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Coronavirus in Washington state: Updates from March 16-18

Facts not fear: Find updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from March 15-18, 2020.

Editor’s note: This story shows updates about the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from March 15-18, 2020.

Click here for real-time updates for March 19-22, 2020.

Key facts:

  • 66 coronavirus deaths among at least 1,187 overall cases in Washington.
  • 15,918 people have tested negative in Washington.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday he would implement a statewide moratorium on residential evictions for failure to pay rent for the next 30 days.
  • Click here for updates from last week.

WATCH: One-hour special with Q&A from experts and local leaders on the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state

Washington schools are closed.  Check here for developments.

March 19:

5:20 a.m.

King County Metro is planning to temporarily reduce transit service starting on Monday, March 23, 2020. Metro said some bus routes will not operate, and “nearly all routes will see individual trip cancelations.”

“These service reductions are in response to significant drops in ridership, and are designed to maintain a resilient and sustainable transit system able to ramp back up when this chapter closes,” King County Metro said on its website.

Metro’s ridership was 45% less, about 185,000 passengers, on March 12 than a comparable day in 2019. Click here for more information.

5 a.m.

China's health ministry says the virus epicenter of Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province have reported no new cases.

The ministry said Thursday that results over the past 24 hours showed 34 new cases, all detected in people arriving from abroad. Eight new deaths were reported, all in Wuhan.

Wuhan at the peak reported thousands of new cases of coronavirus infection daily, overwhelming its health care system.

March 18:

10:43 p.m.

Four Seattle Children’s patients have tested positive for coronavirus All four of these patients are recovering at home.  The hospital said, "We expect more positive tests in the weeks and months ahead because the virus is widely circulating in our community." Due to patient privacy, the hospital could not release more information. 

7:35 p.m. 

The epicenter of Wuhan, China, and its surrounding Hubei province have reported no new cases, a first since the virus broke out. 

7:30 p.m.

President Trump has signed a second coronavirus response bill.

5:50 p.m.

As coronavirus cases spike across the region, crime appears to be down.

Between March 1 and 15, violent crime, including homicides, assaults, rapes and robberies, is down 24%, according to King County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Ryan Abbott. 

Property crime, including burglaries and thefts, is down 26%.

5:30 p.m.

The University of Washington will hold spring quarter classes remotely.

In a letter sent Wednesday to students, the university said it felt remote classes was the best course of action to reduce anxiety and uncertainty.

The quarter will run from March 30 to June 12.

UW encouraged students who returned home before spring break to stay home but said its residence halls would remain open for students that needed housing.

4:30 p.m.

The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), which the organization says is North America's largest film festival, is canceled. SIFF was scheduled to take place May 14-June 7.

Organizers say the state mandate limiting social gatherings to 50 people or less led SIFF to its decision. Although the bulk of the festival takes place in May and early June, organizers say pre-events and activities begin six weeks before.

"The looming uncertainty of this crisis, and the huge amount of work that would have to be done now, makes it impossible to continue as scheduled," SIFF said in a statement.

SIFF will also be "on hiatus" for the next few months while the leadership regroups.

3:30 p.m.

The Washington State Department of Health reported 14 new deaths among 175 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday afternoon.

The death toll is now 66 people among 1,187 total confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state.

3 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced he would implement a statewide moratorium on evictions for failure to pay rent for residential tenants for next 30 days.

Under the moratorium, residential landlords can't serve eviction notices for failing to pay rent, and they can't give a notice unless it’s necessary for the health of other tenants and landlords.

Inslee also said he would waive the one-week period before people can access unemployment insurance. This order is retroactive from March 8.

“This will help money get into the unemployed Washingtonian’s pocket as soon as possible when they urgently need it,” Inslee said.

2:40 p.m.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman called on the governor to cancel the April 28 special election as the state battles a coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, Wyman said “circumstances outside of our control could make it impossible for counties to meet statutory election requirements.” That includes courthouse closures, workforce reductions in elections and postal service staff and disruptions with vendors.

“When conducting elections, officials must always balance access and security,” Wyman wrote. “Right now, both of these standards are in peril.”

If Washington canceled the special election, the boards of each jurisdiction could reschedule their elections to take place during the primary election on August 4 or the general election on November 3.

Eighteen counties had planned to hold a special election April 28, but jurisdictions in two counties have already canceled their elections, according to Wyman.

2 p.m.

The city of Seattle has suspended homeless encampment removals during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Tuesday blog post from the city.

There will be exceptions for extreme circumstances, such as structures that are on a roadway, block the entire sidewalk or cause a fire or safety hazard to infrastructure.

The city says its Navigation Team has conducted limited removals since March 2. The team has focused its efforts on handing out public health flyers on coronavirus, distributing hygiene kits and conducting basic symptoms screening.

The city also plans to deploy four hygiene trailers and portable toilets and handwashing stations throughout Seattle.

12:30 p.m.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department reports that a Puyallup woman in her 50s died of complications from the coronavirus. She is the first Pierce County resident to die during the outbreak.

The woman had multiple underlying health conditions. She was admitted to MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital on March 6.


This year’s Washington State Spring Fair has been canceled. Organizers sent KING 5 the following statement Wednesday:

“After thoughtful and careful consideration, and with the safety of our Fair family and guests as our top priority, the Washington State Spring Fair (April 16–19, 2020) will be canceled. We are in constant communication with our local and state partners as this situation evolves. We appreciate your understanding as we navigate through this unprecedented time.

“Our mission statement says we are “Washington’s home to gather and celebrate for generations to come.” Our commitment is to remain that home. At this time, we are doing our part to keep our staff and community as healthy as possible.”

Updates will be posted on the Washington State Fair website, and its social media accounts.

11:30 a.m.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an emergency order Wednesday that temporarily halts evictions of small business and nonprofit tenants in the city. 

The order is effective immediately for any action related to the non-payment of rent or due to the expiration of a lease's term during the moratorium. 

It is in effect for at least 60 days or until the termination of the civil emergency declared on March 3. 

10:50 a.m.

Staff members who worked while sick at multiple long-term care facilities in the Seattle area contributed to the spread of the coronavirus among the vulnerable elderly, federal officials announced Wednesday. At least 30 deaths have been linked to the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland. 

Nursing homes in the area are vulnerable because staff have been working with symptoms, working in more than one facility, and sometimes haven’t followed recommendations about controlling infection.

9 a.m.

Whole Foods announced customers who are 60 years or older can shop one hour before the store opens to the general public under the store's adjusted hours. Stores are now closing up to two hours earlier.

Several other grocery stores across Washington also announced plans to reserve special hours to cater to people 60 and older, along with those most vulnerable to coronavirus.

Safeway and Albertsons reserved Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for senor citizens, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.

7 a.m.

In a tweet, President Donald Trump confirmed previous reports that the U.S. and Canada will temporarily close the border to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected, he tweeted.

6:30 a.m.

The Whatcom Transportation Authority announced all buses will be free until further notice. Not collecting fares "allows us to increase Social Distancing," the agency tweeted.

5 a.m.

Johns Hopkins University says the total number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus worldwide has surpassed 200,000.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering's online tally showed 201,436 cumulative cases by 4:13 a.m. PDT on Tuesday, with 82,032 listed as recovered.

It also recorded 8,006 deaths. The countries with the most confirmed cases were China, Italy, Iran, Spain, and Germany. The countries with the most confirmed deaths were China, Italy, Iran, Spain, and France. 

4:30 a.m.

Canada and the United States are working out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries amid the new coronavirus pandemic, a Canadian official said.

The official was not authorized to discuss details ahead of an announcement and spoke to The Associated Press on condition anonymity. Both countries are eager to choke off the spread of the virus but also eager to continue the critical economic relationship. Canada relies on the U.S. for 75 percent of its exports. Truck drivers are among those expected to get an exemption. Completely closing the border would cause severe economic damage to both the U.S. and Canada.

March 17:

10:48 p.m. 

Pike Place Market will close non-food-related Market businesses to promote social distancing. The Senior Center, Food Bank and Clinic will remain open.  

8 p.m. 

Several grocery stores across Washington plan to reserve special hours to cater to the elderly and those most vulnerable to coronavirus.

Safeway and Albertsons reserved Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for senor citizens, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.

Whole Foods plans to adjust its store hours to accommodate shoppers as well. Beginning Wednesday, stores in the U.S. and Canada plan to serve customers who are 60 and older one hour before opening to the public.

5:30 p.m.

Seattle has expanded its moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus outbreak to include small businesses and nonprofits.

Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an executive order Tuesday ordering those groups not be evicted while Durkan's proclamation of emergency is in effect or 60 days after the moratorium was signed.

Small businesses, which include independent businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and nonprofits will also not incur late fees or interest on missed rent payments during the outbreak.

3:35 p.m.

Washington state has topped 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

There have now been 52 deaths among at least 1,012 cases of the virus in Washington state, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health. The death toll increased by four people from Monday, and cases jumped by 108 people. 

2 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed five coronavirus relief bills Tuesday, including a measure allocating $200 million in emergency funding. The money, which the state Legislature approved last week, could go toward setting up quarantine sites, freeing up hospital beds, and aiding businesses negatively impacted by the virus.

Inslee said it was "very possible" the state could need additional appropriations.

12:45 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Labor is making it easier for states to provide unemployment insurance to workers affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

If you have worked at least part-time over the last year, you likely qualify for Washington state unemployment benefits.

11:40 a.m.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will remain open, and airport officials have instituted a number of new procedures to try to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

Port of Seattle Commission President Peter Steinbrueck and Airport Managing Director Lance Lyttle gave an update Tuesday on how Sea-Tac Airport is "continuing its mission to serve the public and steps being taken to keep the public safe" amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Watch the press conference here:

10:13 a.m.

Amazon will limit what it receives at its warehouses to cleaning equipment, medical supplies, household goods and other essential items, impacting large vendors and third-party sellers that use Amazon warehouses to ship their items.

The online store has been sold out of many household goods and cleaning supplies because of high demand from online shoppers.

For now, shoppers can still order clothing and other items Amazon already has in its warehouses. The restrictions will be in place until April 5.

9:37 a.m.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that President Donald Trump wants the government to send checks to Americans in the next two weeks in an effort to curb the economic cost of the coronavirus outbreak. 

He did not give details except to say that the amount would be significant and millionaires would not receive them.

8:44 a.m.

The state Department of Social and Health Services will limit visitors at its state-run residential psychiatric treatment facilities, adult care homes and other state-run residential programs in response to the new coronavirus outbreak. The change is effective immediately.

All visitors are barred from residential habilitation centers including Fircrest School in Shoreline and state-operated living alternatives. It does not apply to end-of-life situations.

At psychiatric and competency restoration facilities, visitors will be limited to professionals and advocate associations. Such facilities include Western State Hospital and the Special Commitment Center in McNeil Island.

The Child Study and Treatment Center in Lakewood will continue to allow visitors to the children residing there, however, the visitation will be limited to one adult visitor per day.

Visitors who are permitted will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath and will be asked if they have traveled internationally or have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

8:10 a.m.

Several tribes are shutting down their casino operations for at least two weeks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in Washington state. 

The Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Snoqualmie tribes said they want to do their part to stop the spread of the virus. They will continue to pay their employees during the closures.

Tribes across the state have already closed large events like concerts and poker tournaments.

7:15 a.m.

Nordstrom said it will temporarily close all of its stores for two weeks starting Tuesday as it tries to limit the spread of the new virus. The Seattle-based upscale chain operates 380 stores including 116 department stores. It is the latest retailer to announce temporary closures and joins such chains such as Nike, Everlane, Apple and Abercrombie & Fitch in closing its doors.

Like most of the other chains, Nordstrom said it will be providing pay for its employees during the period. The company is also withdrawing its annual financial guidance, noting a slowdown in consumer demand, particularly in markets affected by the coronavirus.

6 a.m.

Officials said the state Department of Licensing will temporarily close its driver licensing and other service counters to the public starting Tuesday to help limit the spread of coronavirus. The state agency said employees will work in the next week to implement social distancing measures at the offices allow more people to renew their driver license or ID card online.

Officials said laws and rules have been temporarily suspended by Gov. Jay Inslee that require residents to visit an office to renew every other time and prohibited customers over age 70 from renewing online.

Offices are expected to resume business March 23 but residents should be prepared for the possibility of extended closures.

1:41 a.m.

A Delta Air Lines flight bound for Seattle was temporarily grounded at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday night after a passenger informed a flight attendant that they may have been previously exposed to the coronavirus.

Delta said Flight 2503 returned to the gate so the passenger could be evaluated and the plane cleaned. It's not clear if the passenger in question was allowed back on the plane.

The plane arrived at Sea-Tac Airport about 3 hours later than originally scheduled.

March 16:

11 p.m. 

Nordstrom announced that it will be closing all of its U.S. and Canada stores for two weeks during the coronavirus outbreak. Shoppers can still get merchandise online

6:14 p.m.

An employee at the Pierce County Sheriff's Office tested positive for coronavirus. The employee works in a non-uniform capacity, has very limited public contact related to their job duties, and does not work in the jail.

An additional employee at headquarters who has had close contact with the infected employee has been notified and placed in quarantine for 14 days.

6 p.m. 

Fire Station 21 in Kirkland is now back into service after receiving a professional deep cleaning. Though none of the firefighters that were quarantined at Station 21 received a positive result for the COVID-19 virus, every surface of the building was cleaned by specially trained crews. Those crews initially responded to the Life Care Center nursing home, the epicenter for coronavirus outbreak.  

4 p.m.

There are now 904 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state. Among those totals are 48 deaths.

2:40 p.m.

UW Medicine rolled out a soft launch Monday for drive-thru coronavirus testing, according to UW Medicine spokesperson Susan Gregg. However, testing is by appointment only and is just open to UW Medicine patients who have symptoms.

Testing is located at the UW Medical Center – Northwest Outpatient facility in Seattle's Northgate neighborhood.

A drive-thru testing station was set up on the campus last week to screen employees for coronavirus.

2 p.m.

The Washington State Long-Term Care Ombuds, which advocate for the health, safety and rights of residents in long-term care facilities, says it will begin visiting residents virtually instead of in-person.

1:30 p.m.

Amazon said Monday that it needs to hire 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders as the coronavirus spreads and keeps more people at home, shopping online. 

The online retailer will also temporarily raise pay by $2 an hour through the end of April for hourly employees, who work at its warehouses, delivery centers and Whole Foods grocery stores. 

1:15 p.m.

Washington State Ferries may limit service or vessel capacity if ridership continues to decline amid the outbreak.

Total ridership is down 20-40%, according to state ferries. Walk-on and vehicle passenger ridership took the bulk of the hit, decreasing 30-50%. Vehicle ridership are down 10-30%.

1 p.m.

A nursing home facility in Kirkland says it is starting to have "real concern" about the amount of personal protective equipment available. 

Fewer supplies are coming in, and within a two-week period it may become a "critical issue" at Life Care Center in Kirkland and facilities elsewhere. 

11:30 a.m.

Following CDC guidelines and recommendations from state and local public health authorities, the Longmire Museum and Paradise Jackson Visitor Center are closed as of March 16. 

11 a.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a temporary shutdown of restaurants, bars, theaters and clubs as the state fights a coronavirus outbreak. Restaurants will be allowed to have take-out and delivery services, but no in-person dining. Gatherings are also expected to be further limited to 50 people.

9:30 a.m.

A clinical trial evaluating a vaccine designed to protect against the new coronavirus begins Monday in Seattle. 

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute is conducting the trial.

Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Pharmacist Michael Witte, left, gives Neal Browning, right, a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Browning is the second patient to receive the shot in the study.

8:40 a.m.

Snohomish County PUD said it would pause disconnections for late payments to aid customers during the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. All Snohomish County PUD offices, including its headquarters in Everett and the Community Offices in Lynnwood, Snohomish, Monroe, Arlington, and Stanwood, closed on March 13, 2020.

Customers can still make payments by mail, online via SnoPAY, by phone at 1-888-909-4628, or a payment deposit box.

8:20 a.m.

The Supreme Court has announced it will postpone oral arguments scheduled for the March session due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. The arguments include those over subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s financial records. 

The arguments for the March session were scheduled to be held between March 23-25 and March 30-April 1. The court says it will "examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course." Read more.

4:30 a.m.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan released the following statement about Washington state and King County’s orders to combat COVID-19. The order temporarily limits operations of bars and restaurants and prohibits gatherings with 50 people or more:

“We have been working together to take steps throughout our region. We have very limited time to slow the trajectory of the virus, and hundreds of lives depend on our actions now. We must protect our most vulnerable and ensure our health care system can continue serving children, families and individuals not just for COVID, but for any emergency. I know these restrictions are hard and impact the livelihoods and ways of life of our families. But it’s the right thing to do for the long-term health, safety, and vitality of our communities. These actions reflect the growing scientific consensus that if we don’t significantly increase mitigation efforts and prioritize true social distancing, the consequences for our region could be devastating.

RELATED: Inslee to temporarily shutdown bars, restaurants in Washington state during coronavirus outbreak

“We know Seattle’s small businesses, workers, and community organizations are already hurting. Here in Seattle, we’re working tirelessly to support them. I have talked with Vice President Pence, our federal delegation and Governor Inslee to speed up meaningful relief for those already impacted. We also continue to partner with business and philanthropy to build more programs for impacted workers and families. As a City, we are supporting our small businesses who are impacted by this crisis by deferring payment on business taxes and utilities, setting up a Small Business Stabilization Fund, and ensuring our small businesses can access federal assistance through the Small Business Administration as soon as it becomes available. We will continue to build on these measures by using every possible local, state, federal and private resource to support small businesses, workers, and families.

“Ultimately, we know we will need an unprecedented small business and worker relief package from Congress. Congress must think bigger and bolder for a long-term economic relief package to help the people and businesses who already feel the real consequences of this global pandemic.”

March 15:

7:24 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he will be signing an emergency proclamation to temporarily shut down bars and restaurants and even further limit the size of gatherings during the coronavirus.

Restaurants will be allowed to have take-out and delivery services, but no in-person dining. 

The ban applies to restaurants, bars, dance halls, clubs, theaters, health and fitness clubs, and other similar indoor social or recreational venues must cease operations until March 31.

Inslee is expected to make the announcement on Monday.

It's unknown how long the shut down will be in place for.

Crowds are now limited to 50 people, a decrease from Inslee's initial ban of gatherings of 250 or more.

6:34 p.m.

An emergency physician who tested positive for coronavirus was employed at EvergreenHealth. In a statement, the hospital said: 

"EvergreenHealth is providing care for one of our physicians who has a confirmed case of COVID-19. He is in critical condition but stable. Out of respect for our patient’s privacy and that of his family, there is nothing more we can share at this time." 

5:23 p.m. 

The CDC is recommending in-person events with 50 or more people should be canceled in the next 8 weeks. 

4:24 p.m.

The Associated Press reports that the first dose will be delivered Monday in a clinical trial for potential coronavirus vaccine, according to a government official.

3:55 p.m. 

There are now 769 total cases of coronavirus in Washington state. Among those total cases are 42 deaths.

3:35 p.m.

A Pike Place Market member has tested positive for coronavirus. In a release, a Market spokesperson said: 

"We have already contacted everyone in the Market who this individual had contact with in order to evaluate the exposure risk and assess whether they need to self-quarantine. The individual spent time in a very specific area of the Market and that area has been closed and is undergoing a deep cleaning. We are following the cleaning regimen advised by public health officials. Currently, the risk to the public is low to Market visitors, according to county officials."

2:50 p.m.

Starbucks will be temporarily closing some of its U.S. and Canada stores in an effort to promote social distancing. They will be switching to a "to-go" model, putting emphasis on using the app to order. Customers can still walk up to the counter to order or order ahead and walk in to get it, or use the drive-thru.  Read more here.

1:40 p.m.

King County has reported an additional 2 deaths due to the coronavirus, bringing the county's total to 37. There are at least 420 positive cases in the county.

12:17 p.m.

An emergency physician in his 40s is in critical condition with symptoms consistent with coronavirus, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. It's unknown if the physician's case was a case of occupational transmission or community-based spread of coronavirus. It is unknown what hospital they worked at. 

10:50 a.m.

The Summit at Snoqualmie ski and snowboarding resort will suspend operations at the end of the day until further notice. Read more about the closure here

10 a.m.

King County has announced that it is adding two additional sites to serve as a quarantine/isolation site. Those sites are at the Eastgate Parking lot (13620 Eastgate Way in Bellevue) and the Issaquah Motel (1801 12th Avenue NW, Issaquah.) 

8 a.m.

Many travelers entering the U.S. over the weekend faced hours long lines at immigration checkpoints in airports because of screenings for coronavirus. At this point, there are no reports of lines at Sea-Tac International Airport. Updates on the Port of Seattle's COVID-19 response at the airport can be found here.  

7 a.m.

Seattle based Alaska Airlines reported that a customer service agent at San Francisco International Airport tested positive Friday for COVID-19. Alaska said the employee left work ill Tuesday, is in quarantine, and doing well. Alaska said at this time, it does not believe any guests had prolonged contact with the employee. 

What are coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization. Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to DOH.

Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.

A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, and what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

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