14 days to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This is especially the case for those who weren’t able to socially distance or didn’t wear a mask at the events. There are now more than 24,000 confirmed cases across Washington state and more than 11,060 deaths.

Anyone with even mild Covid-like symptoms is now urged to get tested.

--Angela King


Masks now mostly required

4:50 p.m. -- Face masks are now required in Washington workplaces and businesses must urge mask use by their customers. Those new rules took effect Monday even as the state is experiencing an upswing in COVID-19 cases.

Governor Jay Inslee is urging compliance with the masking requirements. “This is a new thing for us and it’s like anything else that’s new, it’s probably going to take time for us to adapt to it, but I sure hope people do in increasing numbers because it is I just want to get back to normal, I don’t want to have to go to a shutdown again, we want to prevent a second wave,” he said during a press conference Monday afternoon.

Inslee is also pleading with people participating in recent protests to wear masks. The state Department of Health is now recommending that people who’ve attended a protest to self-quarantine for 14 days – especially if they weren’t able to socially distance or didn’t wear a mask. And anyone with even mild COVID-like symptoms is now urged to get tested.

-- Austin Jenkins

Covid-19 cases slow among homeless population

8:45 a.m. -- The rate of new Covid-19 cases in people experiencing homelessness in King County has slowed in recent weeks. King County’s latest tally of confirmed Covid-19 cases among people experiencing homelessness is nearly 250.

Health officials say the number of cases in this population is currently at a plateau, however, they continue to closely monitor rates of Covid-19 among people living unhoused.

They’re encouraging service providers and individuals to keep up precautions like the use of face masks and access to hygiene resources.

People experiencing homelessness can be more vulnerable to the virus due to things like underlying health conditions and difficulty maintaining social distancing in shelters.

--Kate Walters

Lawsuit filed over slow unemployment process

8:30 p.m. -- Frustration with long delays in getting jobless benefits is boiling over into legal action against the Washington State Employment Security Department. Attorneys filed the case directly with the state Supreme Court on Friday.

The legal challenge asks the court to order the unemployment office to provide "prompt" payment of jobless benefits. The plaintiffs in the case are the Unemployment Law Project and two laid off bar and restaurant workers. McKeezi Barraza is one them. He and several hundred thousand other Washingtonians on the unemployment rolls had their accounts frozen in mid to late May to do fraud checks.

"They said it could be anywhere from four to six weeks before I'm paid," McKeezi said. "To me, that's unacceptable because I couldn't even pay rent this month for June. I've got a few hundred dollars left in my pocket."

The Employment Security Department didn’t immediately comment on the legal challenge. But the commissioner says her agency is doing everything it can to get benefits out to legitimate applicants while weeding out a wave of fraudulent claims.

--Tom Banse

Farm workers sue over bunk bed loophole

Washington farm workers sue over bunk bed loophole

Washington farm workers sue over bunk bed loophole

8 am. -- Farm workers brought from countries like Mexico on temporary work visas are typically housed in crowded barrack-like buildings using bunk beds. But with the pandemic, the state of Washington has banned the beds to separate workers -- kind of.

Even though bunk beds are banned, farmers are still allowed to use them as long as workers are separated into 15-person groups. These groups aren’t allowed to interact with other workers, meaning they live, work, and are transported together.

But that’s not good enough for Farm worker union Familias Unidas por la Justicia. They’ve sued the state over the rules, alleging a loophole to the bunk bed still puts workers at risk.

"The focus was not on the health of individual workers in that calculus," said Andrea Schmitt, a lawyer with Columbia Legal Services, representing Familias Unidas. "The focus was on allowing the industry to go forward business as usual despite this extraordinary threat to people’s health."

Schmitt says workers from other countries aren’t required to be tested. Only workers with symptoms are.

--Enrique Perez de la rosa


UW reports lowest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations since pandemic began

1 p.m. -- University of Washington Medicine is noting that it is seeing the lowest number of hospitalized Covid-19 positive patients since the pandemic struck Washington state.

Two UW hospitals currently have no Covid-19 patients, and officials note that there are now fewer than 20 patients throughout its entire system.

Officials remain wary of another surge in cases and pandemic measures are still in place.

--Dyer Oxley

Previous updates

June 1-7

May 18-31

May 9-17

May 4-8

April 27-May 3

April 20-26

April 13-19

April 6-12

March 30-April 5

March 23 - 29

March 15 - 22

March 8 - 14

March 6 - 8

March 2 - 6

February 29 - March 2