Updates: Pandemic in Washington state (September 28-October 2)
This post is archived. Read here for the latest.
As of Sunday, October 4, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 2,142 Covid-19 related deaths; 88,874 confirmed cases (2.4% death rate among positive cases).
- Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases is nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
- While the pandemic initially struck older populations hard, more recent surges in case numbers (June/July) have been driven by younger people -- ages 40 and below. One of the worst outbreaks in the nation during August/September was in Pullman, around Washington State University.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2
Salish Lodge & Spa outbreak mostly among kitchen staff
5:05 p.m. -- So far 24 employees and two guests have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Salish Lodge & Spa, a resort at Snoqualmie Falls, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Most are kitchen staff. A few cases are also among other staff in housekeeping and management.
The fact that so many kitchen staff got Covid-19 says a lot about how the virus is spread, health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said.
In kitchens people spend a lot of time clustered together with less than great ventilation and don’t always wear masks, Duchin said.
All employees who have worked there in the past two months have been tested, a spokesperson for Public Health said.
Public Health initially identified the first case through contact tracing September 18th. On September 28th, Public Health learned that there were additional cases beyond the culinary department the spokesperson said.
The resort is closed until October 8th.
The reason health officials are telling us about this outbreak is to alert recent visitors.
They’re saying to get tested for Covid and quarantine if you were there in the last couple weeks – from September 16, 2020 through September 30, 2020 – and monitor yourself for symptoms of Covid-19.
Every week dozens of workplaces have outbreaks that the public does not hear about. Most have a handful of cases and it’s hard to pinpoint how the virus got into the business, Duchin said.
Health officials say the public should assume the coronavirus is everywhere they go.
UW Medicine comments on President Trump's Covid-19 test
2 p.m. -- Dr. John Lynch with UW Medicine said Friday morning that it is likely more people within the president's immediate circle are infected with Covid-19. The president tested positive for the virus Thursday.
"I'm worried when I hear about the first lady, the president, one of the president's advisors -- three people being infected in a group of folks who are working close together and frequently being tested; it's the potential for an outbreak in that facility," Dr. Lynch said. "I sincerely hope that is not what happens, but clearly this is a group of people being surveilled at a very high level. But somehow the virus got in there and we're looking at potentially more infections going forward."
President Trump was transported to Walter Reed Military Medical Center Friday afternoon. He was given an injection of an experimental drug made by Regeneron, which contains two antibodies against the coronavirus. Dr. Lynch said that once in a hospital, there are a few main treatments being used -- Remdesivir (an antiviral), oxygen supplementation, and Dexamethasone (a steroid).
Dr. Lynch said that officials will likely go back two days before the president developed symptoms to look for where the infection may have come from, and also who the president could have infected.
"We know the president is very active, meets with a lot of people for a lot of good reasons as well as election reasons, and often doesn't wear a mask in those interactions. And we know that is a very high risk for transmission," Dr. Lynch said.
He believes that officials are also looking closely at this week's debate between the president and his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Biden has tested negative for the virus, but the two shared a debate stage for a considerable amount of time with plenty of words being exchanged.
"It really reinforces and emphasizes that we have to use the tools that keep us safe -- the masks, the eye protection, the hand hygiene, stay at home when sick, and social distancing. These are all critical. We know they work based on the science. And unfortunately this is a demonstration of what can happen when we don't stick with what we know."
-- Dyer Oxley
Puyallup schools halt classroom plans
8 a.m. -- The Puyallup Public School District has called off plans to bring young students back to the classroom next week. That's because the Pierce County's coronavirus case count has surpassed the state’s threshold for gradual returns to school.
County health officials have advised the district to keep all of its reopening plans on hold until there's a trending decline in the case numbers. As for the 700 special education students who returned to school earlier this week, the health department says they can continue with in-person instruction in small groups.
State officials recommend that school districts wait until daily counts drop below 75 positive cases per 100,000 residents before bringing kids back into classrooms in any way.
Gig Harbor schools have already brought kindergartners and first graders back for in-school learning. But bringing back older students is on hold.
-- Angela King
Nearly 20K frontline Amazon workers tested positive for Covid-19
7:30 a.m. -- A total of 19,816 frontline Amazon workers have either tested positive, or have a presumed positive case, of Covid-19 since March.
CNBC News reports that this includes workers at Whole Foods, which Amazon owns. It amounts to 1.44% of the company's 1.37 million front-line employees.
The company released the data Thursday, after being pressed for months by labor groups, politicians and regulators to do so.
At least eight Amazon workers have died of Covid-19, but the company did not update that figure in Thursday's release.
Amazon made projections of how many employees it would expect to become infected during the pandemic and has found that current numbers are 42% less than expected. It even broke down case numbers by state. Amazon's case rate at its Washington state facilities (.58% per 1,000 people) is lower than the state's overall rate (1.09% per 1,000 people). Amazon is encouraging other major companies to release their own data to help further preventative measures.
Amazon says that it is working toward a goal of testing 50,000 employees a day by November, across 650 sites. It says it is doing so by adding to testing capacity, not taking away from the current supply of tests, at the cost of "hundreds of millions of dollars." Amazon is also offering employees paid time off to quarantine if they do test positive. The company says it has changed more than 150 processes at its sites to accommodated social distancing and other pandemic measures. Facilities are sanitized every 90 minutes.
-- Angela King and Dyer Oxley
Outbreak at UW Greek Row grows
7 a.m. -- At least 104 fraternity and sorority members have tested positive for Covid-19 at the University of Washington's Greek Row, indicating that the recent outbreak is growing.
"Because we’re early in this outbreak, I suspect the numbers are likely to go higher over the next few days," said Geoffrey Gottlieb who sits on the university’s advisory committee for communicable diseases.
He says so far, all the student cases are mild or asymptomatic.
This is the second outbreak to hit members of Greek Row, and while the university is teaching most classes online, and has limited dorm capacity, there’s only so much it can do about Greek housing.
The university doesn't have jurisdiction over the fraternities or sororities. And even if it did, it couldn't close them down because there’s an eviction moratorium in place throughout the city.
So for now, the university is asking all members of the Greek community to get tested, and to continue social distancing, wearing masks, and washing their hands.
-- Esmy Jimenez
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1
Covid-19 outbreak at Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie
9 a.m. -- King County public health officials are investigating a Covid-19 outbreak at the Salish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie.
They say two guests and 23 staff members have been infected.
Anyone who visited the lodge, the restaurant, spa, or gift shop between September 16 and now should get tested for Covid-19, self-quarantine, and stay away from others for 14 days.
-- Angela King
Another outbreak at UW's Greek Row
8:30 a.m. -- The UW Daily is reporting another coronavirus outbreak on Greek Row.
The paper says 88 students have tested positive as of Wednesday afternoon, but not all live in the chapter houses.
Cases have been found across eight chapter facilities, four fraternities and four sororities.
This is the second outbreak connected to the Greek community at the University of Washington.
A previous outbreak in June resulted in 154 cases reported across 15 houses.
-- Angela King
Rapid Covid tests coming to Washington state
8 a.m. -- Rapid coronavirus tests from the federal government are expected to arrive in Washington state by the end of next week.
The antigen tests take 15 minutes. It uses a short nasal swab, just inside your nostril to collect the sample.
Charissa Fotinos leads Covid testing in Washington state.
"We think they’ll be very useful going into cold and flu season as they’ll enable much more rapid identification of people with Covid," Fotinos said.
Fotinos says antigen tests have a lot of advantages. Ror example, health care workers need less protective equipment to administer them. However, they're less accurate than the more common version.
Only community clinics, rural hospitals and tribes will get the tests at first and they’ll only be available for people with symptoms.
Washington state expects to receive more than two million by December.
On Monday the White House announced they’re sending tests to states across the US.
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30
Washington state expecting nearly 150,000 antigen tests from feds
5:23 p.m. -- Rapid coronavirus tests are expected to come to Washington state by the end of next week.
The antigen tests take 15 minutes and use a short nasal swab, just inside your nostril.
Washington state is expecting an initial shipment of 149,000 tests from the federal government at first.
“We think they’ll be very useful going into cold and flu season as they’ll enable much more rapid identification of people with Covid,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, who leads Covid testing in the state.
Antigen tests have a lot of advantages, Fotinos said. Health care workers need less protective equipment to give a test, for example.
But on the flipside, antigen tests are less accurate than the more common version (known as a PCR or molecular test).
Initially only community clinics, rural hospitals and tribes will get the tests and they’ll only be available for people with symptoms.
Washington state expects to get 2.3 million by December, Fotinos said.
On Monday the White House announced they’re sending antigen tests to states across the U.S.
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
State health officials foresee increase in Covid cases
5:14 p.m. -- It looks like we’re headed for another upswing in cases of Covid-19 in Washington state after a six-week-long decline, state health officials warned today.
People need to remain vigilant, state health secretary John Wiesman said.
“If we all do our part, we can hopefully bring this uptick we’re seeing right now, back down now while we still have an easier time of doing it,” he said. “If this goes up more, it’s so much harder to bring that curve down, and it takes so much time.”
In case you were wondering about your county reopening into a higher phase, that’s not on the horizon, Wiesman said. Reopening is still paused in the state.
As we move into autumn, the Department of Health is encouraging people to keep socializing outside, or open windows, stay at least 6 feet apart, and wear a mask when gathering indoors.
For six weeks the number of confirmed cases steadily dropped from a high of around 800 cases a day on average. The uptick over the past week means the state is now averaging a little over 400 cases a day.
-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Status of schools in counties hit hard by Covid-19
8 a.m. -- The Issaquah Public School District continues to welcome students back to the classroom this week with some preschoolers set to return for in-person learning Thursday.
But how are things going in other counties hit hard by the pandemic?
Department of Health officials want to see 75 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks in order for counties to even consider reopening schools. Benton county isn’t quite there with 96 cases per 100,000 people. But schools there could open as early as October 1.
Reopening schools is not without risk, but it also has benefits to public health, says health educator Vanessa McCollun.
"We also know that schools serve so many different kids in our community," McCollun said. "Anything from nutrition and having means every day to mental health support to education."
Schools in Franklin county could also reopen under a hybrid model in mid-October. That’s also when kindergarten through 5th grade classrooms could reopen in Yakima County.
-- Enrique Pérez de la Rosa
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29
Safeway offers curbside delivery to SNAP/EBT customers
4:33 p.m.-- Safeway is now offering its Drive Up and Go curbside service to SNAP or EBT cardholders—starting at the Rainier Valley store in South Seattle.
Spokesperson Sara Osborne says for now the rollout will be at select stores. Part of the issue was having the technology for SNAP cardholders.
“We started the project maybe a year ago and we’re getting much closer," said Osborne. "But because we’re in a time of such high need, they implemented a work-around before we ultimately are able to accept the SNAP/EBT cards online.”
Osborne says they’re not too concerned about technical glitches since they’ve already rolled out the service in California. She expects its Drive Up and Go service to be available to all SNAP customers by early next year.
-Ruby de Luna
Health officials warn about coronavirus spread in the weeks ahead
7 a.m. -- Washington state is at a transition point when it comes to the spread of Covid-19.
Public health officials say what we do now will determine if schools, and more, can open before winter.
For counties to reopen further, the reproductive rate for the novel coronavirus needs to be consistently below 1 -- that means that each person who has the virus transmit it to fewer than one other person.
In western Washington, the number is 1.14, and in eastern Washington it's .92. But the Dept. of Health warns that people will soon be spending much more time indoors, and that creates greater potential for the virus to spread at a much greater rate. And that could lead to another spike in cases.
The hope is that workplaces and schools will have good ventilation and people will be vigilante with protective measures -- both could help keep the spread down.
More than 2,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Washington state.
-- Paige Browning
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28
Lingering and potential long-term health effects of Covid-19
2:30 p.m. -- Researchers with the University of Washington are monitoring the long-term health effects of Covid-19. They are finding that in many cases, despite overcoming the initial infection, people diagnosed with Covid-19 have lingering ailments.
Dr. Jennifer Ross with UW says that they looked through published literature on the pandemic. While the Covid-19 pandemic is relatively new, hospitalized patients report having fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, cognitive impairment and other symptoms up to a couple months after overcoming the disease.
Lingering symptoms were also reported among those who were not hospitalized, though less frequently. Dr. Ross notes that his group is not being studied as much.
"I was surprised with how commonly people continued to have symptoms after their illness," Dr. Ross said. "We know that when people are hospitalized that it takes some time to recover, even from pneumonia, and more common causes. But this was more than I expected."
"One of the studies that caught our attention was a report published that used cardiac imaging, MRI, to investigate the heart function of people who have had Covid-19 and they found there were signs of inflammation in the heart muscle for many of these patients," she said. "And that is concerning. We don't know exactly what that will lead to in terms of longer term effects."
-- Dyer Oxley
Some schools bring students back to the classroom
7:30 a.m. -- A couple of local school districts are bringing some children back to the classroom this week.
They include Issaquah Public Schools here some special-needs and preschool students are scheduled to return for in-person learning.
Puyallup public schools plans to bring back small groups of special ed students Tuesday.
No word on when Tacoma Public Schools will start welcoming its students back to the classroom for hybrid learning.
That was Tacoma's plan, originally stated to start today. But the district put that on hold last week after it was determined the face coverings teachers were planning to wear don't meet safety standards set by the state Department of Labor and Industries.
-- Angela King
Halloween vs the pandemic
7 a.m. -- A month to go before Halloween, and families are wondering is trick-or-treating OK this year? Yes? No? Maybe?
You may not like the answer from Public Health Seattle and King County spokesperson Sharon Bogan.
"I’m sorry, I couldn’t give the ‘Go for it’ parents want after a very, very stressful year.”
Bogan says, unfortunately, the safest thing families can do is avoid gatherings, avoid door-to-door trick or treating. But she says there are low risk activities that still celebrate Halloween.
“In my household we’ll be buying some candy and we’ll be putting some candy bags together to be able to surprise our neighbors and leave some candy there.”
And if you really want to give out candy, don’t put them in a bowl. Find safer ways to hand it out.
-- Ruby de Luna
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
Tacoma delays start of in-person classes
9 a.m. -- Tacoma Public Schools says it's now going to hold off on bringing some younger and special education students back into the classroom. The district initially had a plan to bring kids back to class on Monday.
That's because some of the face coverings teachers were planning to wear don't meet safety standards set by the state Department of Labor and Industries. No word on when in-person learning will resume.
-- Angela King
Spokane school districts prepares to bring kindergarteners back to class
8 a.m. -- Spokane’s two largest school districts have started getting ready to bring kindergarten students back to class the week after next.
The districts acted quickly after Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz announced he supports the immediate, but slow reopening of schools.
Children in kindergarten will be the first to return , but Lutz endorsed sending students through second grade.
"Although our community incidence rate has gone up over the last few weeks, we believe, based upon our own data as well as experiences, both nationally and internationally, that this age group represents a population where in-person learning, while a risk, nonetheless is a very small risk and one that we have to balance with the importance of in-person learning."
Central Valley and Spokane are the largest Spokane area districts to announce in-school plans, but others are following.
They will begin welcoming students the week after next.
Superintendents in both districts say their districts will monitor the kindergarten attendance and consult with the health district before deciding when to add first graders next.
-- Andy Hurst