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caption: Spc. Erik Jones, left, and Spc. Andre Bhatt with the Washington National Guard load bags and boxes of food into the back of a vehicle on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at the Tukwila Pantry Food Bank on South 140th Street in Tukwila.
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Spc. Erik Jones, left, and Spc. Andre Bhatt with the Washington National Guard load bags and boxes of food into the back of a vehicle on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at the Tukwila Pantry Food Bank on South 140th Street in Tukwila.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Blog: Covid-19 pandemic in Washington (October 5-9)

This post is archived. Read the latest here.

As of Monday, October 12, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 2,190 Covid-19 related deaths; 93,035 confirmed cases (2.4% death rate among positive cases).
  • Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases is nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
  • While the pandemic initially struck older populations hard, more recent surges in case numbers (June/July) have been driven by younger people -- ages 40 and below. One of the worst outbreaks in the nation during August/September was in Pullman, around Washington State University.


UW, Fred Hutch seeking volunteers for antibody trial

11:15 a.m.- The University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are recruiting patients for a Regeneron antibody trial.

Dr. Ruanne Barnabas, an infectious disease physician at UW School of Medicine, is involved in the research. She says they’re hoping to learn a few things about the drug.

“Firstly, whether the monoclonal antibody cocktail prevents Covid-19 so if you receive the cocktail you don’t develop the infection at all. We’re hoping to understand more about how it works… and we’re also hoping to establish that it is safe and well tolerated.”

Barnabas says they're looking for people who’ve been exposed to the virus or is living with someone who has it.

The trial is recruiting 2,000 people at more than 100 sites in the U-S. For more information about the study, consult this website or call 206-773-7129.

-Ruby de Luna


Why Covid-19 cases are spiking in the Seattle region

12:30 p.m. -- Covid-19 cases are spiking in the Seattle area, but there is no single source for the surge. There is a main reason, however -- people are gathering.

“The uptick is a number of things -- about quarter to 30% of it is an outbreak that's occurring up at the University of Washington, the Greek houses,” said Patty Hayes, director of Public Health - Seattle & King County.

Hayes notes that it’s “challenging,” but the health department is working with UW to “get a handle on that.” But she also said there is a general rise in cases among ages 50 and under.

“I think it's a combination of both the leftover from the holiday, as well as coming indoors, as well as continued issues that pop up with folks who have been to community gatherings like weddings, some businesses,” Hayes said.

“So it's not just one thing,” she said. “And that's what's of concern with the uptick. You can't just say it's one thing. Even if we took out the Greek Row outbreak, we're seeing … what we were expecting. Which is, it’s getting to be fall and we are seeing an uptick."

She stresses the need for people to be aggressive with social distancing, mask wearing, and other strategies.

It’s also important for people to get a flu shot. The flu season has not yet struck the region. Hayes commented that officials are watching how that virus hits the Northwest because the flu did not significantly affect the southern hemisphere in recent months (when it usually does). Social distancing and mask wearing are being credited with the decrease in flu cases (they're not just for coronaviruses). Hayes is hopeful a similar situation will develop in the Northwest this fall.

“We know that there's plenty of supply of flu vaccine, so we want everybody just to protect themselves.”

-- Ann Dornfeld, Dyer Oxley

Washington loosens restrictions, but case numbers are up

Why Washington loosened pandemic regulations while case numbers are going up

Why Washington loosened pandemic regulations while case numbers are going up

8 a.m. -- More businesses and activities can open up in Washington state under new guidelines from the governor this week -- even though cases of Covid-19 are on the rise.

The coronavirus is getting more active in Washington state. Health officials say case numbers – and other key metrics – are headed in the wrong direction.

Counties aren’t able to move up to higher phases of reopening, but certain businesses and activities can. That means people in Phase 2 counties – like King, Pierce, and Snohomish – can go to a movie or the library like they were in Phase 3.

The governor’s office says data from other states suggest those activities can happen safely if people keep wearing masks, keep staying apart, and washing their hands.

Instead, health officials say they’re mostly concerned about the virus spreading when people let their guard down and hang out at home with folks outside their household.

-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Some youth sports begin planning regular games

Youth soccer prepares for regular games

Youth soccer prepares for regular games

7:30 a.m. -- Some youth sports teams in the Seattle area are going back to playing regular games with physical contact. That’s after the state loosened pandemic restrictions in several areas.

Kyle Rodeheaver is a coach with one of the biggest youth soccer clubs, Seattle United. He says studies around the world show transmission rates in youth soccer are low.

“There was one that was done by the university of Wisconsin," Rodeheaver said. "They tracked 34 other states, 90,000 players, and looked at what the transmission was.”

Rodeheaver says that study found only one case of Covid-19.

His club worked with the Governor’s office to establish new guidelines for all youth sports – not just soccer.

“Trying to get everybody back out there because it’s for physical health, but for mental health as well," Rodeheaver said.

Soccer players will still be required to wear masks when they arrive at practice and follow other safety protocols.

But for now, sports like football that are considered higher risk will not be allowed in most counties.

-- David Hyde

More evidence on how the pandemic is impacting families and schools

7 a.m. -- More than 11,000 Kindergarten-age students did not enroll in Washington's public schools this fall. That's a 14% drop over last year.

The State Superintendent of Schools Chris Reykdahl said in a statement that Washington is like other states which are seeing changes in enrollment in K-12 due to the pandemic.

Another change: a 50% increase in the number of students enrolled in alternative learning experience courses. Those are public education classes where some or all instruction is delivered outside of a regular classroom schedule.

-- Kim Malcolm


Covid cases are on the rise as certain businesses and activities open up

5:06 p.m. -- The coronavirus is getting more active in Washington state. Health officials say case numbers – and other key metrics – are headed in the wrong direction.

Counties aren’t able to move up to higher phases of reopening, but certain businesses and activities can under new guidelines announced this week by the governor.

That means people in Phase 2 counties – like King, Pierce, and Snohomish – can go to a movie or the library like they were in Phase 3.

The governor’s office says data from other states suggest those activities can happen safely, if people keep wearing masks, staying apart and washing their hands.

Instead, state health secretary John Wiesman is mostly concerned about the virus spreading when people let their guard down and hang out at home with folks outside their household, he said.

The state’s rate of newly diagnosed people was up to 79 per 100,000 people over the two-week period ending September 25 from a recent low of 69 per 100,000, according to state data. Preliminary data show that rate growing to nearly 89 cases per 100,000 by October 1.

The state goal is 25 cases per 100,000 people.

-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Bartell and Rite Aid reach tentative agreement over sale

3:45 p.m. -- It's the end of an era.

Seattle-based and family-owned Bartell Drugs since 1890 is being acquired by Rite Aid for $95 million.

Bartell CEO Kathi Lentzsch says the drugstore chain has been facing a string of challenges over the years.

“We of course have seen business taxes rise in Seattle, and Covid hit and it was just one more thing and we decided we had to figure out how to continue.”

The companies are still making transition plans and will take some time to complete.

The acquisition may mean changes, but Lentzsch says the stores will keep the brand

“We will still have the Bartell’s name, that big red sign that everybody’s known for so many years. They’ll see the same friendly faces.”

The first Bartell store was in Seattle’s Central District. Today there 67 stores across the region.

-Ruby de Luna

Meals for students as pandemic continues

8 a.m. -- Washington's public schools superintendent has put out a new push for families to apply for free and reduced meals.

All students may be provided free meals through December, through a program set up during the pandemic. But to access food for students past then, families must apply to show they are eligible.

All households with students in grades K–12 receive application packets at the beginning of the school year.

-- Paige Browning

Bellevue plans for bringing students back to classrooms

7:30 a.m. -- Bellevue's school district could allow kids back in the classroom as soon as next month. The district announced a plan Tuesday that sets November 9 as a back-to-classroom date.

Issaquah schools have also set a target date, according to The Seattle Times.

King County is within the range of the number of coronavirus cases that could allow schools to reopen, but is not in the low level of numbers.

There have been 53 cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks in King County.

Seattle Public Schools, Lake Washington, Highline and Northshore have not committed to reopening their buildings, due to the threat of coronavirus spreading.

-- Paige Browning

Jayapal responds to Trump halting Covid stimulus talks

7 a.m. -- State and local governments will suffer if Congress and the Trump administration can't come up with a new Covid stimulus package. That's according to Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Seattle.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that he had ordered his treasury secretary to suspend negotiations until after the election. He accused House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of not negotiating in good faith.

Jayapal says the president’s move means cities like Seattle will be hurt by the delay.

“These are the places that are having to deal with the testing and the contract tracing and all the effects of unemployment and they desperately need our help”

Congress passed the first Covid-19 relief bill in the spring.

The new spending package would have included more stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and help for small business.

President Trump also tweeted Tuesday that if he is sent a stand alone bill for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, he would sign it.

-- Deborah Wang


People having trouble paying utility bills get six more months’ relief

6 p.m. -- The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission has extended a moratorium on late fees and shutoffs until the end of April.

The decision means customers of privately owned utilities won’t have their heat or lights shut off during the coldest, darkest months of the year.

The commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over publicly owned utilities, such as Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities. Seattle officials say those utilities are not shutting off service or charging late fees. The city has enrolled 40,000 households in a program that knocks 50% to 60% off their utility bills.

The moratorium put in place by Governor Jay Inslee was set to expire next week.

-- John Ryan

Updated regulations for youth sports, movies, and restaurants

3 p.m. -- Governor Jay Inslee revealed new rules for re-opening around Washington state Tuesday. The new rules will allow for some businesses to reopen and youth sports to restart.

“…I am really, really happy that we are going to have our kids going to be able to go back and play soccer, go back and play softball, run in cross country, play tennis, play flag football, play lacrosse,” Inslee said.

“This is a really good day for these young people to get back into these really healthy activities. We’ve been able to do this because we worked really closely with coaches, schools and nonprofits to develop protocols to allow our kids to do this safely.”

More details on the specific guidance are forthcoming, but some basics include:

  • Museums and libraries will allow some indoor activity in Phase 2 at 25% occupancy.
  • Movie theaters: 25% occupancy in Phase 2; 50% occupancy in Phase 3 with 6 feet social distancing at all times required between different households. Face masks required when not eating or drinking.
  • Outdoor Recreation: Now provides protocols for recreation with more than 12 people. This includes events like races, bicycle tours and rides, runs, cross country skiing races, biathlon’s, canoe and kayak races, marathons, cross country running, triathlons, and multi-sport competitions.
  • Restaurants: Alcohol cutoff is now at 11 p.m. for Phase 2 and 3 (previously set at 10 p.m.). There is no longer a restriction on the number of household members that can dine together indoors.
  • Retail events (like craft sales shows): Washington has not allowed or prohibited these events but new rules now allow for retail event shows to be capped at 200 people in Phase 3.
  • Real estate: Open houses are allowed according to county’s gathering size limit.
  • Water recreation facilities: By appointment only in modified Phase 1 and 2. Facilities are allowed to 50% occupancy under phase 3.
  • Youth & adult sports: New guidelines now place sports into different risk categories and when those different categories can resume safely. Which sports can open back up depend on local metrics, considering the county and case numbers. There is more information coming on protocols for transportation, group size, and facial coverings.

Dr. Josh Schiffer an infectious diseases physician also presented more information urging Washingtonians to wear masks to curb the spread of the virus.

-- Esmy Jimenez

2 new and free Covid-19 testing sites in King County

8 a.m. -- Two new free Covid-19 testing centers are opening in King County -- in Tukwila and Federal Way.

The Tukwila testing site will be at The Church by the Side of the Road (3455 S 148th St, Tukwila), and opens Wednesday.

The Federal Way site opens next week.

They join two other free testing centers in Auburn and Renton.

Health officials say expanding testing in south King County is a priority as it has the highest positive testing rate in the county.

-- Kim Malcolm

Washington officials respond to Trump's Covid tweet

Washington officials respond to Trump's 'reckless and nonsense' Covid tweet

Washington officials respond to Trump's 'reckless and nonsense' Covid tweet

7:30 a.m. -- Top officials in Washington state are responding President Trump’s Monday tweet that said “Don’t be afraid of Covid.”

The tweet drew swift condemnation nationally. In Washington, Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement calling the president’s comments “reckless” and “nonsense.”

“His only statement now should be an acknowledgement that COVID is dangerous,” Inslee said.

The governor added that it’s easy for Trump to downplay the dangers because of the above par medical care he has access to.

In a separate statement Secretary of Health John Wieseman called the president’s tweet “highly irresponsible” and said it makes “every public health official’s job that much more difficult.” He added that Covid-19 is a serious disease that is easily spread.

-- Austin Jenkins


Seattle expands street closure program during pandemic

2 p.m. -- It’s not just Seattle streets that are being closed to through traffic to make more space for outdoor recreation. Now it’s individual blocks as well.

The city of Seattle has a new program that allows community groups and nonprofits to apply to shut down blocks for a few hours or a few days or, for example, every single Saturday.

The goal is to make more safe places for kids to play and adults to stretch their legs.

Read more details here.

-- Eilis O'Neill

UW Greek Row driving spike in northeast Seattle

1 p.m. -- A coronavirus outbreak on the University of Washington’s Greek Row is driving a spike in case numbers in northeast Seattle.

Just a month ago, northeast Seattle neighborhoods like the University District, Laurelhurst, and Wedgwood had case counts similar to the rest of the city. The whole area had only nine positive test results in the last two weeks of August, a rate of 12 per 100,000 residents.

Now, the rate is fourteen times that, with 170 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks — and counting.

More than 150 cases on Greek Row are driving the outbreak; it hasn’t spread to nearby neighborhoods yet.

As for the rest of King County, case numbers in South King County remain high, with hundreds of new cases in Auburn and Kent over the past two weeks.

-- Eilis O'Neill

Covid-19 cases spiking in Pierce and King Counties

9 a.m. -- Pierce County has confirmed 50 new cases of Covid-19, on Saturday alone.

Pierce County's health department says it has seen an upward trend of cases over the past two weeks. They've reported 730 cases in the last 14 days, and say the age group making up the most cases is 20-39.

According to Pierce County's health department: The 20-39 age group comprise the highest number of COVID-19 cases at 39.7% of total cases in the last two weeks. Those under 20 make up 11.1% of the total number of cases and 17.3% of cases in the past 2 weeks.

King County has averaged 119 coronavirus cases a day in the past week, according to Public Health Seattle and King County.

That's up 40% from the previous week, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin at the health department.

Part of the rise is from an outbreak at the University of Washington, primarily among residents of fraternities and sororities.

A UW official confirmed more cases over the weekend, for a total of 139.

A cluster of cases also was reported last week at the Salish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie, where 25 people have tested positive.

-- Paige Browning


Salish Lodge & Spa outbreak mostly among kitchen staff

5:05 p.m. -- So far 24 employees and two guests have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Salish Lodge & Spa, a resort at Snoqualmie Falls, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Most are kitchen staff. A few cases are also among other staff in housekeeping and management.

The fact that so many kitchen staff got Covid-19 says a lot about how the virus is spread, health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said.

In kitchens people spend a lot of time clustered together with less than great ventilation and don’t always wear masks, Duchin said.

All employees who have worked there in the past two months have been tested, a spokesperson for Public Health said.

Public Health initially identified the first case through contact tracing September 18th. On September 28th, Public Health learned that there were additional cases beyond the culinary department the spokesperson said.

The resort is closed until October 8.

The reason health officials are telling us about this outbreak is to alert recent visitors.

They’re saying to get tested for Covid and quarantine if you were there in the last couple weeks – from September 16, 2020 through September 30, 2020 – and monitor yourself for symptoms of Covid-19.

Every week dozens of workplaces have outbreaks that the public does not hear about. Most have a handful of cases and it’s hard to pinpoint how the virus got into the business, Duchin said.

Health officials say the public should assume the coronavirus is everywhere they go.

--Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

UW Medicine comments on President Trump's Covid-19 test

2 p.m. -- Dr. John Lynch with UW Medicine said Friday morning that it is likely more people within the president's immediate circle are infected with Covid-19. The president tested positive for the virus Thursday.

"I'm worried when I hear about the first lady, the president, one of the president's advisors -- three people being infected in a group of folks who are working close together and frequently being tested; it's the potential for an outbreak in that facility," Dr. Lynch said. "I sincerely hope that is not what happens, but clearly this is a group of people being surveilled at a very high level. But somehow the virus got in there and we're looking at potentially more infections going forward."

President Trump was transported to Walter Reed Military Medical Center Friday afternoon. He was given an injection of an experimental drug made by Regeneron, which contains two antibodies against the coronavirus. Dr. Lynch said that once in a hospital, there are a few main treatments being used -- Remdesivir (an antiviral), oxygen supplementation, and Dexamethasone (a steroid).

Dr. Lynch said that officials will likely go back two days before the president developed symptoms to look for where the infection may have come from, and also who the president could have infected.

"We know the president is very active, meets with a lot of people for a lot of good reasons as well as election reasons, and often doesn't wear a mask in those interactions. And we know that is a very high risk for transmission," Dr. Lynch said.

He believes that officials are also looking closely at this week's debate between the president and his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Biden has tested negative for the virus, but the two shared a debate stage for a considerable amount of time with plenty of words being exchanged.

"It really reinforces and emphasizes that we have to use the tools that keep us safe -- the masks, the eye protection, the hand hygiene, stay at home when sick, and social distancing. These are all critical. We know they work based on the science. And unfortunately this is a demonstration of what can happen when we don't stick with what we know."

-- Dyer Oxley

Read previous updates here