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Coronavirus in Washington state: Updates May 20-22

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

Key facts:

  • A total of 14 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's Safe Start Washington plan.
  • 6 new deaths among 148 new cases reported Friday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,050 deaths among 19,265 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 308,358 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.2% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

Click here for the most recent updates on coronavirus in Washington.

VIEW | Coronavirus updates from KING 5

Friday, May 22:

Mitsubishi Aircraft closing overseas locations, cutting jobs in Washington

Officials say Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will cut hundreds of jobs in Washington state and close its U.S. operations for the troubled SpaceJet project as it “consolidates all activities back to Japan.” 

The company said Friday that Mitsubishi Aircraft will close its overseas locations due to budget directives. The announcement was made as the pandemic-driven downturn hits all of Mitsubishi’s aviation operations. 

Spokesman Jeff Dronen said in a statement that it will impact the majority of the company's employees in the United States. The Mitsubishi Aircraft U.S. headquarters in Renton will close, and flight test operations in Moses Lake will cease.

Issaquah man faces federal charges in alleged scheme to get COVID-relief funds

An Issaquah man faces fraud charges after being accused of seeking more than $1.5 million in federal loans meant for small businesses struggling economically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Baoke Zhang, 35, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed in the Western District of Washington with wire fraud and bank fraud, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to court documents, Zhang allegedly submitted loan applications to multiple banks seeking $1.5 million under the Paycheck Protection Program, and claimed to have paid 25 employees in 2019 and provided fraudulent IRS documentation. According to investigators, when one of the banks tried to clarify discrepancies in his application and information from the IRS, he said he no longer needed the loan.

The Paycheck Protection Program is one of the coronavirus crisis relief programs in the $2 trillion federal CARES act. Under the program, qualifying small businesses can borrow money with an interest rate of 1%. The interest and principal can be forgiven if businesses use at least 75% of the forgiven amount for payroll.

Investigators say that neither financial institution issued Zhang a loan.

RELATED: What is the Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness guidance?

RELATED: Seattle business owner worries there's a 'huge injustice' in coronavirus aid

RELATED: Reports: Ruth's Chris Steak House to return $20 million small business loan

Washington state coronavirus cases as of Friday

The Washington State Department of Health reported 6 new deaths Friday among 148 new cases statewide. It brings to the total number of deaths from coronavirus to 1,050 among 19,265 overall cases. 

A total of 308,358 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.2% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

More counties approved for Phase 2

Additional counties are moving to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's "Safe Start plan" that relaxes social distancing and allows more businesses to open.

A total of 14 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Lincoln, Lewis, Ferry, Pend Orielle, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Whitman.

Eleven counties are eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2: Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pacific, San Juan, and Thurston.

Kittitas County's application is on pause until Tuesday, May 26 due to an outbreak investigation.

Credit: Joint Information Center

Two cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome 

Two cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children associated with coronavirus have been confirmed in western Washington

One child lives in Snohomish County, the other in King County.

Both were treated at Seattle Children's. 

These are the only cases reported so far in Washington state. 

“In Washington, we are tracking this issue closely and working with local health departments and providers to learn more,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, health officer for the state Department of Health. “Early last week we asked all health care providers in the state to be on the lookout and immediately report possible cases to local health authorities.”

According to the CDC, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. It is unclear what causes MIS-C, but many children with symptoms were previously diagnosed with coronavirus, or has been around someone diagnosed with coronavirus. 

MIS-C can be deadly, but most children diagnosed have recovered. 

“While the vast majority of children appear to have mild or asymptomatic infection, it’s important to remember that—although rare—some children can develop serious complications like these,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “Our thoughts are with the young patient, their family and the care team at Seattle Children’s, and we wish for a speedy recovery.”

Free face coverings offered in Everett

Everett Emergency Management is collecting and distributing free face coverings during the month of May.

Anyone needing a cloth face covering can visit American Legion Memorial Park on Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to donate or pick up a face covering for themselves or their family for free.

Another event is scheduled for May 27 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Garfield Park in Everett. The face cover donation and distribution event is scheduled for May 29 at American Legion Memorial Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Donations are also being accepted at Volunteers of America, located at 1230 Broadway, during regular business hours.

Click here for more information.

Grays Harbor County awaiting word on Phase 2 application

Grays Harbor County health officials are awaiting word on whether the county can move into Phase 2 of Washington state's recovery plan.

The director of Grays Harbor County Public Health submitted the county's application for a variance to move to Phase 2 on Wednesday. 

There are 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Grays Harbor County. One case was identified on Thursday.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest begins phased reopening Friday

The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest began a phased approach of reopening on Friday.

Most trailheads, day-use areas, and other developed recreation sites reopen on May 22, according to the U.S. Forest Service website. Campgrounds will remain closed so staff can prepare the areas for operation. Restrooms will also be closed, and garbage service and water facilities will be unavailable.

“We are making every effort to expand access within the context of CDC guidelines and state and local government orders for residents,” said Nicole Branton, acting forest supervisor. “To align with our Washington State partners, we will be reopening sites where we can do so safely.”

Visitors are asked to be prepared and self-sufficient as possible before visiting, including bringing your own water, packing out all trash, and knowing how to properly dispose of human and dog waste.

RELATED: Here’s what Washington recreation areas are open and closed Memorial Day weekend

Pierce County to distribute personal protective equipment to businesses

Pierce County is offering free personal protective equipment (PPE) to local businesses to help them comply with COVID-19 worksite safety practices to protect employees and customers. 

The PPE will be ready for distribution June 1-3 while supplies last, the county stated on its website. 

Businesses must be located in Pierce County to be eligible and must fill out an online form beforehand stating how much and what type of PPE they need. Businesses will be contacted regarding when and where to pick up the PPE.

To access the form, click here.

Thursday, May 21:

3 more counties eligible for Phase 2

Three more counties – Pacific, Cowlitz and Grant – are now eligible to apply to move on to Phase 2 of Washington's coronavirus recovery plan.

There are now 15 counties eligible to apply for a variance, and 10 have been approved to move onto Phase 2.

Credit: Office of Gov. Jay Inslee
As of May 21, 2020, 10 counties were approved to move to Phase 2. Fifteen others were eligible to submit an application.

Counties with less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span can apply for a variance.

Phase 2 allows for increased outdoor recreation, small group gatherings of five or fewer, hair salons and 50% capacity at restaurants.

Gym operations under Phase 2

In Phase 2, gyms can partially operate with restrictions, according to state guidance published Tuesday.

Group fitness activities must be limited to five people or fewer plus one instructor. Trainers can also hold one-on-one sessions by appointment.

Employees and customers must practice social distancing, and the gyms must follow a safety plan.

Port Angeles-based cutter in quarantine after capturing infected smugglers

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter based out of Port Angeles is under quarantine after three smugglers that were taken aboard tested positive for coronavirus.

The three smugglers were caught with 2,000 pounds of cocaine off the coast of El Salvador on May 12.

Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexander Gray / U.S. Coast Guard
A suspected smuggling vessel drifts in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean after being intercepted by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Active in May,2020.

One showed mild signs of illness, and all three were isolated and treated as "potentially positive," according to the Court Guard.

When the Cutter Active arrived in San Diego on May 20, all three smugglers tested positive for COVID-19. They are being treated in the hospital while in Department of Justice custody.

All of the approximately 70 Coast Guard crew members that are aboard the cutter will be tested.

Death toll may be two to three times higher

Washington state’s death toll from the coronavirus could be two to three times the current total. That's because some people who died of virus-like symptoms early in the outbreak were never tested. 

As of Thursday, at least 1,037 people in Washington state have died from the disease. But health officials have identified 3,000 deaths dating back to Jan. 1, 2020 that involved symptoms like pneumonia or acute respiratory syndrome — commonly associated with COVID-19. 

Since they occurred before the first case was identified in the state, officials are investigating those 3,000 deaths to determine whether they should be added to the state death toll.

Washington state coronavirus cases as of Thursday

The Washington State Department of Health reported 7 new deaths Thursday among 146 new cases statewide. It brings to the total number of deaths from coronavirus to 1,044 among 19,117 overall cases. 

A total of 302,927 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.3% of those tests have been positive, according to the state Department of Health.

Grants for Washington tribes

The Washington State Department of Commerce announced an additional $5 million in grants for tribes to fight COVID-19.

Each of the 29 tribes will receive $100,000, and the remaining $2.1 million will be distributed based on a formula.

Tribes can use the money for health care equipment and supplies, quarantine housing, social programs and COVID-19 testing.

Republican lawmakers call for emergency session

A group of Republican state lawmakers want an emergency session in June to deal with public health and economic issues stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawmakers argue Gov. Jay Inslee has exercised powers “past his original goal of ‘flattening the curve,’” and now the Republicans want the Legislature to intervene.

“The Legislature can respond to this larger emergency in ways the governor can’t, and Senate and House Republicans believe that needs to happen in June before the new budget takes effect,” Sen. John Braun, Senate Republican Caucus budget leader, said in a statement.

During the emergency session, Republican leaders say they want to help Washington’s economy reopen, address “substantial damage” to the state budget and ensure school starts in the fall.

Kittitas County leaders tell people not to relax social distancing yet

The Kittitas County Incident Management Team is asking businesses and residents to hold off on relaxing social distancing measures until after Memorial Day weekend.

County leaders say they are trying to move the country forward to Phase 2 of the state's four-phase plan to reopen the economy. 

"We are confident in our response to Kittitas County's first outbreak," state Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson said. "It is possible that our variance application will be approved [on May 26], which means our county should be prepared to begin phase two on May 27." 

Phase 2 would mean additional businesses could reopen and people could gather with five people or fewer per week.

Kittitas County was among the first to be allowed to apply for Phase 2. Days later, health officials began investigating a potential outbreak at Twin City Foods.

Counties eligible to enter a new phase ahead of counties with larger populations must go through an approval process. 

Proposal in King County would offer extended tax relief

King County councilmember Reagan Dunn introduced legislation that would offer additional tax relief for property tax payers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

His proposal would give taxpayers the option to make smaller property tax payments over six months, rather than a lump sum on June 1. 

“In our current crisis, a mere delay on property taxes isn’t enough to meet the great financial need of many King County residents,” Dunn said. “We should act now to help taxpayers who are doing everything they can to make ends meet, but still face a due-in-full property tax bill even as the economic fallout intensifies.” 

On March 30, King County Executive Dow Constantine extended the due date for the first half of 2020 property taxes from April 30 to June 1. 

Dunn's legislation would affect property tax payments for the first and second half of 2020 and 2021, extending up to six months past the due date. 

Initial unemployment claims increase over previous week

During the week of May 10-16, there were 29,308 more initial, regular unemployment claims over the first full week of May, according to the Employment Security Department. 

According to ESD, there were 138,733 initial claims and 1,670,580 total claims for all unemployment benefit categories. Total claims increased 369,016 from the previous week.

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

The department believes a fraudulent claims inflated contributed to the high numbers. 

“Since the beginning of this crisis, the Employment Security Department has been laser focused on getting money into the hands of Washingtonians as quickly as possible through our unemployment system and expanding those who are eligible for those benefits,” said ESD Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “We have been very successful in that endeavor, distributing billions of dollars in state and federal funds to more than 3/4 of a million Washingtonians in desperate need of these benefits and being among the first states to implement the provisions of the federal CARES act extending benefits to those previously ineligible. 

"We have also zeroed in on stopping the increase in fraudulent claims we’ve seen in recent weeks. We are working closely with federal law enforcement to stop fraudulent activity, to investigate these crimes and get as much of the stolen money as we can returned to us.”

Washington State Fair currently remains on schedule

The Washington State Fair is still scheduled for Sept. 4-27. 

Fair organizers say they are planning the "state's biggest party" as social distancing measures are relaxed and the economy reopens. 

"We are diligently working on modifications to safely reopen our events center," fair organizers posted on Facebook.

Adjustments will be made as necessary in order to "minimize the health impacts of COVID-19."

Organizers note fair guests will "voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure" of the virus by attending the fair.

Bonney Lake, Sumner mayors urge Inslee to allow business to open

Saying "one size does not fit all," the mayors of Bonney Lake and Sumner are urging Gov. Jay Inslee to allow businesses in their cities to reopen.

Located in east Pierce County, the two cities have a combined population of around 31,000. However, Pierce County remains in Phase 1 of the state's four-phase approach to reopening due to the total population.

In a letter to Inslee, Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson Jr. and Sumner Mayor Bill Pugh write businesses in the two cities can open "responsibly and safely" by following guidelines already in place by businesses that are already allowed to open. Small businesses in the cities are "anxiously waiting for the green light."

"We all are finding the lack of consistency between which business are opened vs closed frustrating and inequitable," they write. 

They propose:

• Open businesses immediately that can comply with the health and safety requirements required of their industry that are already open. Allow the business owner to decide if they can and are ready to safely open.
• Continue to encourage people to follow safety protocols, including social distancing and wearing a face mask or covering when around others, and staying home when not feeling well.
• Encourage seniors and other at-risk members of the community to stay home.

US unemployment

Workers filed an additional 2.4 million unemployment claims last week, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

In total, nearly 39 million people have now filed for unemployment over the past nine weeks since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The pace of layoffs has now declined for seven straight weeks, and some reopened businesses have rehired a portion of their laid-off employees. 

RELATED: Another 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week

5 million cases: World COVID-19 count reaches new milestone

Worldwide confirmed cases of coronavirus reached 5 million early Thursday morning,  according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. 

Just before 2 a.m. Eastern, the tabulation read 5,000,038. That includes more than 328,000 confirmed deaths. Nearly 1.9 million have recovered.

In the U.S., the total confirmed cases stands at more than 1.5 million with more than 93,000 deaths and 294,000 recoveries. Johns Hopkins says 12.6 million tests for COVID-19 have been conducted in the U.S.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that there were 106,000 new cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period. It was the highest single-day total since the pandemic began. The WHO said poor countries are being hit especially hard.

RELATED: 5 million cases: World COVID-19 count reaches new milestone

Wednesday, May 20:

Washington Congressman Derek Kilmer announces $4,000 tax credit bill to retrain workers who lost jobs in pandemic

Members of both houses of Congress are introducing bipartisan bills to provide a tax credit of $4,000 to retrain workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. It would help those workers cover the costs associated with learning new jobs. 

This comes as 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past two months.

The Skills Renewal Act would be available to any worker who lost their job due to the pandemic, according to a statement from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. It would cover training expenses through the end of 2021.

"The tax credit is fully refundable—which means it will be available to all workers, including low-income workers with no federal income tax liability," Klobuchar, one of the Senate bill's co-sponsors said. 

The credit can be used to offset the cost of postsecondary programs. Training could be done through apprenticeships, stackable credentials, certificate programs, and two- and four-year programs. Online learning would also be counted.

Sens. Cory Booker, D-NJ, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Tim Scott, R-SC, are also sponsors in the Senate.

The companion bill in the House is being offered up by Rep. Derek Kilmer, who represents the Olympic Peninsula, most of the Kitsap Peninsula and most of the city of Tacoma. Congressional Representatives joining him in sponsoring the bill are Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Terri Swell, D-Ala., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.

Latest deaths and cases for Wednesday

There are now 1,037 deaths in Washington state among 18,971 total cases. There were 6 new deaths from Tuesday and 160 new cases reported. 

297,942 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 6.4% of those tests have been positive.

A new feature on the Department of Health's coronavirus cases dashboard is "hospitalizations." There have been a total of 3,125 hospitalizations from coronavirus. 

Tacoma's sister city in China donates thousands of masks, gowns to help limit spread of coronavirus

Tacoma’s sister city in China is helping limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) locally by donating much-needed personal protective equipment.

Fuzhou, the capital of the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian and Tacoma's Sister City since 1994, has donated 70,000 disposable medical masks and 500 disposable medical gowns to help curb the spread of the deadly virus, according to a city press release.

"We are very grateful for this gesture of support and wish our friends in Fuzhou well, as we all come together globally in response to this public health and economic crisis," said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. "Our relationship with Fuzhou, the ancestral home of many Chinese-Americans who settled in the Pacific Northwest in the 19th century, has been deep and enduring, and I look forward to the day when I can again share my appreciation with them in person."

The disposable medical masks and gown will be distributed throughout the community, including healthcare providers, homeless shelters, food banks, senior centers, daycare providers, and others.

The remainder of the personal protective equipment will be held in reserve by Tacoma officials in preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19 in the fall and winter months, according to the release.

Tulalip Resort Casino and Silver Reef Casino Resort announce reopening dates

The Tulalip Resort Casino announced Wednesday it will reopen next week with new guidelines to help keep customers safe. 

The casino will reopen at noon on May 26, according to a tweet from the casino. Officials say they'll release more details about what customers can expect in the coming days.

The Silver Reef Casino Resort in Bellingham is also scheduled for a soft reopening Thursday, May 21. The casino will operate at 50% capacity with enhanced cleaning measures and requirements for personal protective gear, including face masks, according to a statement from the Lumni Nation.

The two casinos are the third and fourth to reopen since Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order went into effect in March. 

The casinos do not have to abide by Gov. Inslee's order since the tribes are sovereign nations, however, Inslee has cautioned against the casino's reopening. 

RELATED: Casinos in western Washington reopen to big crowds

Washington state expanding its ability for COVID-19 contact tracing

Washington State Department of Health officials say they’re rapidly training people to help with case investigations and contact tracing to help limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of Tuesday, 723 National Guard personnel and 769 Department of Licensing personnel have been trained to help local health jurisdictions with contact tracing.

The personnel from the National Guard and Department of Licensing supplement about 630 local and state public health professionals who are already doing this work.

State officials say they’re also reviewing “thousands” of applications from volunteers across Washington and are readying a plan to screen and train volunteers if needed in the coming months.

The state’s goal is to be able to contact everyone with a positive COVID-19 test result within 24 hours to determine their close contacts and then contact all those close contacts within 48 hours.

“Case investigations and contact tracing are key pieces of the effort to keep Washington residents safe,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “Both have been critical tools to suppress the virus in other parts of the world.”

The public’s participation in contact tracing is voluntary, according to state officials.

Seafair reschedules all ‘major events’ to 2021

Seafair announced Wednesday it will reschedule its “major events to next year.” The announcement was posted on the non-profit’s website.

The decision to reschedule was made “given the uncertainty surrounding public health safety” and in combination with “guidance from local and state governments.”

Anyone with a ticket for an event will be contacted by email shortly, according to its website.

Credit: Seafair
A notification on the Seafair website announcing all major events for this year have been rescheduled.

Razor clam digging will remain closed through May

Razor clam digging will remain off-limits through Memorial Day weekend, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Razor clam digs bring thousands of people from across Washington to the coastal counties, which presents a risk and violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, WDFW officials said.

Digs will remain closed until at least May 31, which is currently how long the stay-at-home order is in effect.

Washington sees record unemployment rate of 15.4% in April

Washington state's unemployment rate was a record 15.4%, and the state's economy lost 527,000 jobs last month.

It's the highest jobless rate the state has seen since it started keeping comparable records in the 1970s.

April’s rate is a significant jump from March’s 5.1%, though officials had warned April’s numbers would more truly reflect the widespread closing of restaurants and other businesses that started in mid-March. February’s unemployment rate was 3.8%. The previous record was 12.2% in November 1982.

RELATED: Washington sees record unemployment rate of 15.4% in April

Free COVID-19 testing at the Tacoma Dome

For the next two weeks, free drive-through COVID-19 testing will be available at the Tacoma Dome for residents.

Testing will be available from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on May 19-21 and May 26-28. Fred Meyer and QFC partnered with the city of Tacoma to make the tests available.

To be tested, Tacoma-area residents must register in advance online or by calling 1-888-852-2567 (select option 1, then option 3). A virtual screening tool based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines will be used to see if those seeking a test are eligible.

"We're proud to make COVID-19 testing more accessible to our community. Testing results help us understand the spread of the disease in our community so we can take appropriate steps to protect our residents from the devastating impacts of COVID-19.", said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards.

The drive-through testing site at the Tacoma Dome is capable of testing around 250 vehicles a day, according to a press release.

Click here for more information or to register.

Salvation Army's week of food donations continues

The Salvation Army is distributing 500 boxes of food in Tacoma and another 500 in Yakima today.

Volunteers will be handing out food boxes at Tacoma Mall and Yakima's Salvation Army Thrift Store from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

It's part of the Salvation Army's week of food distribution, where it will provide 4,500 food boxes to families in Washington state. Each box continues about $30 of non-perishable food.

Donations will continue Friday in Centralia and Vancouver, Washington.

2020 Snohomish County Pride Festival canceled

This year’s Snohomish County Pride Festival has been canceled.

In a Facebook post, organizers said the decision to cancel the event was for the safety of the community, but also “to redirect community resources.”

“We are hoping that community organizations and businesses that would have participated will use their participation fees and sponsorship dollars for direct support of those in need,” the post reads.

Several other summer events around the Puget Sound region have also been canceled, including Seattle Pride, West Seattle Summer Fest, Northwest Folklife, and the Seattle International Film Festival.

Customers aren’t ready to dine-in, according to Washington State University study

Only about 21% of people surveyed are open to dining at a restaurant immediately after reopening, and close to have of people will wait one month or longer to dine in with a friend at a restaurant.

Those were among the findings in a nationwide survey by the Washington State University School of Hospitality Business Management.

Researchers asked whether customers were ready to go back to restaurants immediately if stay-at-home orders are lifted tomorrow. They found:

  • 65% of patrons said it was unlikely or very unlikely that they would return to in-person dining,
  • 6% of patrons said they were very likely to return to in-person dining.
  • Another 15% said they were warm to the idea and 13% said they were neutral on the question.

When researchers asked people how long they would wait before dining out with a friend, they found:

  • 9% indicated that they would dine out with a friend at a restaurant immediately after the reopening.
  • 27% percent said that they would wait for around 1-3 months
  • 20% percent indicated that they would wait even longer, over 3 months.

Researchers also asked about what safety precautions at restaurants customers wanted to see. The most important precautions were visible sanitizing efforts (such as sanitizing tables and chairs in front of the customers, hand sanitizer stations throughout the restaurant, staff wearing masks & gloves), and implementing social distancing.

The survey was conducted between May 1-7,  2020.

Credit: KING
According to a survey from Washington State University School of Hospitality Business Management, visible sanitizing efforts (such as sanitizing tables and chairs in front of the customers, hand sanitizer stations throughout the restaurant, staff wearing mask & gloves) and implementing social distancing are the most important safety precautions customers expect from a restaurant.

City of Kent to lay off employees

The city of Kent will lay off employees and remove vacant positions as it struggles with the financial fallout of COVID-19.

Under the plan, 11 employees will be laid off or retire, seven vacant positions will be eliminated, seven positions will be frozen, and two will be bumped into a vacant position, according to a city memo dated Monday. Temporary support will also be reduced by $70,000.

The city projects a $15.7 million revenue shortfall, and the budget shortfalls due to COVID-19 were only exacerbated by the structural deficit that the city faces for the 2021-2022 budget, according to the memo.

Phased re-opening of Forest Service recreation sites

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest will begin a phased re-opening of trailheads and day-use areas on May 22.

Some trailheads and day-use areas that are still snow covered will remain closed, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Heavily visited areas, such as Boulder Cave, and day-use sites that are located in campgrounds with no separate access will also stay closed.

Access to restrooms, garbage service and water will be limited, as operational tasks that Forest Service staff typically complete in April were pushed back during the pandemic.

The Forest Service plans to re-open campgrounds in June if Washington enters Phase 2.

More Washington counties can expedite reopening process

Ten additional counties in Washington can apply to move to the second stage of the state’s economic reopening plan. That's based on new guidelines announced by Gov. Jay Inslee that allows larger counties with fewer new COVID-19 cases to open some of their businesses sooner.

The counties identified Tuesday - Spokane, Adams, Mason, Thurston, Lewis, Clark, Clallam, Kitsap, Island, and San Juan counties - are those with fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period.

If they are approved, they will join 10 other counties allowed to move to the second stage. 

RELATED: 10 more counties in Washington can apply for Phase 2 of COVID-19 reopening

See previous coronavirus updates for Washington state here. 

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