Find developments on Washington’s coronavirus outbreak and the state’s plan for recovery.
- A total of 21 Washington counties are now approved to move to Phase 2.
- UW Medicine to furlough an additional 4,000 unionized employees
- 9 new deaths among 237 new cases reported Sunday in Washington.
- TOTAL: 1,070 deaths among 20,065 overall cases in Washington state.
- 330,598 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.
Tuesday, May 26:
Free COVID-19 testing at the Tacoma Dome
Free drive-through COVID-19 testing will continue this week at the Tacoma Dome.
Testing will be available from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 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.
The drive-through testing site at the Tacoma Dome is capable of testing around 250 vehicles a day, according to a press release.
Over 40% of employees tested at Vancouver fruit plant have coronavirus
The number of employees at a Vancouver fruit processing facility who have tested positive for COVID-19 is now up to 65, the company said on Monday.
Firestone Pacific Foods said 87 employees have tested negative for the virus, and there are still a few of its employees who need to be tested. The company said there are no known hospitalizations involving its workers.
The outbreak was first discovered on May 17 when an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. After learning of the positive test, the company shut down its production facility, but the number of workers known to be infected with COVID-19 has continued to grow. As of last Friday, May 22, the number of employees who had tested positive was at 38.
The outbreak has had ramifications extending beyond the company. Clark County last week applied to enter Phase 2 of Washington’s reopening plan, but the county’s application was put on hold due to the outbreak. There is no timeline for when Clark County might enter the second phase of reopening, which includes the limited reopening of barbershops, salons and restaurants.
Clark County Public Health is working with the plant to get all its roughly 150 employees tested and make sure guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is being followed.
Production at Firestone Pacific Foods will remain halted until May 28, at which point the company hopes to get approval from Clark County Health to reopen.
Some recreational fishing reopens in Washington
After two months of closures because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Washington state’s coastal waters are set to reopen for fishing on Tuesday.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said marine areas 1-3, including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, will open for bottomfish, shellfish, mussels, clams, oysters, and other species. Crabbing on the Columbia River is also set to resume under normal regulations on Tuesday.
Halibut and razor clam harvest will remain closed in these areas for now due to continued port closures and concerns about the spread of coronavirus in local communities.
Monday, May 25:
UW Medicine to furlough an additional 4,000 unionized employees
UW Medicine announced Monday it will move forward to furlough 4,000 unionized employees, in addition to the 1,500 professional and non-union classified staff that were announced last week.
The cuts address a $500 million shortfall caused by the dual hit of lost revenue because of canceled or postponed elective and non-urgent medical procedures and rising costs due to the fight against coronavirus, according to the medical center.
The medical center made the announcement today after concluding impact bargaining with the affected unions.
The temporary furloughs will last between one and eight weeks, according to the medical center.
UW Medicine executive leaders, directors and managers are participating in furloughs along with staff, according to a press release from the medical center.
UW Medicine includes Harborview Medical Center, the two University of Washington Medical Center campuses, UW Neighborhood Clinics, Faculty Practice Plan Services, UW Medicine shared services, and Airlift Northwest.
New coronavirus cases
As of today, there have been 9 new deaths among 237 new reported cases of coronavirus in Washington state.
There has been a total of 1,070 deaths statewide among 20,065 overall cases.
330,598 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.
Since May 18, the new daily death count has been in the single digits.
Garfield County remains the only county that has zero reported cases.
Catholic churches working to reopen across the state
Bishops of Washington state are preparing parishes across the state to reopen.
Guidelines outlining how Catholic churches can safely return to public worship are being reviewed by the office of Gov. Jay Inslee, according to the Washington State Catholic Conference.
“Based on expert guidance from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Thomistic Institute and public health experts, we created practical guidelines outlining how we can safely return to public worship, while ensuring reverence and respect for the Sacred Liturgy of the Mass,” a statement from the Catholic Conference reads. “It is our understanding that these are in review with the Governor’s office now. We look forward to his rapid response.”
As of May 22, there was no date or determination of size for Mass gatherings.
“It is our hope that our right to responsibly and safely gather for worship will soon be honored so we can collaborate in a manner that respects both our Catholic tradition as well as our civic responsibilities. We eagerly await the Governor’s response to our suggestions on this so we can proceed together with our re-opening plans.”
SPU student funding
Seattle Pacific University received a fixed amount of emergency funds to assist with financial difficulty related to COVID-19.
Students who are likely eligible for Title IV funding and were not in an exclusive online program will have access to the online application.
Under law, emergency financial aid grants are for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.
Examples of eligible expenses may include:
- Increased expenses related to food and/or medical care due to the disruption of campus operations related to COVID-19;
- Unanticipated housing costs related to COVID-19, such as costs incurred if students are forced to move out of dorms or a local apartment and the new housing is more expensive;
- Purchase of additional materials, equipment, or services in order to transition to remote leaning (computer, monitor, internet access, webcam, etc.);
- Increased childcare expenses as a result of COVID-19 (e.g., students can no longer rely on prior childcare arrangements and students need to pay more for alternative childcare).
- Increased or unanticipated travel expenses related to COVID-19, such as airfare to return home; rental truck to move out of dorms; gas or buss pass to commute to job.
Coast Guard Crew returns after testing negative for coronavirus
A Coast Guard crew will return to Port Angeles Tuesday after a 47-day counter-narcotic patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, during which they detained three people who tested positive for coronavirus.
During their patrol, the crew seized more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine, about $37 million, and detained three suspected smugglers about 200 nautical miles off the coast of El Salvador.
One detainee exhibited mild illness, including fever and sore throat.
On May 20, the three people detained were transferred to Department of Justice custody and tested positive for COVID-19.
The Coast Guard crew were all tested. All tests came back negative.
The crew will continue to self-monitor when they return home.
Sunday, May 24:
Memorial Day weekend crowds spark warnings from experts citing coronavirus
The Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. meant big crowds at beaches and warnings from authorities Sunday about people disregarding the coronavirus social-distancing rules and risking a resurgence of the scourge that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.
Sheriff’s deputies and beach patrols tried to make sure people kept their distance from others as they soaked up the rays on the sand and at parks and other recreation sites around the country.
On the Sunday talk shows, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said she was “very concerned” about scenes of people crowding together over the weekend.
“We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask,” she said.
The U.S. is on track to surpass 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the next few days, while Europe has seen over 169,000 dead, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that almost certainly understates the toll.
The New York Times marked the horror by devoting Sunday’s entire front page to a long list of names of those who have died in the United States. The headline: “An Incalculable Loss.”
PAWS holding virtual auction starting today to provide essential services to animals
The Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) will be holding a week-long auction to help raise money for essential services for both animals and the people who take care of them.
The auction is all part of PAWS Wild Week, which runs from Sunday, May 24 to Sunday, May 31.
“Animals don’t know there’s a pandemic,” said PAWS CEO Heidi Wills.
Wills said the need this time of year is great, as it is baby animal season. The annual spring fundraising gala was canceled, which didn’t help matters.
The organization invites supporters to bid on the 100-plus unique items and experiences from the safety and comfort of home.
Due to the online auction platform, PAWS was able to bring in a large variety of items and experiences at all price points.
In an era of social distancing, Zoom chats are being offered with a Seattle Seahawk and even Bart Simpson. There are also items to look forward to after the pandemic, like spa experiences, exotic get-aways, and dinners by award-winning chefs.
Animal-lovers can bid on experiences only available during PAWS Wild Week including joining a wildlife release, a nature walk with a PAWS Naturalist at the University of Washington Seattle campus, and a Kitten ’n’ Kids party at PAWS Cat City in the University District
Bidding started at 10 a.m. on Sunday and runs through 8 p.m. next Sunday, May 31.
Even though the fundraiser just launched, as of 4:20 p.m. on May 24, PAWS raised $31,604 of its $100,000 goal.
PAWS is still offering essential services like appointment-only cat and dog adoptions and rehabilitation of injured wildlife.
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