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Real-time updates: Washington rolls out 4-phase approach to gradually reopen

Find developments on Washington's coronavirus outbreak and the state's plan for recovery.

Key facts:

  • Washington's stay-at-home order will remain in place until at least May 31 with some restrictions possibly lifting mid-May.
  • 10 new coronavirus deaths among 310 new overall cases reported in Washington Friday. 
  • TOTAL: 824 deaths among 14,637 overall cases in Washington state
  • 198,724 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 7.4% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

Read previous daily updates here.

Friday, May 1:

  • 10 new coronavirus deaths among 310 new overall cases reported in Washington on Friday. 
  • TOTAL: 824 deaths among 14,637 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 198,724 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 7.4% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

Washington stay-at-home order extended to May 31

Gov. Jay Inslee extended Washington state’s stay-at-home order to May 31, although some restrictions could be lifted mid-May.

“We are turning the dial,” Inslee said.

Smaller counties who are not hit hard by COVID-19 can apply for variance with the state Department of Health.

Inslee rolled out four phases to Washington’s re-opening plan. He said each phase will last for at least three weeks before moving onto the next.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee extends Washington’s stay home order through May 31

Phase one is where we are now with modifications laid out last week, including allowing low-risk construction, fishing, hunting and park access. By mid-May, retail curbside pickup, auto sales, and car washes could resume with restrictions. Drive-in spiritual services would be allowed with one car per household.

Phase two would allow more outdoor recreation, such as camping, and small group gatherings of five people or less. Barber shops and salons could reopen along with restaurants at 50% capacity and tables of five people or less.

Phase three would expand group sizes to 50 people or less. Restaurants could move to 75% capacity and bars to 25%. Gyms and movie theaters could reopen at 50% capacity. Libraries, museums and government buildings could also reopen.

Phase four would allow gatherings of more than 50 people with social distancing.

RELATED: What's allowed during Washington's reopening? Here are the four phases

Communities of color in King County disproportionately impacted by coronavirus, new data finds

Updated data on COVID-19 cases released by King County show that the disease is disproportionately affecting communities of color.

Hispanic/Latinx, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and Blacks had significantly higher rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as compared to whites, according to the data. The rates were also higher among American Indian/Alaskan Natives (though not statistically significant due to small population numbers) and slightly lower among Asian populations as compared to whites.

While the total number of deaths from COVID-19 is highest among whites, the rate of death per 100,000 for Hispanic/Latinx and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders is more than double that of whites.

The updated analysis reinforces findings from other metropolitan areas and states across the United States. The agency said that COVID-19 is exacerbating health inequities and is likely to take the biggest toll on communities already disadvantaged due to structural inequities that include housing policies to discrimination in health care and more.

RELATED: King County lacks data on how COVID-19 impacts communities of color

Protests in Tacoma ahead of expected stay-home order extension

More than 50 people showed up at the federal courthouse in Tacoma to support suing Gov. Jay Inslee over his stay-home order.

Inslee is expected to extend the stay-home order during an announcement at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 1. 

“You can’t lock everybody down,” Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier said. 

Didier and others, including gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman, are filing a civil rights violation lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging Inslee's order, calling it an "economic lockdown" that is "devastating low- and middle-income workers and small businesses." 

In a statement, those filing the lawsuit warn it is the "first of several that will be filed in the coming days."

Many Amazon employees will work from home until Oct. 2 

Amazon employees who can work remotely will continue to do so until at least Oct. 2, according to the company.

For those who can't work remotely, "We are working hard and investing significant funds to keep those who choose to come to the office safe through physical distancing, deep cleaning, temperature checks, and the availability of face coverings and hand sanitizer," the company wrote on its blog.

On Thursday, Amazon cited net sales in the 1st quarter of $75.5 billion, up 26% over the same period last year. 

In mid-March, the company said it needed to hire 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with all the orders as the coronavirus spread and keeps more people at home - shopping online. 

Though Amazon leaders say they are doing what they can to protect workers, some within the warehouses worry about their safety. Employees within at least 74 distribution centers have tested positive for coronavirus, including a cluster in New York, and a COVID-related death in California. 

Amazon says it has distributed personal protective equipment (PPE), raised hourly wages and is giving COVID-infected employees up to two weeks paid time off.  

Labor unions sue state over farm worker protections 

Skagit County Superior Court will decide today whether Washington state should impose emergency safety rules to protect farm workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia and United Farm Workers of America argue "the deadly COVID-19 is likely an epidemic in every rural county in Washington state where domestic farmworkers and thousands of H-2A visa workers from other countries are currently working..." 

Approximately 9,000 H-2A workers, according to the labor unions, are "residing in labor camps in Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan, Skagit, and Yakima counties."

The labor unions argue proper social distancing is not happening and if workers get sick they won't be able to pay hospital bills.

Familias Unidas por la Justicia posted a statement on Facebook April 30:

"We had to sue Washington State for not implementing rules to protect agricultural workers. Tomorrow, May 1, on International Workers Day, the court will give its judgment. We hope it will be in our favor..."

Gov. Inslee to speak Friday afternoon 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to speak Friday at 2:30 p.m. An announcement is expected on the gradual reopening of Washington state. 

On Wednesday, Inslee announced Washington's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" orders would extend past May 4, but he did not provide a date of reopening. Some industries like certain construction projects, elective surgeries, fishing, and golfing are allowed to resume soon, with modifications. 

The governor said that he would announce "the next phase" of reopening Washington state during Friday's announcement. 

An official agenda of the governor's announcement has not been released. 

Watch his announcement on KING 5 at 2:30 p.m. or stream on king5.com, the free KING 5 app, or KING 5's YouTube Channel

RELATED: Washington's stay-at-home order will extend past May 4; no reopening date set

Alaska Airlines to require face masks for employees, passengers

Alaska Airlines joined several other airlines Friday in requiring all passengers to wear face coverings during flights to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The company said the new requirement for passengers and Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air employees will go into effect on May 11. Employees that will be required to wear face masks include pilots, flight attendants, and customer service agents.

“In light of COVID-19, we're in a new era of air travel and are continually updating our safety standards to better protect our guests and employees. For now, this includes wearing masks, which is another layer of protection that can reduce the spread of the virus," said Max Tidwell, Alaska Airlines' vice president of safety.

Guests will be expected to bring their own mask and will be required to wear it. The airline said supplies will be available for those who forget a mask.

Lessons from Roosevelt COVID-19 outbreak helped Everett-based USS Kidd

Lessons learned from a coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt played a central role in limiting damage when the virus hit a second Navy ship at sea.

On the day that Everett-based USS Kidd learned that it had its first COVID-19 case, a team of Navy medical specialists was flown aboard to ramp up testing and detect likely hot spots aboard the destroyer off the coast of Central America.

Even before the Kidd arrived to assist in a counter-drug operation, its crew had conducted a quarantine-and-isolation drill as part of a Roosevelt-derived protocol for Navy ships at sea.

More than 1 million people recover from COVID-19 worldwide

The number of confirmed U.S. cases of COVID-19 has reached 1,070,000 as of 5 a.m. PT Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 63,000 deaths and nearly 154,000 recoveries. 6.2 million tests have been conducted.

Worldwide, more than 1 million people have recovered among 3.2 million confirmed cases. There have been 233,000 confirmed killed as a result of COVID-19.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Washington to remain closed longer

A Tyson Fresh Meats beef plant near the Tri-Cities will remain closed for a while longer as county health officials await test results on all the approximately 1,400 workers.

Walla Walla County health officials reported Wednesday afternoon the coronavirus test results are still pending.

The Tri-City Herald reported that as of Wednesday, 130 people — both employees and others linked to the plant outbreak — have tested positive. They include 120 residents of Benton or Franklin counties, nine in Walla Walla County, and one in Umatilla County, Oregon.

Trump speculates that China released virus in lab 'mistake'

President Donald Trump has speculated that China could have unleashed the coronavirus on the world due to some kind of horrible “mistake,” and his intelligence agencies said they are still examining a notion put forward by the president and aides that the pandemic may have resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab.

Trump even suggested Thursday that the release could have been intentional.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the clearinghouse for the web of U.S. spy agencies, said it had ruled out the virus being man-made but was still investigating the precise source of the global pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 people worldwide.

Though scientists suggest the likeliest origin of the pandemic remains natural, that it spread from an infected animal to a human, Trump claimed to have seen evidence to support the theory that the origin was an infectious disease lab in Wuhan, the epicenter of the Chinese outbreak.

China said speculation such as Trump’s is unfounded and “purely fabricated out of nothing.”

Thursday, April 30:

Washington coronavirus cases 

  • 13 new coronavirus deaths and 257 new cases overall were reported Thursday in Washington, according to the state Department of Health.
  • TOTAL: 814 deaths and 14,327 overall cases in Washington.
  • 193,981 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 7.4% of those cases have been positive.

Thousands of COVID-19 tests on the way to Washington 

Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington will receive more than 500,000 coronavirus test swabs a month in May and June as part of a new federal effort.

“This federal support is an important and welcome step toward a safe and responsible return to public life,” Inslee said in a statement.

The White House and officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told Inslee they will “immediately begin shipping large quantities” of testing supplies with weekly distributions for the next two months.

The shipments are made possible by invoking the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production of test kits.

Washington state unemployment claims

There were more than 1.4 million claims for unemployment benefits filed in Washington state last week after new provisions under the CARES Act went into effect, according to the Employment Security Department (ESD).

Initial claims for regular benefits increased by 67% and total initial claims increased by 453%. An individual can file more than one claim, so the numbers do not reflect individuals.

Claims for the week of April 19-25 include the following:

  • Regular unemployment insurance initial claims: 137,605
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance initial claims: 190,948
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation initial claims: 168,165
  • Continued/ongoing weekly claims: 959,190

ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said they know many residents are still waiting for their payments and that the department "will continue to work night and day until everyone receives their benefits."

RELATED: Unemployment claims top 1.4 million in Washington state

Some Seattle Farmers Markets open this weekend 

Seattle’s University District and West Seattle Farmers Markets will be open this weekend. Residents are asked to attend only if it’s essential grocery shopping.

The University District Farmers Market will open Saturday, and the West Seattle Farmers Market will open Sunday.

Social distancing guidelines will be in place at each location, and visitors are “strongly encouraged” to wear face masks.

In a Facebook post, the West Seattle Farmers Market said vendors are being called to confirm if they will be at the market locations this weekend. A confirmed vendor list will be updated at this link.

Click here for FAQs about new market modifications and rules.

Also see | Seattle farmers markets adapting to reopen during coronavirus pandemic

Worldwide coronavirus cases surpass 3.2 million

There were more than 1,040,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States around 5 a.m. PDT Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. death toll is almost 61,000, while over 124,000 people have recovered. Beyond 6 million tests for COVID-19 have been performed in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 3.2 million cases with 227,000 deaths and 970,000 recoveries.

There have been a total of 801 deaths among 14,070 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington, according to the state Department of Health.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Fauci expects quick approval of new virus drug

The nation’s top infectious diseases expert says he expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to quickly approve a new experimental drug that showed promising signs in treating patients with COVID-19.

Anthony Fauci tells NBC’s “Today” show Thursday that he anticipates the go-ahead for the emergency use of Remdesivir to happen “really quickly.”

He says he spoke with FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Wednesday, and while Hahn had yet to make a final decision, “I would project that we’re going to be seeing that reasonably soon.” The drug was shown in a major study to shorten recovery time of hospitalized patients.

Fauci said the drug’s manufacturer has committed to scaling production of the drug as quickly as possible as the world hunts for an effective treatment and ultimately a vaccine.

3.8 million workers laid off last week

More than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s. 

Roughly 30.3 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the six weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors and slash their workforces. 

That is more people than live in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined, and it’s by far the worst string of layoffs on record. It adds up to more than one in six American workers.   

16 employees at Foster Farms test positive for virus

Health officials said the results of a second round of employee COVID-19 testing at Foster Farms in southwestern Washington has revealed six new cases, and a seventh was found through a healthcare provider.

Cowlitz County health officials reported Wednesday that a total of 16 employees at the poultry processing facility have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Daily News reports 121 of about 600 employees were tested at the plant Monday, according to Cowlitz COVID-19 Incident Management Team spokesman Ralph Herrera Herrera.

Herrera said officials are working with Foster Farms on the next steps.

NYPD called after overwhelmed funeral home stores bodies on ice in rented trucks

Police were called to a Brooklyn neighborhood Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks, and a passerby complained about the smell, officials said.

Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a law enforcement official. No criminal charges were brought and the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home was cited for failing to control the odors. The home was able to obtain a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.

New York City funeral homes have struggled as at least 18,000 people have died in the city since late March.

The NYPD notified the state Department of Health, which oversees funeral homes, about the situation at the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home. It did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Wednesday, April 29:

100 days pass since first coronavirus case in Washington state

Wednesday, April 29 marked 100 days since the first coronavirus case was reported in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee announced during a press conference. 

A 35-year-old Snohomish County man who had recently traveled to China was admitted to Providence Medical Center in Everett on Jan. 20. He was released from the hospital Feb. 3 to home isolation and was monitored by public health workers. He has since fully recovered. 

It was believed the Washington man had the first documented case of COVID-19 in the US, but an April 21 report from The Los Angeles Times said that autopsies revealed the first coronavirus cases were in the San Francisco Bay area earlier in January. 

As of April 29, Washington state has 801 coronavirus deaths and 14,070 cases overall, according to the state Department of Health

16 employees at Foster Farms plant in Kelso test positive for virus

Health officials say the results of a second round of employee COVID-19 testing at Foster Farms in southwestern Washington has revealed six new cases, and a seventh was found through a healthcare provider. Cowlitz County health officials reported Wednesday that a total of 16 employees at the poultry processing facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Daily News reports 121 of about 600 employees were tested at the plant Monday, according to Cowlitz COVID-19 Incident Management Team spokesman Ralph Herrera Herrera. Herrera says officials are working with Foster Farms on next steps.

Washington coronavirus cases 

  • 15 new coronavirus deaths and 228 new cases overall reported Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health.
  • TOTAL: 801 deaths and 14,070 overall cases in Washington.
  • 187,800 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 7.5% of those cases have been positive.

Stay-at-home order will remain in effect

Gov. Jay Inslee said during a briefing that Washington's stay-at-home order will remain in effect after May 4, but did not say how long the order would remain in place.

The order, which Inslee issued March 23, was set to expire Monday.

Inslee said he would give more details Friday about the phased in approach to reopen Washington's economy.

The governor did announce that some elective surgeries may resume by May 4. 

RELATED: Washington's stay home order to extend past May 4; no reopening date set

Hospital group urges Inslee to ease medical restrictions

A hospital industry group says patients in Washington are being hurt because they don’t have access to elective medical procedures that are currently restricted due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), saying facilities have plenty of capacity amid a decline in COVID-19 patients, is urging Gov. Jay Inslee to let elective procedures resume. 

Restrictions were put in place in March over concerns COVID-19 patients would overwhelm the system. 

The governor’s proclamation affects all hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, and dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices in Washington state. It applies to any non-urgent medical or dental procedure that requires medical professionals to wear personal protective equipment.  

“We know the health care personal protective equipment supply chain in Washington has been severely disrupted by the significant increased use of such equipment worldwide,” Inslee said at the time. “We will do all we can to protect the women and men who protect us.” 

Federal social distancing guidelines to expire

President Donald Trump says the federal government will not be extending its social distancing guidelines when they expire Thursday at the end of the month.Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the coronavirus guidelines will be “fading out” because of work that governors are doing in their states.

Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines issued 45 days ago have been incorporated into guidance provided to the states on how they can begin the process of gradually reopening their economies.

The guidelines – which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended another 30 - included encouraging Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants and discretionary travel as well as telling older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.

Gov. Inslee to give coronavirus update Wednesday afternoon

Gov. Jay Inslee will give an update to the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. 

The governor will be joined by Vice Admiral Dr. Raquel Bono, director of Washington state COVID-19 health care response, Kathy Lofy, state health officer and Katherine Guest, deputy intelligence section chief for the Washington State Emergency Operations Center.

Seattle launches mobile assessment teams

The City of Seattle has deployed two Mobile Assessment Teams to test people most vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

The primary focus will be on senior and long-term care facilities.

Recently, the city added capacity at its first responder testing site to test frontline city employees and workers from other high-risk facilities, including shelters.

Each mobile team is comprised of three Seattle Fire paramedics or EMTs. Each team has the ability to test up to 120 people per day. Facilities tested are determined in consultation with Public Health - Seattle & King County.

“With our limited testing capacity, I’ve advocated prioritizing testing for our most vulnerable residents, the people who care for them, and our first responders who are hard at work protecting us,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “In Washington and across the country, we know that long term care facilities have been at the epicenter of COVID-19 with tens of thousands of cases of residents and workers. Because of the innovative thinking of Chief Scoggins and his team, we are now deploying our first responders to address an urgent public health need. Testing our residents and workers most susceptible to COVID-19 exposure is an important step to help slow the virus that has left its devastating mark on seniors and the most vulnerable around the world.”

 

Pandemic brings fortunes to Amazon - and headaches too

Amazon has spent years honing the business of packing, shipping and delivering millions of products to doorsteps around the world. 

Now it has a captive audience. With much of the globe in various stages of a lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s largest online retailer has become a lifeline to many shoppers. 

But it is also grappling with delivery delays and mounting complaints from workers who worry about contagion while on the job. 

Online research company Comscore reports that Amazon’s website hit 2.54 billion visitors for the entire month of March. That marks a 65% jump from the same period last year.

Washington's stay-at-home orders could extend past May 4

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff says Inslee could announce an extension of the state’s COVID-19-related stay-at-home order later this week. 

Inslee in early April extended orders to keep non-essential businesses closed and most of the state’s more than 7 million residents home through May 4, saying social distancing measures needed to continue to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. 

Inslee has since announced the easing of some restrictions. The Washington Department of Health on Tuesday reported 21 additional deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 786.

Everett’s Paine Field to start checking passengers’ temperature

Paine Field in Everett will begin taking the temperature of passengers Wednesday.

Before reaching the TSA checkpoint, passengers will be screened by a thermal camera that reads their body temperature. The “Elevated Body Temperature Detection System” is non-invasive and non-contact. The system is meant to help protect staff and other passengers from COVID-19, the flu, and other types of illnesses.

Passengers flagged will get another screening, and if they have a fever, the passenger and the airline will decide if they are fit to travel.

Propeller Airports is one of the first passenger terminals in the country to roll out the new technology.

Snohomish County COVID-19 drive-through testing site opens

The Snohomish Health District will open a drive-through COVID-19 testing site on Wednesday. The site will be in the back parking lot of the health district’s south county office, located at 6101 200th St SW in Lynnwood.

Testing will be available by appointment only from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. The health district said slots will open Wednesday for testing appointments on Friday. Officials will be monitoring appointments and making adjustments for Friday’s availability.

Testing will only be available for those who are sick and developed any of the following symptoms within the last 14 days:

  • Fever greater than 100.4 degrees,
  • Cough,
  • Difficulty breathing,
  • Chills,
  • Repeated shaking with chills,
  • Muscle pain,
  • Headache,
  • Sore throat, or
  • New loss of taste or smell

Click here for more information or to register.

Houston lab mass-processes FDA-approved antibody test 

A Houston medical diagnostic lab is now capable of testing thousands of blood samples for coronavirus antibodies.

SynerGene Laboratories, a facility owned by Principle Health Systems, is offering a COVID-19 test developed by pharmaceuticals giant, Abbott Laboratories. It tests for antibodies for the novel coronavirus and can detect whether a person has been exposed.

What differentiates the test from other antibody screenings is that the Abbott Labs version is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Principle Health Systems CEO James Dieter said Tuesday.

“There are a lot of tests on the market right now that are not, but Abbott did go through the painstaking process of getting FDA approval,” Dieter said.

Dozens of blood tests are being marketed in the United States that are not entirely accurate or comparable to one another, according to a report released by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Even a small rate of false positives can substantially distort the understanding of how many people have been infected. It’s even possible false positives could outnumber real positives.

Trump hints state bailouts could depend on policies of sanctuary cities

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said sanctuary cities would be something that needs to be taken under consideration when considering a possible federal bailout of states during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump was asked at the White House what his administration thinks of the federal government sending relief money to states that have already suffered the economic ramifications of quarantines and lockdowns that have lasted for weeks and are likely to continue.

Trump drew a distinction between states along the lines that some would be deserving of bailout money because of the pandemic, while suggesting others have been mismanaged before the pandemic.  

RELATED: Trump orders meat processing plants to remain open

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