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Coronavirus updates for western Washington: July 2-6

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

Editor’s note: This story shows updates about the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from July 2-6, 2020.

Key facts:

  • Businesses will be required to turn away customers if they're not wearing masks starting July 7.
  • 5 new deaths and 651 new cases reported Sunday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,359 deaths among 35,898 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 612,706 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 5.9% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

VIEW | More coronavirus coverage from KING 5

Sunday, July 5 

121 UW students have coronavirus, at least 112 of them are fraternity house residents

As of July 5, at least 112 University of Washington fraternity house residents have tested positive for coronavirus. A total of 121 students have tested positive in the Greek Row outbreak.

The university said nine other students who have tested positive had close contacts to the fraternities but do not live in the houses.

 In total, at least 121 UW students are confirmed to have tested positive in the Greek Row outbreak. The nine additional students who tested positive were close contacts of the residents, but do not live in the houses.

The UW Medicine popup testing site that was set up this past week near Greek Row has conducted nearly 1,300 tests as of this weekend.

Latest coronavirus numbers for Washington Sunday

  • 5 new deaths and 651 new cases reported Sunday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,359 deaths among 35,898 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 612,706 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 5.9% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

FDA head rejects Trump's 'harmless' coronavirus claim

The Food and Drug Administration commissioner is declining to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “harmless.”

Dr. Stephen Hahn tells CNN and ABC that he’s “not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” but that government data clearly show “this is a serious problem.”

He adds that “any case is tragic” and that to stem the tide of surging cases people should follow government guidance to practice social distancing and wear a mask.

During his Fourth of July remarks, Trump said the U.S. was testing too much and falsely asserted that “by so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.”

The World Health Organization in fact has said about 20% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 progress to severe disease, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. Those with mild or no symptoms, meanwhile, could spread the virus to others.

The mayor of Austin, Texas, where COVID-19 cases are surging, called Trump’s remarks “dangerous” and “wrong.” Mayor Steve Adler urged people to listen to local officials for public safety guidance rather than the “ambiguous message coming out of Washington.”

The United States has dipped under 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th Independence Day weekend will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging outbreak.

The United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the university. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is significantly higher, due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.

US holiday fuels worries about skyrocketing coronavirus cases

The United States has dipped under 50,000 new daily infections for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th weekend will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging coronavirus outbreak.

Johns Hopkins on Sunday counted 45,300 new coronavirus infections reported Saturday in the U.S. after three days in which the daily count reached as high as 54,500 new cases. The lower figure does not mean the situation in the U.S. is improving, it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday.

The United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the university. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is significantly higher, due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.

Worldwide, nearly 11.3 million people have been infected and over 531,000 have died, with outbreaks surging in India, South Africa, Pakistan, Brazil and several other Latin American countries. In a first, South Africa on Sunday reported more than 10,000 new confirmed cases in a single day.

To show just how steep the U.S. infection curve is, authorities were reporting under 20,000 new infections a day as recently as June 15. On Saturday, Florida and Texas reported more record daily increases in confirmed cases and virus-related deaths have begun to rise.

Despite warnings by health experts to limit gatherings, President Donald Trump went ahead with a speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday and an evening of tribute and fireworks Saturday on the National Mall in Washington. Trump used the nation's Independence Day as an occasion to assail those who do not support him and did not mention the horrific death toll from the pandemic.

Saturday, July 4:

People flock to popular Seattle parks to celebrate July Fourth despite coronavirus concerns

The Fourth of July holiday comes as Washington state is seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. 

The Washington State Health Department reported 469 new coronavirus cases and two new deaths Saturday. It brings the total to 35,247 cases statewide including 1,354 deaths.

Earlier this week, officials with Public Health Seattle & King County warned people against gathering in large groups this weekend to help limit the spread of the virus.

"COVID-19 isn't taking the weekend off. Your mask shouldn't either," said Public Health Seattle & King County in a tweet. "As you celebrate, limit close contact with others, avoid group gatherings, wear a mask and wash your hands. We depend on each other to prevent the virus from spreading."

King County is in Phase 2 of the state's Safe Start plan and that coupled with July Fourth being one of the first sunny weekends in nearly two months, it was hard to keep people away from Seattle's popular parks. 

At Golden Gardens, large groups of people were gathered on the beach and swimming. The parking lot remains closed, but cars were parked all over nearby streets so people could access the beach. 

The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department deployed park ambassadors to its most popular parks this weekend to discourage people from lingering and reminding people to socially distance. 

Over at Greenlake Park, people were having picnics and seemed to be having an easier time maintaining six feet of social distance. One person KING 5 spoke to said given the recent turmoil across the country with the pandemic and civil unrest, she just didn't feel like celebrating the holiday like normal.

"It wouldn’t feel right I guess to have that celebratory attitude when I don’t think we’re in a place to celebrate yet," said the woman.

While gatherings of 5 people or less are allowed under Phase 2, health officials said there are still concerns and just because something is allowed doesn't mean there aren't risks. 

VERIFY: Does wearing a face mask lower your O2 levels?

Viewers have asked about several claims going around that state that wearing a face mask lowers your oxygen levels. 

Cardiologist Dr. Payal Kohli said the claim is not true.

“It's absolutely not true that wearing a mask is going to limit how much oxygen is getting into your bloodstream,” said Dr. Kohli.

Kohli said other medical professionals are trying to disprove the theory, including Dr. Megan Hall in Southern California.

Dr. Hall’s post measuring her oxygen levels while wearing, and then not wearing, a face mask has been shared hundreds of thousands of times. Her oxygen level remained normal during the entire experiment.

Dr. Kohli said the body works a little bit harder to breathe, but it’s not harmful.

“For most healthy adults there's a slightly increased work of breathing," Dr. Kohli said. "You have to work a little harder to get that air in because you have a barrier between you and the air that's getting in. But the actual impact on your oxygen saturation would be negligible.”

Second King Co. Metro employee dies from COVID-19

An employee with King County Metro has died from the coronavirus, the agency confirmed to KING 5 on Saturday.

The employee died on Thursday, June 18. 

"They are greatly missed across our entire organization. We’ve shared our condolences and support with their family," King County Metro said in a statement. 

It is unknown if the employee had contact with the public and to what capacity. 

Another Metro driver, 59-year-old Samina Hameed, died in April. A spokesperson says the Metro has gradually implemented more safety measures and drivers should expect higher-grade KN-95 masks within one to two weeks.

New coronavirus numbers for Washington state 

  • 2 new deaths and 469 new cases reported Saturday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,354 deaths among 35,247 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 607,276 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 5.8% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

Trump signs extension of COVID-relief fund for businesses

President Donald Trump on Saturday signed into law a temporary extension of a subsidy program for small businesses battered by the coronavirus.

The legislation extends the June 30 deadline for applying for the program to Aug. 8. Lawmakers created the program in March and have modified it twice since, adding money on one occasion and more recently permitting more flexible use of the funding despite some grumbling among GOP conservatives.

About $130 billion of $660 billion approved for the program remains eligible for businesses to seek direct federal subsidies for payroll and other costs such as rent, though demand for the Paycheck Protection Program has pretty much dried up in recent weeks.

The Democratic-controlled House voted on Wednesday to approve the extension of the program after the Republican-controlled Senate did the same.

Friday, July 3:

Outbreak linked to Vancouver bar

A coronavirus outbreak connected to a Vancouver bar has left at least 18 people sick, health officials said on Friday.

Clark County Public Health officials are concerned people who visited Orchards Tap Bar and Grill from June 19-25 may have been exposed to COVID-19 and could be at risk of getting sick. Anyone who visited the bar during that time period should contact their health care provider and request testing for COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms, health officials said. 

Those people should also quarantine at home for 14 days from their last day of exposure. 

An investigation into the outbreak began on June 29 after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. During their investigation, health officials identified people who tested positive for the virus who reported visiting Orchards Tap between June 19 and 25. Of the 18 known cases, four were employees and 14 were customers.

Orchards Tap, which is located on Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard near Covington Road, voluntarily closed on June 25. 

RELATED: 18 COVID-19 cases linked to Vancouver, Wash. bar

Surge in state COVID-19 cases driven by Eastern Washington

While the coronavirus first pounded the greater Seattle area, the epicenter has moved east across the Cascade Range. Washington is seeing rising cases of COVID-19, driven in large part by increasing numbers in Yakima, Benton, Franklin and Spokane counties, the largest communities in eastern Washington.

It's no coincidence that Gov. Jay Inslee has visited Yakima, Spokane and the Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco in the past two weeks to urge citizens to take greater precautions.

Health experts contend that 80% of the population must wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public spaces. But many communities don't appear to be reaching that level.

New Washington cases on Friday July 3

  • 10 new deaths and 627 new cases reported Friday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,352 deaths among 34,778 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 599,975 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 5.8% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

RELATED: At least 93 UW students infected with coronavirus in Greek row outbreak

Benton, Franklin, Yakima counties move to modified Phase 1

Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved Benton, Franklin, and Yakima counties to move to a modified Phase 1 of the state's "Safe Start" plan.

The following activities are permitted in those counties:

  • Construction as permitted in Phase 2 guidance.
  • Manufacturing as permitted in Phase 2 guidance.
  • Restaurants for outdoor seating only at 50% of existing outdoor capacity.
  • In-store retail at 15% indoor capacity with indoor activities limited to 30 min.
  • Personal services at 25% indoor capacity.
  • Dog groomers at 25% indoor capacity.
  • No gatherings with people outside of the household except for small behavioral health support groups of fewer than 5 people.

Five counties are in modified Phase 1, 17 in Phase 2, and 17 in Phase 3.

Washington state reports record daily COVID-19 cases

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reported 716 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest daily total since the beginning of the pandemic. The DOH also reported three new deaths.

Thursday’s update brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in Washington to 34,151 and 1,342 deaths. About 3.9% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state have died from the virus, according to the DOH.

As of Thursday, 584,989 people in Washington have taken a COVID-19 test, and 5.8% of those tests have been positive.

See previous coronavirus from Washington here

Thursday, July 2:

State puts pause on county's reopening applications amid rising COVID-19 cases

Gov. Inslee also announced Thursday the state is putting a two-week pause on counties moving to their next phases of reopening due to increasing COVID-19 cases. 

"In Washington, our case counts have dramatically increased," said Secretary of Health John Wiesman during a Thursday press conference. Wiesman said the state hit a new record Wednesday with 618 new cases reported in a single day, and he anticipates at least 700 new cases will be reported Thursday. 

Due to the rise in cases, the Department of Health is pausing counties moving to their next phases. Counties will remain in their current phase for the next two weeks, or until July 16, Wiesman said. 

RELATED: Reopening Washington: Look up the phase of your county

In addition, Gov. Inslee said the state has updated its guidelines for Phase 3, and bar and counter service will no longer be allowed in Phase 3 to help limit the spread of COVID-19. 

The governor said that change is to encourage people not to linger in places or hang around for long periods of time.

RELATED: No mask, no service: Washington businesses must turn away customers without face masks starting July 7

Gov. Inslee says starting Tuesday businesses in Washington will not be allowed to serve customers who are not wearing a mask. 

Inslee announced his new proclamation, which is to be signed in the coming days, during a Thursday afternoon press conference. 

The proclamation comes almost a week after Inslee's statewide mandate took effect requiring people to wear face masks while in public indoors and outdoors where six feet of social distancing is not possible. 

"When we wear a mask, it is a signal about something about us, it is a signal we care about the community, we care about our loved ones, we care about those we are doing business with," said Gov. Inslee. 

Inslee said he's optimistic that the vast majority of Washingtonians and Washington businesses will comply with this new order, however, businesses that do not comply could be faced with enforcement actions such as fines or forced closures.

The new proclamation takes effect next Tuesday, July 7. 

New coronavirus cases for Washington Thursday

  • 3 new deaths and 716 new cases reported Thursday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,342 deaths among 34,151  overall cases in Washington state.
  • 584,989  people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 5.8% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health. 

One-third of recent COVID-19 cases in King County among adults in their 20s

The surge in recent COVID-19 cases in King County is mostly driven by younger adults, according Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“We all need to understand we own this,” Duchin said. “We all need to step up our COVID prevention game big time.”

One-third of recent coronavirus cases in King County were among adults who are 20 to 29 years old, and more than half were between 20 and 39 years old, according to Duchin.

Over the last two weeks, King County reported 54 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, which is more than double the state target to move onto Phase 3.

Daily case counts have been trending upward since King County was approved for Phase 2 on June 19. King County reported 157 new cases on June 26, which is the highest single-day case count since mid-April.

However, Duchin said there has not been a corresponding increase in deaths or hospitalizations.

See previous coronavirus from Washington here