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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: A pedestrian walks underneath the Paramount Theater marquee at the end of March along Pine Street in Seattle. "This is just intermission,  we'll see you soon," reads the sign.
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A pedestrian walks underneath the Paramount Theater marquee at the end of March along Pine Street in Seattle. "This is just intermission, we'll see you soon," reads the sign.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Live blog: Updates on the Coronavirus epidemic in Washington (April 20-26)

This is an archived post. You can read the latest here.

This post will be updated periodically with information about the coronavirus. Scroll down for older information.

*738 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported by the Washington State Department of Health as of Friday, April 24.

Versión en español aquí / Read KUOW's coronavirus coverage in Spanish


2 p.m. -- A single coronavirus test contains parts from around the world. Swabs -- which look like long Q-tips -- are made in Italy and a tiny town in Maine. Liquids to preserve samples in Shanghai, China.

Covid-19 has escalated the need for these products, part of a supply chain that is built for flu season, not a global pandemic.

Without negotiations for these supplies happening at a federal level, University of Washington researchers in Seattle have turned into business negotiators practically overnight, locating the makers of these supplies, and then striking a deal.

Keep reading...

--Ashley Hiruko

caption: Richard Vialva, a medical assistant with International Community Health Services, holds a coronavirus testing swab on  Thursday, April 16, 2020, at the ICHS testing area in Shoreline. "Our whole country is filled with people who are unsure of their status or can't get tested," said Vialva. "I hope we're giving people some relief."
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Richard Vialva, a medical assistant with International Community Health Services, holds a coronavirus testing swab on Thursday, April 16, 2020, at the ICHS testing area in Shoreline. "Our whole country is filled with people who are unsure of their status or can't get tested," said Vialva. "I hope we're giving people some relief."
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Beware the quarantini

11 a.m. -- As the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the globe, I find myself, as a doctor, dealing with another viral spread –information. Good information, bad information, and very dangerous information.

Until the president suggested that injecting household cleaners could cure coronavirus, my biggest concern was the rise in alcohol consumption as people battle their fears and anxieties without healthy outlets.

Even at supposedly “safe” levels, alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, dementia, and insomnia.

The rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is a serious problem, not least because it actually suppresses your immune system.

Keep reading...

--Elisabeth Poorman, M.D.


Many Seattle students not logging onto learning portal

9 a.m. -- Seattle Public Schools data show that as of last week, only 72% of students had logged on to the district’s online portal for distance learning assignments. Just 60% of Black boys – who are at the center of a strategic plan the district adopted last year – had logged on.

Keep reading...

--Ann Dornfeld


Amazon employees call in sick to protest the company’s policies

3:18 p.m. -- Amazon workers on Friday participated in a demonstration calling for Amazon to offer paid sick leave to warehouse workers and stop shipping non-essential items.

They also want the company to disclose its protocols for tracking and reporting Covid-19 cases and to reinstate workers fired for criticizing company policies.

Organizers don’t know exactly how many workers participated: there was nowhere physical to gather. But using calendar invites, RSVPs to an email, and day-of survey data, they guess that more than 500 tech workers called in sick.

One protestor was a tech worker who asked to stay anonymous because of fear of retribution from Amazon. She said the company isn’t keeping warehouse workers safe.

“These workers are delivering non-essential items and not getting the proper social distancing that they need in their work environment,” the employee said.

“They need to be putting the health and safety of these workers first,” she added. “If they’re going to call them heroes, is a two-dollar increase in hazard pay adequate? I would say that it’s not.”

Amazon responded with a statement saying it provides masks, hand sanitizer, and wipes in its warehouses, and has temperature checks and social distancing in place.

When asked about the specific demands for paid sick leave, tracking and reporting Covid-19 cases, and ending the shipment of non-essential items, a company spokesperson said, “I don’t have anything more to share.”

—Eilis O'Neill

Private construction projects allowed to restart in Washington

11:40 a.m. -- Along with construction industry officials, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that private construction projects can resume in the state. The industry has been halted for weeks under the state's stay-at-home order. Inslee plans to sign an order Friday to make it official.

Inslee and industry stakeholders have met for three weeks to develop safe practices and rules for construction sites to operate amid the epidemic. Mark Riker, executive secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, noted that the agreement is a significant accomplishment as the participants don’t always get along, yet they worked together to get the job done.

“The governor has given us the opportunity to have a great effect on our industry, to put it back in our hands, if we do it right," Riker said, further commenting that if construction is shut down again, “it won’t be his fault, it will be ours.”

The new work site safety plans only allow for low-risk work where physical distancing can be followed. If it can’t be done, then the the work cannot happen. Personal protection equipment must be used, and a Covid-19 supervisor must be on site. There must be a Covid-19 control and mitigation plan..

Work sites could be shut down if they are not compliant.

The governor's office and the state's Department of Commerce is moving forward with developing additional plans for opening other areas of the economy. But the governor warns that there is no timeline for businesses to start back up.

“We cannot say when other businesses will reopen, we can’t make decisions on arbitrary dates, we got to make it on real data," Inslee said. “The day of reopening our whole economy is not today, it is way too dangerous."

Inslee added that "for the other folks chomping at the bit to get back to work ... we are hoping to replicate what we did with the construction industry" but he is hesitant to move too fast and risk a rebound of the virus.

--Dyer Oxley

Another wave of unemployment applications expected soon

11 a.m. -- There is a request from Washington's employment commissioner to those who plan to file for benefits this weekend -- please do so only if you're in financial dire straits.

Suzi LeVine says her office is expecting to get 900,000 applications next week now that independent contractors and gig workers are eligible to receive benefits.

If that happens, it will be three times the record set during the Great Recession in 2008-2009. More than 600,000 Washingtonians have filed for benefits since early March.

About 82,000 people applied for unemployment benefits last week, but that was before the changes for independent contractors and gig workers went into effect.

--Angela King

Another sheriff counters Washington's stay-at-home order

10:30 a.m. -- Another sheriff in Washington state is pushing back against Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order, which expires on May 4.

Sheriff Mark Crider in Walla Walla County is calling on county commissioners to reopen the local economy. The Walla Walla sheriff is asking county commissioners to let businesses reopen in that region, and he's calling on citizens to press their elected officials.

Earlier this week, county commissions in Franklin County voted to do just that. And the Snohomish County Sheriff said he's not going to enforce the stay home order either.

Related: Can counties and sheriffs legally defy the stay-at-home order?

--Angela King

Seattle shutting down streets for increased social distancing

10 a.m. -- The city of Seattle is shutting down six more miles of residential streets to give pedestrians and bikers more room to practice social distancing.

The closures in the Greenwood, Othello, Rainier Beach, Beacon Hill, and Central District neighborhoods begin Friday.

The city closed several streets in the Central District and West Seattle last week for the same reason.

-- Kim Shepard

Alaska Airlines gets federal funds for pandemic impacts

9:30 a.m. -- Alaska Airlines says it has received nearly a billion dollars from the federal government to help cover salaries and benefits as the pandemic continues to harm the travel industry.

CEO Bradley Tilden says the support will enable the airline to protect jobs and maintain critical infrastructure. Of the $992 million, a total of $267 million will have to be repaid within 10 years.

--Kim Shepard

Watch out for mail theft as stimulus checks arrive

9 a.m. -- The Kirkland Police Department is urging residents to keep a close eye on their mail boxes. That's because thieves have been breaking into them, looking for federal stimulus checks.

The department says it got 20 reports in just one day last week.

Officers will patrol and canvass neighborhoods as people continue reporting stolen mail.

$12 million for King County's arts organizations live venues

8:30 a.m. -- More help could be on the way for King County’s struggling cultural and tourism sectors. County Executive Dow Constantine wants to set aside another $12 million for nonprofit arts and science groups.

The money would also go to live music venues hit hard by the public gathering bans. Constantine says live performance spaces of all kinds will be among the last to reopen safely once the state starts to lift stay-at-home restrictions.

It’s one thing to figure out how to sell groceries or hardware in a safe manner. It’s another thing to put hundreds or thousands of people together in one room. I’m very worried about them, I want to make sure we’re helping them survive this and helping their employees survive this.

The county will borrow the money from future lodging tax revenues.

The cultural funding proposal is part of a larger Covid-19 funding request that Constantine sent to the full King County Council Thursday.

--Marcie Sillman

Blood banks getting ready for 'what's next'

8 a.m. -- With so many people having to postpone their surgeries during the pandemic, hospitals aren't using as much donated blood.

But Vicki Finson with Bloodworks Northwest says they "are trying to get ready for what's next."

"We need to gear up over the next few weeks as the hospitals start reinstating elective and postponed surgeries and other kinds of therapies," Finson said.

Governor Inslee has said that hospitals could get back to performing elective surgeries as early as May 4. In the meantime, blood banks have had to change the way they collect blood. Donors now have to make appointments, even at pop-up centers across Seattle. And at some of those, you have to wait until June for an appointment.

--Gil Aegerter


Long wait times for appointments at some blood banks

Alison Booth Gribas is a first time blood donor who saw pleas from King County and decided she should get over her apprehension about donating.

“I felt with a global pandemic, now was the time for me to answer that call,” she said.

But she was confused why some blood bank donation sites in Seattle, such as north Seattle, don’t have an open spot until June.

Bloodworks Northwest executive vice president, Vicki Finson, couldn’t say exactly what’s causing those delays.

“We are dealing with a Covid pandemic which has made us change the way we do everything we do around blood,” she said.

From canceling mobile blood vans and going appointment-only for social distancing, to setting up pop-up donation centers around Seattle.

Use of donated blood has decreased over the past few weeks as hospitals postpone some surgeries, Finson said.

Washington State governor Jay Inslee said that hospitals may return to doing elective surgeries in the first wave of reopening in this state.

“We need to gear up over the next few weeks as the hospitals start reinstating elective and postponed surgeries and other kinds of therapies,” Finson said.

And the public should still donate, even if they do it in June.

“Because the need is every single day,” she said.

--Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

More money is on the way to help King County's struggling arts and tourism sectors.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a $12 million allocation; the money would be borrowed from future county lodging tax revenues. Both nonprofit arts and culture groups and live music venues and nightclubs would be eligible to receive assistance.

Two protest events in Spokane against Washington's stay-at-home order

11:24 a.m. -- Protesters at two events took to the streets of Spokane Wednesday to push back against Washington's stay-home order.

A corner by City Hall was turned into a defacto campaign event for Tim Eyman. At least, that’s what it looked like as the Republican candidate for governor smiled and handed out stickers and signs with his name on it.

The protest with about 50 people was billed as against Governor Jay Inslee’s efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Later, the “Let Us Fish” rally drew a similar-sized crowd in Spokane’s Franklin Park. The mood was less political, as anglers hung signs off their rods as cars drove by.

Terah Altman says she organized this protest because by the end of the year she needs 30% of her freezer to be fish.

”Well, I live off grid and I can’t fish for my food," she said. "It’s unacceptable.”

Altman believes the virus is real, and practices social distancing at her job at a grocery store in Stevens County. But she thinks the fishing ban is “absolutely absurd.”

--Nick Deshais

Coronavirus cases break out at Washington meat packing plant

11:18 a.m. -- Authorities are keeping a close eye on food processing plants in eastern Washington after they discovered more than 100 coronavirus cases tied to a Tyson beef packing plant outside of Pasco.

There are are also concerns at fruit processing plants, which can be huge and crowded.

A total of 900 people at a time could be in a shed working together, shoulder-to-shoulder, processing food. Plants have been trying to incorporate social distancing, but all of the food processing machinery is not set up for social distancing.

The Tyson plant says it will test all employees and send them home until their test results come back.

--Anna King

First Covid-19 deaths recorded earlier and earlier as testing continues

11 a.m. -- King County health officials are now looking into deaths from early February that could have been caused by the coronavirus.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office found two coronavirus deaths that occurred in mid- to late-February -- the first in Washington state.

Now in California, new autopsies confirmed coronavirus deaths that predate Washington’s. King County is now testing four bodies from early February for the coronavirus.

--Casey Martin


Gov. Inslee, AG Ferguson respond to officials' disregard of Washington's stay home order

3:37 p.m. — Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a joint statement denouncing refusals to enforce statewide stay-at-home orders, made by the Snohomish County Sheriff and Franklin County Commissioners.

“It is disappointing when elected officials promote illegal activity that puts their community’s well-being at risk," the statement reads. “People’s lives are deeply impacted by this crisis. We are working hard to turn the tide on COVID-19 and begin lifting restrictions. These decisions are guided by science. Our priority is keeping Washingtonians healthy."

Inslee's office sent a letter to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners reiterating an obligation to comply with the orders, and the Attorney General's office intends to contact the Snohomish County Sheriff's office, according to the statement.

State officials say prosecutors in both Franklin and Snohomish counties have communicated that they agree the stay home orders are legal, despite the opposition of other county officials.

"The Snohomish County sheriff and the Franklin County Commission are misleading business owners and individuals in their jurisdictions, putting people’s health at risk and potentially putting them on the wrong side of the law," the statement from Inslee and Ferguson says.

—Liz Brazile

Snohomish County sheriff writes scathing statement on Gov. Inslee, won't enforce stay-at-home order

9:34 a.m. -- Arguing that people should be free to choose to stay home, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney published a statement on Facebook Tuesday harshly criticizing Gov. Jay Inslee and the state's stay-at-home order. He posted the statement after Inslee's Tuesday night address:

"As your elected Sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion. We have the right to peaceably assemble. We have the right to keep and bear arms. We have the right to attend church service of any denomination. The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.

Along with other elected Sheriffs around our state, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing an order preventing religious freedoms or constitutional rights. I strongly encourage each of you to reach out and contact your councilmembers, local leaders and state representatives to demand we allow businesses to begin reopening and allow our residents, all of them, to return to work if they choose to do so."

Sheriff Fortney explains that he has never enforced the stay-at-home order and doesn't plan on changing his policy. He questions the state's logic allowing some business to continue and not others.

Sheriff Fortney was sworn into office on Dec. 30, 2019.

The Snohomish County sheriff is not the only elected official in Washington that is defying the state's stay-at-home order and allowing businesses to continue operations. Franklin County is also opting to ignore state measures aimed at knocking down the epidemic.

-Dyer Oxley

New projections show Washington could reopen by late May

9:16 a.m. -- New modeling out of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicates that Washington could ease up on social distancing and its stay-at-home order by May 25-31.

That is about a week later than previous models showed.

IHME modeling as of 4-21-20
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Credit: IHME

The IHME states that the model only accounts for "if and only if – strong containment measures already have been instituted."

The full projections can be found here.

-Dyer Oxley

Seattle faces $300 million revenue shortfall due to coronavirus epidemic

9 a.m. -- The city of Seattle is anticipating a $300 million revenue shortfall in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

City Council members will discuss a proposal Wednesday which calls for taxing local businesses with payrolls of more than $7 million. The council has considered, and voted on forms of payroll taxes in the past. Durkan has expressed that such a measure should not be viewed as a solution.

"We are not going to be able to avail ourselves of a payroll tax," Durkan said. "I really hope that council is very forthcoming with the public about that fact. That there are no ways or mechanisms or tricks to somehow magically have money appear this year, or next year, to fix these budget shortfalls.”

Mayor Durkan says she's considering a number of other options, such as dipping into the city's rainy day fund, issuing a hiring freeze, or getting help from the federal government.

Read more details here.

--Angela King

First Covid-19 deaths in US happened outside of Washington

8:37 a.m. -- The first coronavirus death in the United States actually happened in California not Washington.

New autopsy results from the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner show two people in the bay area died from Covid-19 on February 6 and February 17. That is nearly three weeks before the first reported death in Washington on Feb 26.

In a statement, the medical examiner's office said the patients weren't identified at the time because the CDC was only testing those who had traveled to China.

-- Angela King

There is a plan for reopening Washington's economy, but timing is unknown

8:33 a.m. -- Governor Jay Inslee has unveiled his plan for reopening Washington's economy, but offered few details on the timeline.

During a special televised address Tuesday night, Inslee said that elective surgeries, construction and outdoor recreation would be the first sectors to restart.

But he didn't give an exact timeline and warned that current restrictions and the state's stay-at-home order are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

Read more details here.

-Kim Shepard

Lawsuit filed over ban on religious gatherings amid the epidemic

8:24 a.m. -- A Republican candidate for Washington governor is suing to overturn the state ban on religious gatherings during the coronavirus epidemic.

Joshua Freed of Bothell filed the suit in federal court Wednesday, April 22

He says Governor Jay Inslee overstepped his constitutional authority when he banned religious services and meetings as part of the state's stay-at-home order. The order aimed to implement social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Freed wants to resume meeting with his Bible study group with adequate social distancing.

--Gill Aegerter

Washington county defies state's stay-at-home order

8 a.m. -- Franklin County in southeast Washington says it's open for business even though the rest of Washington state is still under a stay-at-home order through May 4.

The county's three commissioners (all Republicans) voted to reopen the county Tuesday, arguing that Governor Jay Inslee's order is unconstitutional.

But a spokeswoman with the governor’s office told the Tri-City Herald that the county's action is illegal, adding the commissioners don't have the authority to do this.

Health officials reported Tuesday that four people have died in Franklin County from Covid-19 complications and 35 in neighboring Benton County, making the area one of the highest death rates per 1,000 in the state.

--Angela King


Washington is the 2nd best state to work from home

11:14 a.m. -- Incidentally, Washington was well-prepared for a large portion of its workforce to work from home as the pandemic escalated. Finance website WalletHub ranks Washington as the second-best state to work from home.

Delaware is no. 1, in case you are curious.

WalletHub ranked states on a variety of factors from cyber security to internet access. It notes that Washington ranks in the top five when it comes to states with the most internet access and lowest costs of electricity.

WalletHub also recently ranked Washington as 14th for states that have slowed down the most during the pandemic -- in other words, how much folks are moving around to stores, parks, etc.

Covid-19 survivors in the Seattle-area can donate their plasma

10:30 a.m. -- Grifols -- a company that collects plasma donations -- has announced that people who have recovered from Covid-19 can donate their plasma at select Grifols Biomat USA plasma centers.

The plasma from these donors will be used to "produce a hyperimmune globulin medicine that could potentially treat the virus and save lives," according to a Grifols spokesperson.

Interested donors can call 1-866-ENDCV19 for more information.

According to Grifols: Hyperimmune globulins are plasma derived-medicines that are effective in the treatment of severe acute infections. Through the concentration of antibodies from plasma collected from recovered COVID-19 individuals, the hyperimmune globulin can offer precise and consistent dosing with high purity, high potency and a strong safety profile that may help current patients’ immune systems respond to the infection.

Grifols is teaming up with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research Authority (BARDA), and other federal health agencies for the project.

--Dyer Oxley

Amazon workers plan sick out to protest alleged lack of coronavirus protection

9 a.m. -- Hundreds of Amazon workers have pledged to call in sick, starting Tuesday, to protest the company's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The worker rights group United for Respect says there are confirmed Covid-19 cases at over 130 US warehouses.

Business Insider reports that Amazon has come under fire for trying to shut down a virtual event for workers to speak out.

The National Labor Relations Board is looking into multiple claims that Amazon deleted workers' calendar invites and retaliated against those who are speaking out.

--Kim Shepard

Washington AG Ferguson sends warning to gyms

8 a.m. -- Washington state officials have a new message to gyms and fitness centers -- they need to allow gym members to cancel their memberships at any time.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says if Washington gyms require their customers to keep paying, even if they want to cancel, the gym could face legal consequences.

“My office received dozens of complaints from Washington consumers that their fitness center is continuing to charge them membership fees in the midst of this crisis,” Ferguson said. “The law is clear: Washingtonians are allowed to cancel their gym memberships any time, for any reason.”

According to an April 17 open letter to Washington gyms, Ferguson cites the Consumer Protection Act and states:

  • Gyms and fitness centers must allow customers to cancel their memberships at any time, for any reason, including the inability to access their gym or fitness due to the global pandemic, provided those requests are issued in writing.
  • Members who cancel their gym and fitness center membership are legally entitled to a refund – not credits – of the unused portion of any prepaid fees or dues.
  • Fitness centers must pay the refund within 30 days of receipt of a written notice of cancellation.
  • Gyms and fitness centers cannot misrepresent these rights or prevent members from cancelling.

--Paige Browning

Anxiety and the pandemic

7 a.m. -- Our obsession with the coronavirus appears to be easing, according to University of Washington researchers who are studying the effects of isolation during the shutdown.

One thing they're measuring is how much we're thinking about the virus. Adam Kuczynski is the graduate student running the study. He says at the beginning of social distancing, people were spending six hours per day thinking about coronavirus. Now they're down to about two hours.

"And they're experiencing these thoughts as much less intrusive, as easier to get out of their head, to distract themselves and engage in other things during the day," he said.

Kuczynski says they hope the study can help them identify those who might be at risk for health problems after the shutdown is eased.

-- Gil Aegerter


Covid-19 cases continue to rise in King County's homeless population

6:27 p.m. -- The number of Covid-19 cases among people experiencing homelessness in King County continue to rise.

As of Monday afternoon, 112 people experiencing homelessness or working at homeless service sites had tested positive for Covid-19, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Those numbers are up from 75 just under a week ago. There have been two confirmed Covid-19 deaths within the homeless community, according to public health officials.

In addition, a man died overnight at the county’s isolation and quarantine site in Kent. The death will be investigated by the King County Medical Examiner’s office.

A press release said the man, in his 60s, had been living homeless. He came to the site on Friday and was found unresponsive during a routine check at 9 a.m. on Monday.

There are currently 70 people staying in the county’s isolation and quarantine sites.

-- Kate Walters

University of Washington's coronavirus antibody testing to start on Tuesday

6:00 p.m. — The University of Washington will begin processing thousands of coronavirus antibody tests daily starting on Tuesday.

These tests differ from Covid-19 diagnostic tests in that they detect coronavirus antibodies — the proteins created by the immune system in response to the presence of the virus — rather than the actual virus. Antibodies typically shield a person from being reinfected by the disease for which their immune system has produced them.

The antibody tests, which are conducted by drawing blood, are manufactured by the Illinois-based health care company Abbott Laboratories, Inc. The company began shipping the tests on April 16.

Read more about the testing efforts here.

—Liz Brazile

Covid-19 outbreak at Tacoma nursing facility

1:51 p.m. -- The Pierce County Health Department has reported a new coronavirus outbreak at Gibraltar Senior Living in Tacoma.

The health department reports that the first case in an employee was discovered on April 9, and the first case with a resident on April 12. More cases were soon discovered as testing continued.

According to the health department: The facility has 27 positive cases among its 41 residents, and seven staff members have also tested positive. Four residents have been hospitalized. No COVID-19-related deaths have been reported.

The health department has advised facility officials to cancel group activities, stagger meal service, and enforce social distancing.

“Health Department disease investigators immediately contacted facility leadership to discuss monitoring staff and residents for illness, limiting visitors, supply and usage of personal protective equipment, and instructed that staff should wear a mask at all times,” said Nigel Turner, Director, Communicable Disease Control Division.

Gibraltar Senior Living is located in southeast Tacoma, not far from Franklin Pierce High School.

--Dyer Oxley

Social distancing signs at Seattle parks

12:02 p.m. -- Signs reminding people to keep their distance have shown up at Seattle parks, such as these placed around Green Lake. The trail around the lake is popular with walkers and runners.

caption: Green Lake Social Distancing signs 
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Food Lifeline opens second temporary warehouse

11:07 a.m. -- One of the state’s biggest hunger relief agencies has opened a second warehouse to help keep up with growing demand.

Food Lifeline has partnered with three family-owned businesses —SSA Marine, Columbia Hospitality, and Prologis, Inc. – to secure space in Seattle’s SoDo District that will serve as a supplemental food bank.

Demand for food assistance has doubled since the coronavirus outbreak. The second warehouse will provide space and allow Food Lifeline to double its staffing in response. The National Guard is sending 250 members to help box up emergency food supplies.

Last year Food Lifeline secured 60 million pounds of food for food banks and shelters across the state.

-Ruby de Luna

Boaters protest fishing ban in Washington

9:12 a.m. -- Dozens of boaters took to the Columbia River in the Tri-Cities area over the weekend to challenge Washington's ban on recreational fishing during the pandemic. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife issued the closure last month.

Protesters argue that since people are far enough from one another in their individual boats, they aren't posing any risk and are able to maintain safe social distances.

--Angela King

20K complaints filed for non-compliant businesses during Washington's shutdown

8:54 a.m. -- It's been three weeks since Washington state set up an online complaint form where people can rat out non-essential businesses possibly operating in violation of the state's orders to shut down -- it has that created work.

There were nearly 20,000 complaints as of Friday, April 17. Senior Policy Advisor Sonja Hallum is part of the team that reviews them.

"There are definitely are quite a few bars and restaurants," Hallum said. "And grocery stores also, not socially distancing. The Liquor and Cannabis Board have been making contact with those businesses if they have a liquor license."

Car washes, nail salons and car dealerships also generated quite a few complaints. Hallum says she's been pleasantly surprised by the compliance response when investigators contact a business. Punitive fines or license revocations have not been necessary yet.

--Tom Banse

Two Seattle farmers markets reopened over the weekend

8:06 a.m. -- After being closed for about five weeks, organizers of Seattle's farmers markets say this past weekend's limited reopening was an important step. But customers found that the market experience was utterly changed.

Jennifer Antos guarded the entrance of the University District farmers market Saturday, strictly controlling the number of shoppers to three per booth.

There were no buskers, and no hot food. Just 30 vendors selling produce, meat and dairy. People are asked to shop briskly, without touching the food.

Antos, who heads Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets, says they don’t know how much good the new setup will do their vendors.

“I think it’s a little bit of a mixed bag," she said. "It’s a big step forward to be open. But right now we’re limited in our ability to serve people.”

The Ballard Farmers Market also reopened, mostly for drive-through orders.

Read more here.

-- Amy Radil

Washington expands unemployment coverage, website crashes again

7:34 a.m. — Washington state beefed up its website for unemployment benefits over the weekend, but even that wasn't enough for a surge of new applicants.

For the first time, benefits became available for independent contractors and gig workers such as rideshare drivers.

Rowan Rowden of West Seattle works for herself, making merchandise for bands and artists. She tried the website Saturday night.

“I very hopefully logged on at 8 p.m. and it was crashed," she said. "I left it, I was like, 'You know wha,t I'm just gonna I'm gonna try this again tomorrow.'”

She still couldn't get through on Sunday.

The Employment Security Department says it was getting half a million page-views every hour. But officials say people should keep trying.

They say you don't have to apply immediately -- payments are retroactive -- and benefits are not first-come first-served.

Officials say the morning time tends to be busiest for the website, so try at other times.

--Gil Aegerter


State officials recall 12,000 Covid-19 testing kits, citing possible contamination

1:35 p.m. — The Washington State Department of Health has recalled 12,000 Covid-19 testing kits sent to local and tribal governments, after being alerted that the kits may have a quality control issue.

The recall was issued on Saturday after the University of Washington notified state health officials that the coloring of the fluid that preserves a specimen during transport, known as viral transport media, appeared to be abnormal.

The state Department of Health says it's working to replace the testing kits as soon as possible.

Read more here.

— Liz Brazile

Hundreds protest social distancing orders at WA State Capitol

1:06 p.m. — Hundreds of protesters have descended on the state Capitol in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order. Under the measure, nonessential businesses must remain closed and gatherings of any size are prohibited until 11:59 p.m. on May 4.

Protestors are calling for Inslee allow businesses to resume their normal operations, despite widespread concerns that lifting social distancing measures too soon could result in a second wave of deadly Covid-19 infections.

Although organizers of the demonstration have encouraged protestors to keep the recommended social distance of six feet between them, many do not appear to be doing so.

— Liz Brazile


DSHS will designate nursing homes specifically for Covid patients

1:04 p.m. — Officials with Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees the state’s nursing homes, said they are currently working on a plan to separate residents who test positive for the coronavirus from those who do not.

Bill Moss with the Aging and Long term Support Administration said, “We are looking at developing Covid-specific facilities, meaning we’d have facilities that are only serving residents who have tested positive with the virus. That is not happening today but we expect we’ll be getting there very soon,” he said.

Officials also said they are making progress on getting enough personal protective equipment to longterm care facilities, which has been “a challenge.” Candace Goehring, director of Residential Care Services, said they believe DSHS has “turned a corner” in getting adequate supplies of masks, gowns and other protective gear to facilities they oversee.

DSHS officials also offered some slightly more positive news on the spread of the coronavirus. They said the number of coronavirus cases in longterm care facilities continues to grow, but at a slower rate than two weeks ago. There’s also been a gradual decline in new facilities reporting positive cases.

Coronavirus antibody tests will soon be available to Washingtonians

11:30 a.m. — The University of Washington's Virology Lab on Friday announced it will begin performing widespread testing to detect whether a person has previously been infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus.

The tests are slated to be available to the public through one's health care provider sometime early next week.

The announcement comes as governments around the world face mounting pressure to make antibody testing widely available, in hopes that people with proven immunity can return to work.

These tests differ from Covid-19 diagnostic tests in that they detect coronavirus antibodies — the proteins created by the immune system in response to the presence of the virus — rather than the actual virus. Antibodies typically shield a person from being reinfected by the disease for which their immune system has produced them.

Read more here.

— Liz Brazile

Pilots fly supplies to Washington's rural hospitals

9:54 a.m. -- Washington state's rural hospitals are still desperate for supplies such as personal protective equipment. But one group is trying to fill the gaps with the help of volunteer pilots.

Small Cesna airplanes filled with surgical masks took off from Renton Municipal Airport Thursday. Troy Larson, a Boeing test pilot, is one such person flying across the state.

Larson is flying 25,000 masks to Northeastern Washington. He says it means a lot to be able to help front line workers.

“Without these supplies, it will make their job a lot more challenging," he said. "And so this will make their job easier and they can operate more efficiently and hopefully have people get better and save some lives.”

The masks are being sold at-cost by the Washington State Hospital Association, which usually doesn’t do this kind of thing.

The group is importing hundreds of thousands of masks and distributing them to hospitals and other organizations across Washington state -- from Forks on the Olympic Peninsula to Ferry County in the Northeast.

They’re also distributing in the Puget Sound Region to facilities serving homeless people.

-Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

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