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caption: Groups of people sit socially distanced at the Ballard Locks on Friday, June 4, 2021, in Seattle.
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Groups of people sit socially distanced at the Ballard Locks on Friday, June 4, 2021, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Pandemic blog for the Seattle area (June 1-4)

This post is archived. Read the latest here.

Need a vaccine?

Many locations are now accepting walk-ups.

Washington state vaccine locator

As of Thursday, June 3, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 5,836 Covid-19 related deaths; 404,473 confirmed cases; 34,790 probable cases; and a 1.3% 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.
  • So far, 7,133,121 doses (not total number of people) of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to Washingtonians. A total of 54.6% of eligible people in Washington state have been fully vaccinated; and 65.4% of eligible people in King County have been fully vaccinated.

FRIDAY, JUNE 4

UW Medicine to study which Washington areas have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Noon — As we enter yet another unique phase of the pandemic, researchers with the University of Washington are aiming to understand how the pandemic has affected different regions, populations, and others.

They hope to better understand who is more or less vulnerable by fall, when another coronavirus wave is expected to hit.

"Who are the people infected? Where are they, what are their characteristics? We're actually actively inviting people to participate in this," said Dr. Keith Jerome, who heads the Virology Division at UW Medicine.

Washington residents will be randomly selected and asked to participate. More information on the study can be found here.

— Dyer Oxley

IBS, anxiety symptoms increased over pandemic, UW study says

8 a.m. — If you've had a gut feeling that the pandemic has messed with your mind and body, you may be more right than you know.

According to a study out of UW Medicine, people with irritable bowl syndrome reported increased abdominal pain, cramping, and other related symptoms over 2020. Between 44-48% of patients reported increased abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation.

“It is possible that symptoms vary over time or differ based on Covid-19 restrictions or the knowledge of Covid-19,” said Kendra Kamp with the University of Washington School of Medicine, who was lead author of the study.

In addition to IBS symptoms, patients in the study also reported:

  • 92% increased stress
  • 81% anxiety
  • 67% depressive symptoms

Patients were surveyed between May and August 2020.

— Dyer Oxley

THURSDAY, JUNE 3

Benefits of vaccine far outweigh possible risk of heart swelling in young, health officer says

4 p.m. — There were 14 cases of reported myocarditis and pericarditis – swelling of the heart – among young people in Seattle and King County, said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin in a briefing last week.

Those who have experienced the heart swelling are ages 16 to 42; all but two were male.

Duchin said it’s unclear if the cases are linked to the coronavirus vaccine. Five patients have been hospitalized, and none have been reported to have died.

Symptoms occurred primarily after the second dose, four days after vaccination. They include shortness of breath, heart palpitations and light headedness.

Duchin emphasized that the possible risk of myocarditis and pericarditis are very rare.

By contrast, he said, in the last two months, 254 individuals between those same ages were hospitalized for Covid-19.

In the last seven days, three children under 18 were hospitalized for coronavirus.

The benefits of getting the vaccine “far outweigh” the risk of a mild side effect, he said.

—Isolde Raftery

Coronavirus is more contagious now than last year, as variants spread in King County

3:45 p.m. — As Seattleites emerged from quarantine to celebrate warm weather and vaccination, ominous news came from public health.

People who are not yet vaccinated are more likely to catch Covid-19 now than we all were last year at the same time. Consider June last year: near total lockdown.

This is because there are more variants, which are more contagious. Three-quarters of the coronavirus cases in King County that have been sequenced, or examined closely, are variants. This includes the variant that originated in India, which is present and spreading, said Dr. Jeffrey Duchin of Public Health Seattle-King County.

“We know that as new variants develop, they may cause more serious illness,” Duchin said.

He shared this news in a virtual briefing last Friday that would have sounded like a series of bombshells to anyone who hadn’t weathered more than a year of jaw dropping pandemic news.

“Although we’re making progress, our current disease rate is five times higher than this time last year,” Duchin said. “Hospitalizations are three times higher than our low point last spring.”

Vaccinated people are safer: 97% of new cases are in people who have not been vaccinated.

Disparities persist in who is getting vaccinated. Forty percent of Black residents are vaccinated; 58% of white residents are vaccinated, Duchin said.

He said vaccinations are lagging in parts of the county that had the highest Covid-19 rates: Auburn, Kent, Federal Way, Burien, Renton, SeaTac.

In more positive news, Duchin said that the state is on track to having 70% of people ages 16+ fully vaccinated by the end of June. But herd immunity, Duchin said, likely won’t happen.

“My guess is that 70% will provide us with a good degree of protection against major outbreaks and large numbers of hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.

Meantime, Duchin said there is increased investment in sequencing coronavirus samples to track the variants and tweak the vaccine should it come to that.

“There may be variants that may be able to evade vaccine immunity – we’re not seeing that currently,” he said.

—Isolde Raftery

Washington jumps on the vaccine lottery bandwagon

3 p.m. — Plane tickets, game tickets, game systems, and a lot of cash. All that and more are prizes being offered to Washington state residents if they are vaccinated. The top prize is $1 million.

The state will also award $250,000 to one vaccinated person each week.

"We are providing a shot of a lifetime in this incentive program," Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Thursday.

Other states have already begun offering their own vaccine incentives. West Virginia is giving away guns and trucks. Oregon is giving away one $10,000 prize in each of its 36 counties, as well as a $1 million jackpot. And California is offering a $1.5 million jackpot.

Washington state is not the only party handing out prizes for vaccines. Kroger (QFC and Fred Meyer) also announced Thursday that it will be awarding $1 million to five customers who have been vaccinated through its own clinics. It is also giving away groceries for a year to 50 customers. Kroger's prize program runs from June 3 through July 10. Winners will be selected weekly.

Read more details and see a full list of Washington's prizes here.

— Dyer Oxley

UW faculty and staff must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by fall quarter

2:25 p.m. —The University of Washington will require employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to an email sent out Thursday.

Faculty and staff must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the fall quarter in order to work on campus or within UW facilities.

However, the email states employees can seek exemptions for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.

The university is working on how they'll implement the requirement, and said guidance on how employees can confirm their vaccination status, or apply for an exemption, will be available in early summer.

Last month, the university said all students must get their vaccines by the fall quarter. Students are also able to apply for exemptions.

“Widespread vaccination is our ticket to a return to in-person learning and working as we create the “new normal” for our University, and we encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as you’re able,” the email sent Thursday states.

— Kate Walters

Seattle begins closing down vaccination sites in favor of going mobile

9:20 a.m. — The city of Seattle is getting ready to start closing down all but one of its mass vaccination sites.

Instead, the Seattle Fire Department will put its energy into hosting several pop-up and mobile clinics around town.

The vaccine hub at North Seattle College will shut down on Friday. The West Seattle location will shut down on June 9. The site at Lumen Field will close June 12, and the Rainier Beach clinic will close June 23.

But the drive thru clinic in SODO will remain open throughout the summer.

More than 76% of Seattle residents who are 12 and older have started the vaccine process, and more than 60% are fully vaccinated, according to the city.

King County aims to fully vaccinate at least 70% of its population.

— Angela King

Sounders open special section for vaccinated fans

8:30 a.m. — The Sounders are going to open the full lower bowl at Lumen Field to vaccinated fans for the next three home matches, from June 23 to July 7.

Season ticket holders will be able to sit in their regular spots, but they will have to prove they are fully vaccinated if they want to sit in the full-capacity sections. Once Washington state fully opens on June 30, that requirement will go away.

— Angela King

Good news for Pierce County

8 a.m. — Pierce County health officials say their 14-day Covid case rate fell below 200 for the first time in nearly three months.

This comes are more people are getting vaccinated through the county health department's homebound vaccination team.

Pierce County still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Washington.

— Angela King

Care-a-van touring vaccines around Washington state

7 a.m. — A new Covid vaccine clinic on wheels called the Care-a-van is now making the rounds in Washington state.

Health Secretary Umair Shah says this latest effort will prioritize certain community groups.

“The priorities will include counties with higher race or ethnicity gaps, more vulnerability and disproportionately impacted communities, sectors with recent outbreaks and geographic locations that have not received a Care-a-Van visit or don’t have other mobile vaccine efforts in those communities,” Shah said.

Shah said groups can ask the mobile Care-a-van to come their events. But they need to give 30 days’ notice.

To date 62%of Washington adults 16 and older have received at least one Covid vaccine dose. Gov. Jay Inslee says the state could reopen by the end of June if 70% have initiated vaccination.

— Ruby de Luna

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2

Block parties encouraged

5:22 p.m. — If you were planning on hosting a block party to reunite with your neighbors and friends this summer, then you're in luck — the city of Seattle has brought back block party permits, and they're free.

The city is actively encouraging people and businesses to use block parties, play streets, and sidewalk business permits as a way to jumpstart reopening.

The city recommends block party permits for parties, art walks, and even weddings this summer.

Bonney Lake bans vaccine passports

2:26 p.m. — The Bonney Lake City Council has passed a resolution banning vaccine passports or other forms of verification.

Under the state’s policy, employers, businesses and events can ask for proof of vaccination, if they choose.

But Bonney Lake officials say that promotes vaccine segregation and is a form of discrimination.

Health Secretary Umair Shah says the state’s intent is not to single out people, but to protect the public from Covid-19.

"If you’re vaccinated, you’re protected. If you’re not vaccinated, you're not protected," said Shah. "Unfortunately when you have vaccinated and unvaccinated people together, that’s when you also have potential for risk.”

Health officials note that asking about a person’s vaccination status is not against federal or state laws. Schools, for example, ask for students’ vaccination records as part of admission.

— Ruby de Luna

Tweets of note: Popup vaccine clinics; unvaccinated kids should still wear masks

11:30 a.m. —

— Dyer Oxley

7 million doses given in Washington state

10 a.m. — The Washington Department of Health announced Wednesday morning that the state has administered seven million doses of Covid-19 vaccine so far.

That number doesn't indicate the number of people who have been partially or fully vaccinated. Rather, it's the number of doses provided. Vaccines, such as the Pfizer and Moderna options, require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one dose.

— Dyer Oxley

State GOP leader opposes vaccine policy for Washington businesses

9 a.m. — Republican state house leader JT Wilcox is speaking out against the recent state policy that gives businesses the option to let workers go mask free if they show they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

“I'm certainly good with every business urging their staff to get vaccinated," Wilcox told KUOW. "And if they want to require that people, whether they're customers or staff, wear masks, under any circumstances, that's OK too. That's their business. But keeping health records, I think, is a beginning that we don't want to start.”

Wilcox says unvaccinated employees should be trusted to wear a mask, just like customers are.

He also says he and his family have been vaccinated and he's encouraging everyone who is eligible to do so.

Wilcox acknowledges that the state policy is not a violation of federal health information privacy laws. He’s opposed to opening a door to health status requirements, even during a pandemic.

— John O'Brien

Seattle continues to hold off on fees and interest for late utility customers

8 a.m. — If you’re behind on your utility bills in Seattle, the City Council just gave you a little relief.

Council members voted Tuesday to let late payments slide until the end of the year, or at least until the mayor’s civil emergency ends. So you'll still have to pay your bills, but those late payments won't accrue interest in 2021.

The relief program is projected to cost the city $8 million this year. But Councilmember Alex Pedersen says the city can handle it.

Read more details here.

— Joshua McNichols

TUESDAY, JUNE 1

No more Covidwa.com

11 a.m. — Covidwa.com is saying "mission accomplished." The site was not an official vaccine finder for Washington, rather, it was a volunteer project to help people find vaccine appointments.

The online vaccine appointment finder was started by a former Microsoft developer who was dissatisfied with the state's online system. George Hu basically built an online search tool that scraped all the appointment info from various sites, and put it all into one spot. It worked a lot like ticket scalper websites.

But May 28 was the last day Covidwa.com was fully up and running. The website now states that walk-in appointments are found nearly everywhere, making appointments less of an urgent need.

"Now that vaccine appointments and walk-ins are widely available, our mission at CovidWA.com is complete! May 28th was our last day of operation. Vaccine provider data are outdated. Please use the Washington state VaccineLocator to find local Covid-19 vaccine providers. The CovidWA volunteers thank you for your support."

Washington state and the city of Seattle are also moving away from vaccine sites with appointments. Seattle plans to shut down its three mass vaccination sites by the end of June and shift to mobile vaccination efforts along with popup clinics.

— Dyer Oxley

People are starting to visit Seattle again

10 a.m. — The Seattle waterfront is looking more like what we're used to with lots of people.

Large crowds made their way down to the area over Memorial Day weekend, with businesses like Argosy Cruises resuming operations for the first time since the pandemic shut them down.

The latest public data from the Downtown Seattle Association shows 149,000 people visited Seattle the week of May 2, 2021. During that same week in 2020, it was 56,000.

And more visitors are expected in the coming months. Starting in July, three major cruise lines will sail again from Seattle to Alaska.

— Angela King

Street parking prices are going up in Seattle

9 a.m. — It's yet another sign things are returning to normal around Seattle — parking prices are going up as more drivers are hitting the road.

Street parking rates will increase by 50 cents to $1 per hour. You can expect to see higher parking prices in: Belltown, Chinatown International District, Columbia City, Denny Triangle, First Hill, Fremont, Green Lake, Pioneer Square, Roosevelt, South Lake Union, the University District, and the downtown area, just to name a few.

SDOT officials say the increase is in response to more drivers being out and about, visiting local shops, restaurants, and other businesses.

Seattle drivers an expect to pay between 50 cents $2.50 an hour to park. Before the pandemic, Seattle's paid parking rates varied between 50 cents to $5 per hour.

Street parking is still free on Sundays and holidays.

Only one neighborhood is seeing a decrease in parking fees. Nightly rates will decrease by 50 cents an hour in the Pike-Pine neighborhood.

— Angela King



Read previous updates here.