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Live updates: Washington now up to over 18,400 COVID-10 cases, 1,001 deaths

Nurse Karen Hayes uses an oral hygiene tool to administer care to a patient in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. Today there are 25 patients at Harborview Medical Center, 10 of whom are on this floor. Currently in the UW Medicine System, 66 patients testing positive for COVID-19 are receiving care, around half of what it was at its peak. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Washington health officials are now reporting over 18,400 coronavirus cases statewide, along with 1,001 deaths.

Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Follow live updates today below.

Sunday, May 17

2:53pm – Washington is now up to 18,443 total coronavirus cases according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health, along with 1,001 deaths. Over 285,000 tests have been run, 6.5% of which have been positive.

12:29pm – University of Washington biology professor Carl Bergstrom criticized a recent move from the FDA to halt a Seattle-based program that was sending people at-home coronavirus test kits.

“Massive-scale #COVID19 testing is the only way we are going to get America back to work and play,” Bergstrom said on Saturday. “Unbelievable that the FDA would shut down one of the leading lights in this process.”

7:24amA new report from Bellevue’s Institute for Disease Modeling concluded that COVID-19 infections are “slowly increasing” in Eastern Washington, and “persisting” in Western Washington.

“Washington state remains on a knife’s edge,” the study warned.

State officials also cautioned that the report indicates “how critical physical distancing and other disease control measures continue to be.”

“We’ve seen some success in our state because of the work each and every one of us is doing to stop the spread of the virus, and an exponential increase in cases is still a possibility,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “I’m asking everyone to keep up the good work to protect their families and communities.”

Saturday, May 16

3:36pm – Washington has officially hit 1,000 coronavirus deaths, the state Department of Health reported Saturday. The state now has 18,288 total cases, with a 6.5% positive rate of tests.

12:33pm – Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal spoke out Friday against the HEROES Act currently moving through Congress, alleging that the latest COVID-19 aid package doesn’t provide enough assistance.

Jayapal voted against the legislation in the House of Representatives, while stating that it lacked protection for worker pensions and all businesses, doesn’t get paychecks to workers, and more.

“This bill does not keep workers in their jobs and guarantee the certainty of paychecks,” she pointed out.

7:30am – Speaking to rumors that a Snohomish County woman named Jean might been one of the earliest COVID-19 cases in the region back in December, Seattle Fred Hutch scientist Trevor Bedford remains skeptical.

“This may have been a COVID-19 infection, but it’s not certain (or even likely),” Bedford said Friday.

Jean reported COVID-like symptoms in December, and recently tested positive for the antibodies produced by the virus. Snohomish County officials have said it’s “probable” she was sick with coronavirus around then, but according to Bedford, “it’s much more likely to have been an asymptomatic infection in the intervening months.”

Friday, May 15

10:17pm – Gov. Inslee walked back a mandate requiring diners to provide their personal information to restaurants. Rather it’ll be voluntary.

“We are asking visitors to voluntarily provide contact information in case of COVID-19 exposure. We only need information for one person per household. If we learn you may have been exposed to COVID-19 during your visit, the information will only be shared with public health officials. They will contact you to explain the risk, answer questions and provide resources. This information will not be used for any other purpose, including sales or marketing. If this list is not used within 30 days, it will be destroyed,” Inslee said. “This will not be required of anyone.”

5:33pm – After about a year of service, Paine Field is temporarily suspending passenger service for aircraft ramp maintenance and repairs.

The airport, which says it has served more than a million passengers since it opened on March 4, 2019, is taking advantage of a significant decrease in passenger numbers both at Paine Field and nationwide to complete the work from May 22 through July 31.

5:06pm – As workers protested at local Fred Meyer stores on Friday that their $2 an hour ‘hero pay’ was being cut, parent company Kroger announced thank-you bonuses. Qualified full-time employees will get $400 bonuses. Part-timers will receive $200.

A union representative says they appreciate the bonuses, but it’s not good enough due to the dangers that grocery workers are facing on the job.

3:58pm – Health officials say of the 273,303 people tested for coronavirus in Washington state, 17,951 have tested positive. That’s a rate of 6.6% who’ve tested positive. Of the cases, 992 people have died.

3:13pm – Plenty of students are now learning online at universities all over the country, but it’s pretty clear to most students that this is not the same as an in-person education. At the University of Washington, Alex Davidson and Timothy Billing have founded the COVID Advocacy Coalition, and they want a tuition break to compensate for this. Read more.

1:56pm – The Washington state Department of Health has approved variance for Whitman County, which means it can move on to Phase Two of safely reopening. Nine counties are now approved for Phase Two. Read more.

To apply for Phase Two, counties must have a population of less than 75,000 and no new cases of the coronavirus in the last three weeks. They must also show they have adequate local hospital capacity and enough PPE to outfit health care workers. Read more from the DOH.

12:33pm – Similar to the curbside pick-up zones established in Seattle for restaurant takeout, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the Seattle Department of Transportation will begin to install temporary curbside priority pick-up zones for retail businesses. Read more

11:29am – Ongoing shutdowns have seen retail sales in the U.S. dip a record 16% between March and April, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Over the last year, retail purchases are down 21.6%. April’s 16% decline over March is nearly twice the previous record for a single-month plunge, set between March and February of this year.

10:53am – Positive antibody tests in two Snohomish County residents indicate that COVID-19 could have possibly arrived in Washington state as far back as December. Read more. 

10:15am – In a Rose Garden press conference, President Trump unveiled what his administration is calling “Operation Warp Speed” in order to quickly develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump says that he is “looking to get (a vaccine) by the end of the year, maybe before.” That timeline, though, was called into question earlier this week by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who doesn’t foresee a vaccine being available by the fall “even at top speed.”

The co-head of the “Warp Speed” initiative, Moncef Slaoui, said that he is “optimistic” the U.S. could have “millions” of vaccine doses available to distribute by the end of 2020.

9:40am – King County officials gathered in West Seattle Thursday, to unveil a new enhanced modular shelter for those among the region’s homeless population most vulnerable to the virus.

8:48am – Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best joined KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show Thursday to answer a number of questions, weighing in on Seattle’s crime levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

8:09am – In happier pandemic news, Georgetown Brewery announced this week that it will be canning its iconic Manny’s Pale Ale for the first time ever. Read more.

7:13am – Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will be holding a virtual press conference Friday at 9 a.m., protesting restrictions laid out in Gov. Inslee’s stay-at-home order that halted debate over her Amazon tax proposal.

“Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 20-28, which limits what City Councils can legislate on, illegally overreaches his authority,” she said in a news release.

6:18am – The Seattle area has had at least one case of the deadly children’s illness believed to be connected to COVID-19. Read more. 

5:36am – The FDA has put a halt on at-home, self-collected sample COVID-19 tests distributed by the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN).

While the kits were authorized by the Washington State Department of Health, the FDA notified SCAN that it also needs a separate “Emergency Use Authorization” in order to deliver results from the kits.

“The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization,” SCAN said in a news release.

SCAN says it hopes to have the proper authorization “soon,” and that it’s been in talks with the FDA since March 1.

Thursday, May 14

4:38pm – Gov. Inslee hosted Anthony Anton, Washington Hospitality Association; Renee Sunde, Washington Retail Association; and Jennifer Moran, Washington Auto Dealers Association today in a news conference to talk about what they’ve learned so far and how their industries are preparing to reopen.

“Retail is all about customer confidence, and we have to have customers who are confident coming into retail stores,” Sunde said. “I think the inconveniences are worth it.”

Anton said customers ordering takeout and delivery have mostly been patient with servers, standing apart from one another, taking a breath, and realizing we’re all in this together.

Watch his news conference on Facebook here.

3:56pm – Health officials report 17,773 coronavirus tests have been confirmed positive, out of 267,931 in Washington state. That’s an increase of 251 since Wednesday. The state is reporting 983 deaths, that’s eight more than Wednesday. The rate of positive tests has fallen to 6.6%.

2:35pm – Kroger workers will distribute masks to co-workers that say “Always a Hero – Forever Essential” outside the Fred Meyer store (on 1st Ave.) in Burien and in Bellingham (on Bakerview Rd) on Friday. The demonstration is a response to Kroger cutting back workers’ ‘hero pay’ ($2/hour) starting Sunday. The company began paying its store employees more at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

12:27pm – Restaurants in Washington have struggled throughout the closures brought on by the coronavirus. Soon, they’ll be able to resume dine-in service, which will come with a handful of new rules posing some unique obstacles. Read more

11:23am – 4Culture — a local King County organization that provides support for the arts — is holding weekly Zoom calls to “share information and resources for creatives.”

Starting Friday, May 15, it will share updates on its COVID-19 relief fund for artists. You can RSVP for updates on Facebook here.

10:37am – With many passengers abandoning flights over COVID-19 concerns, there is a growing call for airlines to provide refunds that they normally would not. Read more.

9:50am – Gov. Jay Inslee will be delivering a press conference Thursday at 3:30 p.m., providing an update on the next steps to reopen the state’s hospitality, retail, and auto industries.

8:51am – Boeing got more bad news Thursday, with Delta announcing that it plans to retire its 777 fleet, totaling 18 planes, by the end of 2020. The airline will instead use what it claims are more “fuel-efficient and cost effective” A330 and A350-900 aircraft made by Boeing competitor, Airbus.

8:06amTestifying before Congress Thursday morning, Dr. Rick Bright — the ousted former head of the federal effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine — is warning the U.S. to prepare for what could be the “darkest winter in modern history” without an appropriately ramped-up response to the virus.

“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Dr. Bright said in his prepared remarks before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

7:40am – As Washington businesses prepare to reopen as restrictions are eased, state officials are warning them to pay special attention to their water supply. Read more

6:52am – At a time when people in King County are directed to wear masks both indoors and out to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the King County Sheriff’s Office is noticing an uptick in masked criminals. Read more

6:01am – Almost 3 million workers in the U.S. filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total to 36 million since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in March.

5:21am – The latest update to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s model predicts that the U.S. could see over 147,000 coronavirus deaths by August, up from the 134,000 the IHME had predicted in its previous update last week.

That uptick in predicted deaths is driven largely by increased mobility and relaxed distancing measures.

With some states beginning to lift their lockdowns, Dr. Ali Mokdad with the IHME remains concerned that many are limited in their ability to monitor and manage potential new flare-ups of the virus.

“Our main question now is whether Americans, as they increase their mobility, are doing so in a safe way,” he said Wednesday. “That main question, plus the lack of robust monitoring, has me concerned that we are driving blind in places as we reopen our economy and will prevent us from reacting quickly if a second wave occurs.”

“I understand the urge to go back to the new ‘normal,’ but fear that we are not preparing to do so in the right way,” he added.

Wednesday, May 13

5:01pm – The state Department of Health is now reporting 17,512 confirmed cases and 975 deaths. There have been 261,080 people have been tested, and of those tests, 6.7% are confirmed positive cases.

2:16pm – Uber is requiring drivers and passengers to wear masks. Drivers will be asked to confirm they’ve taken safety precautions and are wearing a mask or face covering by taking a selfie through the app. Uber will let the passenger know with the image.

There’s a similar checklist for passengers. They must confirm they’re wearing a face covering and have washed or sanitized their hands. They must also agree to sit in the back seat with the windows open for ventilation. Maximum suggested number of passengers in UberX will be three. These changes will remain in effect through the end of June. Read more here.

1:03pm – Angel Of The Winds Casino is reopening Wednesday at 3 p.m., with new safety restrictions in place for all customers and employees. The Stillaguamish owned casino in Arlington, Wash., will be the first casino in the state to reopen after closing voluntarily following Gov. Inslee’s initial stay-at-home order. Read more.

12:04pm – With the region still dealing with shortages in some safety supplies, King County recently received a shipment of hand sanitizer from South Korea. The county’s Office of Emergency Management is currently working to gather other supplies from around the globe for local frontline workers.

11:06am – Can King County’s new directive for wearing a mask in some public places help curb the spread of COVID-19? Columbia University virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen weighs in. Read more

10:20am – Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal renewed her push for Medicare-for-All Wednesday, taking to Twitter to tout it as a necessity during the nation’s ongoing health crisis.

“How are we supposed to end this pandemic if people are losing their health care while we fight it?” she posited. “Tying health insurance to employment has proven to be a complete disaster – we need #MedicareforAll.”

9:38am – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it would be giving WSDOT a $39.2 million grant as part of the CARES Act signed into law in late March.

WSDOT will use those funds to maintain commuter ferry service in the Seattle area during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

9:07am – Mike Jellison, owner of PA Fitness in Arlington, Wash., has decided to reopen his gym despite Washington’s ongoing stay-at-home order. Read more. 

7:32am – After nearly two months of emergency-only care, regular dental work is scheduled to resume May 19. But some hygienists are worried about their safety. Read more.

6:41am – The Washington State Employment Security Department is asking people with questions about their claims to not call its toll-free numbers between May 13 and May 20, in a bid to focus on outbound calls to resolve issues for those have been waiting longest to get through.

The only exceptions will be for people with limited ability to file online, those submitting weekly claims via phone, general questions not already answered on the department’s website, or anyone who needs a translator for help with their claim.

This request is part of the department’s “Operation 100%” — launched Monday — which aims to get all eligible Washingtonians their benefits as quickly as possible. That push applies to people who filed claims before May 1.

6:01am – You might have noticed a little more company on the roads recently. You’re not imagining it. Traffic is slowly returning. Read more

5:25am – Seattle-King County Public Health announced Tuesday that testing for coronavirus has become “increasingly available,” and that anyone experiencing even mild, COVID-like symptoms should isolate themselves and arrange to get tested immediately.

In a recent blog post, Public Health advised that while coughing or shortness of breath are “the most concerning symptoms,” anyone experiencing two or more of the following symptoms should also look to get tested: Fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell.

To get tested, you can either contact your health care provider, or reach out to the King County COVID-19 call center, open seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. at (206) 477-3977. Free drive-thru testing is also available at T-Mobile Park, starting Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 12

5:08pm – Tim Eyman, gubernatorial candidate, is urging people to join a “huge anti-Inslee rally” on Thursday evening on the steps of the Capitol building. He said on Tuesday that the rallies do make a difference.

“First of all, when the people are angry and frustrated, they must be given a peaceful outlet for those very real, justified, raw emotions,” Eyman wrote in his newsletter. “People’s lives, livelihoods, and liberty are under assault by Governor Inslee. He’s torn apart the social fabric with his turn-in-your-neighbors list. A peaceful protest is definitely preferable to the other option.”

Dr. Kira Mauseth, a clinical psychologist and senior instructor in psychology at Seattle University, said anger and aggression are almost always an expression of an underlying sense of fear. It could be a fear of things not returning to normal, it could be a fear of losing control, and it could be a fear of the unknown. Read more.

4:06pm – Boeing failed to sell a single commercial airplane but saw orders for 108 planes canceled in April as a sharp drop in air travel erased any demand among airlines for new jetliners. Read more from Associated Press.

It marked the second month this year in which Boeing received no orders, a fate that would have seemed impossible not long ago.

3:24pm – Health officials say 962 people have died from coronavirus in Washington state, an increase of 17 people since Monday. The state says 256,321 people have been tested and 17,330 were positive. That’s a rate of 6.8%, a number that has held steady for three days.

2:53pm – The Employment Security Department is launching “Operation 100%,” an effort to get unemployment benefits to all Washingtonians who are eligible for and want to receive them.

The effort includes continued rapid hiring of staff, activating technology to bulk clear issues and free up payments, and increasing outbound claims resolution calls while limiting inbound phone calls. Incoming calls will be accepted from those who don’t have online access, those submitting claims via phone, questions not answered on the website, and reports of fraud. Read more about Operation 100% here.

2:02pm – Gov. Inslee on Tuesday outlined the steps and challenges for Washington state’s contact tracing system, the next stage in the state’s fight against COVID-19. Read more.

12:25pm – Starting Wednesday, QFC and Fred Meyer will be offering free drive-thru COVID-19 testing at T-Mobile Park in partnership with the city of Seattle and the Seattle Mariners. Testing will be by appointment only. You can register to get tested online here, or call 1-888-852-2567. Read more.

12:10pmWashington state National Guardsmen have now packed, processed, and distributed over 12 million pounds of food to the state’s residents and food banks since they mobilized to provide assistance for the COVID-19 crisis.

11:37am – Washington Sen. Patty Murray pointed to a series of “broken promises” from the federal government Tuesday, regarding increased testing necessary to relaxing social distancing measures. Read more

10:38am – Gov. Inslee will be delivering a press conference today at 1:30 p.m. to provide further details on “the state’s phased approach to re-opening the economy and an update on contact tracing.”

9:41am – New guidelines released by Gov. Jay Inslee will require restaurants resuming dine-in service in Phase 2 to compile a daily log of all customers that keeps track of phone numbers and emails. Read more

8:42am – Following King County’s lead, Snohomish County announced Tuesday that “cloth face coverings are strongly recommended.”

“They should be worn in public, when using transit, or in commercial/retail settings,” the Snohomish Health District said on Twitter. “There are many parts of the pandemic that are difficult to control. Reducing contact with others & wearing face coverings can make a difference.”

8:14am – When asked by the U.S. Senate about the possibility of students returning to school in person this fall, Dr. Fauci did not sound optimistic.

“The idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the full term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” he stated.

7:08am – Dr. Anthony Fauci is testifying before the U.S. Senate on the country’s coronavirus response this morning. A virtual hearing began at 7 a.m., and can be watched live here.

6:15am – We knew the numbers were not going to be pretty when King County Metro decided to reduce trips and stop collecting fares. Read more

5:34am – After announcing a measure asking that people wear a cloth face covering in places like grocery stores, pharmacies, and more, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan described the move as “critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

“Wearing face coverings is part of the new normal,” she noted. “We all must do our part to follow this guidance to protect our communities.”

Monday, May 11

10:15pm – Gov. Jay Inslee, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, and Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig joined the governors and state legislative leaders of California, Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada on Monday to urge Congress to dedicate $1 trillion in “direct and flexible relief” to state and local governments, according to Inslee’s office.

The letter reads, in part:

“Without federal support, states and cities will be forced to make impossible decisions – like whether to fund critical public healthcare that will help us recover, or prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders. And, without additional assistance, the very programs that will help people get back to work – like job training and help for small business owners – will be forced up on the chopping block.”

5:20pm – Health officials say 945 people have died from coronavirus in Washington state, an increase of 14 since Sunday. The state says 252,108 people have been tested for the virus and of those, 17,122 people have tested positive. That’s a rate of 6.8%. That number has stayed steady for two days.

4:35pm – The Seattle City Council passed legislation Monday to protect renters, ensuring evictions that occur during and six months after the COVID-19 crisis can not be used against renters in the future. Read more.

2:49pm – King County and Seattle are asking people to wear a cloth face covering when around other people in places like the grocery store, pharmacy, and hardware store. It’s also appropriate when among crowds outdoors, such as at a farmers’ market or restaurant curbside pickup. Read more.

“It is a sign of our mutual concern for each other,” said Executive Dow Constantine.

2:40pm – Bellevue’s Fourth of July celebration has been canceled.

“Safety is paramount, especially now as we try to bounce back from this pandemic,” said Bellevue Downtown Association President Patrick Bannon.

Tacoma has postponed its Fourth of July celebration for later in the summer. Read more from the city here.

1:45pm – Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved applications from Wahkiakum, Skamania, and Stevens counties to move into Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan. That brings the total number of counties to move forward to eight. Last week, variances were approved for Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, and Pend Oreille counties.

12:24pm – With the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recently increasing the predicted total for coronavirus deaths in the United States, its researchers are looking to remind the country that the outbreak is far from over. Read more

11:18am – A recent report from Moody’s Analytics looking at cities best equipped to recover economically from the coronavirus crisis listed Seattle among the cities best prepared to bounce back.

The report weighed factors like “high degrees of educational attainment,” as well as large cities with lower population density.

10:10am – Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson researcher Dr. Joshua Schiffer spoke to the Wall Street Journal last week about why fully recovering from the coronavirus can take longer than expected in certain cases.

“In some people it looks like a week, in some people it looks like several weeks, and then it disappears, but then after that, you see these data points we call blips, where there is some small amounts of the virus that become present and then the next day they’re gone, and then maybe 3 days later they’re there again,” he detailed.

9:09am – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine will be delivering a virtual press conference at 2:30 p.m. Monday, to announce a new local directive on requirements related to wearing face coverings in public.

8:42am – 1,500 protesters gathered in Olympia over the weekend, led by several Republican lawmakers and gubernatorial candidates, including Rep. Matt Shea.

Shea was suspended from the House caucus in 2019 after an outside investigation alleged he participated in acts of domestic terrorism. At the protest, Shea encouraged Washingtonians to defy Gov. Inslee’s stay-at-home order.

8:29am – There is another ugly side of the COVID-19 outbreak amid the state’s ongoing stay-at-home order, with the list of people filing complaints against violations of the order recently being made public on social media. Read more. 

7:28am – Starting on May 18, all Seattle-Tacoma Airport passengers, visitors, and workers will be required to wear cloth face coverings.

Face coverings were provided to Sea-Tac Airport employees starting on April 17. The mandate does not apply to “those who cannot medically tolerate facial coverings and very young children.” Read more

7:11am – With Washington in Phase 1 of Gov. Inslee’s plan to gradually relax social distancing measures, a handful of businesses have now been allowed to reopen.

That includes: in-progress residential construction projects, vehicle and vessel sales, pet walkers, landscaping, drive-in religious services, curbside retail, and car washes.

6:16am – A local grandmother was arrested (on paper) for violating Governor Jay Inslee’s coronavirus stay-at-home order. She removed the caution tape from a playground and asked children and their parents to come to the local park. Read more

5:31amThe latest update to the model produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that the United States could have over 137,000 coronavirus deaths by August.

That’s up from its previous estimate on May 4 of over 134,000 deaths. According to IHME head Dr. Christopher Murray, the shift in the prediction has been driven by a decrease in deaths in New York, New Jersey, and other areas of the northeast, and an increase in Pennsylvania and Illinois.

“We’re seeing just explosive increases in mobility in a number of states that we expect will translate into more cases and deaths 10 days from now,” Dr. Murray told CBS’s Face the Nation.

Live updates from last week

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