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COVID-19 updates: 417 new cases, 6 new deaths

Cars pass a giant Washington State University mural covering a wheat field Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, near Pullman, Wash. The athletes weren't the only ones impacted when Washington State's fall football season was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. Merchants in tiny Pullman who depend on big football crowds say they are losing a major chunk of their annual income. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review via AP)

Thirty new cases in the Pullman area are just some of the over 71,000 cases of coronavirus in Washington state. The DOH says 1,863 people have died from the virus. The number of deaths, globally, surpassed 800,000 on Saturday. Check below for more updates.

Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Sunday, Aug. 23

6:47pm – Health officials say there have been 71,012 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 1,863 people have died from the virus. Since the outbreak began, there have been 6,530 people hospitalized.

2:58pm – After expressing frustration at the slow pace of approval for coronavirus treatments, President Donald Trump announced Sunday the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.

The announcement came after days of White House officials suggesting there were politically motivated delays by the Food and Drug Administration in approving a vaccine and therapeutics for the disease that has upended Trump’s reelection chances. Read more from AP. 

7:56am – Whitman County Public Health announced on Saturday 30 new cases of COVID-19. Of those cases, 15 are male and 15 are female between the ages of 20-39. Public Health said one of the cases is in congregate living (Greek life).

Washington State University said in a statement that the health department “has made us aware of a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases involving students from the Pullman campus.”  Read the full statement.

“Students who fail to follow state mandates, whether on or off campus, not only risk potential law enforcement action but can face disciplinary hearings under WSU’s Community Standards process.”

WSU statement about COVID-19 cases in Pullman 

Saturday, Aug. 22

8:01pm – Health officials say there have been 70,595 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 1,857 people have died from the virus. Since the outbreak started, 6,500 people have been hospitalized.

12:18pm –  Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts. Read more from AP.

8:03am – Pacific Lutheran University is now offering what it’s calling a plus year, which is a year of education tuition-free for current students. Read more.

7:34am – According to a tracker from John Hopkins University, more than 800,000 people worldwide have died from COVID-19. In the United States, more than 175,000 people have died.

The John Hopkins tracker also shows about 23 million cases across the globe, with 5.6 million of those cases in the United States.

Friday, Aug. 21

7:02pm – More than 30 COVID-19 cases have been reported in an outbreak at a Bremerton hospital, state health officials said.

The Washington State Department of Health said Friday afternoon the outbreak has affected multiple units at St. Michael Medical Center, which is part of the CHI Franciscan system. Read more from AP.

4:32pm – Health officials report 69,779 cases of coronavirus in Washington state so far. Of those, 1,850 people have died of the virus, according to the DOH. The state reports 6,469 hospitalizations since the outbreak because in Washington.

3:33pm – Snohomish County says it has provided about 2,700 free boxes of produce to community members at apartment complexes in Everett, Lynnwood, Marysville, Snohomish, Monroe and Bothell as part of its Nourishing Neighborhoods program. The program, a response to COVID-19, leverages funding from the federal CARES Act.

The program aims to use data that suggests people in these locations may have been particularly hit hard by the pandemic and have limited access to grocery stores and food banks.

Planning is underway to expand the program through the end of the year.

1:03pm – After weeks of conflict between Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Council, city leaders have come to an agreement over a new COVID-19 aid package.

The joint amended relief package creates and extends $45 million in COVID aid programs through the end of 2020 and into 2021. The plan will invest an additional $21.25 million in COVID-19 relief in 2020, and another $23.75 million to be distributed in 2021. Read more.

11:27am – Most of the state’s businesses are cooperating with the governor’s coronavirus mandates, according to Washington Department of Labor and Industries spokesman Tim Church. His agency is tasked with enforcing the state’s COVID rules.

Church tells KIRO Radios that L&I is getting about 100 complaints about violations every day, and that the agency has about 200 employees across the state doing about 250 spot checks daily.

When presented with their violations, Church says most businesses change their ways. A few do not, which can lead to a fine up to $10,000.

Church insists L&I’s goal is to get businesses to comply.

8:59am – Washington state lawmakers are calling on Senate Republicans to provide aid for the growing number of unemployed Americans brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

7:31am – Wild Waves announced Thursday that it is closing for the rest of the year, due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Federal Way theme park stated that “despite its best efforts” to stay open, it’s shutting down — citing “unknown timeline and operating restrictions” during the pandemic.

5:10am – A local Washington county is declaring its own, more stringent COVID-19 rules.

Island County is setting lower limits on the number of people who can get together for outdoor sports and recreation.

The county’s health Board says groups can apply for waivers, but without one, only 10 people or fewer can participate.

A waiver would allow up to 50 people, the previous limit for Island county, which is in modified Phase 3 of the state’s reopening rules.

Thursday, Aug. 20

4:11pm – Health officials say there have been 69,389 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and the state reports 1,837 people have died from the virus. There have been 6,400 people hospitalized.

4:04pm – Seattle announced on Thursday that it is opening a fourth COVID-19 testing site.

This one will open on Aug. 28 at Chief Sealth High School (2600 SW Thistle St, Seattle, WA 98126). The city reports that firefighters, paramedics, and AMR have tested over 125,000 people.

The city’s other three sites are located in North Seattle (12040 Aurora Ave N., Seattle, WA 98133), at Rainier Beach High School (8815 Seward Park Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118), and in SoDo (3820 6th Ave S., Seattle, WA 98108).

3:38pm – The Washington State Employment Security Department says there were 21,942 initial jobless claims for the week of Aug. 9-15 — a new low since the outbreak started in March.

The ESD also announced today it will apply on Friday for the Lost Wages Assistance program through FEMA. The program would allow ESD to provide an additional $300 per week for three weeks to people who have lost work during the COVID-19 crisis and are receiving unemployment benefits.

2:08pm – The Venice Film Festival is requiring participants at the first in-person cinema showcase of the COVID-19 era to wear facemasks during screenings and take a coronavirus test if they’re arriving from outside Europe.

According to guidelines published Thursday, fans and the general public will be kept away from the red carpet during the Sept. 2-12 festival, and movie-goers will have to buy tickets and reserve seats online to ensure every other seat is left vacant. Nine gates set up at various points around the Venice Lido will take temperatures of movie-goers and media. Festival-goers attending indoor events will be tracked to guarantee contact tracing if necessary. Read more from AP.

1:12pm – The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would be returning COVID-19 reporting back to the Centers for Disease Control, following criticism over previously shifting those responsibilities to the Health and Human Services Department.

10:45am – Gov. Inslee provided an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 on Thursday morning, sharing a bit of good news.

“I am cautiously pleased to tell you that we have seen a decline in diagnosed cases in the last two weeks,” Inslee said.

While the state has seen encouraging success in bending the curve of infections and in other data, including positivity rate, testing capacity, and infection rate, Inslee says Washingtonians need to continue their efforts to slow the spread of the virus as we still have “many miles to go.”

“We have so far to go in this effort,” he said. “And we want to thank those who have committed themselves to keeping themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

He pointed to Yakima County as a success story because the number of infections has dropped there, which is thought to be due to an early mask up campaign. This, Inslee says, is an encouraging sign for the rest of the state that behavior changes can and do make a difference. The governor also said we need to remember that Washington state has successfully bent down the curve before, but it came raging back. The same pattern could happen again if people stop wearing masks, keeping their distance, and limiting interactions.

“We have signs that what we’re doing is working,” Inslee said.

8:34am – The number of workers seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose back above 1 million last week after two weeks of declines.

At the same time, a regional manufacturing index grew more slowly in August than in July. Employers are advertising fewer job openings with unemployment still in double digits. And many businesses and consumers remain paralyzed by uncertainty and restricted by lockdowns. Read more from AP.

7:50am – King County residents can get free face masks Thursday at the Rainier Beach Community Center in Seattle from 1-5 p.m. Two reusable cloth coverings will be handed out to each person, and each vehicle can request masks for up to six people in their household.

6:07am – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is expected to announce the opening of a fourth free COVID-19 testing site. During the first two months of the city’s testing program, more than 100,000 tests were administered. The new test site will be in West Seattle, but the exact location is yet to be announced.

5:22am – The state issued new regulations detailing when employers need to have agricultural workers tested for COVID-19. All employees must be tested if more than nine workers or 10% of the staff come down with the illness. Workers staying in isolation facilities on-site need to be checked by health professionals twice per day. Read more.

Wednesday, Aug. 19

5:48pm – Washington now has 68,689 total COVID-19 cases, along with 1,822 deaths. That marks single day increases of 425 cases and 13 deaths.

4:11pm – The Seattle Seahawks announced Wednesday that the team plans to play its first three home games of the 2020 season without fans in attendance.

That will encompass a Sept. 20 showdown against the New England Patriots, Sept. 27 against the Dallas Cowboys, and Oct. 11 versus the Minnesota Vikings. Read more.

2:30pm – King County is handing out free face coverings to residents on Thursday, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Rainier Beach Community Center. The event is being hosted alongside the City of Seattle and the Seattle Parks Department.

12:09pm – Blood samples taken before and after a COVID-19 outbreak on a fishing vessel have provided the first direct evidence that anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies can protect against new infections in humans. Crew members who had significant levels of antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19 were protected from re-infection. The finding was reported by researchers from the UW School of Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Read more from UW Medicine.

10:25am – A lot of the decision making as to when and how to reopen has been left up to individual states to decide as the COVID-19 pandemic remains a threat. Arizona reopened quickly, but then saw a surge of new cases, while Washington state took a different approach.

“Washington, really, it took its time, you [reopened] in a very slow, incremental process, as not to only avoid stressing the public health and health care systems, but also to very quickly be able to identify any upticks in cases and then be able to rapidly respond,” Dr. Saskia Popescu told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show. Read more.

7:51am – With many people continuing to hunker down in their homes during the ongoing pandemic, home-buying habits have gone through a sizable shift across the United States. In Seattle, there’s been a marked increase in searches for homes under 1,000 square feet as prospective buyers have scrambled to get out of apartments and into permanent homes. Read more.

5:43am – The National Guard started COVID-19 tests in Okanogan County on Tuesday due to the high number of cases in the area. The Wenatchee World reports a state incident command team will be set up in North Central Washington to help local health departments. 

Tuesday, Aug. 18

5:21pm – With a coronavirus vaccine still months off, companies are rushing to test what may be the next best thing: drugs that deliver antibodies to fight the virus right away, without having to train the immune system to make them.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking there’s an infection so it makes antibodies and remembers how to do that if the real bug turns up. Read more from AP.

3:33pm – Health officials report 68,264 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 1,809 deaths. Over 6,300 people have been hospitalized. The state still has not released the number of negative tests as it works through that data set. A positivity rate is impossible to calculate without the total tests taken.

2:36pm – A nurse who worked at the prison with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the state is concerned about “serious neglect” of infected inmates.

The Tacoma News Tribune reports a nurse who worked in the prison from June to mid-July sent an email to 30 Department of Corrections staff in late July about the handling of the outbreak at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell.

According to her, contracted nurses like her get no medical information about their patients and staff commonly lose track of where infected inmates are housed.

She says inmates are only allowed to change clothes once a week and there is little privacy in the quarantine tents.

12:27pm – The Pacific Northwest Ballet announced an all “virtual” 2020-21 season Tuesday. Subscriptions will include original works, performed and recorded with COVID precautions in place, as well as previously recorded ballets that couldn’t be staged safely during the pandemic.

10:11am – Seattle Public Schools says it is pushing the start day two days to allow for more educator training. The first day of school will be Friday, Sept. 4. PreK and Kindergarten will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Labor Day is Sept. 7.

8:40am – A new mobile COVID-19 testing site in downtown Bellingham will be open for appointments Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. The Whatcom County Health Department says the site is able to test up to 240 people a day. Six more testing sites are expected to start as early as next Monday.

7:08am – King County, in partnership with Amazon, is offering free masks on Thursday, Aug. 20, at the Rainier Beach Community Center from 1-5 p.m. You must be a King County resident to be eligible to receive masks at this drive-through pick up event. The maximum number of cloth reusable masks each car can receive is 12 — two per household member, up to six household members.

5:36am – The UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recently released a new series of maps, detailing the progress states have made in increasing the frequency of mask wearing. Washington state was in the 50-59% range when the IHME last logged mask-wearing data on Aug. 10. Read more.

Monday, Aug. 17

5:41pm – Washington got some good news recently, with the latest update from the Department of Health indicating that the state’s COVID-19 outbreak is beginning to trend in the right direction. Read more

4:03pm – Health officials say there are 67,721 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and there have been 1,785 people who have died from the virus. The state still has not released the number of negative tests as it works through that data set. A positivity rate is impossible to calculate without the total tests taken.

2:24pm – There’s another epidemic out there, an epidemic of false COVID-19 information. There’s much being spread on social media, and the bogus information isn’t innocent. A recent study looked at the number of people who have actually tried to follow the fake advice and suffered because of it.

Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss some of the false COVID-19 info on social media. Read more.

12:01pm – The Snohomish County Fair Park is hosting a drive-through food drive in lieu of the Evergreen State Fair, which was canceled due to COVID-19. The food drive will take place Thursday at Evergreen State Fair Park in Monroe from 4-7 p.m. in the West parking lot.

9:59am – Sound Transit gave out free masks at SeaTac/Airport and Angle Lake stations Monday morning, and will be handing out more free masks at Rainier Beach and Tukwila International Boulevard stations from 3-7 p.m.

7:14am – Avamere Rehabilitation of Cascade Park in Vancouver, Wash., recorded 40 COVID-19 cases late last week. The outbreak at the long-term care facility was confirmed Thursday by Clark County Public Health. Read more from the AP.

5:35am – The Kittitas School District’s superintendent sent a letter to parents, students, and staff informing them that Kittitas School Board voted to fully reopen schools in September. The decision was based on a survey that showed almost 70% of parents who responded wanted their kids back in class in some capacity.

The district says the Washington State Department of Health would have to approve its petition to reopen. Until then, the superintendent says the plan is to learn remotely.

Read last week’s updates.

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