skip to main content
caption: Masked travelers walk through a skybridge on Monday, May 18, 2020, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. All passengers and employees traveling through the airport are required to wear face coverings beginning today, Monday, May 18.
Enlarge Icon
Masked travelers walk through a skybridge on Monday, May 18, 2020, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. All passengers and employees traveling through the airport are required to wear face coverings beginning today, Monday, May 18.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Updates on the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state (June 22-28)

This post is archived. For the latest, read here.

As of Sunday, June 28, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

*1,310 Covid-19 related deaths; 31,752 confirmed cases (5.9% positive rate among those tested, and 4.1% 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 (586 deaths), Snohomish (165 deaths), Yakima (149 deaths), and Pierce (87 deaths).

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

FRIDAY, JUNE 26

Yakima County sheriff will not arrest over face mask rule

Central Washington sheriffs refuse to enforce face mask requirement

Central Washington sheriffs refuse to enforce face mask requirement

Noon -- While it is a misdemeanor to defy the new face covering rule, Washington Governor Jay Inslee said earlier this week that "ideally, there won’t be any criminal or civil sanctions for individuals."

And some state law enforcement leaders say they won't be enforcing the new rule. That includes Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell even though that area's been dealing with an ongoing surge. It now has the second highest number of cases in the state behind King County.

But in a statement, Sheriff Udell said his position from the start of the pandemic has been on engagement and education, adding his deputies won't arrest those violating the new rule.

--Angela King

King County Metro suspends fares during July

11:45 a.m. -- King County Metro Transit announced that it is suspending all fares for the month of July because of the coronavirus.

The agency suspended fares last month to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

--Angela King

Another Covid-19 case cluster in Oregon

11:30 a.m. -- For the second time this week, a Covid-19 case cluster has been identified in the Eugene/Springfield area in Oregon.

Lane County health officials say that five teenagers have tested positive for novel coronavirus after a recent house party in Springfield. Spokesperson Jason Davis says trace investigations began after one individual became symptomatic.

“We do believe there may be more cases in this cluster. There were around 20 individuals at the party,” he said. “From the reports that we’ve heard there was not any social distancing or masking that happened.”

Davis says this demonstrates a general disregard or apathy by some toward public health prevention measures. While the focus should remain on behavior and not necessarily age groups, he still urges parents to have conversations with young people about the importance of distancing, practicing good hygiene and thinking like a responsible member of a community.

--Tiffany Eckert, Northwest News Network

Covid cases strongly spiking in Spokane area

11:10 a.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Thursday that "Spokane is right on the verge of a very dire situation because of this pandemic. It is right on the verge of a runaway pandemic."

Spokane County’s coronavirus caseload has continued to surge since Memorial Day. County health officials reported 31 new cases Thursday, pushing the total to more than 1,100. What’s especially worrying to officials is that hospitalization rates continue to increase.

Despite the growing number of cases in Spokane County, Inslee says he’s encouraged local officials will be able to reverse the trend. Otherwise, he says, the state may have to consider changing Spokane’s status as a phase two community.

Inslee went to the Washington State University Spokane campus with health care leaders, elected officials and members of the Spokane Alliance. He stressed the importance of wearing a mask.

"We know that in Yakima County the percentage of people who wear masks has gone from 35% two weeks ago to 60% last weekend. The reason that is happening is that people are learning what a mask can do."

--Derek Wang

Retired Gen. James Mattis urges Washingtonians to wear face coverings

11 a.m. -- Former U.S. Defense Secretary, Gen. James Mattis is urging Washingtonians to social distance and wear face coverings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“The good news is we’re making progress,” Mattis said in a public service announcement. “And that is good news but we’re not at the end of the road. Make sure we’re wearing the face masks and we keep the social distancing. And let’s not go out more than we have to.”

Washington residents are now required to wear face coverings while inside public spaces like grocery stores, offices, and restaurants. Face coverings are also required outdoors, when there’s not enough space for people to keep 6 feet apart.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that divisiveness will never work in defeating an enemy,” Mattis added. “We got to all pull together. Sometimes it’s not pleasant. Some of the things we have to do, like wear a face mask and all. We can get through this if we’re united and we’re going to win. So let’s stick together Washington and keep up the good fight until we’re on top of this.”

--Ashley Hiruko

THURSDAY, JUNE 25

Second Washington state inmate dies of Covid-19

3 p.m. -- Two incarcerated people have died of Covid-19 in Washington state. Both of them were housed at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Eastern Washington.

On June 22, William Bryant, 72, died at a local medical facility after contracting Covid-19. He was transported from Coyote Ridge for outside medical treatment on June 13, where he remained until he died.

Victor Bueno, 63, was the first inmate to die of Covid-19 in Washington state. Bueno was housed in the Medium Security Complex and was scheduled to be released in September. He died on June 17.

That same day, prison officials said they would increase coronavirus testing to include all Coyote Ridge staff and inmates that live within the Medium Security Complex.

On June 24, the Department of Corrections put its large-scale testing plan in motion. Employees of the Washington State Department of Health and National Guard will help in the effort to collect nasal specimens from the more than 1,800 inmates within the Medium Security Complex.

-- Ashley Hiruko

Mariners players test positive for Covid-19

9:15 a.m. -- Mariners General Manager Jerry DiPoto says more than one player on the team has tested positive for Covid-19.

DiPoto said Wednesday that the infected players are asymptomatic and doing well.

Mariners will take the field Friday July 3.

The Seattle Times is reporting the University of Washington has two student athletes who have also tested positive. Those athletes are going through quarantine protocols.

--Angela King

Gov. Inslee's Republican opponents oppose mask wearing mandate

Gov. Inslee opponents say they won't wear face masks

Gov. Inslee opponents say they won't wear face masks

9 a.m. -- Face coverings will be mandatory in Washington state starting Friday. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the order this week. But several of his Republican opponents for governor say they won't comply.

Loren Culp is police chief in the town of Republic, Washington and he's running for governor. He calls the mandatory mask order tyranny and "a bunch of crap."

"We have our rights. Our rights come from God. They do not come from government..." Culp recently said. "Jay Inslee, I will not comply. Period. I am a free American."

Another Republican, State Senator Phil Fortunato, is also running. He calls the mask order unconstitutional and says he's "ready to campaign from jail"

Another Republican candidate is former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed. He says Jay Inslee doesn't have the authority to make mask wearing a law.

But Inslee spokesperson Mike Falk says, technically, Secretary of Health John Wiesman issued the order using his independent authority, and Inslee approved.

KUOW contacted Republican candidate Tim Eyman, but we've not heard back from him yet.

--David Hyde

Covid-19 cases rise in King County

8:45 a.m. -- Tuesday was King County's worst day for positive Covid-19 cases since early May. The numbers rose as the county continues to settle into Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan.

Preliminary data shows nearly 100 new cases were reported Tuesday. A few weeks ago, that number was in the twenties.

Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health — Seattle & King County says people need to understand that the virus is still everywhere.

"There’s so many ways that people can become exposed to this virus in the community right now, that’s increasing our risk as we get back to work," Duchin said. "...it’s really critical that people understand that the risk has not gone down because we’re in Phase 2, it’s actually higher."

Dr. Duchin says the virus is spreading more because people are spending more time with more people and more frequently.

He also says the recent protests accounted for a small percentage of new cases – around 3%. Many of those people also had a family member, coworker or friend who was sick, so it’s hard to say what the true impact of the protests have had on the case numbers so far.

-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Pandemic study looks at economic and food security

8:30 a.m. -- Researchers at the University of Washington, WSU, and Tacoma Community College are studying how the coronavirus outbreak has impacted the economic- and food-security of Washington state residents.

UW epidemiologist Adam Drewnowski is leading the effort. He says he noticed maps which show the impact of Covid-19 seem strikingly similar to the mapping he's done on chronic health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease.

"Interestingly enough, they both seem to follow the map of social disparities," Drewnowski said. "So this has major implications on resilience and who will suffer and who will come out OK. And right now, we want to make sure that there is information available to state and local authorities and to policymakers, about people who are suffering the most."

They launched a survey last week with partners in local, county, and state governments. They're asking people about how the epidemic has affected their employment situation, access to food and shopping habits. The first round runs through July 31.

--KNKX-Tacoma

Thurston County moves to Phase 3

8 a.m. -- Thurston County has gotten the OK to move into Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan. Under Phase 3, people can have gatherings of up to 50 people and businesses can welcome more customers. Gyms, pools, and movie theaters can also reopen.

Meanwhile, Snohomish and Pierce Counties are still waiting to find out if they can also move into Phase 3. But Snohomish County hit a single day record of 75 cases earlier this week. And Pierce County also hit a peak Wednesday with 45 new cases.

--Angela King

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24

King County and Seattle confirmed Covid-19 cases rising

6:35 p.m. Tuesday was King County's worst day for positive Covid-19 cases since early May. That’s even as the county is moving into Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.

Preliminary data shows close to 100 new cases on Tuesday, compared to daily cases of 20 to 30 a few weeks ago. The virus is spreading more because people are spending more time, with more people, more frequently, said, Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County.

The virus is still everywhere, he said.

“There’s so many ways that people can become exposed to this virus in the community right now, that’s increasing our risk as we get back to work," Duchin said. "It’s really critical that people understand that the risk has not gone down because we’re in Phase 2, it’s actually higher.”

Recent protests contributed a small percentage of new cases – around three percent. Many of those people also had a family member, coworker or friend who was ill, so it’s hard to ascertain the true impact of the protests on the case numbers, he said.

Meanwhile, state and local health officials are emphasizing the importance of wearing masks or other face coverings in public, ahead of Friday, when the statewide mandate goes into effect.

-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

King County approves third round of emergency funding for Covid response

10:11 a.m. King County Council unanimously approved $86.2 million in emergency funding. The supplemental budget will go toward various programs that provide food assistance, rent assistance, and social services as residents continue to struggle with the pandemic's impacts.

“This spending package is aimed at providing relief to their urgent needs and from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. It also will help position our County to bounce back once the crisis is behind us," said budget chair Jeanne Kohl-Wehls. "And, importantly, the funding is targeted to support historically disadvantaged communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic – an important step to take if we are to dismantle and disrupt racism in our communities once and for all."

The budget includes funding to support digital equity in K-12 schools, to help address the increased behavioral health needs during the pandemic.

The council also passed legislation that allows restaurants and retailers to use adjacent sidewalks and private parking spaces for additional outdoor seating or retail use.

-Ruby de Luna

Some jobs are at higher risk of Covid-19

9:45 a.m. -- It’s probably no surprise that healthcare workers have been hard hit by the coronavirus. But a report from the state's health and labor agencies says some workers in other fields have an even higher risk of contracting Covid-19.

While everyone's at risk of catching coronavirus, workers in agriculture and fishing are four times more likely to get infected than the average worker in Washington.

Workers in health care, salons, and child care have about three times the average infection rate.

University of Washington researchers say the jobs at greatest risk of exposure to Covid-19 also tend to have low wages. They’re often held by immigrants. People who pick apples, pack cherries or cut fish often live in company housing.

The cramped conditions in bunkhouses and on fishing boats make it easy for respiratory viruses to spread.

Farmworker groups say the state needs to do much more to improve their safety.

--John Ryan

Few Washington counties interested in moving to Phase 4

9:30 a.m. -- By the end of this week, eight rural counties will have spent the minimum three weeks in Phase 3 of the state's four-phase reopening plan.

But state Health Secretary John Wiesman says he and the governor aren't quite ready to have them move into the final phase, so they can lift most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions.

More on state officials' hesitation about moving counties into Phase 4

"We are very concerned about thinking about any large gatherings or opening up things that really encourage people across the state to travel," Wiesman said. "So, we're in those discussions at the very moment."

Under Phase 4, counties can lift the restrictions on travel, large sporting events, and the size of public gatherings

Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties in northeastern Washington are interested in moving into that final phase

--Tom Banse & Gil Aegerter

King County executive says mask rule will help businesses

9 a.m -- King County Executive Dow Constantine says a mask rule can help restaurants and stores keep their employees and customers safe. He says a requirement lets businesses tell people who come in "Sorry, but it's the law."

"We've all seen first hand, places where folks are just ignoring the advice," Constantine said. "And although they may think they're putting themselves at risk, what they're really doing is putting others at risk, and we can't allow that."

Constantine says the county saw nearly 100 new cases Tuesday, the most since early May.

The new mask ruled announced by the governor goes into effect statewide Friday.

--Gil Aegerter

Seattle mayor proposes 5% SPD cut to balance budget

8:30 a.m. -- The city is facing a nearly $380 million budget gap because of revenue shortfalls and fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This is the biggest financial hit the city has ever seen," Seattle budget director Ben Noble said. "Our resources are taken as a share of the local economy and the local economy is getting smaller, significantly smaller. There’s just no way around that."

Part of Mayor Jenny Durkan's remedy for the 2020 budget shortfall is cutting $20 million slated for the Seattle Police Department. That's nearly 5% of SPD total budget.

While the cuts are aimed at mitigating the losses caused by the pandemic, they come as protesters in Seattle are calling to defund the police department. Protesters have promoted a 50% reduction in Seattle police funding.

Read more details here.

--Gil Aegerter

TUESDAY, JUNE 23

Inslee says a mask rule goes into effect across Washington starting Friday

3:25 p.m. -- After weeks of relying on voluntary compliance, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday afternoon announced an enforceable, statewide requirement that people wear face coverings when in public, including outdoors when six feet of separation can't be maintained.

The new public health order, to be issued by the Secretary of Health, takes effect on Friday.

"This means when you're in a public place," Inslee said during a news conference. He added that wearing a mask is a way of showing care for others. "I think this is something we can get used to."

The statewide mandate comes as counties are reopening and summer kicks off amid an uptick in new COVID-19 cases in Washington, which so far has reported nearly 30,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,200 deaths.

Inslee said he was acting because of rising infection rates in both Western and Eastern Washington.

The new statewide requirement applies to all residents six years old and up. Children under age two are exempt. For kids age three to five, masks are strongly encouraged. There are also exemptions for people who are hard of hearing or deaf, specifically when they are actively communicating with others.

Health officials said masks should cover nose and mouth. Inslee said a variety of masks and facial coverings would qualify.

Studies have shown that the widespread use of masks is one of the most effective ways of stopping transmission.

-- Austin Jenkins, Gil Aegerter

King County executive says daily number of cases hits 100

1:55 p.m. -- King County is only a few days into this phase of reopening after the pandemic shutdown, but County Executive Dow Constantine says there's concern about a spike in new cases of COVID-19.

"The daily numbers keep bouncing around. Yesterday we had 39. But preliminary numbers for today, over 100," he said on KUOW's The Record. "So it's bouncing up and down. It's hard to tell where that's coming from, what's causing that volatility."

The last time King County saw 100 or more cases in a day was in early May.

It's not clear whether more testing is part of the reason for this spike.

Constantine said that on the plus side, the rate at which the coronavirus is being transmitted -- called the reproductive rate --- looks OK so far, and so does the availability of hospital beds.

-- Gil Aegerter

Drive-in concerts at Washington State Fair

9 a.m. -- The Washington State Fair in Puyallup is going to host a drive-in summer concert series from July 16-19. It will held on the fairgrounds site at the green parking lot.

Tickets for individual vehicles go on sale June 30. General admission is $80 for a car of four people. It is $120 for premium parking.

The fair says that it's the first drive-in concert series it has ever held. It plans to have six country music acts. So far, Jimmie Allen is the only act being advertised.

--Angela King

Tri-cities residents urged to wear masks amid rising Covid-19 cases

Tri-city residents urged to wear masks as Covid-19 cases rise

Tri-city residents urged to wear masks as Covid-19 cases rise

8:30 a.m. -- Covid-19 cases are rising dramatically in Yakima and the Tri-Cities. And that’s driving local health officials to urge residents to wear masks in public.

The Yakima Health District’s pleas for residents to wear masks in public -- through broadcast and social media -- is apparently not enough. Governor Jay Inslee has promised to step in and make wearing a mask in public mandatory in Yakima County.

It’s to be seen if a similar order is needed in nearby Benton and Franklin counties, where cases are also mounting. Health officer Dr. Amy Person says masking mandates have their place, but the real solution is for residents to take personal responsibility.

"There’s not enough police, public health, government officials anywhere to ensure that 300,000 people are wearing masks," Person said. "Individuals need to take responsibility for the things they’re going to do to try to keep themselves safe and more importantly, the things they’re going to do to try to keep their community safe."

Yakima County ran out of hospital bed capacity last week, largely due to staff shortages. Dr. Person says that for the moment Benton and Franklin Counties have beds, but hospitalizations rates for Covid-19 are increasing.

--Enrique Pérez de la Rosa

Some King County employees permanently moving to work-from-home

8 a.m. -- Approximately 800 King County employees have learned they will not return to work in their downtown Seattle offices.

The county’s Natural Resources Department is making a permanent switch to working from home. It's tough news for small businesses near Pioneer Square.

“I'm trying to reopen, but it's not gonna happen," said Neal Goldberg, who has a physical therapy practice in the area. "There's no one working down there anymore. And that was my bread and butter. It was the people who work down in the Pioneer Square area.”

County officials say the move will save money and reduce pollution. But some employees say they’re worried about being forced to shoulder the costs of a home office. A union that represents county employees has asked to negotiate the change.

--John Ryan

MONDAY, JUNE 22

Metro brings back transit services

9 a.m. -- King County Metro is increasing water taxi service and restoring bus service to 23 routes as of Monday.

The bus routes were canceled in March and April because of the pandemic. But Metro says Monday's change will bring its service to about 85% of pre-COVID levels.

Riders must wear masks to use bus services. they also must distance themselves from others and use the middle or back doors to board.

Metro is still not collecting fares.

--Angela King

Virginia Mason workers test positive for Covid-19

8:45 a.m. -- The Seattle Times reports that at least four staff members at Virginia Mason -- who work in or near the operating rooms -- have tested positive for Covid-19.

A spokesperson told the paper that each staff member has been treated and will stay home for at least two weeks. They also said they've not identified any risk of exposure to patients, because the workers were always wearing the proper PPE while around patients.

--Angela King

People with developmental disabilities die from Covid-19 at higher rates

Trend shows people with disabilities are more likely to die from Covid-19

Trend shows people with disabilities are more likely to die from Covid-19

8:30 a.m. -- People with developmental disabilities are more likely to die of Covid-19 than the general population. It’s a national trend that appears to also hold true in the Northwest.

In Washington, nearly 5% of people who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 have died. But among people with developmental disabilities who live in group homes or other state-supported housing, it’s nearly triple that – 13.5%.

Early numbers from Oregon look similar.

Shaw Seaman is with Washington’s Developmental Disabilities Administration. He notes that COVID poses a greater threat to people with compromised immune systems or conditions like diabetes.

“Which many of our clients do have, so we obviously are concerned about that and the vigilance is critical," Seaman said.

So far, Seaman says the deaths have been centered in community-based group type homes in the Puget Sound region. No residents of the state’s four remaining institutions for the developmentally disabled have died from COVID.

--Austin Jenkins

Pandemic taking a toll on mental health

8 a.m. -- State health officials say they’ve seen a surge of mental health symptoms -- like depression and anxiety -- since the Covid-19 lockdown began. And they expect those trends to continue for months to come.

Health officials are looking at a variety of factors to determine how our mental health is holding up. Like how many people are showing up at emergency rooms for psychological distress. Those numbers have gone up steadily since the beginning of the pandemic.

Hospitals are also seeing a rise in alcohol-related visits and drug overdoses.

Dr. Kira Mauseth is a clinical psychologist. She says as the crisis drags on, depression is likely to become a more severe problem.

"If you start to recognize behavior pattern changes in yourself as well as that deep feeling of hopelessness regardless of what activity you are engaged in that would be an indicator to reach out for professional help to engage with a therapist or talk to somebody about it," Mauseth said.

She also says, based on studies of past disasters, behavioral health impacts will likely worsen over the next 6-9 months.

--Deborah Wang

SATURDAY, JUNE 20

'We are at the breaking point' in pandemic, Inslee says of Yakima County

2 p.m.-- Governor Jay Inslee announced Saturday that masks will be legally required in Yakima County.

The move comes as Yakima recorded an alarming increase in cases over the past day.

"This is, frankly, a desperate situation for public health, for our ability to reopen Yakima which we want to do, and for the health and safety of the entire state of Washington, because as Yakima County goes, so goes the rest of the state."" Governor Jay Inslee said in a Saturday press conference.

The spike of 200+ cases in one day is an extraordinary jump for a rural county, and has happened twice in June in Yakima. By comparison, King County saw an increase of 62 cases in the latest one day count from Friday, which was also an uptick.

ICU patients are now being sent to Seattle hospitals because there's not enough medical staff in Yakima for the surge.

Along with announcing the state's first legal requirement that people wear face coverings outside the home, Inslee told businesses to refuse service to anyone who refuses to follow the law. "No mask, no service," he said.

Inslee says the increase is partly due to the high number of essential workers in Yakima, in industries such as agriculture..

Yakima County has seen 10% of all coronavirus deaths in the state, though it only makes up 3% of the population.

--Paige Browning

FRIDAY, JUNE 19

A Seattle spike in coronavirus cases as King County enters Phase 2

Seattle and King County were approved to move into Phase 2 of the pandemic reopening plan today, Friday, despite a new uptick in cases.

Sixty-two new cases were tracked in the county on Thursday – half of those from Seattle.

That’s a number that hasn’t been seen since early May. It’s a one-day uptick, so not a trend at this time.

This spike does not appear to be linked with the protests. Fewer than 15 people who said they attended the protests tested positive over the last two weeks.

-- Paige Browning & John Ryan

Previous updates

June 8-21

June 1-7

May 18-31

May 9-17

May 4-8