Editor’s note: This was a live account of updates from Friday, March 27, as events unfolded. Click here to find the latest extended coverage of the outbreak of the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2; the illness it causes, COVID-19; and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world.
Washingtonians’ efforts to practice social distancing, sanitize frequently and fortify our health care facilities seem to be making a difference in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus here, researchers say — but the state’s two-week stay-at-home order still might need to be extended. While we’ve seen “modest improvement,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a Thursday news conference, we can’t ease up yet.
More COVID-19 diagnoses are made in Washington state every day, an indication both of the virus’ spread and of expanded testing capacity. The state Department of Health announced 516 newly confirmed cases Friday, bringing the state total to 3,723 cases, including 175 deaths. The bulk of Washington’s cases remain in King County, which has seen 1,828 people fall ill and 125 die.
Throughout today, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Friday afternoon.
After driver dies, Community Transit workers question whether the agency is protecting them from coronavirus
As the coronavirus spread throughout Washington state, Scott Ryan was worried about his mom.
With underlying health issues, she would be vulnerable, so he urged his family to take precautions, said his wife, Heather Ryan.
But it was Scott, a healthy 41-year-old, who would turn out to be at risk.
After testing positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks ago, the father of three died Thursday, Heather said.
Scott worked as a driver at Community Transit, the Snohomish County-based agency where 10 employees have now tested positive or presumptive positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
While it’s not known whether he caught the virus at work or somewhere else, Community Transit drivers fear they’re at the center of an outbreak.
King County Metro driver tests positive for COVID-19
A King County Metro driver has tested positive for COVID-19, the agency said in a statement posted online Friday night.
The driver has not returned to work since March 16, Metro said. The transit agency declined to release details about which routes the person drove, citing privacy concerns and protections.
Metro previously said a maintenance worker tested positive but that the agency would not report every new positive case. This is the first known case of a Metro bus driver reporting a positive COVID-19 test result.
Because transit operators are designated essential, Metro buses and other transit systems in the region have continued to run, although service has been reduced. Metro and other agencies have stopped collecting fares and directed riders to board through back doors to reduce hand-to-hand contact.
“Transit drivers have always been relied upon to provide safe, reliable, friendly service that keeps all of us moving forward,” Metro wrote in the statement. “As we respond to COVID-19 and so many of us have been asked to stay home, transit employees are essential personnel who serve our country by stepping forward.”
As the novel coronavirus outbreak spread earlier this month, Metro increased its cleaning of buses. The King County ombudsman’s office has started a preliminary investigation into Metro’s bus cleaning procedures after complaints dating to before the coronavirus outbreak.
Honor the dead, protect the living: Coronavirus-era funeral bans make a tough time even tougher
Funerals postponed. Open-casket viewings by the side of the road. Sitting shiva via Zoom. Cemeteries threatening to turn away families whose faith requires them to climb into the grave and personally lay their dead to rest.
Over the past two weeks, increasingly strict social-distancing rules — culminating in Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order on March 23 — have sown confusion and consternation among families, cemeteries, faith leaders and funeral directors over a fundamental question:
What to do with our departed loved ones in a new era of enforced isolation?
“The reality is, we still have people dying every day from other causes,” said Char Barrett, funeral director at A Sacred Moment. “But my world is pretty much upside-down.”
UGM locks down men’s shelter, recovery facilities after COVID-19 case
Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, a faith-based shelter and addiction recovery provider, announced a full lockdown of its recovery facilities for 14 days, as well as a lockdown at its downtown men’s shelter, which was already operating at reduced capacity to accommodate social distancing recommendations from public health officials.
That means 82 shelter residents and eight staff will be staying at UGM’s men’s shelter in Pioneer Square for the next 14 days, according to a UGM spokesperson.
UGM is requiring that no one enter or exit the shelter or recovery facilities for the 14-day period – with a few exceptions, such as emergency first responders, UGM’s facilities team responding to emergencies, or “an individual who chooses to leave and not return,” according to the press release.
Some UGM staff have volunteered to live at the facilities for the next 14 days to care for UGM’s shelter residents and clients.
The move comes a day after UGM announced a positive case of COVID-19 in its recovery program in Burien, called Riverton Place, a one-year addiction recovery program. The program resident is at a local hospital receiving care, according to UGM.
“We love our homeless brothers and sisters,” Scott Chin, president of UGM, wrote in the press release. “We feel a great sense of responsibility to protect each one who lives with us and calls the Mission home.”
Two employees of UGM were “directly exposed” and are currently in isolation, UGM said.
Texas to quarantine travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Orleans
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday that requires a two-week quarantine for anyone traveling to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or the city of New Orleans.
The order will go into effect at noon Saturday.
“The State of Texas continues to act upon the recommendations of top state, federal, and local health experts as we implement a comprehensive strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a recent statement. “The New York Tri-State Area and the City of New Orleans have become major centers of this pandemic, and it is vital that we take necessary precautions to prevent additional exposure that could originate from people traveling from these areas to Texas.”
Failure to comply with the order is considered a criminal offense punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, up to 180 days in jail, or both, the statement said.
Southwest Airlines told employees in a memo that Texas officials would provide passengers with an online form to fill out before exiting the plane.
“They expect to have State Troopers begin meeting all nonstop flights from these markets but may look to capture those arriving from connecting markets as well,” the memo said.
New reports look at role of health care workers in spread of COVID-19 at Life Care and other nursing homes
As the novel coronavirus illness took hold inside the Life Care Center of Kirkland last month, the disease likely spread from the facility to at least three other nursing homes, according to a New England Journal of Medicine report.
The report was one of two released Friday examining transmission of the illness within Seattle-area nursing homes, including Life Care, where more than 160 people have been sickened. Of those who have fallen ill at Life Care, 35 have died of COVID-19 since late February, including a visitor, placing the Kirkland nursing home at the forefront of the nation’s health crisis.
The other report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), examined an outbreak inside another King County nursing home where a staffer tested positive for COVID-19 on March 1, just after the cases were confirmed among residents at Life Care. In that facility, which was not identified by the CDC, the staff member had worked two different days with symptoms of the illness before it spread among the facility’s 82 residents.
Together, the two reports offer a look at how COVID-19 may have spread among facilities through nursing home workers. Some 30 skilled nursing facilities in King County have identified at least one confirmed case of the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Olympic National Forest closes all recreation sites
Olympic National Forest officials announced Friday that all developed recreation sites will be closed through the second week of April — or until the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted.
Recreation closures include trailheads, day-use areas, campsites, cabins and picnic sites, an Olympic National Forest statement said.
New reservations can’t be made at this time, and officials will issue refunds to those whose trips were affected.
“Olympic National Forest officials urge people to reduce the spread of COVID-19 … so that, everyone can return to outdoor adventures as soon as it is deemed safe to do so,” the statement said.
ER doctor who criticized Bellingham hospital’s coronavirus protections has been fired
BELLINGHAM – An emergency room physician who publicly decried what he called a lack of protective measures against the novel coronavirus at his workplace, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, has been fired.
Ming Lin, who has worked at the hospital for 17 years and became a local cause célèbre for his pleas for more safety equipment and more urgent measures to protect staff, was informed of his termination as he was preparing for a shift at the hospital Friday afternoon, he said.
“I got a message that said, ‘Your shift has been covered,’” Lin told The Seattle Times. He phoned his supervisor and was told, “You’ve been terminated.” Lin said he was told he would be contacted by human resources staff from his employer, TeamHealth, a national firm that contracts with PeaceHealth’s emergency department.
TeamHealth could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesperson for PeaceHealth St. Joseph confirmed that Lin had been fired but said the hospital had no comment because Lin wasn’t a PeaceHealth employee.
Lin said supervisors threatened his employment more than a week ago after he spoke to reporters and made social media posts accusing PeaceHealth of a lack of urgency to protect health care workers from the virus.
Lin said he was told to take down his social media posts about the hospital but refused.
Transit riders can request refunds for March passes
Passengers who purchased monthly transit passes can request reimbursements for the month of March, following cuts to rail and bus service from several regional agencies.
Any trips taken in March will be deducted from the cost of the pass and riders will get a refund for the rest, said Sound Transit spokesman John Gallagher.
On the back end, agencies during the quarterly reconciliation will calculate their fair share of losses during the outbreak, he said.
Sound Transit, King County Metro and several other agencies have eliminated fares amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
ORCA Transit passes are accepted on Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit and Washington State Ferries. The Seattle Monorail began accepting ORCA payment in September. The First Hill Streetcar, operated by King County Metro, also accepts ORCA fares.
King County ombudsman begins investigation into Metro Transit’s bus cleaning amid coronavirus outbreak
The King County ombudsman’s office has started a preliminary investigation into Metro Transit’s bus cleaning procedures after receiving three complaints from Metro employees since November.
The complaints allege that workers were exposed to unsanitary conditions, even before the novel coronavirus outbreak, and had not been given proper protective equipment as of late February, when the virus was becoming an increasing threat.
Workers said seats for drivers and riders are not cleaned properly and that spills and biohazards have remained on vehicles for hours before they get sanitized.
Brian Camozzi, transit deputy ombudsman, said his office received the complaints Nov. 26, Feb. 25 and March 13. He said he expects to complete the investigation by the end of the year, but the timeline could slip into early next year.
Apple releases new COVID-19 app and website, based on CDC guidance
The California-based tech company worked in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to develop the tools, it said in a statement.
The goal was “to make it easy for people across the country to get trusted information and guidance at a time when the [U.S.] is feeling the heavy burden of COVID-19,” the Apple statement said.
The COVID-19 app and website ask users a series of questions about risk factors, recent exposure and symptoms. They then receive CDC recommendations on next steps, including guidance on social distancing, how to closely monitor symptoms, whether or not a test is recommended at this time and when to contact a medical provider, the statement said.
“This new screening tool is designed to be a resource for individuals and does not replace instructions from health care providers or guidance from state and local health authorities,” Apple added.
The tools don’t require a sign-in, so all user data will remain private and secure.
Amazon discloses median pay, plans virtual shareholder meeting due to coronavirus, climate concerns
Amazon’s median full-time U.S. employee made $36,640 in 2019, up $1,544 from the year before, the company disclosed in a securities filing Friday.
That increase in total compensation, including salary, bonus and stock grant value, but not a host of benefits including health insurance and parental leave, stems from the $15-an-hour wage floor the company implemented in late 2018. More than 500,000 of the company’s nearly 800,000 workers are in the U.S.
Global median compensation for Amazon employees was $28,848, up $12 from 2018. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s wealthiest people, received total compensation from Amazon in 2019 of about $1.7 million, the majority of which was for personal security, according to Amazon’s preliminary proxy statement.
Amazon also confirmed that its annual shareholder meeting, set for May 27, will be held virtually, accessible only online, to reduce “the carbon footprint of our activities” and “in light of evolving public health and safety considerations posed by the potential spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.”
Some landlords offer rent relief during coronavirus shutdown. Others — not so much.
Amid jobless claims numbering in the hundreds of thousands every week, most Washington landlords are steadfastly insisting that rent is still due, in full, on the first of the month.
A landlord in Kent put a unit on the market in early March for $400 less than a recently-unemployed tenant in the same building is currently paying. When she asked him to lower her rent to the amount of the new unit, he refused, according to correspondence reviewed by The Seattle Times. Tuesday, a landlord in Yelm told tenants in a letter that “nothing has changed and we will not be offering extensions” to postpone rent payments.
In online forums for landlords, discussions abound about how to encourage tenants to pay rent in full on April 1 in cities and states with eviction moratoriums.
Firearms activists sue California, L.A. County over gun-shop closures tied to coronavirus
A coalition of gun owner groups filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the Los Angeles County sheriff, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state and county health officials seeking to block the closure of gun shops during the coronavirus shutdown.
Sheriff Alex Villaneuva closed gun stores in L.A. County Thursday to everyone except police and licensed security company employees after the governor deemed that firearms sellers are considered nonessential businesses during California’s shutdown of commerce in an effort to limit and slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday seeking declaratory relief, the gun owner groups characterized the closure as a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
Boeing to start manufacturing face shields for front-line health care workers
Boeing says it will begin manufacturing face shields to help protect front-line health care workers, using its 3D printing capabilities at facilities in St. Louis; El Segundo, California; Mesa, Arizona; Huntsville, Alabama; and Philadelphia.
It aims to produce thousands of face shields per week initially and ramp up production later. The jet maker is also offering to help transport critical and urgently needed supplies to health care professionals using its giant Dreamlifter air cargo carriers, normally used to ferry completed sections of the 787 around the globe.
Boeing says it has already donated tens of thousands of masks, gloves and other equipment to hospitals in need and is analyzing other ways it can use its engineering, manufacturing and logistics expertise to help.
Trump, rejecting blame, warns governors to be ‘appreciative’
After days of pleading from the nation’s governors, President Donald Trump took steps Friday to expand the federal government’s role in helping produce critically needed supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet the president rejected any criticism for the federal government’s response to a ballooning public health crisis that a month ago he predicted would be over by now.
“We have done a hell of a job,” Trump told reporters Friday, as he sent an ominous message to state and local leaders who have been urging the federal government to do more to save lives.
“If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said, shortly after telling reporters: “I want them to be appreciative.”
One month after predicting the U.S. was days away from being “close to zero” coronavirus cases, Trump in recent days had increasingly tried to shift the blame to state and local leaders as the spread tops more than 100,000 cases nationwide.
Washington State Ferries will reduce service on central Puget Sound routes
Washington State Ferries will reduce service on routes that operate within the central Puget Sound region in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Reductions will begin Sunday and continue through at least April 25, the agency said in a news release.
Sailings on the Seattle-Bainbridge and Seattle-Bremerton routes will be cut by about half. The Triangle route — Fauntleroy-Vashon, Fauntleroy-Southworth and Southworth-Vashon, will be reduced by about one-third.
The last daily round trip on the Seattle-Bainbridge, Seattle-Bremerton and Mukilteo-Clinton routes will be suspended starting Sunday.
On the Edmonds-Kingston route, the last daily round trip will be suspended on Fridays and Saturdays. Some early morning sailings on the Triangle route will also be canceled.
The transit agency said Monday it would operate on a winter sailing schedule until at least April 25 to match ridership and availability of qualified crew.
Further suspensions and adjustments are possible, depending on ridership trends, state ferries director Amy Scarton said in the release.
Ridership aboard Washington State Ferries as of Thursday dropped about 60% compared to the last week of February. Walk-on passengers decreased by more than 80%, and the number of vehicles carried fell by nearly 50%, the agency said.
CenturyLink Field Event Center to become Army field hospital
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is putting a 150-bed field hospital at CenturyLink Field Event Center, government officials said Friday.
The hospital, which will serve patients who don’t have COVID-19, is expected to be able to serve patients “soon,” according to a news release from the city of Seattle.
“As we continue to do everything possible to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout Washington state, we also need to prepare our health care delivery system to deal with people who are sick, or may become ill, as well as all the other health needs of Washingtonians,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement.
“The arrival of a military field hospital in Seattle is critical to expanding our region’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “We will work quickly with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to ensure that this field hospital is set up and ready to receive patients soon.”
The facility will be staffed by 300 soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado.
State health officials report a total of 3,723 COVID-19 cases, including 175 deaths
The Washington State Department of Health announced an additional 516 cases and 28 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The newly released numbers bring the total of confirmed cases in Washington to 3,723, with 175 fatalities.
Benton, Chelan, Clark, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish and Whatcom counties reported new deaths Friday. The bulk of the cases remain in King County, which also reported new cases and has now confirmed 1,828 infections and 125 deaths.
The number of cases across Washington has increased as the virus spreads and as testing capacity expands. King County public-health officials have said the number of cases could double every five to seven days and have urged people to follow social-distancing measures to slow the spread.
Note: These numbers were updated Friday evening due to changes in the state’s data.
Beloved Seattle restaurant owner Elizabeth Mar of Kona Kitchen and husband Robert Mar die of the novel coronavirus
Family, friends and the legion of fans of Seattle’s Kona Kitchen are mourning the death of Elizabeth Mar, the beloved matriarch of the local Hawaiian restaurant classic. After a two-week illness, she succumbed to the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, at the age of 72. Her husband, Robert Mar, age 78, died of the virus on Thursday night.
Elizabeth Mar was “everything” at Kona Kitchen, filling in wherever needed, managing or bartending, always a huge part of the heart of the place, daughter Angie Okumoto says.
The Seattle location of Kona Kitchen remains open for takeout, serving the family recipes for quintessential Hawaiian dishes. As with many local restaurants turning to takeout in the wake of the mandated dining-in shutdown due to COVID-19,
“We’re just trying to stay afloat,” Okumoto says, “and keep as many employees afloat as much as we can.”
Ski vacation hot spot becomes virus ground zero in Idaho
A scenic Idaho county known as a ski-vacation haven for celebrities and the wealthy has a new, more dubious distinction: It has one of the highest per-capita rates of confirmed coronavirus infections in America.
Numbers from Johns Hopkins University on Friday show that with more than 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, Blaine County has the highest rate of cases outside New York City and its surrounding counties.
The numbers themselves are far smaller in the Idaho region than in New York City but still dire for residents. At least 14 of the cases in the rural county of roughly 22,000 people involved health care workers, and at least two people have died from COVID-19.
The county includes tony Sun Valley Resort and draws skiers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. It’s also known as a celebrity getaway, thanks in part to its history of famous second homeowners and vacation regulars including Ernest Hemingway, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.
Morales will introduce Seattle resolution calling for moratorium on rent and mortgage bills
Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales plans to introduce a resolution Monday calling on Gov. Jay Inslee, Congress and the Trump administration to use emergency powers to place a moratorium on residential and commercial rent and mortgage payments during the coronavirus pandemic. Many people have lost jobs and seen their incomes reduced due to the outbreak.
“Since this crisis started, nearly every one of my constituents that I’ve heard from has asked for this,” the council member, whose District 2 includes Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley, said in a news release Friday. “They’re saying the city’s existing 60-day moratorium on evictions doesn’t go far enough to ensure their financial future and ability to remain housed.”
Morales described her non-binding resolution as part of a “nationwide movement.” Some San Francisco leaders have introduced a resolution calling for a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments for people impacted by California’s shelter-in-place order, she said. Morales didn’t immediately discuss legal and constitutional issues related to the concept of a moratorium on housing payments.
Seattle has placed a 60-day moratorium on most residential evictions and on commercial evictions of small businesses and nonprofits, and Inslee has ordered a 30-day moratorium on many residential evictions.
But tenants are still obligated to pay, can still incur debts for missed payments and could be evicted after the moratoriums end.
“The city, state and federal government must do everything it can to ensure Seattleites aren’t heading from a public health emergency into a depression accruing massive amounts of debt,” said Morales, who chairs the council’s economic development committee. “We must stop this economic freefall now, rather than kicking this can down the road.”
Councilmember Lorena González has proposed that Seattle pass legislation to help residential tenants for six months after the emergency measures end by providing a special defense to eviction in court for residential tenants who can prove a connection between their unpaid or late rent and their coronavirus-related hardships.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant sent a letter to Inslee on Thursday urging him to suspend all rent, mortgage and utility payments during the coronavirus pandemic and to ban rent increases through the end of the year.
City of Seattle will spend $1 million a month on emergency child care while schools are closed for coronavirus
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Friday she would issue an emergency to enable the city to spend more than $1 million a month on emergency child care while schools are closed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
The order will establish more than 75 emergency child care classrooms, many of them located in public schools that are near hospitals. The sites will be staffed by the city’s preschool program employees, and funded by the city’s $600 million-plus education levy, according to a press release from Durkan’s office.
Those sites will serve about 700 preschool and school-aged children of health care workers, Durkan’s office estimates.
Read more here.
Four dead, many sick aboard cruise ship stranded off Panama
Four passengers have died on a cruise ship that has been unable to find a port to disembark, the ship’s operator, Seattle-based Holland America Line, said Friday. It is currently located off the coast of Panama.
People aboard the Zaandam started reporting flulike symptoms over the weekend.
Two people on the ship have tested positive so far for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
According to the company, 138 people on the ship are sick.
Passengers who are not ill are being transferred to another vessel.
Lisa Bodley told The Washington Post that her brother, Andy Vinson, called her Friday morning to tell her that the captain had announced the deaths.
“They’re feeling this sense of they’re not getting the help, the attention,” she said of passengers on board.
Read the story here.
Snohomish County received its first shipment of protective equipment Thursday from the national stockpile
The county that recorded the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States received a shipment of personal protective equipment from the national stockpile Thursday evening.
The shipment of the protective equipment used by health care workers is the first infusion of gear being sent to Snohomish County by the federal government, said county Executive Dave Sommers during a news conference.
The county is still combing through the shipment to assess what is there and where it will go, Sommers said.
On Friday, county officials said that there have been 816 confirmed cases in Snohomish County since the first case was announced Jan. 20. There are currently 71 people hospitalized because of COVID-19, 21 people in isolation at home and 18 deaths, said Dr. Chris Spitters, Snohomish Health District’s interim health officer.
Since a county-run drive-thru testing site opened Monday in the parking lot of Everett Memorial Stadium, 736 people have been tested, Spitters said.
Testing at the site is reserved for people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 — such as coughing, a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, sore throat and shortness of breath — who are either, pregnant, 60 or older, have underlying health conditions, are health care workers and people who work in “critical infrastructure,” such as public safety, grocery stores, restaurants, shelters, gas stations, public utilities, child care and correctional facilities.
It isn’t yet known how many of those tests are negative or positive. Results can take up to five days to come back, Spitters said.
Washington officials say April election will take place despite coronavirus concerns
OLYMPIA – The offices of Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman have been informing local elections officials that the April 28 special election will proceed despite worries about the spread of coronavirus, according to three county auditors.
Those concerns earlier this month led Wyman and Washington’s county auditors to pen a letter requesting the election be canceled.
The April elections are not considered a high-profile affair. Only 18 of Washington’s counties are scheduled to have issues on the ballot. Those elections don’t involve any candidates running for office, but present proposed bonds and levies to voters.
Washington’s vote-by-mail system limits the physical contact voters have, compared to other places – think long lines at polling places in other states.
But some county officials remain concerned that voters coming into elections offices, or elections workers bunched together, could spread the virus.
“It’s really important to us not to have be open to the public,” said Mason County Auditor Paddy McGuire. “And I think it sends the wrong message.”
House passes $2.2 trillion rescue package, rushes it to Trump
The House approved a sweeping $2.2 trillion rescue package Friday morning by a voice vote and President Donald Trump said he would sign the bill immediately.
It will ship payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation’s all but overwhelmed health care system.
Read the story here.
Washington insurance commissioner urges insurers to extend coverage to delivery drivers’ personal cars
Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is asking all insurers in the state to expand car insurance coverage to personal delivery drivers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The office will speed up the review and approval process so that delivery drivers can have coverage more quickly, he said in a news release.
A personal auto insurance policy does not normally cover a car when it’s being used for delivery services.
However, after Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order for Washington residents, many people have relied on delivery services for grocery, pharmacy and take-out food needs.
The extension would remain in effect for as long as the emergency order is in place. It would not apply to people driving for other commercial reasons, including ride-hailing.
“This is a time for all hands on deck,” Kreidler said in the release. “I appreciate the companies that have already stepped up and I expect others will quickly jump on board with this greatly needed assistance to those working hard to deliver food, medicine and more.”
To help those who are homeless, Seattle will put 14 public toilets and 6 handwashing stations out in parks
The city of Seattle will deploy 14 public toilets and 6 handwashing stations in parks and community centers around the city, the mayor’s office announced Friday, in an effort to provide people living outside with a place to wash their hands and go to the bathroom.
Starting Saturday, the city will place them near City Hall Park, Lake City Community Center, Jefferson Park, Westcrest Park, Cal Anderson Park, and Benvenuto Viewpoint near Judkins Park.
The new facilities will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Daily maintenance will be provided, including sharps disposal, waste removal and supplemental cleaning, the press release from the city said.
Cities in California such as Los Angeles and San Francisco deployed many more handwashing stations weeks ago: Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda pointed out in the press release that “we must do more.”
“San Francisco’s deployment of 20 sets a good example,” Mosqueda said in the press release, “and I look forward to working with the Mayor and Council to allocate more resources to deploy more hand washing as soon as possible.”
The city is still procuring four hygiene trailers with showers, toilets and handwashing stations approved in this year’s budget, but the press release said they will deploy them “soon.”
The city Navigation Team, a team of police and social workers which normally removes encampments and directs people to shelter, has handed out nearly 600 hygiene kits this month to people living outside.
U.S. mayors report acute shortages of masks, test kits, ventilators as they face coronavirus threat
Nearly 90 percent of U.S. mayors who responded to a national survey on coronavirus preparedness said they lack sufficient tests kits, face masks and other protective equipment for their emergency responders and medical workers, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Additionally, 85 percent of the mayors surveyed said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals. These are all shortages that could lead cities and towns to be quickly overwhelmed should the virus spread through their communities.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors survey was conducted this month and includes data from 213 U.S. cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico, representing a combined population of 42 million. The shortages of essential items and equipment the cities are facing have “reached crisis proportions,” according to the report.
Community Transit driver dies after being treated for COVID-19
A Community Transit bus driver who had tested positive for COVID-19 has died.
The driver, who had worked for the agency since 2015, died after being treated for COVID-19, according to an email to employees Friday morning from Emmett Heath, CEO of the Snohomish County-based agency.
“For many of us, our team at Community Transit is a second family. This loss is truly heartbreaking,” Heath wrote.
In a statement to The Seattle Times, the agency confirmed that an employee died, but did not share further details.
“We are extremely disheartened and saddened to share that we lost a beloved member of our Community Transit family. Our entire agency is in mourning,” the statement said.
“He will be deeply missed and our hearts ache for his family,” Amalgamated Transit Union 1576 President Kathleen Custer wrote in a Facebook post to members.
“This is real,” Custer wrote.
Nine Community Transit employees had tested positive or presumptive as of Wednesday, according to the agency. The employees’ last work days were between March 5 and 17, Heath said in a statement to employees Wednesday. Community Transit has stopped collecting fares to reduce hand-to-hand contact and plans to reduce service starting Monday.
High school seniors may get a pass from some graduation requirements because of coronavirus closures
Washington high school seniors who are out of class because of coronavirus school closures may catch a break from certain graduation requirements.
The Washington State Board of Education is considering emergency rules giving school districts and private schools power to waive statewide course requirements for students who are on track to graduate this spring.
The rules wouldn’t excuse students from completing a High School and Beyond Plan or local graduation requirements.
The board didn’t approve a new graduation policy, but plans to draft, review and vote on rules by April 8.
Read the full story here.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the new coronavirus, making him the first elected leader of a major nation to be diagnosed with COVID-19. But he insisted Friday that he is working from home and remains in charge of the U.K.’s response to the outbreak.
Johnson, 55, said he was tested Thursday on the advice of the chief medical officer after showing mild symptoms.
Johnson is the highest-profile political leader to have contracted the virus, which has infected more than 500,000 people around the world.
Johnson’s news follows the revelation Wednesday that Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, also has tested positive. The 71-year-old is showing mild symptoms and is self-isolating at a royal estate in Scotland.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Food banks are getting squeezed: As the community’s needs grow and volunteers dwindle, local food banks are struggling to meet the demand and “balance between keeping people safe and keeping people fed.” Here’s how you can help, and how to find help if you need it.
Washingtonians may be ordered to stay home longer than two weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee said yesterday as he described how the state hasn’t “turned the corner” against the virus. Social distancing is starting to work, a UW analysis says — but it still predicts overwhelmed hospitals and many COVID-19 deaths in Washington. How will it all end? The lockdowns won’t have an easy on/off switch, scientists say.
The U.S. has more confirmed coronavirus cases than anywhere else in the world. The nation’s tallies yesterday surpassed 82,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. The response has been dogged by missteps and lost opportunities. (Washington state has reported 3,207 cases and 147 deaths.)
Sick patients seeking coronavirus tests are getting turned away. Lab capacity is expanding in Seattle, so what’s the holdup? Doctors, hospitals and clinics are making judgment calls about who should be tested. And the state has been overwhelmed as it tries to track the results.
Jobless claims shot up ninefold in Washington state as the outbreak hammered the economy. The charts are jaw-dropping, and they’ll get worse, experts say as the state unemployment office staggers to keep up.
The $2.2 trillion stimulus plan ran into trouble in the House today. Here’s the latest on the package, which includes direct checks for Americans and aid for businesses. This Q&A tackles whether you’d get a check and how big it could be.
Child care centers are essential to the economy. Can they survive? Hundreds of them in Washington are closing or failing, and for families, that means deep troubles that will extend beyond the pandemic.
Will the quarantines bring a baby boom or a spike in divorces? Maybe both. While some couples and families are growing closer, divorce lawyers say they’re “seeing a lot more bad behavior” amid the stress and anxiety.
A grocery store threw out $35,000 worth of food, saying a woman had intentionally coughed all over it. She faces criminal charges. And yes, you can be charged for coughing or breathing on someone.
A false belief in a coronavirus “cure” has killed hundreds of people in Iran and sickened thousands more.
How did the virus infect the global supply chain so deeply, causing shortages of masks and other protective gear? It’s not about hoarding or panic buying, columnist Jon Talton writes: It’s about a fragile, failing system.
How is this outbreak affecting you, if at all?
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