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COVID-19 updates: King County health officials with latest advice on holiday travel

Seattle-Tacoma Airport. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The state Department of Health says there have been over 177,000 coronavirus cases in Washington state, and 2,925 people have died from the virus statewide. Check below for more updates.

Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Sunday, Dec. 6

4:18pm – There have now been 177,447 total COVID cases in Washington state since the start of the pandemic. There have been 2,925 deaths, although the Department of Health does not update that total on weekends.

2:23pm – As some people still wait on unemployment payments and information brought on by the pandemic, legislators discuss solutions that could come into the upcoming session. Read more.

8:08am – Seattle-King County Public Health now has an updated guide on holiday travel. Despite a travel advisory in Washington lifting on Dec. 14, it still “strongly advises” against non-essential travel for Christmas.

Saturday, Dec. 5

8:39pm – The state Department of Health is reporting a slowdown in its dashboard systems. It’s experiencing issues with death data and case counts. The department is expecting issues will be resolved by Monday.

“The Epidemiologic Curves tab is the most accurate representation of COVID activity and is updated daily as new cases are identified and duplicates are resolved,” according to the DOH website.

12:16pm – With a COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in Washington sometime in the next few weeks, modelers at UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is issuing a warning to keep expectations in check in the short-term. Read more

8:10am – Gov. Jay Inslee warned Friday that Washington’s health care system is “on the brink,” as COVID cases continue to rise.

Over the last week, Washington has regularly seen between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases a day, marking some of the highest totals the state has seen since the pandemic began. That’s in turn stressed hospital capacity to the limit.

Friday, Dec. 4

5:59pm – Michael Nick, the owner of Graham Fitness in Graham, Washington says the governor’s COVID restrictions are hurting his ability to feed his family, as well as infringing on Constitutional rights by picking and choosing which businesses can be open. He plans to defy the order and joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss. Read more

4:32pm – Health officials say there have been 174,290 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 2,925 deaths since the pandemic started. The state says 11,273 people have been hospitalized and 3,120,146 people tested.

2:48pm – The Snohomish Health District is recommending that all long-term care facilities in the county immediately begin following the Phase 1 of the Long-term Care Safe Start Plan until further notice. The county says, as of Dec. 2, there were 44 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities, involving 500 cases.

Snohomish Health District reports that the latest two-week case rate is at 368 per 100,000 residents through November 28, and that the number of deaths continue to rise. Hospitalizations have been in the high-80s to low-90s each day.

1:29pm – Microsoft founder Bill Gates — who has been issuing warnings for years about the threat of a global pandemic — pointed to the COVID crisis as a prime example of the lack of readiness the U.S. has had when it comes to large-scale disasters. Read more

11:58am – Investigators with the state Department of Labor & Industries told Spiffy’s Restaurant in Chehalis to close Thursday, but the owner refused and customers chased them off. The owner, Rod Samuelson, tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that his parking lot and dining room have been packed all day. He says he thinks people are eating there to show their support.

Spiffy’s has remained open for indoor dining, defying the governor’s restrictions. Read more.

9:12am – Warner Bros. Pictures on Thursday announced that all of its 2021 film slate — including a new “Matrix” movie, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” and the Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptation “In the Heights” — will stream on HBO Max at the same time the films play in theaters. Read more from the AP.

8:29am – Nine employees at a Fred Meyer in Port Orchard have tested positive for coronavirus. A company spokesperson told The Kitsap Sun that all the infected employees are “self-quarantining” per company protocols. The store, located on Sedgwick Road, has been sanitized multiple times and will remain open.

6:41am – America’s employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month as the viral pandemic accelerated across the country, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown. Read more from the AP.

5:35am– The new COVID testing program for students and staff in Pierce County’s Peninsula School District started this week, and has so far resulted in one positive case being identified. Because of that case, about 10 students and staff are now having to quarantine.

Assistant superintendent John Hellwich tells KIRO Radio that the weekly antigen testing is not mandatory and more than half of students and staff have taken it. He believes the testing allows them to find infections faster and get the necessary quarantines underway.

Two others who come to campus are known to have tested positive before school-administered testing started this week.

Thursday, Dec. 3

5:12pm – The Washington Department of Health is now reporting 172,437 total COVID-19 cases statewide since the start of the pandemic, along with 2,900 deaths. That marks single-day increases of 2,095 cases and 50 deaths.

3:36pm – The Washington State Department of Health announced Thursday that it will be adopting the CDC’s new quarantine guidelines.

Those guidelines state that someone in quarantine with no symptoms can end that quarantine after the 10th day (rather than after a full two weeks). A person who receives a negative COVID test without symptoms can now end their quarantine after seven days, provided they get tested within 48 hours of that seventh day.

1:22pm – A new proposal seeks to dissolve the city-county partnership the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has operated under since 1972, a move that local health officials warn could have dire consequences on pandemic response efforts. Read more

10:50am – The state Department of Health says that about 3 million people in Washington are showing symptoms of depression or anxiety.

“Many of those symptoms are related to the social isolation, the changes in lifestyle, unemployment for some, fears around the unknown, and then the stress and pressure of balancing all of the things that lots of us are juggling with child care, and work, and that sort of thing,” said Dr. Kira Mauseth, co-lead of the Behavioral Health Strike Team.

She also says a “dis-illusionment” phase is typical during disasters, including pandemics. Mauseth encourages you to reach out for help if you or a loved one is struggling. Find behavioral health resources online here.

9:27am – The iconic Maltby Cafe is going to survive the COVID shutdown order thanks to the generosity of the community. Tana Baulmer has owned the restaurant for more than 36 years, providing about 45 employees with health care and retirement benefits. As the state’s restrictions were hurting business, and Baulmer owed $10,000 to keep her workers insured in December, a community member set up a GoFundMe page and donations came pouring in.

The community raised enough money for Baulmer to pay her employees’ health insurance for December, January, and February, as well as rent. Read more from KIRO 7 TV.

7:12am – Gov. Inslee updated restrictions for religious and faith-based organizations, clarifying that outdoor services can be held with up to 200 individuals, regardless of location, as long as physical distancing is followed and face coverings are worn. This update expands on where outdoor services can be held, no longer limited to the organization’s property or an immediate adjacent property.

Read the full guidance document here.

5:39am – Don’t travel over the upcoming holidays. But if you must, consider getting coronavirus tests before and after, U.S. health officials urged Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home. Read more from the AP.

Wednesday, Dec. 2

5:24pm – Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that $50 million in Working Washington grants are now available, prioritizing small businesses in industries hit hardest by the pandemic. That includes restaurants, fitness centers, and event venues.

You can learn more about the grants and how to apply here.

4:11pm – The Washington Department of Health is now reporting 170,342 total COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, along with 2,850 deaths. That marks a single day increase of 3,126 cases and 45 deaths.

3:06pm – Mayor Jenny Durkan joined Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Wednesday to pen an editorial stressing the need for the federal government to partner directly with cities to fight the ongoing COVID crisis.

The piece notes that “America’s mayors have already heard more from Joe Biden in his first few weeks as president-elect than they’ve heard from Donald Trump during his more than 1,400 days as president.”

“These unprecedented challenges require us to work together,” it continues. “They require America’s best and boldest ideas. And, in the era of Trump, the greatest ideas have been led by America’s cities.”

1:29 pm – Washington state and Governor Jay Inslee just rolled out a COVID app that uses your smartphone to tell you if you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID. Rep Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) is not a fan and likely won’t be installing the app on his phone. He joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss. Read more.

11:22am – In a survey of 3,409 adults for the American Psychological Association, 34% of Gen Z adults, age 18-34, reported worsening mental health, followed by millennials (19%), boomers (12%), and older adults (8%).

Christine Lee, a research professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UW School of Medicine, and her colleagues at the UW Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behavior, have been tracking loneliness in young adults since January. After seeing how much it increased during the pandemic, they created a free program called “Check in With Yourself,” which provides personalized strategies for managing stress, increasing social support, and addressing alcohol use. Read more from the UW here.

10:39am – As Washington’s COVID outbreak continues to escalate, the state could soon be facing some tough choices regarding what to close. Georgetown University virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen, though, suggests that closing businesses like restaurants, bars, and gyms could be a viable trade-off for getting schools fully reopened. Read more.

8:17am – Peninsula School District kindergartners and first graders are back in class now that rapid COVID testing is being done at all schools. No students or staff tested positive on day one.

While 80% of students in the district are still learning remotely, the hope is to bring as many kids back to school as possible when it’s safe to do so. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department used federal funds to set up the testing program, and it will continue as long as the money doesn’t run out.

5:53am – The current restrictions on travel to and from Canada expire in three weeks, but are not likely to be lifted at the end of the month. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says border rules will not be changed until the coronavirus is “significantly more under control” around the world.

Canada and the United States have limited border crossings to essential travel only since March, with the restrictions extended each month since then.

Tuesday, Dec. 1

4:18pm – The Washington Department of Health is now reporting 167,216 total COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, as well as 2,805 deaths. That makes for a single day increase of 2,197 cases and 31 deaths.

3:07pm – On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the planning process for distributing an eventual COVID-19 vaccine had begun. Further details were released Tuesday by state health officials, including who will likely receive the vaccine first. Read more

1:36pm – At the start of the pandemic in March, a quarantine site housed in a former Econo Lodge motel in Kent for King County’s homeless population found itself at the center of frequent controversy. With the site set to operate fully once again, the city’s mayor, Dana Ralph, feels confident that those problems can be avoided this time around. Read more.

12:12pm – Applications for the state’s next round of COVID-19 small business grants open this week.

“If you know of a small business that has been heavily impacted by COVID — a restaurant, your favorite music venue, your local bowling alley — please tell them to visit commerce.wa.gov/bizgrants,” Gov. Inslee said.

The governor has set aside $50 million for this round, and grants can be up to $20,000 apiece. Small businesses that had revenues of less than $5 million last year will be prioritized, as will businesses from sectors hit hardest by the restrictions.

11:00am – Bloodworks Northwest says blood supplies are low right now after a tough Thanksgiving weekend with a lot of no-shows. Donations also tend to fall off during the winter holidays. They’re looking for donors of all types at this time, including people who have survived coronavirus as their plasma is being used to treat those hospitalized with COVID-19.

9:38am – Researchers say more and more COVID survivors report that their teeth are falling out. Dr. William Li of the Angiogenesis Foundation tells KIRO 7 TV that former patients are also reporting cracking and chipped teeth. Li explains that the center of a tooth is about 40% blood vessels, so since COVID attacks blood vessels, it could damage teeth.

7:43am – Your children can visit Santa this year, but they probably won’t be sitting on his lap, as malls have adjusted to the pandemic. In most cases, you’ll also need to make a reservation to see Santa.

At Bellevue Square, for example, family members will have to wear masks, and so will Saint Nick. He’ll be sitting behind a desk with a Plexiglass screen separating him from visitors. Children sit on a chair in front of the desk to talk with Santa, and the chair is sanitized between each guest.

Santa is sitting on a porch at Issaquah Commons, where children can walk up and chat with him while keeping a reindeer’s length apart.

6:36am – More than 30 patients and staff at Western State Hospital, Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital, are suffering from coronavirus — the biggest spike in cases to date — and more than 150 have tested positive since the virus first hit the facility in March.

Ten patients on a single ward got sick within a few days of each other after a nurse tested positive about a week ago. The patients ranged in age of 62-82 and were moved to the hospital’s special COVID-19 ward so they’re kept away from other patients. Twelve workers tested positive within a three-day span last week, hospital officials said. Most were on the same ward as the patient spike. Read more from the AP.

5:29am – State Secretary of Health John Weisman says he is making no predictions on whether or not we will see a post-holiday COVID spike. If it happens, it will take 7-10 days for anyone infected over Thanksgiving to show in the data as a tracked, positive test. Wiesman says there are indications that Washington had the least amount of travel and large gatherings of any state.

Gov. Inslee added he hopes people do not stop safe practices just because Thanksgiving is over.

Monday, Nov. 30

5:38pm – Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday that his office has begun the planning process needed to distribute an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. Read more.

4:13pm – Health officials say there have been 165,019 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 2,774 deaths since the pandemic began. The DOH reports 10,985 people have been hospitalized.

2:58pm – Even if a COVID infection doesn’t prove fatal or drastic, it can completely change your life and have lasting effects, as it did for one Washington nurse. KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show checked back in with Tammy Edwards, who caught COVID back in April. She’s a nurse and has just recently returned to work at Tacoma General Hospital. Read more

1:44pm – The sheriff of Klickitat County says he won’t enforce Gov. Inslee’s COVID mandates, claiming that they amount to “unconstitutional” orders. Read more.

12:31pm – The Peninsula School District is teaming up with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to provide COVID-19 tests to staff and students. Voluntary rapid antigen testing will take place once a week until winter break at each elementary school, Key Peninsula Middle School, Peninsula High School, and Gig Harbor High School. Read more.

10:22am – Gov. Inslee announced a new, statewide COVID-19 exposure notification tool called WA Notify, which can be added to smartphones, and will then alert Washington residents if they have spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19. Read more.

8:18am – Another college football game is moved as the Pac-12 conference announced that Washington State University’s game versus USC will now be played Sunday night to allow for the return of USC players who are in isolation because of positive COVID-19 tests, or quarantined as a result of contact tracing. The game was previously scheduled for Friday.

6:54am – Mask-wearing is mandated in our state, but The Seattle Times reports that student volunteers from the University of Washington will park outside of supermarkets, big stores like Costco and Target, convenience stores, parks, transit stations, and Sea-Tac Airport to observe if people are actually following the mandate. They’ll look at who is wearing masks and how they’re wearing them, for example, if it fully covers the nose and mouth. Read more.

People will be categorized by gender and age, and no one will be photographed, recorded, or asked for any identifying information.

5:26am – President-elect Joe Biden has named a Washington nurse to join his Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. Jane Hopkins is one of three new additions to the team. She’s worked at Harborview Medical Center and Snoqualmie Hospital, and is also the Executive Vice President for a health care workers union.

Find last week’s updates here.

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