Updates on the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state (August 27-September 4)
This post is archived. Read the latest here.
As of Friday, September 4, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 1,953 Covid-19 related deaths; 76,335 confirmed cases (2.6% death rate among positive cases). Note that tests have been limited, so there are likely more unreported cases.
- Compared to white people, the rate of Covid cases is three times higher for Black people, five times higher for Latinx people, and six times higher for 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.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
UW researchers discover potential for hepatitis C drugs to fight Covid-19
Noon -- Researchers at UW Medicine weren't initially considering the novel coronavirus as an alternative use for hepatitis C drugs, but they shifted their focus when the pandemic struck. Now they believe two such drugs could be used to fight Covid-19.
Researchers tested 6,800 drugs that have already already been approved for the market and are safe to use in humans. Boceprevir and narlaprevir are two such hepatitis C drugs that have shown promise, targeting a key protein in the novel coronavirus (called the "main protease"). If the drugs can interrupt this protein, they could break the life cycle of the virus.
Their conclusions are slated for peer review, but can be viewed here.
One of the researchers, Brian Kraemer, was previously studying drugs aimed at dementia, but switched to help in the fight against Covid-19. He helped author the paper up for peer review now.
"In the middle of a pandemic you don't have time for the normal course of drug discovery," he said. "That usually takes years to decades to go from concept to approved drug."
Kraemer said that the protease is the "Achilles heel" of many viruses. So targeting that part of the virus is part of their strategy of fighting it.
"If you can block the main viral protease, you will stop viral replication," he said.
"The most potent hits we identified were all related to hepatitis C viral protease inhibitors," Kraemer said. "Several of these are approved drugs that have been used in the clinic for sometime to treat hepatitis C. So the real question is: Will these drugs be potent enough to actually act as an antiviral in an infected patient? We have done no work of that kind -- we are all focused in test tubes. But the fact you got an approved drug that is known to be safe, and has antiviral properties for other viruses, it makes it a relatively short leap to do some trials and see if it actually works in human patients with Covid-19."
-- Dyer Oxley
DOC aims to increase Covid-19 testing
11 a.m. -- The Washington Department of Corrections says it's moving towards universal serial Covid-19 testing for all its staff.
"If you combine incarcerated individuals, and staff, and considered us as a community, we'd be at about 35-36% testing rate," said Stephen Sinclair, the Secretary of Corrections, who spoke with reporters Thursday. "That would put us above the top 10 counties in the state."
But Sinclair also admitted that the testing rate is not as expansive as he would like.
A total of 447 people incarcerated in the state have tested positive for Covid-19 - 31 still have active cases and two at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center have died
A total of 156 correctional staff members have also tested positive, with one dying in May.
Some inmates and their families say the Department of Corrections and the state have not offered adequate testing.
Pierce County close to starting in-person classes
10 a.m. -- Elementary school students in Pierce County could return to the classroom in a matter of weeks.
That's because the health director at Tacoma Pierce County Health said in a bog post that the number of cases in the county id declining. The blog post states the area is close to meeting metrics that would allow a phasing-in of in-person learning.
In-person learning for elementary school students can start once a county has fewer than 75 cases per every 100,000 people for a two week period. Pierce County is getting close to that mark with just under 80 cases per 100,000 people.
The schools currently could offer in-person learning in small groups — five students and two adults — to younger learners and those with the highest needs.
-- Angela King
Landlords sue over eviction moratoriums
9 a.m. -- Some landlords in Seattle are suing Mayor Jenny Durkan and Governor Jay Inslee, saying their current eviction moratoriums are unconstitutional.
They argue the city and the state's efforts to prevent widespread homelessness during the pandemic is forcing them to shoulder most of the financial burden. But the city of Seattle says while its moratorium is in effect until December 31, renters will still have to pay back rent. The state moratorium is in effect until October 15.
This week, President Trump announced a national moratorium through the end of the year.
-- Angela King
Health clinics open in empty schools
8 a.m. -- While school buildings are empty amid the pandemic, health clinics at the schools will remain available to students.
Just because students are learning remotely doesn’t mean they won’t have healthcare needs. Whether they need to come in for immunizations or to seek mental health counseling, school-based clinics will be open for them.
There are 34 clinics altogether throughout King County. Officials recommend calling ahead to schedule an appointment.
-- Ruby de Luna
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 3
DOC says still no visits, but virus testing increased for staff and inmates
12:30 p.m. -- The Washington Department of Corrections says it's moving towards universal serial testing for all its staff.
"If you combine incarcerated individuals, and staff and considered us as a community, we'd be at about 35-36% testing rate," said Stephen Sinclair, the secretary of the Department of Corrections during a media briefing Thursday.
A total of 447 incarcerated people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Washington state. While the majority have recovered, there are 31 current active cases, and two past deaths at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.
A total of 156 correctional staff have also tested positive, with one death in May.
Secretary Sinclair added, "We know that there are going to be additional outbreaks. Our goal is to be quick and responsive to those outbreaks with effective protocols."
Officials say they are looking into making visitation possible again for detainees, with possible no-touch visits but did not offer a timeline for when that would begin.
-- Esmy Jimenez
National Guard headed to Pullman to help with growing outbreak
9 a.m. -- With a Covid case count exceeding 600, the Washington National Guard is heading to Washington State University in Pullman next week.
The Guard will set up a Covid-19 testing site.
The Whitman County Public Health director says the vast majority of those testing positive right now are associated with the Washington State University. In the meantime, WSU is using a mobile health unit to test students and staff ahead of the long weekend and is asking students who are already there to stay put for the long holiday weekend in an effort to keep the virus from spreading.
And with the results available within one to two days, University officials say those who test positive will know not to travel or gather in groups.
Police in Pullman say they will continue to hand out tickets to those at large gatherings. Adjusted for population size, data from the The New York Times shows Pullman has one of the fastest-growing coronavirus outbreaks in the nation.
MoPOP to reopen
8:45 a.m. -- After being closed for six months, Seattle's MoPOP will reopen to the public on September 18, but only at 25% capacity.
All guests and workers must wear face coverings and maintain safe social distances. People using interactive items will get sanitized stylus pens.
Visotors also have to buy tickets in advance for a specific time. The museum will be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
-- Angela King
12,000 iPads coming to Seattle students
8:30 a.m. -- A total of 12,000 iPads are being delivered to Seattle Public School students this week, thanks in part to Alaska Airlines.
Alaska flew them in from a Boston warehouse. The iPads are for kindergarten to second grade students, and are intended to help with remote learning. Seattle classes will be held remotely this fall as the pandemic continues.
Seattle's first day of school is now set for this Friday.
-- Angela King
Added ferry service to isolated Point Roberts
Port of Bellingham increases ferry service to isolated Point Roberts
Port of Bellingham increases ferry service to isolated Point Roberts
8 a.m. -- The Port of Bellingham is increasing temporary ferry service to the isolated enclave of Point Roberts. The community was largely cut off from the US mainland when Canada and the US closed their land border to nonessential crossings.
Beginning last week, the Port of Bellingham chartered an eco-tour boat to offer once-per-week, passenger-only service connecting Point Roberts to the border town of Blaine. Demand far outstripped supply from people marooned on the five square mile peninsula.
"We’ve done two sailings now for the past two Tuesdays and they were both full," said Rob Fix, executive director of the port. "We believe we had about 500 inquiries that were interested in those sailings over those two weeks."
Those five hundred people were competing for 40 reserved seats available each week. So now, Fix says the port will sponsor twice weekly service direct to Bellingham using a tour boat that's twice as big. Fix hopes the expansion of the free ferry service does not ease pressure on Canada to give residents in Covid-free Point Roberts an exemption to cross the border by car.
-- Tom Banse
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
$300 unemployment payments to start
9:30 a.m. -- There is some relief for those who had been receiving an extra $600 in unemployment benefits. The Employment Security Department says it's going to start issuing $300 to those who qualify in about three weeks.
The Lost Wages Assistance program was started to replace the $600 assistance that ended in July. The state says it will start processing the $300 benefit on September 21.
The $300 pay will be retroactive. It will only cover the period from July 26 to the end of August for those who can prove they lost work because of the pandemic
-- Angela King
Petition urges restart of high school sports in fall
9 a.m. -- There's a new petition circulating online calling for Washington Governor Jay Inslee and state officials to let high school sports resume this fall.
They've been postponed until the spring because of the pandemic. But a group calling itself "Student Athletes of Washington" (SAW) says nearly three dozen other states are going ahead with fall sports and doing so safely.
Approximately 24,000 people have signed the petition. Organizers plan to hold a march to the capitol in Olympia, Thursday at 4 p.m.
One of the organizers is University of Washington recruit Sam Huard, quarterback at Kennedy Catholic High School.
According to the governor's office: "The governor understands the importance of youth sports and the hard work and dedication they require. As with all decisions around Covid-19, very tough choices are made to protect the health of everyone in the state and prevent further spread of the virus. The same principles used when determining how and when to open schools, businesses and activities."
Students argue that delaying sports will hurt their chances for college recruiting since much of that is done in the fall. They also argue that cancelling youth sports will contribute to youth depression; cause "more volatile situations at home due to our parents trying to balance work with children at home (our parents are frayed and worn to the bone);" increased stress on single parent households; and "the inability, especially for those of us where finances are a daily struggle, to potentially earn a college scholarship."
-- Angela King
Another Mariners game postponed
8:30 a.m. -- Thursday's Mariners game at T-Mobile Park has been postponed.
Two other games that were supposed to be played Tuesday and Wednesday were also postponed after a member of the Oakland A's organization tested positive for Covid-19.
The M's tweeted that the three-game series will be made up with a doubleheader in Seattle on September 14, and the other game will become part of a double header in Oakland September 26.
-- Angela King
Washington handing over contact tracing work to private firm
8 a.m. -- A private company is taking over the job of investigating and tracing new Covid-19 cases in Washington state.
The data and policy firm, Mathematica, will start training investigators next week and help local health departments track down those infected with the novel coronavirus.
Cynthia Harry is with Washington's Department of Health. She says some public health workers need to get back to their day jobs.
“Remembering back to measles last year or salmonella, and sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, opioids, and pulling those investigators who've done that work historically from public health into the Covid response has sort of left gaps in those other areas,” Harry said.
The contract is worth up to $21 million and will run until February. Harry says they are on track to spend closer to $9 million, considering the state’s current case count.
The money comes from the federal government. The contract is one of many the state has signed without competitive bidding which was suspended during the pandemic.
Read more details here.
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
Mariners games postponed
8:45 a.m. -- The Mariners games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Oakland A's have been postponed.
That's because a member of the A's team has tested positive for coronavirus. The league delayed the games as a precaution. Thursday's game though is still scheduled to be played at T-Mobile Park.
Visitations to start back up at long-term care facilities
8:30 a.m. -- After months of tight visitation restrictions to fight the spread of Covid-19, a small army of advocates is getting ready to resume in-person visits to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Washington.
Washington’s Long-Term Care Ombuds advocates on behalf of nearly 70,000 residents across 4,000 homes and facilities. For months, the office’s volunteers have been doing their advocacy work remotely – via phone, email, and video chat. Now they’re preparing to restart on-site visits.
“We really don’t know what we are going to see, but we’re prepared for the good and the bad,” said Patricia Hunter, the state’s long-term care ombuds.
She says since the pandemic hit, complaints about quality of care have declined. But she expects that to change once her volunteers get back inside these facilities. Meanwhile, Hunter says residents can now get limited visits from loved ones under rules issued in early August.
“The good news, the great is news, is that there should be some type of visitation happening in most facilities in Washington state now,” Hunter said.
More than half of the state’s 1,900 Covid deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities.
-- Austin Jenkins
Two new Covid-19 testing sites opening in South King County
8 a.m. -- A new Covid-19 testing site opens Tuesday in Auburn. It’s one of two new locations opening in South King County.
Last week, it was a warehouse parking lot. Today it’s a Covid test site that could serve up to 1,000 people each day.
The new site opening in Auburn is run by regional firefighters and EMTs with King County health authorities. The site is open Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Another testing site will open next Tuesday, Sept. 8, in Renton. That one is run by HealthPoint, a nonprofit community health center.
Testing is free and you don’t need insurance, but health officials say if you have an insurance card, bring it.
They also encourage anyone to get tested if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive.
Auburn site: Opening Sept. 1, 2020
2701 C St SW, Auburn, WA 98001
Located at the East side of the General Services Administration (GSA) property along C Street SW
Hours: Monday-Saturday; 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Register for appointments at the Auburn location.
Renton site: Opening Sept. 8, 2020
805 SW 10th Avenue. Renton, 98057
Hours: Monday-Saturday; 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Register for appointments at the Renton location (Registration for appointments at Renton will open on Sept. 5).
If you need help with registration, call the King County COVID-19 Call Center (open seven days a week, 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.) at 206-477-3977. Testing location information for sites across King County is available at Public Health's testing location website.
MONDAY, AUGUST 31
Two more free Covid-19 testing sites are opening in South King County
4:50 p.m. -- One opens tomorrow at a warehouse parking lot in Auburn. The other opens next week in Renton at an old state emissions test facility.
“We’re continuing to see in South King County a larger proportion of the infection,” Public Health – Seattle & King County director Patty Hayes said. “That’s one of the reasons why these testing sites have been a priority and we’ve been working so hard to get them and develop partnerships so we can access more testing down there.”
The new site opening in Auburn is run by regional firefighters and EMTs. The site in Renton is run by HealthPoint, a nonprofit community health center.
South King County has seen a disproportionate share of Covid-19 cases because of historic health inequities, Hayes said. The two new sites will allow the county to increase testing by around 1,500 tests a day.
You don’t need insurance for these sites, but health officials say if you have an insurance card, you should bring it. They're also encouraging people seeking to get tested make an appointment.
King County continues to fall behind its testing goals. The aim is to test 50 people for every person with a new positive test result. As of last week, 39 people were tested for each new positive case.
See locations, hours, and appointment information for all free Covid-19 testing sites in Seattle and King County here.
Covid-19 cases continue to grow in Pullman
8:30 a.m. -- The number of corovarirus cases continues to grow in Pullman, Washington around Washington State University. The Whitman County Health Department confirmed 63 new cases cases Sunday -- that's a new one-day high.
The numbers bring Whitman County’s total case count, since March, to 485. Well over half of those cases have come in the past 10 days. And nearly all the new cases are in Pullman’s college-age population. That’s despite Washington State University moving classes online for this fall semester.
A New York Times analysis shows that across the country, Pullman has the fifth-worst load of new cases as a percentage of population. As to where cases are growing the fastest across the country, Pullman now ranks fourth. The other places on the list tend to also be relatively small cities with large universities.
Whitman County health officials continue to monitor whether the cases will stay in the college-age population or spread to the broader community. So far, Whitman County has not seen any Covid-19 deaths.
-- Scott Leadingham, Northwest Public Broadcasting
Parents should have a plan for youth sports
8 a.m. -- Lots of student athletes are being sidelined by the pandemic this fall. Especially when it comes to sports like football, where players are breathing heavily around each other and could spread the virus.
But while other, more distance-appropriate sports like tennis, golf, and soccer can still be played, Dr. Jonathan Drezner at the UW Medicine's Center for Sports Cardiology has this advice for concerned parents.
"I think as a parent, you want to make sure that the club and team you're working with, that they have a plan, that they've thought about this, that they're not just getting all the kids clumped together on the field or lining them up on the side and saying 'go,'" Drezner said. "Everything really needs to be planned out from the moment the kid gets out of a car, to when they're back in the car and going home."
Drezner says parents need a plan too, and they need to make sure their students skip practice or stay home if they have symptoms, or have been exposed to someone who is sick.
-- John O'Brien
FRIDAY, AUGUST 28
31 inmates, 6 staffers have Covid-19 at federal jail in SeaTac
8 a.m. -- Thirty-one inmates at the federal detention center in SeaTac have Covid-19. That's the report from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Along with the inmates, six staff members also have fallen sick, the bureau said.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez told The Seattle Times the spread of the disease will keep federal courts in Seattle and Tacoma closed for at least another month.
They have been shut down since March during the pandemic, but had been scheduled to begin reopening in a couple weeks. The result has been a huge backlog in cases.
-- Gil Aegerter
THURSDAY, AUGUST 27
WSU Covid-19 outbreak grows
9 a.m. -- The covid-19 outbreak around Washington State University in Pullman continues.
Whitman County public health officials confirmed another 40 new cases Wednesday.
More than half the county's total Covid-19 cases, since the beginning of the pandemic, have been confirmed since last Saturday, right before the start of the fall semester.
Read more about the WSU outbreak further down in this blog.