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Coronavirus in Washington state: Updates from May 17-19

Find updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from May 17-19

Editor’s note: This story shows updates about the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from May 18-19, 2020.

Click here for the latest updates from KING 5.

Key facts:

  • Ten more counties can apply to move onto Phase 2 of Washington's coronavirus recovery plan under new rules issued Tuesday.
  • 29 new deaths among 200 new cases reported Monday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,031 deaths among 18,811 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 293,120 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.4% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

VIEW | Coronavirus coverage on KING 5

Tuesday, May 19:

Customers aren’t ready to dine-in, according to Washington State University study

Only about 21% of people surveyed are open to dining at a restaurant immediately after reopening, and close to have of people will wait one month or longer to dine in with a friend at a restaurant.

Those were among the findings in a nationwide survey by the Washington State University School of Hospitality Business Management.

Researchers asked whether customers were ready to go back to restaurants immediately, if stay-at-home orders are lifted tomorrow. They found:

  • 65% of patrons said it was unlikely or very unlikely that they would return to in-person dining,
  • 6% of patrons said they were very likely to return to in-person dining.
  • Another 15% said they were warm to the idea and 13% said they were neutral on the question.

When researchers asked people how long they would wait before dining out with a friend, they found:

  • 9% indicated that they would dine out with a friend at a restaurant immediately after the reopening.
  • 27% percent said that they would wait for around 1-3 months
  • 20% percent indicated that they would wait even longer, over 3 months.

Researchers also asked about what safety precautions at restaurants customers wanted to see. The most important precautions were visible sanitizing efforts (such as sanitizing tables and chairs in front of the customers, hand sanitizer stations throughout the restaurant, staff wearing mask & gloves) and implementing social distancing.

Credit: KING
According to a survey from Washington State University School of Hospitality Business Management, visible sanitizing efforts (such as sanitizing tables and chairs in front of the customers, hand sanitizer stations throughout the restaurant, staff wearing mask & gloves) and implementing social distancing are the most important safety precautions customers expect from a restaurant.

The survey was conducted between May 1-7,  2020.

City of Kent to lay off employees

The city of Kent will lay off employees and remove vacant positions as it struggles with the financial fallout of COVID-19.

Under the plan, 11 employees will be laid off or retire, seven vacant positions will be eliminated, seven positions will be frozen, and two will be bumped into a vacant position, according to a city memo dated Monday. Temporary support will also be reduced by $70,000.

The city projects a $15.7 million revenue shortfall, and the budget shortfalls due to COVID-19 were only exacerbated by the structural deficit that the city faces for the 2021-2022 budget, according to the memo.

Phased re-opening of Forest Service recreation sites

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest will begin a phased re-opening of trailheads and day-use areas on May 22.

Some trailheads and day-use areas that are still snow covered will remain closed, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Heavily visited areas, such as Boulder Cave, and day-use sites that are located in campgrounds with no separate access will also stay closed.

Access to restrooms, garbage service and water will be limited, as operational tasks that Forest Service staff typically complete in April were pushed back during the pandemic.

The Forest Service plans to re-open campgrounds in June if Washington enters Phase 2.

State releases new criteria eligible for Phase 2

Counties with fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period are now eligible to apply to move to Phase 2 of the state's four-phase plan of reopening. 

Newly eligible counties that can apply for Phase 2 include: Spokane, Adams, Mason, Thurston, Lewis, Clark, Clallam, Kitsap, Island, and San Juan.

Credit: Office of Gov. Jay Inslee
Under new guidance released May 19, 2020, 10 additional counties in Washington state are eligible to move ahead to Phase 2.

The following counties have been approved for Phase 2: Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Whitman. 

Credit: Office of Gov. Jay Inslee
Counties in Washington state with less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span are eligible to apply to move to Phase 2 of coronavirus recovery.

Kittitas' application for Phase 2 is under review.

Grays Harbor and Jefferson counties are eligible to apply but have not.

Phase 2 allows more outdoor recreation, such as camping.

Small group gatherings of five people or less are allowed. 

Barbershops and salons could reopen along with restaurants at 50% capacity and tables of five people or less. Pet services, including grooming, could resume. Some professional services could resume, although teleworking will still be encouraged.

Limited non-essential travel within the proximity of your home is allowed.

Learn more about each phase here.

Toll revenue down March and April

Toll transactions from Washington state's five tolled roads was down 54.3% below forecast between March and April as people practice social distancing. 

According to data presented to the Washington State Transportation Commission, toll transactions totaled 5.2 million. Adjusted revenues were $17.8 million, which is $20.7 million below forecast.

In March, reported revenue for the State Route 520 Bridge landed at $3.9 million, $3.8 million below the forecast $7.7 million. 

Reported revenue in April for the SR 520 Bridge was a mere $1.9 million compared to the forecasted revenue of $7.4 million.

Arlington gym owner defies governor's orders

Washington state is suing the owner of PA Fitness in Arlington for defying Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home orders.

Michael Jellison opened PA Fitness last Monday. He was told by the state on May 18 that he must close the gym by 7 p.m. May 19 or he will be sued and face a fine, he said.

Gyms aren't allowed to open as social distancing restrictions continue. 

Under the state's four-phase plan, indoor gyms can't open until Phase 3. Even then they will only be allowed to fill to 50% capacity. 

Jellison says he plans to file a counter-lawsuit later this week, claiming his constitutional rights are being violated. 

Face covering directive in Whatcom County

A directive issued in Whatcom County asks everyone who can wear a face covering while out in public to do so, if they will be within 6 feet of someone they don't live with.

"As summer approaches and more worksites, businesses, and public places reopen, wearing face coverings in public will be a part of maintaining the gains we’ve made over COVID-19," according to a statement from the public health department.

The directive takes effect May 22.

As of May 18, there were 360 confirmed cases and 32 deaths. Another 4,582 people tested negative.

Average transit ridership statewide below 50%

Average daily transit ridership across Washington state's 10 largest agencies remains below 50%, according to data from the Washington State Department of Transportation. 

Ridership began decreasing in early March. It dropped by more than 20% March 12.

Statewide average ridership decreased by 51% on March 17.

The biggest one day drop in average ridership occurred on March 22.

Other forms of public transportation have taken a hit as well.

Ferry ridership is down 62% compared to 2019. 

Passenger rail, according to data from Amtrak Cascades, is down 97%.

Monday, May 18:

First Washington corrections officer dies of coronavirus in Monroe

The Washington State Department of Corrections announced on Monday that a corrections officer has died of the novel coronavirus, the first corrections officer to die from the virus in the state.

According to a release, 65-year-old Berisford Anthony Morse passed away on Sunday due to coronavirus complications.

It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Correctional Officer Berisford Morse due to COVID-19. Our hears go out to Officer Morse's grieving family and the sacrifice they have made," Secretary of Corrections Stephen Sinclair.

According to the DOC, Morse worked for the department for 16 years, serving as both a corrections officer and a non-permanent community corrections officer. Morse had worked for most of his career at the Monroe Correctional Complex, which is where he worked at the time of his passing.

Morse worked in the prison's Minimum Security Unit, which has seen 14 positive cases of coronavirus, according to the DOC. Morse had last worked at the correctional center on the morning of April 24. That evening, the DOC said he had contacted a shift commander to report he was experiencing symptoms of the virus. 

Morse sought medical attention and got tested, and the Monroe Correctional Complex was informed he had tested positive on April 27, according to the DOC.

Individuals in close contact to Morse were informed of their potential exposure via contract tracing, the department said, and is classifying Morse's death as having happened in the line of duty.

UW Medicine announces temporary furloughs affecting 1,500 employees 

About 1,500 classified staff at UW Medicine will be temporarily furloughed between one to eight weeks to address the medical group's $500 million shortfall.

The shortfall comes after the a dual hit of lost revenue because of canceled or postponed medical procedures and rising costs due to the fight against coronavirus.

"The financial situation is the result of substantial lost clinical revenue since the start of the pandemic due to the cancellation or postponement of elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures and the high cost of treating patients with COVID-19, including diagnostic testing and high use of personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to safely care for patients," the medical center posted in a news release.

The first furloughs will be in administrative and back office staff, and maintaining clinic staff will be prioritized, said Lisa Brandenburg, president of UW Medicine Hospitals and Clinics. Other cost-saving measures include cuts to senior leadership salaries, postponing or canceling construction projects and a hiring freeze.

Washington to re-open health care system

Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency proclamation Monday that allows all health care services, including dentists, to re-open as long as they follow health and safety protocols.

 “This is another step. We think of this as a pacing item,” Inslee said.

Different parts of Washington may re-open health care services at different times, based on when they meet certain criteria. Regional emergency health care coalitions will asses coronavirus activity, hospital capacity and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to determine when to take the next step.

Each provider will evaluate their readiness to expand services based on those three standards. If hospitals and doctor’s offices do not have adequate PPE, they will not be allowed to move forward.

“The level of increase that this proclamation will allow will depend on the ability to be prepared for a potential COVID onslaught should this bite us again,” Inslee said.

Sound Transit offering "recovery fares"

Sound Transit will offer discounted fares on Link light rail and the Sounder commuter rail when it resumes collecting fares on June 1. Fares have been suspended since March 21.

Link light rail will cost $1, and Sounder trains will cost $2 through June 30 in response to the economic impact of coronavirus, according to Sound Transit.

Rider can purchase the discounted tickets at vending machines or through the Transit GO Ticket app.

Link service will also increase to every 20 minutes during the day until after the evening peak.

Asotin County approved to begin phase 2

A 10th county in Washington state has been approved to move on to phase 2 of coronavirus recovery.

Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved a variance application Monday for Asotin County, which borders Oregon and Idaho in Eastern Washington.

Applications for a faster reopening have also been approved for Wahkiakum, Skamania, Stevens, Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties.

Credit: Office of Gov. Jay Inslee
The 10 counties that have been approved to move ahead to Phase 2 marked in yellow, as of May 18, 2020.

Non-urgent dental care to resume

Non-urgent dental care is expected to resume at noon Monday, May 18, in Washington state.

Guidelines developed by the Restarting Washington Healthcare taskforce will be released. 

The Washington State Dental Association released a statement to those practicing dentistry saying it is "imperative that you review these guidelines with your team before providing care. While emphasizing the exercise of clinical judgment by dentists, the guidelines are expected to address a variety of considerations such as PPE conservation, patient screening, COVID-19 testing, and delivery processes."

Casinos reopening

The Clearwater Casino in Suquamish and Emerald Queen Casino in Fife are reopening.

Clearwater Casino is doing a phased reopening and is limiting entry to residents that reside in the following counties: Kitsap County, Jefferson County, Mason County, Clallam County and the area of Pierce County west of the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

Hours are limited to 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Capacity will be limited to 60%.

Emerald Queen Casino is limiting its capacity to 30%. Guests will have their temperatures checked before they enter through the doors and be expected to wear masks. 

Casino staff will clean the casino "continuously," and limit the availability of food, and they will expect staff and guests to maintain social distancing.

Angel of the Winds Casino in Arlington became the first to reopen in Western Washington on May 13. 

SARS antibody holds promise for coronavirus fight

An antibody that was identified in a patient who recovered from SARS in 2003 may have promise in the fight against COVID-19.

Research published Monday in “Nature” found that antibody inhibited other related coronaviruses, including the one that causes COVID-19. The antibody, which is called S309, is being fast-tracked for development and testing. 

David Veesler, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine and one of the lead authors of the paper, said researchers now need to show the antibody is protective in living systems.

Sea-Tac Airport will require everyone to wear some form of face covering beginning Monday

Beginning Monday, May 18, the Port of Seattle is requiring all passengers, visitors, and workers, including Port employees, to wear cloth face coverings in the public areas of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. 

Port Director Steve Metruck said, "Many Port employees and partners and members of the public already wear cloth face coverings.  This policy makes clear our commitment to public health, safety, and well-being.”  

The requirement will not apply to certain groups, such as very young children.

Sunday, May 17:

Sounders FC given clearance to practice 

 After receiving approval from government officials and public health authorities in Washington State, Seattle Sounders FC players are confirmed to begin voluntary individual workouts on Monday, May 18 at Starfire Sports.

Sounders FC players now have the opportunity to safely conduct voluntary individual workouts on the club's outdoor training fields. All individual player workouts on Monday and beyond are closed to the general public.

 "Though it's a small step in our road back to normalcy, we are pleased to have been given the green light by our regional authorities to begin voluntary individual player workouts tomorrow at Starfire," said Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. "We continue to work constantly with our government officials in Washington State, in addition to public health authorities and Major League Soccer, and we are thankful to everyone involved in that collaborative process that we are able to push forward tomorrow. We look forward to welcoming our players back for individual workouts, albeit from a safe social distance under the league's new guidelines."

It's unknown when regular activities and training will start for the Sounders.

Kroger offers Fred Meyer workers extra pay after outcry

The parent company of grocer Fred Meyer has announced it will provide “thank you” payments to hourly employees after a union outcry over the company ending a $2 per hour pay bump it implemented amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

KING 5 Spokane affiliate KREM reports the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union held rallies Friday at Fred Meyer stores seeking additional pay from parent company Kroger for workers while the pandemic continues.

Kroger officials said bonus payments of $400 and $200 for full- and part-time employees will be paid in two installments in May and June. 

Fred Meyer has locations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.

via Associated Press 

Some Washington residents could travel to Idaho under new order

Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued a revised “Stay Healthy” order on Thursday, moving the state into Phase 2 of reopening.

One of the changes was a slight relaxation of restrictions on out-of-state visitors.

In phase one of Idaho's stay home order, Washingtonians and other out-of-state residents were basically told to stay away. Anyone entering the state had to self-quarantine for their whole stay, unless it was longer than two weeks, in which case they could leave quarantine after those 14 days.

The only exception was travel for essential purposes, such as grocery shopping, medical care, or doing a job deemed essential.

In phase two, most of those baseline restrictions are still in play but there's some new language to the order.

First, it's now a “strong recommendation” to quarantine upon entry rather than a requirement. Second, it only applies to people from another country, an area with "substantial community spread," or an area with a case rate higher than that of Idaho. 

So who exactly does that apply to? It's hard to tell. First of all, the order doesn't define “substantial community spread.” Secondly, it doesn't specify precisely what is meant by “case rates.”

Paine Field airport to halt passenger service for 10 weeks

Officials say Paine Field will suspend passenger service from May 22 to July 31 for aircraft ramp maintenance and repairs amid a massive drop in demand for air travel tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Everett airport’s passenger terminal operator made the announcement late Friday. 

CEO of Propeller Airports Brett Smith says they will use the temporary disruption to the advantage of Paine Field and airline partners by completing necessary infrastructure improvements faster than would have been possible while the terminal was open. 

An official with Alaska Airlines was supportive of the repairs while United Airlines could not be reached for comment.