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Coronavirus in Washington state: Updates from April 20-21

Find updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from April 20-21.

Editor’s note: This story shows updates about the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from April 20-21, 2020. Click here for real-time updates for April 22-24.


Key facts:

  • 30 news deaths and 197 new cases overall reported Tuesday in Washington state. 
  • TOTAL: 682 deaths and 12,282 overall cases in Washington. 
  • 145,031 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 8.5% of those cases have been positive. 
  • Gov. Inslee said some elective surgeries, construction projects, and more outdoor activities could resume by May 4, but that Washington state is not ready to fully reopen yet.

Read previous daily coronavirus updates here

Tuesday, April 21

Kirkland may not have been the location of the first coronavirus death, according to the LA Times.

The Los Angeles Times says that the first deaths from the coronavirus occurred in Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco. 

According to the LA Times, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner said coronavirus-infected people died in the county on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, making them the first deaths in the United States. 

Initially, the CDC reported that the first coronavirus death in the country was on Feb. 29 in Kirkland.

The man who was believed to have initially been the first victim was in his 50s with underlying health conditions. He died at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland.

Read more on the story from the LA Times here.

Inslee says returning to public life will be gradual

Gov. Inslee outlined Washington state's recovery plan in a statewide address Tuesday at 5 p.m. 

Inslee described the reopening of Washington state as the "turning of a dial," rather than "flipping a switch."

He said some elective surgeries, outdoor activities and some construction projects may return by May 4, but that Washington state was not ready to fully reopen yet. 

Inslee discussed the need for more testing in the state and better 'contact tracing.' The CDC defines that as tracing and monitoring the contacts of infected people and notifying them of potential exposure.

RELATED: Inslee: Washington's return to public life during coronavirus will be gradual

Washington coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, April 21 

  • 30 news deaths 
  • 197 new cases overall

TOTAL: 682 deaths and 12,282 overall cases in Washington 

See more data from Washington Department of Health

City of Seattle looks at $300 million hit to revenue, 20% less than expected in general fund

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said that the city faces a $300 million shortfall in revenue, which is 20% less than the city expected.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the most consequential events ever in the history of our city, as we have responded not only have our revenues significantly decreased, but we have also had to expend monies in ways that we didn’t anticipate," Durkan said.

Durkan and Seattle Budget Office Director Ben Noble made their comments at a press conference on the latest economic forecasts and revenue projections for Seattle.

Noble presented two scenarios about Seattle's economy over the next few years, with possible unemployment peaks between 10% and 20% over the next year.

"The impacts on the economy are reasonably going to last a good deal of time." Noble said. "In the most pessimistic scenario, even in 2024, we are not back to where we otherwise might have been."

Seattle residents have faced major job losses since the coronavirus pandemic hit the area.

The City of Seattle’s Budget Office provided two economic scenarios, including a rapid recovery scenario and a slow recovery scenario. Both scenarios highlight significant job loss, high unemployment and impacts to workers and businesses as well as the City’s 2020 budget. 

Durkan said the $500 million payroll tax on big businesses under consideration by the city council wouldn't work for this budget year.

"The payroll tax that is being considered right now by city council is not available in any way shape or manner to address budget shortfalls this year or next year," Durkan said. "If there any payroll taxes, it would not be collected until 2022. In addressing this shortfall and this deficit, we are not going to avail ourselves of a payroll tax."

WATCH MAYOR DURKAN'S ANNOUNCEMENT: 

Washington Republican lawmakers call for virtual special session

Citing the recent protests and their concerns over Gov. Jay Inslee’s actions related to coronavirus, several Republican lawmakers called for a special virtual session.

“Our constituents are screaming that they want to go back to work. It’s having a devastating effect on the economy. The state budget will have a gigantic hole that’s going to be very difficult to fill next year,” said Sen. Phil Fortunato. “We want to address the budget issues, and we want to address getting back to work and how to do that. From my point of view if the business has a safety protocol in place they run it by the Department of Health they get the nod and they can go back to work.”

Fortunato was joined by Sen. Doug Ericksen, and Reps. Jesse Young and Vicki Kraft.

Fortunato said he has contacted the legislative Republican leadership and Democratic leadership, which is in the majority of both chambers of the legislature, to push for a special session to discuss the governor’s actions and the upcoming budget, which could be devastated by economic impact of the coronavirus.

Young said that while Washington state residents have been following the stay-home orders, many Washington residents are getting increasingly discouraged and people may start to ignore the orders.

“His solutions will not work if people will not work if people choose not to abide by them,” he said.

Fortunato also expressed frustration over what he considered inconsistencies the stay-home orders.

"When you can do construction on low-income housing that the government is sponsoring but you can't build your own house, you can't build commercial projects. That inconsistency makes it seem that there is some political motive behind this," Fortunato said. "There may or may not be, but the economic impact is the same."

Watch their remarks here:

Gov. Inslee to outline Washington state recovery plan today at 5 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee will address the public at 5 p.m. Tuesday evening to lay out a plan for Washington state recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak. Inslee will be joined by:

  • Dr. Raquel Bono, director of Washington State COVID-19 health care response team
  • Lisa Brown, director of Washington State Department of Commerce
  • Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer, Washington State Department of Health
  • David Postman, governor's chief of staff
  • Molly Voris, governor's health policy advisor

KING 5 will carry Inslee's address live.

Antibody testing begins at UW

The University of Washington Virology Lab is launching its coronavirus testing today. 

The lab has the ability to process thousands of tests each day. The blood draw must be ordered by a physician. 

This test is not only helping doctors understand more about the virus that causes COVID-19, but it also is a step in the direction of creating a vaccine.

The blood test identifies antibodies in a person’s system.

“We’re looking for the antibodies that the body makes when it has been fighting off this virus,” Dr. Keith Jerome, the head of UW Virology, previously said.

The blood test is different from the nasal or throat swab test which looks for the live virus. The swab test would show if a person currently is infected with the coronavirus, but it doesn't show if the person beat the disease. The blood test would find antibodies which would be evidence that the person had the coronavirus, Jerome said. 

Outbreak at Gibraltar Senior Living

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department identified an outbreak of coronavirus at Gibraltar Senior Living in Pierce County.

There are 27 positive cases among 41 residents. Seven staff members have tested positive. Four residents were hospitalized.

The first positive case in an employee was identified April 9.

The health department confirmed the first positive case in a resident on April 12. 

“Health Department disease investigators immediately contacted facility leadership to discuss monitoring staff and residents for illness, limiting visitors, supply and usage of personal protective equipment, and instructed that staff should wear a mask at all times,” said Nigel Turner, Director, Communicable Disease Control Division. “We developed a plan to test residents and staff and instructed the facility to cancel group activities, stagger meal service, and enforce social distancing."

Deal reached on parts of $500 billion virus aid

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says an agreement has been reached on major elements of a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package for small businesses, as well as additional help for hospitals and virus testing. 

Schumer said post-midnight talks among Democratic and Republican leaders, along with Trump administration officials, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, produced a breakthrough agreement on the package. 

He said he hoped the package could be voted on Tuesday afternoon in the Senate.

Monday, April 20

President Trump to suspend immigration 

President Donald Trump announced that he will be signing an executive order to temporarily stop immigration into the United States in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In a Tweet, the President said: "In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!"

In recent weeks the president has referred to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as "the invisible enemy." 

It is not entirely clear what prompted this decision at this time or what effect the decision will have on U.S. border operations and border crossings. 

The decision also does not appear yet to address those who hold green cards.

There was no mention of when the order will be signed or how long it will remain in effect. 

There have been more than 41,000 deaths in the U.S., with more than 71,000 recoveries. 

More and more restaurants trying to-go options to stay afloat

As coronavirus closures stretch on, some restaurants that closed are now reopening in an attempt to weather this pandemic.

Seattle Italian restaurant, Serafina, closed its doors about a month ago. Now, the restaurant is giving takeout a try starting Tuesday.

They said it was heartbreaking to close, but didn’t see how they could make it work.

Now, they realized the demand for to-go is there. 

Serafina owner and chef Christian Chandler said he hopes to be able to bring his entire staff back within a week.

He believes other restaurants will try the shift as these closures continue.

Washington coronavirus cases 

  • 18 new deaths 
  • 295 new cases overall 
  • TOTAL: 652 coronavirus deaths among 12,085 overall cases in Washington. 

The Washington State Department of Health reports 141,011 tests have been taken in the state and 8.6% of those tests have bee positive. 

Latest data reported Monday, April 20 at 4:45 p.m.

Man dies in Kent coronavirus quarantine facility

A homeless man in his 60s who had COVID-19 was found dead Monday morning after staying a few days at King County's coronavirus isolation and quarantine facility, the county health department reported. The King County Medical Examiner's Office will investigate the death.

The man was living homeless and had arrived at the Kent facility on Friday. A staff member found him unresponsive Monda morning during a routine check by medical staff. 

King County isolation and quarantine facilities are for individuals needing a place to stay while having suspected or confirmed COVID-19 illness. Each individual receives care and monitoring by medical professionals.

Seventy people are currently staying in King County isolation, quarantine and recovery facilities, according to the county. 

The number of cases of coronavirus among people who are homeless or who work at homeless services sites has been rising, King County officials say. Seattle and King County are currently reporting 112 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people living homeless or working at homeless services sites in King County. This includes two confirmed deaths. 

Washington state hits record for unemployment applications in one day, as state launches coronavirus unemployment relief

At the launch of new relief measures in response to the coronavirus economic crisis, the Washington State Employment Security Department received more applications for benefits in a single day than last week, which was already the biggest week on record, the state agency reported.

More than 182,000 logged in to apply for unemployment benefits, including expanded, extended and traditional benefits. For comparison, the 182,000 applications in a week was already seven times the peak week for the 2008/2009 recession, according to the agency.

On Saturday, the system was taken down to allow for the expansion of unemployment benefits enabled by the federal CARES Act. The system went back online on Sunday, but the volume caused problems for people trying to log in. The Employment Security Department reported volumes on Sunday of up to 500,000 per hour.  

Seattle Public Schools adopts temporary grading policy in response to coronavirus closures

High schoolers in Seattle Public Schools will get an "A" or an "Incomplete" for their classes, as students continue to learn remotely through the end of the school year.

The school board on Monday approved the temporary grading policy – referred to simply as “A or Incomplete.” This temporary policy will be used by high schools as students’ final grades are determined for the Spring 2020 semester. 

Seattle Superintendent Denise Juneau said the change was necessary because of the "unique challenges" presented by the mid-March closure of school buildings for the remainder of the school year to slow the area spread of the novel coronavirus.

Though classrooms are closed, districts statewide were mandated to establish remote learning opportunities for students of all grades. These have varied from paper packets sent home each week to online classes.

Whatcom County COVID-19 response

Last week Whatcom County saw a downward trend in new COVID-19 cases for the third straight week, indicating the county has likely seen the peak of its first wave of the virus, health officials said during a briefing Monday.

As the county plans upcoming strategies to fight the virus, health officials said testing and contact tracing, or identifying close contacts of infected people, will be crucial.

“Widespread testing and the capacity to do contact investigations will be necessary for us to dial back social distancing measures and return to our normal daily lives,” said Cindy Hollinsworth, Whatcom County communicable disease and epidemiology manager.

Hollinsworth said the county has “sufficient” testing in place to meet the current need, and it’s working on ramping up contact investigation efforts. The department trained up additional public health staff to conduct contact tracing and is exploring a variety of options to beef up staffing moving forward.

Redmond cancels all summer events

All city-produced and permitted special events in Redmond are canceled this summer. 

These events include Derby Days, the Rockin’ on the River concert series, So Bazaar, and Big Truck Day, according to a city release.

The cancelation of all spring camps, activities and rentals is extended to June 20.

US-Canada border restrictions extended

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders were extended for 30 days on Monday.

"As President Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread and allowing the phased opening of the country," Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement.

Sound Transit further limits light rail service

Starting Monday, Sound Transit Link light rail trains will run every 30 minutes instead of the previous service level of every 20 minutes.

Sound Transit says the change is due to fluctuating staffing availability and drastically reduced ridership during the pandemic.

Link light rail trains will operate with four cars, which is the maximum train length, to increase space for social distancing.

Boeing to resume airplane production in Puget Sound this week

Boeing plans to resume production of its commercial airplanes at its Puget Sound facilities starting this week.

The company suspended all operations last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately 27,000 workers will return to the production of the 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs, which support global transportation infrastructure, cargo services, and national defense and security missions, according to a release from Boeing on Thursday.

UW analysis: Washington could ease social distancing guidelines week of May 18

Under a prediction released Friday from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Washington state could consider easing social distancing guidelines the week of May 18.

This is based on the state reaching a threshold of one COVID-19 infection per 1 million people, which IHME said was a "conservative estimate" for the number of infections each location would reasonably be able to identify to prevent coronavirus from resurging.

The prediction assumes Washington stays on the same epidemic trajectory and keeps its current containment strategies in place, including testing, contact tracing and mass gathering restrictions.

Trump, Congress near deal on small business, hospital aid

The Trump administration and Congress expect an agreement Monday on a coronavirus aid package of up to $450 billion. 

It would boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money and add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing. President Donald Trump said Sunday the administration is "very close to a deal.” 

The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set. The House announced it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he is hopeful of a deal that could pass Congress quickly and get the small business payroll program back up by midweek.  

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.