Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, May 5, as the day unfolded. Click here to find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic.
Washingtonians yearning for a taste of Northwest normalcy may feel some relief today as more than 100 state parks reopen for day use after weeks of coronavirus-related closures. Gov. Inslee announced phased-in relaxations of his stay-home order last week. Public health officials are instructing residents to continue practicing social distancing. Here’s what you need to know before heading out.
Some businesses may not be too far behind state parks. Barbershops, hair salons, professional services and some in-store retail purchases could resume June 1 as Washington begins to reopen its economy, state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said Monday. If the numbers of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases “go way down” in the coming weeks, he said, those businesses could open earlier — but some mathematical models are predicting the number of deaths in the United States could nearly double by the summer.
Throughout Tuesday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Monday 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 Tuesday.
Renton officials ask that homeless people staying in hotel because of coronavirus concerns be moved this summer, citing burdens
Renton leaders publicly asked that King County move around 200 homeless people, who have been staying in a Red Lion Hotel near Interstate 405 to stay safe from the spread of COVID-19, out of the city in July.
The mayor, council president, police chief and other officials all spoke Tuesday before a remote meeting of the county council, saying the move-in had tripled the city’s homeless population overnight, strained their first responders’ capacity, and spread anxiety in nearby businesses.
Renton officials are asking that after the original hotel lease is up 90 days from their move-in date on April 9, the county not renew the lease and move the residents somewhere else.
“Today is also a plea for you to realize the enormity of the emergency task Renton has taken on,” said newly elected Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone.
New studies on transmission of coronavirus bolster case for keeping schools closed
Two new studies offer compelling evidence that children can transmit the virus. Neither proved it, but the evidence was strong enough to suggest that schools should be kept closed for now, many epidemiologists who were not involved in the research said.
In one study, published last week in the journal Science, a team analyzed data from two cities in China — Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, and Shanghai — and found that children were about a third as susceptible to coronavirus infection as adults were. But when schools were open, they found, children had about three times as many contacts as adults and three times as many opportunities to become infected, essentially evening out their risk.
The second study, by a group of German researchers, was more straightforward. The team tested children and adults and found children who test positive harbor just as much virus as adults do — sometimes more — and so, presumably, are just as infectious.
Lewis County parents sue Washington state over school closure order
Three parents filed suit against the state of Washington and Gov. Jay Inslee in Lewis County Superior Court Tuesday, claiming their children’s rights to education had been violated when schools closed in response to the coronavirus.
Conservative activist Tim Eyman, a Republican candidate for governor, is raising funds for the suit.
The suit argues that the school closure order violates the state constitution, which says it is the “paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders,” a passage often cited by school-funding advocates.
As evidence, the plaintiffs told the court of their difficulties with remote learning during closures, including barriers to special education services, lack of internet access in some homes, and limited time to supervise their kids while working outside the home.
The suit also argues that because school-age children do not comprise the majority of COVID-19-related illnesses and deaths, they should be allowed to return to school. Keeping them at home, the suit argues, will put them at greater risk for obesity.
The Centers for Disease Control says young children can spread the virus to others, including school employees. Though rare, infants and young children have also died from complications of COVID-19 infections.
The suit asks the court to require Inslee to terminate the school closure order until he can show documented risk of physical harm to students by schools remaining open, and that the state provide an unspecified amount of compensation to the plaintiffs.
Inslee’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Barack Obama will headline televised prime-time commencement
Former President Barack Obama will deliver a televised prime-time commencement address for the high school Class of 2020 during an hour-long event that will also feature LeBron James, Malala Yousafzai and Ben Platt, among others.
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC will simultaneously air the special May 16 at 8 p.m. EDT along with more than 20 other broadcast and digital streaming partners, according to the announcement Tuesday from organizers.
Several high school students from Chicago public schools and the Obama Youth Jobs Corps will join, as will the Jonas Brothers, Yara Shahidi, Bad Bunny, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, Megan Rapinoe and H.E.R.
Obama will reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of school life, especially for seniors who have missed out on their milestone rites of passage during the event, titled “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.”
Some tribal casinos reopen amid coronavirus pandemic, despite Washington state’s stay-home order
To resuscitate tribal government budgets, some tribes around the region have opened their casinos and more will soon follow, including the Stillaguamish tribe’s Angel of the Winds Casino Resort in Arlington, the first casino west of the mountains scheduled to open, on May 13.
In Washington, 22 tribes operate 29 casinos on reservation lands, where they retain decision-making authority — despite Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe was the first to open its facility in Worley, Idaho, on April 27, and the Kalispel tribe opened its facilities on May 5 north of Cusick, Pend Oreille County and Airway Heights, just outside Spokane.
For other tribes, opening is going to be a while. The Puyallup tribe, for instance, still has no announced date for reopening, and is evaluating the situation day by day.
Four Republican lawmakers sue Inslee over coronavirus stay-home order, contending ‘the emergency has been contained’
In the latest in an escalating series of legal challenges by Republicans, four Washington state legislators sued Gov. Jay Inslee in federal court on Tuesday, seeking to strike down his stay-home order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
A 28-page complaint, filed by the lawmakers and others in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, contends “the emergency has been contained” and that continuing restrictions for workers, businesses and residents are not legally justified.
The new lawsuit portrays the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington as overblown, pointing, for example, to the state sending ventilators to other states and scrapping a U.S. Army field hospital which had been built at CenturyLink Field.
With hospitals not currently at risk of being overwhelmed, the lawsuit says that underpinning of Inslee’s emergency order is no longer valid.
State parks, fishing and boating reopened in Washington on Tuesday after a coronavirus hiatus. Here’s how it went
On Tuesday, as part the first phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to reopen Washington’s economy amid the coronavirusoutbreak, outdoor recreation returned after a long hiatus. Hunting, fishing and boating were reintroduced, municipal golf courses began operating again, and more than 100 state parks reopened for day-use recreation only.
Shuttered since the end of March, state parks already were attracting visitors Tuesday morning, and visitors seemed to be following social-distancing measures, said Anna Gill, communications director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
Though it was early in the day — and too early in the week to deliver specific numbers on how crowded the parks were — Gill said she already had encountered anecdotal reports that “the parks are busy but it’s not unmanageable, and so far, people are behaving well and following the rules.”
Many Washington newspapers ineligible for Payroll Protection Program loans
Though governments large and small have declared local news essential to fighting the pandemic, federal subsidies have so far been denied to large publishing companies that serve dozens of cities and towns in Washington.
That could affect the amount of local news available to at least 580,000 Washingtonians, just counting those who live in the city limits, though all of these papers serve the larger region surrounding their hometowns.
Owned by companies with more than 500 employees, newspapers in Tacoma, Bremerton, Everett, Olympia, Bellingham and the Tri-Cities were ineligible for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans, a small business subsidy included in the first round of economic stimulus legislation.
Meanwhile, companies like The Seattle Times Co., which also owns the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Walla Walla Bulletin, landed a $9.9 million PPP loan.
Unofficial numbers show $7 billion hit to Washington state revenue through 2023 from coronavirus downturn
OLYMPIA — Preliminary numbers show Washington could lose $7 billion in state revenue through 2023 as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll — making a special legislative session likely to adjust the state’s budget.
Prepared by the Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, the numbers are based on assumptions and come with “substantial uncertainty” given that state tax data isn’t yet available for March and April.
But the unofficial forecast suggests Washington lawmakers will be likely forced to make difficult decisions about how to shore up the state’s current, two-year state operating budget.
That could mean painful cuts to parks, prisons, schools, and mental-health and other social-service programs.
State health officials confirm 15,594 COVID-19 cases
State health officials confirmed 132 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, including 21 more deaths.
The recent update brings Washington’s totals to 15,594 cases and 862 deaths.
So far, 219,453 tests for the illness have been conducted in Washington, according to the state. Of those, about 7.1% have come back positive.
King County, the state’s most populous, has had 6,621 positive test results and 469 deaths, accounting for 54.4% of the state’s death toll.
UW sees slight boost in freshman enrollment for fall 2020
In a bit of good news for the state’s flagship university, the number of students who have accepted an admission offer to the University of Washington’s Seattle campus for fall 2020 is slightly higher than last year.
Some attrition is expected over the summer, but if the enrollment figures hold, the freshman class will be slightly larger than last year’s class — about 7,050 students, compared to last year’s 6,984. The deadline to accept an admission offer was Friday, also known as National College Decision Day, although many other schools have postponed the deadline to June 1.
Some national experts expect freshman admissions to drop by as much as 20% this fall because of the uncertainty created by the coronavirus outbreak.
In all, 4,459 Washington residents accepted an admission offer, about the same as last year. UW admissions director Paul Seegert expects the final number to be 4,475.
Of the 2,032 out-of-state students who accepted an offer, Seegert expects 1,600 to enroll by fall. Another 1,334 international students accepted an offer, and the UW expects a final enrollment of 1,000.
Doctors’ offices struggling financially, association study says
Some physician practices face financial trouble and are struggling to remain open, according to the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA), which recently surveyed a portion of its members about their financial wellbeing.
The association is calling for relief to doctors’ offices across the state as revenue falls and some patients remain leery of visiting clinics, according to a news release.
The survey respondents represent a small portion of the state’s practices and might not be representative. WSMA sent its survey in late April to 5,000 physicians working in independent clinics and received a response from 136.
Those surveyed reported patient volume had dropped by about 62%, on average. Most practices — 73% — reported limited financial reserves of between one and six weeks of “days cash on hand,” defined as the number of days a practice could pay its operating expenses with cash available, the news release said.
Practices reported taking myriad measures to reduce costs, with 67% changing their office hours, 55% laying off or furloughing staff and nearly 20% closing temporarily.
Many medical facilities limited in-person visits to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
But, as rates of new COVID-19 cases and deaths trend lower, experts fear the measures that helped prevent hospitals, community health centers and primary care clinics from becoming overwhelmed by the disease might have pushed it toward a second, financial crisis.
Recalling past generosity, Irish fundraise for hard-hit Native American tribes
The Choctaw Nation in 1847 sent $170 to Irish families starving because of a potato famine, as news of one of the first widely reported humanitarian crises traveled the world.
The Choctaw donation was the equivalent of more than $5,000 today, and came from a tribe that was poor itself and had recently suffered during the Trail of Tears, when thousands of Choctaw people died as the U.S. government forcibly relocated the tribe.
Today, hundreds of Irish people are acknowledging the Choctaw people’s past kindness with a modern generosity of their own. An Irish charity drive has raised more than $1.8 million for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation, where communities have been among the worst hit by COVID-19.
Close ties have developed between the Choctaw Nation and Ireland, according to Gary Bratton, chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, who said he was “gratified” by the assistance the Irish have provided to the Navajo and Hopi Nations.
“We have become kindred spirits with the Irish in the years since the Irish potato famine,” Bratton told The New York Times. “We hope the Irish, Navajo and Hopi peoples develop lasting friendships, as we have.”
More than 200 COVID-19 cases in homeless shelters, housing sites and camps in King County
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Seattle’s homeless shelters, service locations and camps has risen to 204, at 44 different locations that include supportive housing for people who used to be homeless, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County. This number includes staff at those facilities who have contracted the virus.
At this time last month, only four confirmed cases had been reported.
Eight deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded, most of them were among people connected to supportive or shared housing for people who used to be homeless.
Contact tracing among the homeless population is very difficult: Thirty-three of the cases and one death are linked to either multiple shelters, unsanctioned camps, vehicles or are still under investigation — and Public Health hasn’t disclosed further information regarding these cases.
“Just as we wouldn’t publish the home address of someone who tested positive, we also wouldn’t release an individual’s ‘home’ when it is in a tent, overpass, or otherwise,” Kate Cole, a public health spokesperson, wrote in an email.
Oregon seafood processor shuts down after COVID-19 outbreak among workers
An Astoria, Oregon, seafood processor shut down operations after at least 13 workers tested positive for COVID-19.
Public-health officials tested 35 employees of Bornstein Seafoods over the weekend. Some tests remain pending for people who show symptoms of COVID-19. More workers were expected to be tested Tuesday.
Before the outbreak, the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council filed a complaint with the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration over workers’ concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment and social distancing inside the company’s two plants, which employ more than 150 people.
Andrew Bornstein, the company’s co-owner, contested the claims made by workers and told the Daily Astorian the company had been training staff on guidelines and taking safety measures seriously.
Read the full story here.
Durkan sees empty stadiums once sports return to Seattle
With live sporting events put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Monday that she doesn’t think games will be played in front of fans when sports first return to the city.
“I don’t think you’re going to see crowds in stadiums,” Durkan said on the Snapchat series “Good Luck America.”
“I think there’s going to be enough challenges trying to get players to different cities,” she added, “so I don’t see crowds in our near future, but I think we can be innovative in other ways.”
Durkan mentioned the use of mannequins in place of fans in the stadium seats by the Chinese Professional Baseball League, which returned last month. The Korean Baseball Organization’s return to play late Monday night featured fake crowd noise pumped throughout the stadiums, which could be heard softly on an ESPN broadcast.
Where’s my stimulus check? Some common problems & answers
The US government has distributed about 130 million economic impact payments to taxpayers in less than 30 days. The IRS anticipates sending more than 150 million payments as part of a massive coronavirus rescue package.
The distribution has had some hiccups, including an overwhelmed website, payments to deceased taxpayers and money sent to inactive accounts.
For those still waiting or with other questions, here are some answers to commonly asked questions:
Where is my payment?
The government can’t logistically or physically make all the payments at once, so it’s doing so in steps.
For those with direct deposit information on file with the IRS, based 2019 or 2018 tax return, payments began going out on April 10.
Payments started going out last week to Social Security beneficiaries, railroad retirees and veterans who aren’t required to file a tax return; these will continue through May. Individuals in this group will get their relief by the same method they receive their other benefits, be that direct deposit or mail.
Others who are not required to file tax returns, such as low-income individuals, were encouraged to file basic information on the IRS website. Without this information, the government cannot issue a payment.
Anyone who is eligible but does not have direct deposit information on file will be mailed a check. Those began to go out in late April, but that process might take several months because of distribution limitations.
All payments were prioritized in order from lowest income to highest income.
So, first make sure you’re eligible for a payment. If you qualify, make sure the IRS has the current and necessary information. The IRS has a Get My Payment tool on its website for people to add their direct deposit information or track the status of their payment.
To learn more about why the tool sometimes doesn’t work, what certain error messages mean and what to do if a dead relative gets a check, read the full story here.
States with few virus cases get big share of relief aid
Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are among the least-populated states in the U.S., and not surprisingly have the lowest numbers of residents who have tested positive for the new coronavirus. But despite their small size, they scored big this spring when Congress pumped out direct federal aid to the states.
An Associated Press analysis shows those four, along with other small states, took in an outsized proportion of the $150 billion in federal money that was designed to address coronavirus-related expenses, when measured by the number of positive tests for the COVID-19 disease.
Their haul ranged from $2 million per positive test in Hawaii to nearly $3.4 million per test in Alaska. In Wyoming, the smallest state with less than 600 positive cases, the $1.25 billion it received from the congressional package equates to 80 percent of its annual general state budget.
By comparison, New York and New Jersey, by far the hardest-hit states, respectively received about $24,000 and $27,000 per positive coronavirus test. Other states with high numbers of coronavirus cases, including Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, received less than $100,000 per positive case.
The money for state governments is a slice of a $2.2 trillion federal stimulus passed in late March. Governments are supposed to use it for new, coronavirus expenses incurred from March 1 through Dec. 30.
Read the story here.
Tyson meat-packing plant to reopen Tuesday after COVID-19 shuttered operations
Tyson Foods on Tuesday will resume limited operations for its Walla Walla County meat-packing plant, where a major outbreak of COVID-19 prompted a late April closure.
The Tyson Fresh Meats plant is the largest beef-packing operation in Washington, employing more than 1,400 people.
The Pasco plant was shut down by April 24 after more than 100 workers tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, a mass screening of employees, now nearly completed, has picked up 147 additional positive cases — nearly 12 percent of the 1,239 workers tested, according to figures released Monday by Walla Walla County.
“The health and safety of our team members is our top priority,” said Shane Miller, a senior vice president and general manager in a statement released Tuesday. “While the plant was idle, we performed a deep clean and sanitization of the facility and took proactive steps to complement our existing prevention efforts.
The Tyson statement does not indicate how many workers will return Tuesday to resume the limited operations.
Meghan Debolt, director of the Department of Community Health for Walla Walla County, said Monday that Tyson “is cleared to open with healthy workers.”
Read more here.
Coronavirus Economy daily chart: Seattle-area job openings plunge, worse than national average
We’re publishing a series of charts to help explain how the Seattle-area economy is doing during the coronavirus crisis.
Today’s data shows how listings for new jobs have changed for Seattle, Washington and the U.S. as a whole.
The takeaway: All three are down by more than one-third — with Seattle, which was hit by the coronavirus first, faring slightly worse than the national average.
The data reflects job openings advertised on Indeed.com on successive Fridays. The number of listings is shown as a percentage of the respective numbers on Feb. 1, 2020.
Losing a tenuous home
The City of Seattle’s move to clear an encampment in Ballard is raising concerns about where homeless people can go to safely ride out the pandemic.
Quarantine Corner: Mother’s Day edition
Here’s your fair warning that Sunday is the day, and nobody’s bringing home crafts from school this year.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The daily coronavirus death toll will nearly double by June, the White House privately predicted as President Donald Trump presses for states to reopen. A closely watched UW institute also sharply increased its projections, reflecting “premature relaxation of restrictions.” (We’ve written about why mathematical models differ so much, and whether they can be believed.) Track the spread of the virus in Washington state and around the world.
Seattle will protect residential tenants from eviction for six months after the current moratorium expires, under a plan unanimously approved by the City Council. Here’s how it will work.
An Amazon VP and top engineer has resigned “in dismay” over the firing of activists who spoke out about treatment of warehouse workers amid the coronavirus. Tim Bray is talking about “a vein of toxicity” in the company’s culture.
The world came together for a virtual vaccine summit yesterday, but the U.S. was conspicuously absent. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s cross-country trip today is provoking angst over the risks of travel.
The pandemic has claimed a big retail casualty. J. Crew’s bankrupcty filing may be just the first.
How is this outbreak affecting you?
What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who’s on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you’re using a mobile device and can’t see the form on this page, click here.