Pandemic updates for Washington state
This post includes updates about Covid-19 in the Seattle area and Washington state.
Need a vaccine?
Many locations are now accepting walk-ups. Washington state and the city of Seattle are closing mass vaccination sites in favor of mobile and pop-up clinics.
As of Wednesday, June 16, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 5,820 Covid-19 related deaths; 410,659 confirmed cases; 36,023 probable cases; and a 1.3% death rate among positive cases.
- Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases has been nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
- So far, 7,586,602 doses (not total number of people) of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to Washingtonians. A total of 56.4% of eligible people in Washington state (ages 12 and up) have been fully vaccinated; and 69% of eligible people in King County have been fully vaccinated.
- As of June 9, Seattle was 78% vaccinated, making it the most vaccinated major city in the United States.
THURSDAY, JUNE 17
Washington military to get their own vaccine lottery
Noon — Washington residents who got their vaccines via military sources will get their own vaccine lottery.
The Seattle Times reports that the military lottery will begin on July 20. It will have two drawings for $100,000, one per week. A third drawing for $250,000 will be held a week after that.
There will also be prizes for gift cards to Amazon and for state parks.
As Washington began its vaccine lottery this month, many people who got vaccines through the military or the VA were not included. Federal vaccine sources would not share medical information with the state's lottery system.
— Dyer Oxley
How vaccinated are we, really?
9 a.m. — You may have heard recently that King County is 70% vaccinated. Well, that is sort of true-ish.
King County is slated to end its mask mandate on June 29. That's when about 70% of the county will be two weeks past their second vaccine dose (when you are considered fully vaccinated). So currently, no, we are not at 70%.
It's a lesson that these numbers have context. The CDC has Washington state at 71.7% fully vaccinated, but DOH has us at 67.2.%. That's because the CDC is only counting ages 18 and up. DOH includes ages 16-17.
And when you consider Washington's entire population, including children who are not eligible for a shot, 47.5% are fully vaccinated.
The 70% mark has been a goal often quoted by officials. But as State Secretary of Health Umair Shah recently said:
“It's not over until it truly is over, and we are really concerned that folks are going to think that we're at 70%, and therefore you don't have to worry about anything. In fact, that may mean that vaccinations drop off because people think that we've already had a statewide goal and so ‘I didn't get my vaccine, but that's OK because someone else got it.’ We don't want that to be the message. We want that message to continue to be get vaccinated.”
Also, vaccines appear to be effective against the variants spreading through the state. The variants are not only more contagious, but they cause more severe illnesses. This includes the delta variant which only accounts for about 6% of Covid cases in Washington. But the delta variant has overcome other variants, causing dramatic upticks in cases. This is what happened in the UK, recently.
— Dyer Oxley
Judge rejects effort to recall Gov. Jay Inslee
8 a.m. — The recall effort against Governor Jay Inslee has been dismissed, according to a spokesperson for the governor.
A Thurston County Superior Court Judge issued an oral ruling Wednesday. The judge found the five charges against Inslee are legally and factually insufficient.
Five people who are part of the group Washingtonians to Recall Inslee filed the petition. While they allege that Inslee's actions have been "criminal" and "tyrannical," they largely based their claims in pandemic-era restrictions. They argued that Covid restrictions interfered with their right to assemble, to work, to practice their religion, and to make personal medical decisions.
Petitioners have the option to appeal the decision.
— Katie Campbell
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 16
Covid concerns shroud Washington's cherry harvest
4:37 p.m. — As cherry growers and packinghouse operators in Washington anticipate a boom in demand for the fruit, COVID-19 concerns still challenge this year's harvest.
The Seattle Times reports that packinghouses have seen a shortage of workers, and are expecting to use more guest workers from other countries to help harvest this year's cherry crops. Low vaccination rates among warehouse staff members has also raised concerns about the possible spread of infections.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington cherries grossed $560 for state growers last year — before expenses.
— Noel Gasca
People who got vaccines at federal sites not included in state lottery
2 p.m. — If you live in Washington state and got your Covid vaccine shots at a federal provider, you are not included in the state's special lottery.
KOMO reports that Washington residents who received their Covid vaccine doses at federal sites will not be included in drawings for the state's vaccine lottery. That's because the federal government is not sharing its vaccine recipient information with the state.
Between military bases and VA hospitals, it adds up to about 150,000 vaccinated people being excluded from the lottery.
— Dyer Oxley
Latest lottery winners will be contacted today
1 p.m. — Pick up your phone if you get a call from the 253 or 564 area codes today.
State officials will be getting in touch with the latest winners in the vaccination lottery.
A total of 251 prizes are being given away as part of this latest drawing, including 15 Guaranteed Education Tuition Prizes, and of course, the $250,000 prize.
Lottery officials say they will be calling from a 253 or 564 area code, so that's one way you can make sure you're not being scammed.
They'll also only ask you to verify your home address and your email account. Lottery officials will not be asking for bank account, social security, or other personal information. Winners have 72 hours to claim their prize.
— Angela King
Washington state raises unemployment benefits
Noon — As states around the country are cutting unemployment benefits, Washington is raising them by nearly 50% for some workers.
People who file their first jobless claim on or after July 4 will see the boost. With their minimum benefit increasing to $295 dollars a week.
Along with the increase, the job search requirement is coming back. Workers will once again have to prove they're actively looking for work in order to collect unemployment. That requirement had been suspended since last year.
One exception to the benefit boost is that workers cannot get more in unemployment than they were previously getting in wages.
— Ryan Kailath
King County is 70% fully vaccinated ... almost
11 a.m. — King County will lift its mask mandate on June 29, one day before the statewide restrictions go away and Washington fully opens up. The move comes after King County announced it has hit its vaccination goal of 70%.
More precisely, 70% of King County residents have completed their second vaccine shot, and therefore, they will be considered fully vaccinated in two weeks (on June 29). So the county is not yet at the 70% mark, technically.
Last week, Seattle announced that 78% of city residents were fully vaccinated.
Health officials caution that the unvaccinated should keep wearing masks which will still be required in places like schools, buses, and healthcare facilities.
This comes as the delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading locally. The variant is more contagious and causes more severe illness. The good news is that the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) appear to provide protection against the delta variant. Health experts are still looking into the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Some reports state that it is about 60% effective. Other reports note that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is similar to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, has proven effective against the variant.
— Angela King, Dyer Oxley
Seattle considers keeping Stay Healthy Streets program beyond the pandemic
8 a.m. — A program created in response to the pandemic could be here to stay. The Seattle City Council is considering a proposal that would make the Stay Healthy Streets program permanent.
It was created in response to the pandemic as a way to give pedestrians and bikers more room to move about. The city closed 20 miles of streets to traffic.
People like Eastlake resident Julie Brown expressed their support for the plan at a city hearing Tuesday.
"Having spaces that prioritize the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is important to us and many others who commute without cars," Brown said.
But critics question whether the program is a good use of city dollars. The streets proposal is part of the larger Seattle Rescue Plan, which is the package for how the city spends its stimulus money.
The Council will hold a final hearing and vote on Monday.
Meanwhile, the city's transportation department is running a survey about which streets to keep closed to traffic. Call 206-727-3565 for that.
— Paige Browning
TUESDAY, JUNE 15
Stay Healthy Streets proposal moves forward
5:54 p.m. — Stay Healthy Streets could be here to stay in some Seattle neighborhoods.
The Seattle Department of Transportation created Stay Healthy Streets in response to the Covid pandemic, but the city council proposes keeping 20 miles of the streets, which are closed to thru-traffic and meant for pedestrians.
The proposal is part of the larger Seattle Rescue Plan, a $128 million package in federal funds designated to help the city's recovery from the pandemic. The council has received some pushback over whether the plan is a good use of the stimulus.
The council will hold a final hearing and vote on Monday, June 21.
— Paige Browning
King County reaches 70 percent vaccination threshold
4:30 p.m. — King County has reached a major milestone in the covid-19 vaccination effort.
Just six months after vaccines first became available, 70 percent of King County residents 16 and older have now completed their shots.
That starts a clock. In two weeks, two things will happen; 70 percent of county residents 16 and older will be “fully vaccinated” and protected against Covid-19, and the county's mask mandate will be lifted.
The county’s current mask mandate urges both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents to continue masking in public indoor settings.
When the mask mandate lifts on June 29, county residents will still be subject to state guidance that requires unvaccinated people to continue wearing masks in indoor public spaces.
Vaccinated individuals are also required to mask indoors in certain settings, like healthcare settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and schools.
As vaccination rates have continued to go up, cases, hospitalizations and deaths have gone down. Covid-19 cases are at the lowest level since September last year, according to Public Health - Seattle and King County. But the virus continues to have disproportionate impacts among Latinx, Black, and Native communities compared to white residents.
However, officials say vaccination rates still lag in south and southeast King County, and say continued efforts to get people vaccinated are critical.
— Kate Walters
Hoping for the "Southwest Effect"
Noon — Beginning November 7, Southwest Airlines will offer a daily flight from Bellingham to Las Vegas, and twice daily to Oakland.
Port of Bellingham officials tell the Bellingham Herald that they're hoping the current uptick in travel will grow in the months ahead, and for what's known as the "Southwest Effect." That's when airline travel increases in communities after the budget carrier arrives.
Officials are also keeping an eye on if and when restrictions ease up at the Canadian border.
— Ruby de Luna
11 a.m. — It's been exactly six months since a nurse at Harborview Medical Center became the first person in Washington state to get a Covid vaccine (outside of trials). They got a dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine.
The first person in the USA to get a dose received it one day prior.
Now, six months later, more than 2/3 of Washingtonians 16 and older have gotten at least one shot as the state prepares to fully reopen on June 30. Statewide infection rates continue to drop.
Meanwhile, health officials at UW Medicine are tracking the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant. Doctors warn it's more transmissible than other variants and is responsible for new surges in India, China, Sweden and the UK.
The UW's Virology lab has detected 170 local cases of the Delta variant since June 14, and it is on the rise throughout the United States.
— Angela King
Another vaccine lottery today
9 a.m. — State lotto officials are getting ready to hold the second drawing in the Covid vaccination lottery Tuesday morning.
This time, in addition to the big $250,000 takeaway, they'll be giving out 15 Guaranteed Education Tuition prizes for vaccinated individuals between 12 and 17 years old.
A second college tuition drawing will be held next Tuesday.
Just be sure to remind your teen, and yourself, to beware of scammers and to never give out any banking, social security numbers, or password information over the phone or through email.
The only thing legit lotto officials will ask you to confirm, if you are a winner, is your home address and email. Also be sure to claim your prize within 72 hours. Otherwise, it'll be thrown into the final drawing in July 13 and lottery officials will pick another winner.
More than 100 prizes from the first drawing last week went unclaimed.
— Angela King
Kirkland extends eviction moratorium
8 a.m. — The Kirkland City Council could vote Tuesday on a measure that would extend the city's eviction moratorium from June 30 to September 30.
The Kenmore city Council passed a similar measure on Monday.
Eviction moratoriums the city of Seattle and the state of Washington are scheduled to expire at the end of June. No word yet if either will be extended.
— Angela King
MONDAY, JUNE 14
Seattle closes Lumen Field vaccination site
11 a.m. — What was once described as the "largest civilian-led vaccination clinic in the country" is now closed.
The city of Seattle shut down the Lumen Field Event Center hub Saturday after doling out more than 102,000 since it opened in March. A total of 534 shots were given on its last day.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said last week that Seattle became the first major city in the country to fully vaccinate 70% of its population. In fact, 78% of residents 12 and older are vaccinated in Seattle.
The city will close the clinic in Rainier beach next week on June 23, but the one in SoDo will remain open throughout the summer.
— Angela King
'We are at the end of the beginning'
9 a.m. — "We've hit a tricky part of all this .... we are at the end of the beginning" is what Dr. John Lynch with UW Medicine told Seattle Now this morning while discussing the current state of the pandemic.
The virus is now preying upon vaccination gaps, hitting the unvaccinated hardest. People who are vaccinated are not being affected as much — they're protected against severe illness and hospitalization.
Expect surges in the fall, along with a return of the flu, among unvaccinated groups. Lynch says "it's going to be awful" because new variants are more infectious and much more harsh. "If you are not vaccinated, you are basically just waiting to get infected," Lynch said.
The good news is that this summer will likely be better than last, in terms of case numbers.
Listen to more of Lynch's comments on today's Seattle Now as they ask: "when is the pandemic over?"
— Dyer Oxley
Mariners increase tickets/capacity for vaccinated fans
8 a.m. — Starting Monday, more fans will be allowed to watch the Mariners games at T-Mobile Park. Both the state and King County gave the team permission to increase the crowd capacity for those who are vaccinated.
Now, more than 26,000 people will be able to sit in the fully-vaccinated section. Another 4,600 tickets will be made available to those who haven't been vaccinated. They will be seated in socially-distanced areas of the stadium. They will only be sold to groups of six people or fewer.
Capacity for the stadium will now be around 30,000. Full capacity at T-Mobile Park is around 47,000. About 26,000 tickets will be exclusively for vaccinated fans.
— Angela King