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Facts not fear: Updates on coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from April 17-19, 2020.

Find developments on the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state as we work together to separate facts from fear.

Key facts:

  • 10 new deaths from coronavirus reported Sunday in Washington state, bringing the total to 634 among 11,790 total cases in the state.
  • Washington's unemployment system is back up and running and includes the expansion of benefits.
  • Gov. Inslee has extended the eviction moratorium through June 4, 2020.

Read previous daily coronavirus updates here

Sunday, April 19

State health department recalls 12,000 coronavirus kits for possible contamination 

On April 17, the Washington State Department of Health was alerted by UW Medicine to discontinue the use of a recently-procured batch of coronavirus testing kits that UW said may have a quality control issue. 

As a result, the DOH recalled approximately 12,000 kits sent to local health jurisdictions, tribal nations, and state agency partners across the state. This was done out of an abundance of caution.

Viral transport media (VTM) is the fluid that preserves a specimen during transport, like one collected via nasal swab from a person being tested for coronavirus. Some of the vials of VTM were an unusual color, which prompted UW Medicine to reach out to DOH to work together to investigate potential contamination.

DOH officials believe there is no health risk to patients as the VTM does not come in contact with patients during a COVID-19 test.

The “quality issues” in the collection kits did not impact testing results.

Thousands protest 'Stay Home' order in Olympia

Washington State Patrol said a crowd of about 2,500 showed up on the steps of the capitol to protest Gov. Inslee's 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' order.

The event's organizer said he understands the public health concerns and agrees people need to take precautions, but the stay-at-home order takes it too far and that waiting until May 4 to open up the state is unrealistic. 

Protesters argued that the closure of non-essential businesses is unconstitutional and if they want to go back to work, they should be able to do so at their own risk. 

Saturday, April 18:

Death toll from coronavirus climbs to 624 in Washington state

The Washington Department of Health reported 21 deaths from coronavirus as of Saturday. The total number of deaths in the state is now at 624 among 11,802 cases statewide. 

A total of 135,706 people have been tested for the virus and of those, 8.7% have tested positive. 

Drive-through coronavirus testing available in Grays Harbor County

Officials with Grays Harbor Public Health say coronavirus (COVID-19) testing is now available at their drive-through testing site in Aberdeen - by appointment only. 

The testing is free and open to anyone 18 years of age or older who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. 

The testing site is open through this weekend April 18-19 with coordination between Grays Harbor Public Health Incident Management Team and the Washington Army National Guard. 

People wanting to get testing can call the public health call center ahead of time at 360-964-1850 to set up an appointment. The call center is open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m.--4 p.m.

Officials say Grays Harbor County currently has an abundance of tests available, and now would be a good time to get tested if you suspect you may have COVID-19. 

More information on the Grays Harbor County Public Health website.

Boeing helps deliver face masks to healthcare workers

Boeing announced it used a 737-700 aircraft from its corporate fleet to bring personal protective equipment (PPE) from China to the United States on Saturday.

The company transported 540,000 medical-grade face masks that will be delivered to healthcare workers battling coronavirus in New Hampshire, according to a release from Boeing. 

The operation was possible due to a partnership between Boeing and FIRST Robotics founder Dean Kamen, according to the release.

Boeing said other similar missions are planned for the future. 

Canada-U.S. border to remain closed to non-essential travel another 30 days 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the U.S. and Canada have agreed to keep the border closed to nonessential travel for another 30 days.

Trudeau says it will keep people on both sides of the border safe amid the pandemic. U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S.-Canada border will be among the first borders to open. Nearly 200,000 people normally cross the border daily.

The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world. The U.S. and Canada agreed last month to limit border crossings to essential travel amid the pandemic. The agreement was due to expire this week.

Friday, April 17:

New coronavirus cases reported Friday in Washington: 

  • 20 new deaths 
  • 293 new cases overall 
  • TOTAL: 603 deaths, 11,445 cases overall in Washington 

In Washington, 131,627 people have tested for coronavirus and 8.7% of those tests have been positive, according to the Washington State Department of Health

COVID-19 survivors could help patients by donating blood plasma

The blood of COVID-19 survivors could lead to a potential treatment of the respiratory disease that has sickened more than 11,000 people in Washington state, including more than 500 deaths, state officials say.

Bloodworks Northwest, the Washington State Department of Health and federal agencies are contacting people who have recovered from COVID-19 to ask them to consider donating blood plasma to see if antibodies in their immune systems can help treat people who are currently sick. Antibodies are the immune system's response to a viral infection like coronavirus. 

Some of the plasma will be transfused into current patients (called convalescent plasma). Other plasma will be used to create concentrated antibodies (called hyperimmune globulin). Both have been successfully used to treat other infectious diseases.

The FDA regulates convalescent plasma when it is infused into patients as an “investigational new drug.”

Fremont Solstice Parade postponed until June 2021

The Fremont Solstice Parade and Celebration, the annual event which includes large puppets, naked cyclists and community groups, has been postponed until June 2021. The event originally had been scheduled this year for June 20.

West Seattle Summer Fest canceled amid pandemic and bridge closure

The West Seattle Summer Fest, which has been a July tradition since 1982, has been canceled, after the neighborhood was hit with both the statewide stay-home order and the sudden and indefinite closure of the West Seattle Bridge.

The 2020 Summer Fest was scheduled for July 10 - 12. Organizers are developing a plan for a community block party for when it's safe to gather, and they are planning to bring Summer Fest back in 2021.

Many Seattle summer events have been canceled, including Northwest Folklife, Seattle Pride and the Seattle International Film Festival.

Inslee blasts Trump for 'fomenting domestic rebellion'

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee criticized President Donald Trump, after the president took to Twitter Friday with the kind of rhetoric some of his supporters have used to protest the lifting of the stay-home orders that have thrown millions of Americans out of work. 

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” Trump wrote on Twitter, while also lashing out at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for complaining about the federal response.

On Thursday, Trump detailed a three-step set of guidelines for methodically easing the restrictions over a span of several weeks in places that have robust testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, assuring the nation's governors: “You’re going to call your own shots."

Inslee wrote in a statement that President Trumps's statements are putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19.

"His unhinged rantings and calls for people to 'liberate' states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before," Inslee's statement reads in part. "The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted."

Throughout the country, there are a protests of stay-home orders planned at state capitols over the weekend, including in Olympia. At a press conference Thursday, Inslee said that he hoped that the protesters would practice social distancing while exercising their first amendment rights.

DSHS providing disaster cash assistance 

Beginning Friday, April 17, the Department of Social and Health Services is providing emergency cash assistance to some Washington residents to help people meet their immediate needs. 

The federal government approved implementing the Disaster Cash Assistance Program in the state following Gov. Jay Inslee's emergency declaration. 

Washington residents can apply for emergency cash through DSHS if they are not eligible for other assistance programs. The assistance is available to everyone who meet the income and resource limits of the program. More than 175,000 households may be eligible. 

“Having access to this emergency aid is critically important to helping people meet their immediate, basic needs, like shelter costs, utilities, clothing, minor medical care, household supplies and transportation costs for work,” explained Babs Roberts, director of DSHS’ Community Services Division. “We’re pleased Governor Inslee made these funds available so that we can extend the benefits to Washingtonians who are most in need during this unprecedented time.” 

Eligible households or individuals receive benefits for one month in a year period during an emergency.

The benefit amount depends on household size, income, and need. The maximum a single person can receive is $363; the maximum for a household of eight or  more is $1,121. 

UW Medicine Virology lab gets shipments of antibody blood test

The UW Medicine Virology lab is receiving shipments of a laboratory-based antibody blood test for clinical use and will allow doctors to check people for infection of coronavirus.

The clinical lab tests began shipping April 16. They are expected to improve the understanding of the coronavirus, including how long antibodies stay in the body and whether they provide immunity. 

Ultimately, the tests could help support the development of treatments and vaccines. 

Testing will start rolling out next week, according to health officials. Testing by the thousands per day will be possible and will be another tool in the fight against the virus.

Read previous daily coronavirus updates here