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Coronavirus in Washington: Updates May 29-31

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 May 29-31, 2020.

Click here for the latest updates from KING 5.

Key facts:

VIEW | More coronavirus coverage from KING 5

Sunday, May 31:

Coronavirus cases

No new deaths from coronavirus have been reported in Washington state for Sunday, May 31.

There were 353 new cases reported Sunday in Washington. On Sunday, there were a reported 1,118 deaths among 21,702 overall cases in Washington state.

360,899 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.0% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

3,500 people have been hospitalized for the virus. 

Sound Transit resuming services, fares

Fares on Sound Transit's Link light rail and Sounder commuter rail will resume June 1.

In response to the pandemic and people getting back on their feet, Sound Transit will be offering temporarily reduced Recovery Fares. The fare of $1 on Link and $2 on Sounder will be available from ticket vending machines through June 30.

Recovery Fare tickets will be available through the Transit GO Ticket app.

Services and stops will also increase, with trains running every 20 minutes during the day until after the p.m. peak. 

Learn more about the changes here. 

Parents balance risks, needs as child care centers reopen

It’s the daycare dilemma central to rebooting American life amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

With social distancing unlikely among babies and toddlers, parents of young children across the country are debating the health and safety risks inherent in child care centers, and weighing what few alternatives they have to balance their family and work. 

Many states have issued new health and safety guidelines for licensed providers meant to help minimize infection risks. 

Experts say families should consider their specific risk factors and risk tolerance, check their daycare for guidelines and frame their choices.

Large cruises banned in Canada at least until Oct. 31

Canada’s transport minister says large cruises will continue to be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until at least Oct. 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that the order applies to cruise ships with overnight accommodations and more than 100 passengers and crew. The move extends and expands an order issued in mid-March that barred ships with more than 500 passengers from Canadian waters until July. 

Smaller ships will be allowed to operate after July 1, but only with the permission of provincial and regional health officials. However, vessels with more than 12 passengers will be barred from going to the Arctic until at least Oct. 31, for fear that one might carry the virus to a remote northern community.

Saturday, May 30:

Washington reports seven new coronavirus deaths Saturday

The Washington Department of Health reported 7 new deaths from coronavirus among 278 new cases as of Saturday. It brings the total to 1,118 deaths among 21,349 overall cases statewide. 

A total of 354,354 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.0% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

US food prices see historic jump and are likely to stay high

U.S. shoppers lately have seen the costs of meat, eggs and even potatoes soar as the coronavirus has disrupted processing plants and distribution networks. 

Overall, the cost of food bought to eat at home skyrocketed by the most in 46 years, and analysts caution that meat prices in particular could remain high as slaughterhouses struggle to so keep workers healthy. 

While price spikes for staples such as eggs and flour have eased as consumer demand has leveled off, prices may remain volatile for carrots, potatoes and other produce because of transportation issues and the health of workers who pick crops and work in processing plants. 

Friday, May 29:

CDC reports coronavirus arrived in US no earlier than mid-January

The spark that started the U.S. coronavirus epidemic arrived during a three-week window from mid-January to early February, before the nation halted travel from China. That's according to the most comprehensive federal study to date of when the virus began spreading. 

That means anyone in the U.S. who thought they had the virus in December or January probably had the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the report Friday. 

-- The Associated Press

King County to apply for modified Phase 1 reopening on June 1

King County leaders and health officials announced a plan to resume more activities and businesses starting next week. 

Executive Dow Constantine announced a "big step forward" when the county applies for a modified Phase 1 plan on June 1.

The plan will "move to allow more businesses can be open and more activity, restaurants with limited outdoor seating, small gatherings with those outside your immediate family, more construction activity to help our economy rebuild and recover and personal services, like hair stylists and barbers," Constantine said.

Along with outdoor dining, the plan would reopen some in-store retail shopping and gives new guidelines for salons, barbers and other personal services to resume.

RELATED: King County announces modified Phase 1 plan to reopen some dining and other businesses

The county plans to apply to Washington state for the modifications on June 1, and a swift approval is anticipated. 

"We are not out of the woods yet," Constantine said. "Even with these openings our economy has a long way to go before our economy is anywhere close to where we were three months ago."

Constantine made his remarks along with local Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin on Friday afternoon, shortly after Gov. Jay Inlsee announced the statewide 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' orders would expire on May 31. 

Gov. Inslee's stay-at-home order will expire this Sunday, but restrictions will remain in place

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that his current “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order will expire on May 31, but restrictions will remain in place as the state continues to move forward with its phased approach to reopening.

Under the four-phased reopening approach with the Safe Start plan, each county will start June 1 in their current phase but would be able to apply to move between the phases or add new business activity, according to a release from the governor’s office.

RELATED: Washington's stay-home orders end Sunday as more counties gradually reopen

In this new approach, officials say counties will have more flexibility and the ability to apply to the Secretary of Health to demonstrate they can safely allow additional business activity based on their own metrics.

So far, 26 counties have been approved to move Phase 2, which allows for restaurants to reopen at limited capacity and nail and hair salons and barbershops to reopen with new cleanliness guidelines.

RELATED: Phases of reopening: Over half of Washington's counties enter Phase 2

Gov. Inslee announced the state is changing its requirements for counties to move to Phase 2. Previously, a county had to show it had fewer than 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span. That number has now been changed to fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span.

The governor also announced that all workers who are interacting with people must wear facial coverings and employers must provide all the necessary equipment. That requirement takes effect on June 8.

Washington reports 5 new coronavirus deaths Friday

The Washington Department of Health reported 5 new deaths among 307 new cases on Friday. It brings the total to 1,111 coronavirus deaths among 21,071 overall cases statewide. 

A total of 348,233 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.1% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

Public lands to reopen campgrounds in 22 counties

Camping in 22 Washington state counties will begin to reopen on June 1.

The counties are all actively in Phase 2 of the state's four-phase reopening plan.

For state parks, the reopening applies to campgrounds and marine facilities. A list of open campgrounds can be found here. Cabins, yurts, and other overnight accommodations including group campsites will remain closed. 

Primitive campsites on WDFW lands will reopen, along with dispersed camping in wildlife areas for counties that have approved camping. Find a full list of those sites here.

Additionally, most state DNR-managed sites will reopen on a rolling bases. Whether or not a campsite opens on DNR land depends on location and maintenance needs. Find a list of DNR day-use sites and campsites here.

List of counties opening up to overnight camping: 

  • Adams 
  • Asotin
  • Columbia
  • Cowlitz
  • Ferry
  • Garfield
  • Grant
  • Grays Harbor
  • Kitsap
  • Kittitas
  • Lewis
  • Lincoln
  • Mason
  • Pacific (Parks – 50% capacity DNR – closed)
  • Pend Oreille
  • Skamania
  • Spokane
  • Stevens
  • Thurston
  • Wahkiakum
  • Walla Walla
  • Whitman

Snohomish County moves forward with plan to apply for variance to move to Phase 2 of reopening

The Snohomish County Council passed a resolution Friday allowing the county to apply and request for a variance from the Washington Department of Health to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan. 

“I am proud of this bipartisan effort to move Snohomish County into Phase 2 of reopening,” said Council Chair Nehring. “This vote shows that there is widespread support in Snohomish County for safely reopening. Moving to Phase 2 will provide much-needed economic relief for our businesses, workers, and families as we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our residents.”

The Snohomish Health District will now review all application materials for the submission of a variance request to determine if Snohomish County qualifies for a variance. 

Seattle University preparing campus for fall quarter 

Seattle University will begin fall quarter classes on Sept. 9, with new and returning students beginning to arrive the week of Aug. 31. 

According to information from the university, planning continues to reopen the campus. The university's goal is to offer as many in-person classes as possible, "supported by a mix of hybrid and virtual instruction as needed."

Fall quarter will end Nov. 24. It's a shift of two weeks earlier than the traditional start and end of the quarter.

University President Stephen Sundborg said health and safety will continue to be a priority.

“By moving up the start and conclusion of our fall term we seek to significantly reduce the number of students needing to travel back and forth in November and December and being exposed to and potentially spreading infectious diseases like the flu and COVID-19,” Sundborg said.

Part of the planning process includes the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

"This situation requires flexibility, nimbleness, creativity and innovative approaches. If we need to again transition to fully virtual instruction due to a resurgence of COVID-19, we will adapt as necessary,” Sundborg said.

Pierce, Snohomish Counties want to move to Phase 2 

Two of Washington's largest counties, Pierce and Snohomish, say they are ready to safely move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's Safe Start plan and get their economies moving again. 

To get to Phase 2 under the state's current guidelines, counties need to have fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day span, among other requirements.

But leaders in Snohomish County are asking the governor to make changes to those criteria, similar to California, which recently loosened restrictions allowing for 25 new cases per 100,000 people every 2 weeks, moving much of that state into Phase 2.

RELATED: Pierce County leaders push to enter Phase 2 of reopening

RELATED: Snohomish County leaders say they're ready for Phase 2 of state's reopening plan

Customs officials seize unapproved COVID-19 medicine at Port of Seattle

Customs officials say they seized a shipment of unauthorized COVID-19 medication at the Port of Seattle. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday the seizure involved 360 pills of Lianhua Qingwen. 

The medicine has been used in China and some other countries to treat the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but it remains unapproved in the U.S. CBP spokesman Jason Givens said the package was arriving from Canada when it was seized Wednesday. 

Agents in Baltimore seized a shipment of 1,200 capsules from Hong Kong earlier this month, and on Tuesday agents in Chicago confiscated three shipments from China totaling 28,800 capsules.

-- The Associated Press

Thursday, May 28:

Pierce County calls for emergency action to enter Phase 2 of reopening 

Pierce County leaders say the county is “ready to safely reopen" and wants local health leaders to agree.

In a tweet Thursday, Pierce County leaders said the county's executive and members of the council are calling for an emergency meeting of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health District to approve the county to move to Phase 2. 

Much of the state is already in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's "Safe Start" plan, but the state's largest counties King, Snohomish, and Pierce have remained in Phase 1. 

RELATED: Pierce County leaders push to enter Phase 2 of reopening

Eleven new coronavirus deaths reported in Washington Thursday

The Washington Department of Health reported 11 new deaths among 358 new cases on Thursday. It brings the total to 1,106 coronavirus deaths among 20,764 overall cases statewide. 

A total of 343,091 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.1% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

Gov. Inslee announces new guidelines for agricultural workers and longterm care facility testing

Gov. Jay Inslee announced new guidelines Thursday for employers and employees in the agriculture industry, as well as how the state plans to test staff and residents in longterm care facilities for the coronavirus. 

The governor's announcement for the agricultural industry comes after workers in eastern Washington have been protesting a lack of protection from the coronavirus.

"There are numerous points of risk for people working in agriculture," said Gov. Inslee during Thursday's press conference. 

The new guidelines expand upon the "cohort model" for agricultural workers. This model allows for up to 15 employees to be in a cohort and be housed and/or work together. Officials say this model will help with physical distancing among employees and also make contact tracing easier if there is an outbreak of the virus. 

The new guidelines also outline requirements for employers, including providing safe transportation for workers to and from worksites, increased handwashing stations, personal protective equipment, education about the coronavirus, and how workers can get tested if they need it. 

Workers must also still practice physical distancing.

RELATED: Striking workers and a strike team: Yakima Valley's rise in coronavirus cases garners attention

Gov. Inslee says the Department of Health will also help longterm care facilities test all staff and residents by the end of June. 

Under the new guidelines, all residents and staff in nursing homes will be tested for COVID-19 by June 12. And all residents and staff in assisted living facilities with a memory care unit will be tested by June 26. 

Washington state will provide the testing kits and personal protective equipment needed to administer the tests. The state will also handle the laboratory costs of testing all longterm care facility staff. Gov. Inslee said residents' insurance should cover the cost of their testing. 

Longterm care facilities that have already tested all staff and residents on or after May 1 will not be required to do the testing again, Inslee said. 

RELATED: Washington will test all staff and residents of long-term care facilities by end of June

Washington recovers $300 million in fraudulent unemployment claims

Washington officials say the state has recovered $300 million paid to criminals who used stolen personal information to file fraudulent unemployment benefit claims. 

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said that she could not yet reveal the precise amount that was paid out in fraudulent claims. She said that the initial recovery was a result of the state’s collaboration with federal law enforcement and financial institutions. 

LeVine first detailed the scope of the fraud last week, saying that the information of tens of thousands of people in the state was used to fraudulently receive hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits.

RELATED: What’s a SAW account? Why you should register to prevent unemployment fraud

Judge considering challenge to Gov. Inslee's emergency virus orders

A judge in central Washington state is considering whether Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency stay-home orders issued in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are constitutional or should be lifted.

The orders were issued two months ago and resulted in the closure of businesses, places of worship, schools, and other public gatherings across the state. A group of people in Chelan County challenged why the orders by the Democratic governor were still in effect and arguments in the lawsuit were heard Thursday before Chelan County Superior Court Judge Kristin Ferrera. 

The judge said she would issue a decision Monday. 

Thurston County face mask requirement

People in Thurston County will be required to wear face masks in public starting Thursday. Thurston County Health Officer Dr. Diana Yu issued the directive Wednesday after the county was approved to move to Phase 2 of the state’s plan to reopen the economy.

“With our approval to begin Phase 2 of Safe Start Recovery, it’s more important than ever that people be cautious, responsible, and considerate of others. We want to continue moving forward as a county. Without extra caution, we risk back-sliding,” said Dr. Yu.

RELATED: Thurston County mandates masks as it moves to Phase 2 of reopening

Under the directive, individuals are required to wear cloth face coverings over their nose and mouth when they will be in indoor public settings or public outdoor locations where they cannot practice social distancing and keep six feet away from others. The cloth coverings are not required while eating or drinking.

However, the county said the directive will not be enforced by authorities. "Instead, the directive should be used to educate, encourage, and persuade individuals to wear face coverings."

“I strongly urge all people in Thurston County to support the health and well-being of the community by complying with this directive without delay,” said Dr. Yu.

Click here for more information.

Kitsap County approved for Phase 2

Kitsap County's variance application to move on to Phase 2 of coronavirus recovery was approved Thursday.

As of Thursday, 25 counties in Washington state were approved for Phase 2. Two others – Clallam and Klickitat – were eligible to apply.

Phase 2 increases outdoor recreational activities, such as camping, allows small group gatherings of five people or fewer, opens barbershops and salons, opens 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.

RELATED: Phases of reopening: Half of Washington's counties enter Phase 2

Washington sees decrease in initial unemployment claims

There was a 65% decrease in initial regular unemployment claims filed in Washington last week, according to the state Employment Security Department (ESD).

For the week of May 17-23, ESD said there were 48,445 initial regular unemployment claims filed, and 1,497,591 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories.

The ESD believes the decrease in initial claims “was in large part due to significant fraud prevention measures that were put in place over the past two weeks.”

ESD said over $494.5 million was paid last week for 424,995 individual claims. ESD has paid out nearly $4.7 billion in benefits since the week ending March 7.

Price gouging complaints in Washington

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office has received 1,177 complaints relating to price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a tweet, Ferguson said the AG’s office made 65 calls to businesses, conducted 391 business visits, sent eight warning letters, and sent 14 cease and desist letters in relation to price gouging.

RELATED: See price gouging during coronavirus crisis? Here’s how to report it in Washington

Fourth child in Washington has coronavirus-related illness

A child in the Pasco, Washington, area has been diagnosed with a multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, an illness associated with COVID-19. That's according to the Benton Franklin Health District.

It's one of four cases of the syndrome identified in Washington state and the first in the Tri-Cities area.

The child is under 10 and is hospitalized. Children diagnosed with the illness are healthy before developing symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease.

The Washington State Department of Health confirmed the first two cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) in western Washington last week. One child lives in Snohomish County and the other lives in King County. The first two patients were both treated at Seattle Children's hospital.

RELATED: Eastern Washington child hospitalized for rare illness linked to coronavirus

COVID-19 testing in Snohomish County

Drive-through coronavirus testing will be available by appointment in Snohomish County Thursday.

Testing will be located at the Sno-Isle Library branch at 311 Maple Ave. in Snohomish and is available by appointment only from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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.

Businesses could face $10,000 fine for violating stay-home order

Washington businesses that decide to stay open or operate in defiance of Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-home order could face a hefty fine, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).

Under emergency rules that went into effect on Tuesday, those businesses could be cited and fined for unsafe workplace conditions. The rules give L&I the authority to cite businesses for being open or for operating in a way that is purposely defying the statewide reopening plan and, as a result, putting their workers at risk. 

Employers that are defying the governor’s order will be informed and directed to close or adjust operations immediately. If they do not, they’ll face a workplace safety citation that could carry a fine of nearly $10,000 or more.

RELATED: Washington businesses violating Gov. Inslee's order could face $10,000 fine

Pierce County CARES Act funding distribution

Pierce County will be doling out $3.8 million in CARES Act funding around the county.

$2.2 million, the largest share of the funding, will go towards a new foreclosure prevention program designed to help homeowners who have lost income due to COVID-19.

More than $1 million will go to supporting county food banks and senior centers. The funding also supports Pierce County farmers by providing new markets for their goods and ensuring agriculture can continue to operate safely.

US unemployment: 41 million have lost jobs since virus hit

Roughly 2.1 million people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week, a sign that companies are still slashing jobs in the face of a deep recession even as more businesses reopen and rehire some laid-off employees.

About 41 million people have now applied for aid since the virus outbreak intensified in March, though not all of them are still unemployed.

The Labor Department’s report Thursday includes a count of all the people now receiving unemployment aid: 21 million. That is a rough measure of the number of unemployed Americans.

The national jobless rate was 14.7% in April, the highest since the Great Depression.

RELATED: Nearly 41 million workers filed for unemployment since coronavirus hit

US hits milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

The U.S. surpassed a jarring milestone Wednesday in the coronavirus pandemic: 100,000 deaths.

That number is the best estimate and most assuredly an undercount. But it represents the stark reality that more Americans have died from the virus than from the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.

READ MORE: US reaches 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

“It’s a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.6 million people and killed over 350,000, with the U.S. having the most confirmed cases and deaths by far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has recorded about 170,000 deaths, while the U.S. reached more than 100,000 in less than four months.

See previous coronavirus updates for Washington state here