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Coronavirus in Washington state: Updates May 22-24

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

Editor’s note: This story shows updates about the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from May 22-24, 2020.

Click here for the latest updates from KING 5.

Key facts:

  • A total of 21 Washington counties are now approved to move to Phase 2.
  • Several Washington state and local parks are now open as well as National Forests in time for the Memorial Day weekend. 
  • 6 new deaths among 243 new cases reported Saturday in Washington.
  • TOTAL: 1,061 deaths among 19,828 overall cases in Washington state.
  • 326,593 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.

VIEW | Coronavirus updates from KING 

Sunday, May 24:

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.

You can find items up for auction here.  

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. 

Coronavirus to possibly postpone Amazon Prime Day until fall

Reports have surfaced that Amazon.com will be postponing its annual Amazon Prime Day until at least August due to the unprecedented demand for deliveries and online shopping services after the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. hard. 

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Amazon is now allowing nonessential goods shipments, and with its normal Prime Day date of July fast approaching reports say the company will have to postpone the marketing day a month further. As the Journal reports, people they have spoken with familiar with the situation say warehouse shipments of nonessential goods will be allowed. 

It's in an effort to get the company into a position to send shipments of a wider variety of products. And is also a plan to put Amazon in a place where the company can process orders faster at its warehouses, to free up space for more inventory, the Wall Street Journal reports. Despite the plan there is still worry that Amazon won't be able to quickly recover to perform ultra-fast shipping times, like before. 

In an April 3rd report, Reuters said the company planed to postpone the shopping promotion day until "at least August and expects a possible $100 million hit from having excess devices that it may have to sell at a discount." This was according to internal company meeting notes seen by Reuters. 

Though a 2020 Amazon Prime Day has not been announced yet, several outlets now confirm that fall postponement date. The company is not only attributing the postponement to a surge in orders for household items and essentials amid stay-in orders, but Amazon has also reportedly been dealing with demonstrations by some Amazon warehouse workers fearful about being exposed to the coronavirus. 

Prime Day is a marketing day that was started by Amazon in 2015 to increase sales during the summer months. While the company never publishes the date far in advance, Prime Day usually happens in July. 

As Rolling Stone reports, Prime Day eventually expanded into a 48-hour e-shopping event with price cuts on thousands of items from merchants across the site. Amazon reported that sales from Prime Day in 2019 surpassed previous Black Friday and Cyber Monday events, combined.

New York Times dedicates Sunday front page with names of 1,000 coronavirus victims

As the U.S. approaches 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, The New York Times is designating its Sunday, May 24, 2020 front page to 1,000 victims of the virus.

The names represent only 1% of all the people who have died from COVID-19 in the nation. The front page will exclusively feature a long list of people without articles, photographs or graphics. 

Simone Landon, assistant editor of the newspaper's graphics desk, said that there has been "a little it of a fatigue with the [coronavirus] data."

“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” Landon was quoted saying in a Times Insider piece. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.” 

Landon added that putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page "doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country."

The list of names featured in Sunday's paper was compiled through various online sources for obituaries and death notices from across the country with coronavirus listed as the cause of death. 

Tom Bodkin, chief creative officer of the Times, said the paper wanted to "take over the entire page" with either pictures of hundreds of COVID-19 victims, or an "all type" concept.

Bodkin said he doesn't remember a front page with only text during his 40 years at the paper, “though there have been some pages with only graphics,” he said, adding, “This is certainly a first in modern times.” 

The list of victims will continue past page A1 with more names and an essay by Dan Barry, a Times reporter and columnist. 

As of Saturday evening, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus was 96,875. More than 1.6 million have tested positive in the country, and there have been over 361,000 recoveries, according to the count by Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there have been 5.2 million cases, and more than 340,800 people have died of COVID-19.

The long list of names of people who have died in the pandemic has brief descriptions culled from obituaries nationwide, filling six columns under the headline “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss,” with a subheadline reading: “They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us.”

Ocean Shores ready for visitors — but not too many

This Memorial Day weekend will be a test for Ocean Shores. Mayor Crystal Dingler said the community is ready for visitors, but not too many.

On Friday, Tyson Clark made the drive from Renton.

“There’s a lot of traffic coming out this way,” Clark said.

The message in many of Washington’s beach communities in April  was “stay home.” That message is changing this weekend with the gradual reopening of Gray’s Harbor County, which was approved for Phase 2 reopening. Restaurants can now seat a limited number of guests, shops can start letting people in, and small businesses like salons can reopen.

In Phase 2, people also can start to gather in small groups, with five or fewer people from outside their household.

Mayor Dingler is urging visitors to still be careful. She said the city does not want to see large groups and officials still ask people to wear masks indoors.

“We’re going to really just talk to people and make sure that they understand that if we don’t do this right it might close us back down again and none of us would be happy with that,” she said.

Gray’s Harbor County has had only 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including four cases in May. If those numbers start to spike, that could once again spoil a lot of peoples’ weekend getaway plans in the coming months.

Saturday, May 23:

Seven more counties approved to move to Phase 2 in Washington 

Seven more counties in Washington state have gotten approval to move to Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

The seven counties are Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Mason Pacific, and San Juan.

A total of 21 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2.

Those counties are Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Orielle, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Whitman.

Phase 2 of Washington’s four-phase recovery plan allows for increased outdoor recreation, small group gatherings of five or fewer, hair salons and 50% capacity at restaurants.

The following counties are eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2: Clallam, Kitsap, and Thurston.

Variance applications from Kittitas and Clark counties are currently on hold due to outbreak investigations, according to a press release Saturday. 

To apply for a variance, counties must have an average of less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. The application also requires support from local health officials and other county leaders.

Each county must demonstrate they have adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate personal protective equipment to keep health care workers safe. The application must include plans for:

  • Making testing available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms.
  • Staffing case investigations and contact tracing.
  • Housing people in isolation or quarantine who can’t or don’t want to do so at home.
  • Providing case management services to those in isolation and quarantine.
  • Responding rapidly to outbreaks in congregate settings.

RELATED: Snohomish County not ready for Phase 2 on June 1, health officials say

24 Spokane pasta factory workers test positive for COVID-19

A pasta company has announced there was a coronavirus outbreak at its Spokane factory as Washington state prepares to reopen parts of its economy.

The Philadelphia Macaroni Company Inc. said in a statement Friday that 72 workers were tested for COVID-19 and 24 were positive. Health officials say there was an increase in Spokane County with 31 new positive cases between Thursday and Friday. 

Company officials say all of the factory employees have since been tested and the facility was disinfected. The company is working with the Spokane Regional Health District to conduct contact tracing and determine further prevention measures.

Seattle researchers to help lead massive vaccine testing trial

Reuters is reporting that Fred Hutch is part of a major testing effort in hopes of delivering a safe and effective vaccine by the end of this year.

Between 100,000 and 150,000 people may be enrolled to test a half dozen vaccines, with leading vaccine makers sharing data and clinical trial networks.

RELATED: Large-scale coronavirus vaccine testing program aims to meet year-end goal, report

Washington state remains under a stay-at-home order through May 31.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement Friday on Washington’s progress toward reopening and said, “As we move into the three-day weekend, I urge Washingtonians to keep working diligently to protect your families and communities. Please continue to physically distance, spend time with those in your household and stay close to where you live. We have made tremendous progress in this fight and I know this has been extremely difficult for everyone. Our collective efforts have protected health and saved lives.”

Friday, May 22:

Antiviral drug remdesivir speeds recovery in severe COVID-19 cases, trial finds

Experts with UW Medicine say the antiviral drug remdesivir speeds up recovery in patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

A large, multinational trial has found that remdesivir reduced recovery time for severe COVID-19 patients by about one-third, according to a release from UW Medicine.

Preliminary results of the trial were published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Early results are being released after independent experts overseeing the trial's conduct and safety determined that patients who received the drug were clearly benefiting, officials said.

“The main take-home messages are that remdesivir is effective in reducing the duration of illness in people who are hospitalized with COVID-19, but it’s obviously not a cure-all. We will need other treatments on top of this antiviral to really improve outcomes," said Dr. Helen Chu, a study co-author and an assistant professor of allergy and infectious diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The trial is being conducted by the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT-1) Study Group, a collaboration sponsored by U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The study includes medical centers in North America, Europe and Asia.

Kittitas County asking everyone to wear face masks in public starting Saturday

Starting Saturday, May 23, Kittitas County is strongly encouraging everyone in the county to wear cloth face coverings to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Health officials say anyone who is in a confined indoor public setting should wear a face mask, and face masks should be worn outside as well when people cannot maintain six feet of physical distance.

All commercial establishments in Kittitas County are required to post signage advising people to wear face masks.

The following individuals do not have to comply with the county’s directive:

  • Children under 2
  • Any child under 12 years of age, unless supervised by a parent or caregiver
  • Any individual who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as a way of communication
  • Individuals advised by medical professional that masking would pose a health risk
  • Any individual who has trouble breathing or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

WDFW announces some recreational fishing to reopen in Washington's coastal waters next week

After weeks of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced many of the state’s coastal waters are set to reopen for fishing next week.

Marine areas 1-3, including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, will open for bottom fish, shellfish, mussels, clams, oysters, and other species on May 26, according to a WDFW release. Crabbing on the Columbia River is also set to resume under normal regulations on May 26. 

However, halibut and razor clam harvest will remain closed in these areas due to continued port closures and concerns about spreading the coronavirus in local communities, officials said. Marine Area 4, Neah Bay, also remains closed to all recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting.

People still need to follow state guidelines by continuing to recreate in their local communities, traveling only with family or other members of their immediate household and practicing physical distancing by keeping at least six feet apart.

Some areas in Puget Sound are also scheduled to open for recreational spot shrimp fishing on May 28, WDFW also announced Friday. Other areas within central Puget Sound and Hood Canal are set to open June 11 under seasons announced by WDFW. 

The process of finalizing dates this year has taken longer than usual due to COVID-19 related challenges and public health considerations, said Don Velasquez, a shellfish biologist for WDFW.

King County continues to urge anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to get tested right away

Health officials with Public Health Seattle & King County released a list of sites where people can go and get tested for COVID-19.

County health officials are urging anyone with even mild symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested to help limit the spread of the deadly virus.

King County residents can contact the sites directly for testing hours and to make an appointment. If people are having trouble, they can also call the King County COVID-19 call center, which is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. at 206-477-3977.

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.

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.”

RELATED: 2 cases of rare child illness linked to COVID-19 reported in Washington

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

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.

View previous updates for coronavirus in Washington state here.