Blog: Continuing Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state
This post will be updated with information about the coronavirus pandemic in Washington state. Scroll down for older information.
As of Sunday, August 2, the Washington State Department of Health reports:
- 1,596 Covid-19 related deaths; 58,173 confirmed cases (5.8% positive rate among those tested, and 2.7% death rate among positive cases). Note that tests have been limited, so there are likely more unreported cases.
- A cluster of central Washington counties are getting hit hard. Yakima County has a 24.4% positive rate among those tested (in contrast, King County has a roughly 6% positive rate); Franklin County is 25%; Benton County is 17%; and Grant County is 12%.
- 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.
MONDAY, AUGUST 3
2 more free Covid-19 testing sites in Seattle
8 a.m. -- Seattle’s south-end is getting two new, and free, Covid-19 testing sites this week.
One will be based at Rainier Beach High School. The second will serve the Southwest Seattle area, near White Center.
Mayor Jenny Durkan said they’re focusing on South Seattle because that’s where Black and brown communities have been especially hard hit by the virus.
Cities like Kent, Tukwila, and SeaTac have nearly times times the rate of Covid positive results than Seattle.
Currently, Seattle has two drive-in testing locations in So-Do and on Aurora North.
FRIDAY, JULY 31
Okanogan County has highest rate of cases, new report says
4:30 p.m. -- Transmission of the coronavirus is still increasing in eastern and western Washington, according to the latest report from a state-led research team:
- The reproductive number in western Washington was estimated at 1.19. A number above 1.00 indicates the number of people getting the disease is increasing.
- The reproductive number in eastern Washington was estimated at 1.08.
- Okanogan County had the highest rate of cases in the state at 892 per 100,000, up from less than 25 before June 25. In comparison, King County’s was about 683 as of Friday morning. Okanogan County is now in Phase 2 of the reopening plan.
- Cases in King County have been flat for two weeks – but near the peak rate for the pandemic.
- Yakima County’s cases have been decreasing since early June.
The research team includes Microsoft AI For Health, the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and the state Department of Health.
You can read more of the report here.
-- Gil Aegerter
Two new testing sites coming soon
3:20 p.m. -- Seattle will be adding two new free Covid-19 testing sites in the South end.
One location will be at Rainier Beach High School. The UW previously ran a Mobile Clinic there two days a week, but people often had to wait several hours in line to get tested.
Now the city will run the site five days a week.
"We wanted to make sure that we had something in the communities and neighborhoods that are being disproportionately impacted," says Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Durkan said they're focusing in that area because that’s where Black and brown communities have been especially hit by the virus. Cities like Kent, Tukwila, and Sea-Tac have nearly 3 times the rate of Covid positive results than Seattle.
"We expect to be able to test 800 people a day, increasing testing capacity tenfold for these neighborhoods," said Durkan.
The city said the second location will serve the Southwest Seattle area, perhaps somewhere around White Center or South Park.
The Rainier Beach walk-in clinic will be open starting next Friday, August 7th.
THURSDAY, JULY 30
More schools go online this fall
9:30 a.m. -- Four more school districts have decided to start the new school year online.
Administrators in the Everett, Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Stanwood Camano districts made the announcement Wednesday.
The top health officer in Snohomish County is now recommending that districts offer remote classes this fall, saying it's too risky to send kids back to class amid the pandemic.
Paine Field flights resume
9 a.m. -- Commercial flights out of Everett's Paine Field are set to resume Saturday, August 1.
But service from Alaska and United Airlines will be limited. Those flights were suspended in May because of the pandemic.
Crews also used that time to do some maintenance work and repairs.
New rules in Washington state
8:30 a.m. -- New rules for restaurants go into effect Thursday in Washington state to slow the spread of Covid-19 by limiting social interactions.
One big change: indoor dining at restaurants will be restricted to people from the same household. That means that if you’re with a group that includes people from outside of your household, you’ll have to eat outdoors.
State Secretary of Health John Wiesman says officials are trying to reduce social interactions without totally closing down activities.
"But you know, nothing is off the table," Wiesman said. "Whether it's totally closing bars or whether it's looking at moving people back phases, we're just going to have to look at this and see where things are going."
The new rules also prohibit alcohol sales after 10 p.m. plus no more pool tables or dart boards.
Updates on the Covid-19 pandemic from state health officials
8 a.m. -- Washington's Joint Information Center held a media briefing which included officials from the governor’s office and state department of health on Wednesday.
A few updates on the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington:
- Covid-19 hospitalizations starting to go up. Officials expect deaths to follow.
- The percent testing positive is going down very slightly, and the curve of new cases is starting to flatten even as testing is increasing dramatically. King County’s numbers drive the state curve.
- There are anecdotal reports that scammers are calling people posing as contact tracers and asking for banking and immigration information.
- Health officials are very much relying on people making the right choice in their personal life so they don’t have to close down businesses. Secretary of health cited increase in mask wearing in Yakima as a hopeful sign that people can do the right thing.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 29
New rules for restaurants go into effect tomorrow
4:35 p.m. -- Going out to eat with friends you DON’T live with? You’re going to have to eat outside.
You can still eat indoors at restaurants, but only if you’re dining with members of your household.
The new rules also prohibit alcohol sales after 10 p.m., plus no more pool tables or dart boards.
Health officials want to reduce social interactions to slow the spread of Covid-19, state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said, but they don’t want to totally close down activities… yet.
“But you know, nothing is off the table,” Wiesman said. “Whether it’s totally closing bars or whether it’s looking at moving people back phases, we’re just going to have to look at this and see where things are going.”
The new rules were announced last week by Washington State governor Jay Inslee and go into effect July 30th.
Don't stop protective measures if you have coronavirus antibodies
12:30 p.m. -- Testing positive for coronavirus antibodies (a serology test) can indicate if a person has been infected before, but researchers with the University of Washington warn that it doesn't mean a person cannot be infected again. At least, researchers do not yet know how long immunity can or will last.
"We want to explain this to patients so when and if they receive a positive serology result, they understand that they should not stop using the protective measures that we’re asking everyone to use: masking, social distancing, and handwashing," said Dr. Vicky Fang, medical director of UW Medicine primary care and population health.
More restrictions as Covid cases continue to rise in Washington
9 a.m. -- Washington state health officials say the number of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continues to grow.
And new restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the virus take effect Thursday.
While some Washington counties are seeing a plateau or even a decrease in Covid cases, in other counties the case numbers continue to rise. That has health officials concerned. They say the transmission rate east and west of the Cascades remains above one – meaning that for every person who gets sick they’re likely to spread it to more than one other person.
Many of the recent Covid cases have been in younger people, but the concern is they will spread the virus to older people. Governor Jay Inslee hopes new restrictions will help bend the curve. They include restricting indoor dining at restaurants to people from the same household. In addition, bars will be prohibited from offering indoor service. Starting next week, a ban on receptions at weddings and funerals goes into effect.
There is s still pandemic risk outdoors
8:30 a.m. -- Doing things outdoors is generally safer than doing them indoors during the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free. Outdoor recreation spots are getting unusually crowded this summer.
"We’ve had many photographs of natural recreation areas in the county sent to us with dozens and dozens of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, with no face coverings," said Chris Spitters, Snohomish County's health officer. "If you encounter a place like that, or you get to a park or recreation area, and there’s no parking, that’s a signal: Go someplace else or go back home."
Spitters says if you don't know if you should wear a mask somewhere, just wear it. And carry one with you in case your destination is more crowded than you were expecting.
-- John Ryan
Plans for fourth Seattle port terminal put on hold
8 a.m. -- Plans to build a fourth cruise terminal in Seattle are now off the table.
The Port of Seattle's executive director - Steve Metruck said yesterday they made that decision because of the problems surrounding the pandemic.
"Our current focus remains on public health. When it is safe to cruise again we will be ready," Metruck said.
The terminal that would have served cruises to Alaska would have cost about $200 million. The port wanted to find private partners to pay for half of it.
Environmental groups are still urging the port to completely cancel the project because of pollution concerns and the impacts the industry has on climate change.
TUESDAY, JULY 28
Six months since first case was reported, Life Care Center of Kirkland has no Covid-19 cases
6:09 p.m. -- Most of the initial deaths of Covid-19 in King County were associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland. Now, it hasn’t had a positive case of Covid-19 in over a month, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Staff and administrators learned a lot about how to control the virus, said Nancy Butner, northwest division vice president of Life Care Centers of America.
“Making sure we’re screening well, making sure we’re doing some routine testing, wearing the PPE, monitoring staff to ensure they’re following guidelines for PPE management.”
A portion of staff are tested randomly every week, she said, and if someone tests positive, Life Care tests the entire facility weekly until the facility has no new positive cases for two weeks.
Still, Butner said, the virus is being spread by people without symptoms. At the Life Care Center of South Hill, located in Puyallup, 29 residents and 34 staff have Covid-19. Two have died.
Since the pandemic started, 46 people associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland have died – it’s the most of any single long-term care facility in King County. By March 9th, 129 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were associated with the facility, including residents, health care workers, and visitors, according to the CDC.
At the time it was considered the epicenter of Covid-19 in Washington state.
An inspection by state and federal authorities found the facility had failed to quickly identify and care for sick residents and notify the state Department of Health about the outbreak.
Life Care is appealing over $600,000 in fines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The case is scheduled for a hearing next April, Butner said.
Over one hundred long-term care facilities in King County have had confirmed cases – and dozens have had deaths.
Over 65% of deaths in the county are among residents, employees or visitors of long-term care facilities, according to data from Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Puget Sound governments commit to work-from-home through 2020
10:45 a.m. -- Local governments around the Puget Sound region are committing to a work-from-home model over the remainder of 2020, for eligible employees.
Included in the pact are: King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, the cities of Everett, Kenmore, Redmond, Seattle, Shoreline, and Tacoma, and the Port of Seattle and Port of Everett.
"We are determined to do all that we can to slow the spread of this virus in our communities and keep our employees and residents as safe as possible. We’ve learned a lot about our ability to adapt and respond amid this pandemic, and by taking a regional approach to telework, we can continue to meet the needs of residents, maximize physical distancing for people who need to report to work in person, and further stem the spread of Covid-19," said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
In June, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks moved hundreds of employees to permanent work-from-home status. The move has drawn down the number of employees traveling to the Pioneer Square area in the long term.
MONDAY, JULY 27
Expanded pandemic rules now in effect in Washington
9 a.m. -- The expanded statewide face mask or face covering rule went into effect this weekend. You must now wear masks in all common spaces, such as elevators, hallways, and basically anywhere where you can't stay six feet away from others.
And starting this Thursday, bars will stop offering indoor service. Restaurants will only serve groups of people indoors if they come from the same household. Gaming areas and pool tables will be closed and alcohol service will end at 10 p.m.
There are also new restrictions on indoor fitness activities and new limitations for weddings and funerals which kick in next month
Health officials say public needs to make long term lifestyle changes
8:30 a.m. -- Seattle area health officials are urging the public to make long-term changes to try to slow the transmission of Covid-19 cases.
Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health - Seattle and King County, says that the virus is unlikely to go away at this point.
"I'm talking about fundamentally re-thinking the way we live our daily lives and go about our work and our recreation and social activities so that everything we do is done in a way that acknowledges and understands the risk for Covid-19 transmission," he said.
Duchin says until there's a widely-available vaccine, people need to do things like limit close contact with people outside their household, avoid large gatherings, and wear a face covering.
The average number of daily reported cases in King County has more than quadrupled since early June.
No lifeguards on duty during pandemic
8 a.m. -- If you plan on heading out to local beaches to cool off during hot weather -- there is still pandemic happening, and lifeguards are likely not on duty.
Covid-19 cases are still on the rise, so keep your distance. There are a lot of people who are not at Seattle-area parks and beaches these days, such as Madison Park Beach which was packed on Sunday.
Because of the pandemic , there are no lifeguards on duty at Seattle's swimming beaches. So Parks and Rec officials are urging you find other ways to cool off
Wading pools and spray parks are staying closed this summer.
Statewide coronavirus deaths top 1,500 in official count
6:30 a.m. -- Some numbers this morning about the pandemic in Washington state:
- The official count of deaths topped 1,500. The actual number is likely higher, but it will take researchers time to analyze all the data.
- King County has the most cases of the coronavirus, nearly 15,000 as of Sunday's count. But Yakima County, with about a tenth of the population, has nearly 10,000. Other counties with high numbers include larger population centers like Snohomish and Spokane, but also smaller counties like Benton and Franklin.
- King County reports 200 new cases for Thursday, the most since April 1, which is the highest day for new infections (221) since the pandemic began.
- Statewide hospitalizations (people currently in the hospital with confirmed or suspected cases) rose above 400 on Thursday and Friday, according to numbers from the state Department of Health. It's difficult to tell the last time that number topped 400 because of the way the state releases that data.
-- Gil Aegerter