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caption: Tents set up for drive-through Covid-19 testing are shown on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, in the parking lot of the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center along Southwest Campus Drive in Federal Way.
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Tents set up for drive-through Covid-19 testing are shown on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, in the parking lot of the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center along Southwest Campus Drive in Federal Way.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Pandemic blog: Coronavirus updates from across the Northwest

This post will be updated with information about the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington state. Scroll down for older information.

As of Thursday, November 19, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 2,619 Covid-19 related deaths; 139,543 confirmed cases; a 1.9% death rate among positive cases.
  • Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases is nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23

Third Washington state inmate dies of Covid-19

10:30 a.m. — A third inmate held within Washington state prisons has died after contracting Covid-19, the Washington State Department of Corrections reported over the weekend.

Michael Cornethan, 62, was taken to a medical facility for treatment on Nov. 20. He died one day later.

Within state prison walls, the number of coronavirus cases has continued to climb. The Washington State Penitentiary, where Cornethan was held, has had 217 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, according to the department of corrections.

Just one county north of the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla County, the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center has had 292 total confirmed coronavirus cases, and two inmate deaths as a result of Covid-19.

“The health and safety of the incarcerated individuals under our jurisdiction, our staff and the community remains our top priority,” said Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair, in a press release.

Cornethan was serving a life sentence without parole after he was convicted of aggravated murder out of King County. He had been within the state prison system since May of 1983.

He was most recently housed in long-term medium custody at the Washington State Penitentiary. The inmates within medium security units at the prison are currently on quarantine.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20

Just don't do it, weary health officials say

2:30 p.m. — Do not travel or meet up with others for the holidays, health officials warn.

In an appeal to King County residents on Friday, Jeff Duchin, the public health officer made a plea.

“If people travel or gather for Thanksgiving celebrations or other get-togethers, we could see an explosion in Covid-19 causing human suffering unlike anything we've experienced in modern times,” he said.

Duchin said that while some people are trying to get tested to then meet up with family, that doesn’t guarantee that will stop the spread.

Rather it limits who can access testing now – especially for front line workers.

“We reached a new peak with 581 new cases reported on average each day last week, which is about 200 percent higher than our previous peak in daily counts,” he said.

Officials encourage people to not risk it and avoid travel during the holidays.

They also warn that while death rates have not risen yet, there is typically a three-week lag between when cases peak, and when people are hospitalized.

More virus in the system could mean more likely death, research finds

Patients with more coronavirus in their system were four times more likely to die in the next month than those with lower levels of the virus, according to a University of Washington release.

The amount of virus is determined by how long it takes for the test to pick up on the virus.

Machines testing for the virus run in cycles.

Patients for whom the virus was detected in less than 22 cycles were four times more likely to die in the next 30 days than those whose positive status was detected in more than 22 cycles.

Read more from the University of Washington...

Isolde Raftery

No fun allowed by state order

12 p.m. — Dyer Oxley, our morning web editor, snapped this photo at Spuds near the ferry terminal in Edmonds, Washington.

caption: A sign on the pinball machine at Spuds near the ferry terminal in Edmonds, Washington, on November 20, 2020.
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A sign on the pinball machine at Spuds near the ferry terminal in Edmonds, Washington, on November 20, 2020.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Dyer Oxley

Also, no prayer wheel spinning allowed at the Buddhist temple in Greenwood.

caption: Prayer wheels at the Buddhist temple in Greenwood, Seattle, Washington, in mid-November 2020.
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Prayer wheels at the Buddhist temple in Greenwood, Seattle, Washington, in mid-November 2020.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19

Testing slots gobbled up by those wanting negative Covid tests for Thanksgiving

4:30 p.m. — Negative coronavirus tests are the new golden ticket. Get one, lay low for a week, and you can spend Thanksgiving with your relatives indoors.

Not so fast, say health officials.

For starters, those testing sites are intended for people who may be sick with Covid – not for those wanting a safety check so they can socialize.

"Please, do not gather with people at Thanksgiving,” Jenny Durkan, the Seattle mayor, said. “We’ve seen a rush on our testing sites for people who are getting tested so they can gather. This is not the time to do that. We need to double our efforts to make sure that we get this virus under control.”

Keep reading...

—Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Washington state caps app-based food delivery fees

4:02 p.m. — Governor Jay Inslee has announced a statewide cap on third-party food delivery service fees in the wake of new indoor dining restrictions enacted this week.

Under the new proclamation, platforms such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Postmates will only be permitted collect delivery fees up to 15% ,and total service fees of up to 18% of the base price of a food order.

The action mirrors various measures taken by municipalities around the state, in an effort to combat the economic toll of new social distancing restrictions on small businesses and residents.

The mandate will take effect on Wednesday, November 25, one day ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Amid a surge in Covid-19 cases across the state and the country, officials are urging people to forgo traditional Thanksgiving celebrations and limit in-person gatherings to attendees who share a household.

—Liz Brazile

New Free Covid-19 testing site at Highline College

2:54 p.m. — Starting Friday, you can get tested for Covid-19 at Highline Community College in Des Moines.

Testing is free and available to anyone, regardless of one’s immigration or insurance status. The site is located in the college’s south parking lot at 2402 S. 240th Street, Des Moines.

In addition to the new site at Highline, free testing is also available at locations in Tukwila, Renton, Federal Way, and Auburn.

—Liz Brazile

High school winter sports delayed amid rising Covid-19 cases

10:30 a.m. -- The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association says it's now delaying the return of high school winter sports by about a month because of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases. Instead of December 28, basketball, wrestling and a couple other sports seasons will start on Feb. 1 -- depending on coronavirus numbers.

That season will run through March 20.

Then traditional fall sports like football are scheduled to pick up in March and end on May 1.

-- Angela King

Snohomish County Superior Court suspends jury trials

10 a.m. -- The Snohomish County Superior Court announced Wednesday that it is suspending jury trials until January 8.

Previously, jury trials had resumed as of July 13 after another shutdown.

A statement from the presiding judge notes that there's been a rising number of Covid-19 cases in the community and the suspension is being taken due to the "extraordinary circumstances."

The Snohomish County Health District has described the local rise in cases as "explosive."

-- Derek Wang

Oregon issues new pandemic restrictions

9:30 a.m. -- A two-week freeze on certain activities in Oregon has been issued in response to the coronavirus situation there.

Gatherings are limited to six people. Restaurants can only offer take-out, and stores can only operate at 75% capacity.

And unlike here in Washington, those who violate these rules can be cited or even arrested.

-- Angela King

An about face for the Monroe School District

9 a.m. -- The Monroe School District has now decided to pause all in-person learning for first graders starting Friday.

Teachers were supposed to report back to class Tuesday, but many didn't because their union said they and the district hadn't agreed on Covid-19 safety protocols.

While the district says it did have safety plans in place, and was following state and county recommendations, it's heard the concerns expressed by staff and families.

-- Angela King

WSU basketball coach tests positive for Covid-19

8:30 a.m. -- The Washington state men's basketball coach has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Coach Kyle Smith will miss the season opener on November 25. The college says it hasn't placed any other basketball program members into the school's Covid protocols.

-- Angela King

Western Washington University halts in-person classes

8:15 a.m. -- Western Washington University has now suspended all in-person classes.

The university says it's seen a significant increase in positive Covid cases among students and a concerning trend in Bellingham and Whatcom County.

-- Angela King

Tempers flaring over whether Gov. Inslee should call a special session

8 a.m. -- Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s budget director said Wednesday there’s a total of $200 million in unspent CARES Act money that could ultimately go to relief efforts.

On Wednesday, Washington state lawmakers got some good news about state revenues. They’re actually projected to go up, not down, despite the ongoing pandemic. But there’s a stark difference of opinion between majority Democrats and minority Republicans over whether the Legislature should convene now and pass a bailout package for businesses and workers.

House budget chair Timm Ormsby, a Democrat, is in the camp that says it makes sense to wait and see what Congress does.

“Unless we have some answers we’re flying a little blind on what we would do independent and outside of federal assistance," Ormsby said.

But John Braun, the ranking Republican on the Senate budget committee, says Washington has already gotten federal help and shouldn’t wait around for more.

“Why aren’t we thankful for the help we’ve gotten and get off our hands and do something about our situation instead of relying on hope?” Braun said.

Governor Inslee has promised $50 million in relief funds to businesses and workers affected by his latest Covid orders.

-- Austin Jenkins

National Guard to keep up Covid testing in Pullman

7:30 a.m. -- The Washington National Guard is staying in Pullman – for now -- so it can test more staff and students for Covid-19 ahead of the semester break.

WSU President Kirk Schulz appealed to staff and students Wednesday to continue being cautious.

"We also encourage you all to limit your travel this holiday season if at all possible," Schulz said. "And students, we’ll repeat this multiple times. If you are traveling home, please get tested for the virus before you go."

Schulz asked students leaving for the Thanksgiving break to not return until the spring semester in January, if possible.

A National Guard unit first arrived in September to help with testing after cases started to spike as students returned to campus. The Guard’s deployment was originally scheduled to end this week, but WSU officials say they'll now stay through at least December 17.

-- Derek Wang

Pushback against Washington's pandemic restrictions

7 a.m. -- Covid-19 cases are surging across Washington state, prompting concern for health officials that hospitals will become overwhelmed soon. There are some communities, however, that feel the restrictions are excessive.

Tri-Cities officials have sent a letter to Inslee arguing against the restrictions, stating that businesses are not to blame for the virus' spread and should not be targeted. The letter states that mask wearing and social distancing should be enough and that the rise in cases is due to irresponsible gatherings, not businesses.

Outside of the letter, a Richland council member went as far as to call Inslee a "fascist" during a recent public meeting, according to The Tri-City Herald. Officials in Franklin and Benton Counties are also considering sending their own letter in opposition.

The region has not been spared from the pandemic. Two mayors from the Tri-Cities have become ill with Covid-19 since March. Congressman Dan Newhouse, who represents Central Washington, announced he tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.

The Washington Hospitality Association has also penned a letter and sent it to the governor. The association argues that 100,000 people are likely to lose their jobs under the shutdowns.

-- Dyer Oxley

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18

Dire projections in hospital occupancy and Covid-19 spread

5:28 p.m. — A forthcoming report on Covid-19 in Washington is detailing just how bad a few key metrics in the state are getting.

Covid-19 hospital admissions could skyrocket fivefold in the next few weeks unless the new restrictions on indoor gatherings are as successful as widespread social distancing measures implemented in March, according to projections by the Institute for Disease Modeling.

The projections are part of a report slated to come out today, according to Washington state health officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy, who shared the graphs during a Wednesday media briefing.

caption: A graph of hospital occupancy projections created by the Institute for Disease Modeling shared by Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy at a media briefing Wednesday, November 18.
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A graph of hospital occupancy projections created by the Institute for Disease Modeling shared by Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy at a media briefing Wednesday, November 18.
Credit: Screenshot of Department of Health media briefing

“I’m extremely concerned about the course we’re on,” state health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said. “I’m extremely concerned about how quickly our hospital occupancy is increasing with Covid-19 patients.”

Washington state is seeing the fastest growth of Covid-19 since March, according to the latest estimates of the effective reproductive number, a key metric that measures how fast the virus is spreading.

caption: A graph of the state's effective reproductive number created by the Institute for Disease Modeling shared by Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy at a media briefing Wednesday, November 18.
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A graph of the state's effective reproductive number created by the Institute for Disease Modeling shared by Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy at a media briefing Wednesday, November 18.
Credit: Screenshot of Department of Health briefing

In western Washington the effective reproductive number is 1.8. That means that each person with Covid-19 is infecting nearly two more people on average – then those people infect almost four more people on average, who infect eight people (you get the idea).

The state aims for the metric to be below one to shrink the outbreak. In eastern Washington the effective reproductive number is estimated at 1.7.

“This is probably the most important time that we’ve had as ever,” state secretary of health John Wiesman said. “As cases continue to rise, each of us must take immediate action to avoid catastrophic consequences.”

—Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Kent limits app-based food delivery fees

3:39 p.m. — The City of Kent has enacted a cap on food delivery service fees on apps including Door Dash, Uber Eats, and Grub Hub in an effort to "lower the cost to small businesses and residents during a time where food delivery is essential because of the pandemic."

Under the ordinance, which takes effect at midnight on Saturday, delivery apps can only commission a maximum fee of 15% of a food order price. The action comes in the wake new, statewide social distancing measures, including a temporary ban on indoor restaurant dining.

—Liz Brazile

Tempers flare over whether to call a special session of the WA Legislature

2:58 p.m. Restaurants and other businesses are closing in Washington because of Covid. Now tempers are flaring over whether Governor Jay Inslee should call a special session of the state Legislature.

On Wednesday, Washington state lawmakers got some good news about state revenues. They’re actually projected to go up over the next two budget cycles, not down, despite the ongoing pandemic.

Still, revenue forecaster Steve Lerch cautions the pandemic continues to pose a threat to the state’s economy.

“As cases increase, even without additional restrictions, people will pull back. They won’t feel comfortable shopping or doing other things with or without restrictions and it’s difficult for us to know exactly the magnitude of those sorts of changes, so that I think is really where the uncertainty is,” Lerch said.

Washington is still facing a two-plus-billion dollar drop in revenues over the next four years. The state also, though, has healthy reserves.

Meanwhile, there’s a stark difference of opinion between majority Democrats and minority Republicans over whether the Legislature should convene now and pass a bailout package for businesses and workers.

House budget chair Timm Ormsby, a Democrat, is in the camp that says it makes sense to wait and see what Congress does.

“Unless we have some answers we’re flying a little blind on what we would do independent and outside of federal assistance," Ormsby said on Wednesday.

But John Braun, the ranking Republican on the Senate budget committee, says Washington has already gotten federal help and shouldn’t wait around for more.

“Why aren’t we thankful for the help we’ve gotten and get off our hands and do something about our situation instead of relying on hope,” asked Braun.

Governor Inslee has promised $50 million in relief funds to businesses and workers affected by his latest Covid orders. Inslee’s budget director said Wednesday there’s a total of $200 million in unspent CARES Act money that could ultimately go to relief efforts.

Austin Jenkins

Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for Covid-19

12:30 p.m. -- Washington State Representative Dan Newhouse announced Wednesday that he tested positive for Covid-19.

Newhouse is a Republican who represents Washington's 4th Congressional District, which covers much of central Washington, including Douglas, Okanogan, Grant, Yakima, Franklin, Benton, and Adams Counties.

Dyer Oxley

Washington state now considered Covid-19 'Red Zone'

12:25 a.m. -- The White House Coronavirus Task Force has now classified Washington state as a red zone for new coronavirus cases, ABC News is reports.

The news agency also says the task force supports the new restrictions Governor Jay Inslee recently put in place to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The latest restriction -- banning indoor service at bars and restaurants -- is now in effect.

According to a White House briefing obtained by ABC: "Washington continued to break records for new daily cases over the past two weeks. Washington is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population."

-- Angela King

caption: Mark Radford, a paramedic with King County Medic One, administers a Covid-19 test on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, in the parking lot of the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center along Southwest Campus Drive in Federal Way.
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Mark Radford, a paramedic with King County Medic One, administers a Covid-19 test on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, in the parking lot of the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center along Southwest Campus Drive in Federal Way.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Gov. Inslee says panic buying is not necessary under new restrictions

Noon -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee wants people to stop panic buying.

“There have been some reports of hoarding and that’s just not necessary right now because the supply chain is very healthy, it’s going to continue to provide what we need," Inslee said.

Inslee acknowledged the new 25% occupancy cap on grocery stores could have been explained better. Previously, the cap was 30% and most stores found they didn’t have to regulate their front doors to meet that standard.

Inslee has pledged $50 million in federal CARES Act money to help businesses impacted by his latest closure orders. He says details could be announced before the week is out.

Austin Jenkins

Covid-19 testing centers expect more demand ahead of Thanksgiving.

11:30 a.m. -- Washington state is encouraging anyone who wants to meet in-person indoors for the holiday to quarantine for at least a week and get tested.

Some centers are confident they have enough supplies for whatever demand comes their way. Many Covid test sites are already seeing higher volumes as the virus spreads more rapidly.

The city of Seattle is warning of wait times up to an hour at its testing sites.

Public Health Seattle and King County is adding more staff and expanding locations, including a new site Friday at Highline College and at Bellevue College.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

About 10% positive rate for Covid tests in Snohomish County

11 a.m. -- Officials in Snohomish County are worried the local health care system will become overwhelmed.

In September, slightly more than 2% of Covid tests were coming back positive. Now it’s closer to 10%. Case counts are roughly seven times higher.

"When you hear the term exponential growth, that’s what’s occurring," said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. "And I actually like to refer to it as 'explosive,' because it’s really just taken off and we’re starting to see some of the effects in the healthcare system."

The number of people hospitalized has also jumped, and the county is starting to see the number of deaths rise as well.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Halloween parties greatly contributed to recent spike in Covid-19

10:45 a.m. -- Officials say that many of the 6,000 new Covid-19 cases spreading through King County over the past couple weeks were spurred by indoor gatherings.

"One of the things our contact tracers have been finding out, is a lot of the increase we’re seeing right now -- Halloween parties," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "And this is a clear warning for Thanksgiving coming up in a couple weeks, and then the December holidays. People need to take this very seriously."

King County's latest dashboard data on the coronavirus shows, on average, each person with Covid-19 is spreading it to 1.2 other people.

The risk of being hospitalized is also going up in King County. Public officials are recommending people find a new way to celebrate Thanksgiving and other fall events this year.

Paige Browning

Sen. Murray worried about vaccine distribution as Trump adm. drags feet

10 a.m. -- US Senator Patty Murray is warning that a timely national rollout of a coronavirus vaccine could be delayed if President Trump continues to drag his feet.

The ranking member of the Senate Health Committee says the Trump administration needs to share vaccine distribution plans and data now, so the Biden transition team won't have to play catch-up when it takes office January 20.

Angela King

Washington’s next secretary of health calls for unity in the battle against Covid

9:30 a.m. -- Dr. Umair A. Shah, an emergency room physician who currently runs the public health department in the Houston area, will take over the top job at the Washington State Department of Health next month.

At a news conference, he acknowledged the controversy surrounding mask mandates and business closures.

"You know, if I have a patient who is taking blood pressure medication, I can say ‘Hey you know what -- take your blood pressure medication, it’s actually good for you, it’s going to reduce your risk for complications,'" Shah said. "That’s not been politicized. My patient will take the medicine. But something as simple as wearing a mask has become politicized."

Shah says the virus should be the common enemy. He calls Covid-19 a “super slick” virus and says if the state waits to take action, it will be too late.

Shah will replace Secretary John Wiesman who previously announced his planned resignation.

More details about Dr. Shah here.

Austin Jenkins

King County executive wants more nuanced regulations

9 a.m. -- A new ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars statewide went into effect overnight

But King County Executive Dow Constantine wants to see if there's a way to make the region's coronavirus regulations more nuanced from business-to-business.

For example, right now, there's a one-size-fits-all approach, with 25% capacity limits in businesses, and no indoor restaurant service.

"I think this is a challenge across many sectors, every restaurant is different, every workout facility is different, every retail store is different, and we have to get better at fine tuning both the advice and the regulations to recognize those differences," Constantine told KUOW.

He says one idea is to allow some in-person workout training at gyms that have adequate space. Only outdoor classes are allowed right now.

Executive Constantine cannot impose looser regulations for King County, but says he can advocate for them to state leaders.

Paige Browning

US-Canada border likely won't reopen soon

8:30 a.m. -- The most recent extension of the U.S.-Canada border closure technically expires this Friday, November 20, but no one expects the border crossing restrictions to be lifted by then.

The tight limits on discretionary border crossings have been extended monthly by mutual agreement between Ottawa and the Trump administration. In an interview with public radio, Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman declined to speculate when the border might reopen, but it won't be soon.

"The pandemic seems to be escalating in both of our countries," Hillman said. "That would seem to suggest that these measures are with us for a while."

Hillman says she's encouraged to hear detailed proposals from business and trade groups in the Pacific Northwest to ease the border closure. An initial pilot project just launched in Alberta uses rapid Covid-19 testing to shorten quarantines for arriving travelers. Hillman cautions getting back to normal will be a gradual process.

Tom Banse

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announces new pick for health secretary

11:32 a.m. -- Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced the appointment of Dr. Umair A. Shah to lead the state Department of Health beginning on December 21.

Since 2013, Shah has been executive director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas. He will replace outgoing Secretary John Wiesman who has served in the position since 2013. Previously, Wiesman announced his plan to leave the post at the end of the year to take a teaching job in North Carolina.

"Dr. Shah brings an unrivaled expertise, knowledge and passion for public health," Inslee said in a press release announcing the appointment. "His leadership will help us lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic."

Shah's appointment comes as Inslee prepares to begin a third term and as the state, and the nation, are experiencing record new daily cases of Covid-19 and exponential growth in the pandemic. This week, Inslee imposed new restrictions on businesses and indoor gatherings in an effort to contain the rapidly spreading virus.

More on the new health secretary here.

-- Austin Jenkins

Stanwood long-term care facility outbreak grows

12:52 p.m. -- A senior living complex in Stanwood now has 99 cases of Covid-19. Both residents and staff have been infected at the Josephine Caring Community since late October. Seven have been hospitalized and five have died, according to the Snohomish Health District.

Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters is not aware of any gross negligence at the facility, he said.

“Even with good infection control precautions, it’s hard to interrupt the spread of this virus in close congregate settings like long-term care facilities,” he said.

Spitters blamed the outbreak on the overall spread of Covid-19 in the community, saying the virus came into the facility with staff and visitors.

-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Covid case numbers still concerning

11 a.m. -- After a record-breaking weekend and three straight days of Washington reporting more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases, a dip in the numbers finally came Monday.

The health department confirmed nearly 1,500 new cases Monday and 29 new deaths Monday. But health officials warn we're still on a dangerous track.

Not only have daily cases doubled over the past week, but coronavirus hospitalizations have also increased by about 40%.

The UW Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that Washington will have about 115 daily deaths by the end of February if the state doesn't have restrictions. But if 95% of people use masks while around people outside of their home, that projection comes down to 36 deaths per day.

-- Angela King

Unemployment claims spike, some told they will have to pay it back

10 a.m. -- The Seattle Times is reporting some Washingtonians are being told they have to repay some or all of their unemployment benefits.

That's because they've been moved from a federal program to the state's program, which pays less in some instances. And because of changes in that eligibility status, those who received overpayments will have to pay them back.

But the state Employment Security Department says many of the affected workers can restart suspended benefits and avoid repayment if they file a new claim with the department.

The ESD says that switch from federal to state unemployment services is largely why Washington saw a 71% spike in claims last week. That's the largest weekly amount in the nation.

Some economists, including two with ESD, suggested the spike in claims might reflect a combination of factors, including seasonal layoffs and cuts by employers responding to surging cases of Covid-19.

ESD was able to confirm that the “majority” of the spike was made up of “people moving between entitlements and not people who are newly unemployed."

-- Angela King

Small businesses react to Washington’s new Covid-related restrictions

9:30 a.m. -- Small businesses are reacting to Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s new Covid-related restrictions.

Tiffany Krueger owns Athena Fitness in Olympia. She'll have to stop offering in-person classes under the new rules. Krueger says she believes this “third wave” of Covid could have been avoided.

"Everyone is suffering, the collective, because certain people refuse to follow the mandates," Krueger said. "And it’s devastating really for everyone on many levels."

Meanwhile, in Ellensburg, former state lawmaker Bill Hinkle says he and his wife just made the decision to permanently close their crepes and wine restaurant. Hinkle says the governor’s orders are reinforcing that decision.

"We’ve been kind of holding out thinking maybe there’s hope, maybe things will get better and it just didn’t and then this really put the nail in the coffin, so we just decided we’re going to be out," Hinkle said.

Inslee says he’ll tap $50 million in federal CARES Act money to provide some relief to businesses. But he also acknowledges it’s not enough.

Minority Republicans are calling for a special session of the Legislature to address the crisis.

-- Austin Jenkins

Recent wedding results in two Covid-19 outbreaks

9 a.m. -- Grant County Health officials are asking more than 300 people to self quarantine for a week after attending a wedding in Ritzville on November 7.

At least 17 cases and two different outbreaks have been tied to the wedding which was held despite a limit on the number of guests. Health officials say those who attended came from different communities and they're concerned the outbreak could spread to other counties.

-- Angela King

Outbreak at UW fraternities and sororities continues

8:30 a.m. -- The University of Washington says a coronavirus outbreak that started in September has now infiltrated more than half of its sororities and fraternities. Cases involve 23 of the 45 chapters on the Seattle campus.

At least 372 cases have been reported within the university's Greek community as of Monday. This is the second outbreak there since the summer.

-- Angela King

Locals aim to support Capitol Hill restaurants as restrictions set in

8 a.m. -- On East Pike street in Capitol Hill, Dana Ericsson stopped by Big Mario’s Pizza after work for a drink by herself. She used to come here a few times a week with coworkers and wanted to support the business.

“It’s just a neighborhood hang-out. It’s community, it’s my fellow neighbors that are here on the daily. It’s definitely not the same Capitol Hill that it was, but it’s definitely nice having them in the neighborhood.”

Christian De la Torre works at Big Mario’s Pizza on Capitol Hill. He will continue to be employed with the company after the restrictions go into place. He says he felt like people were just starting to get more comfortable with indoor dining before the new restrictions were announced.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was definitely bummed out," he said. "I felt like we were just starting to get the ball rolling and then you know unfortunately we have to roll ‘em back and start all over again. But it’s all we can do. It’s kind of out of our hands at this point.”

Aharon Robinson and Debbie Alvarado were getting takeout bubble tea on Capitol Hill Monday night. They support the new restrictions and are trying to support local businesses, too.

“Especially once winter comes around, all the outdoor seating options start to pull away, so we want to show support when we can. We know it’s going to be a tough time coming within the next week or two, especially now with the closures.”

-- Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Hospitals preparing for patient surge

7:30 a.m. -- With coronavirus cases on the rise across Washington state, hospitals are getting ready for a surge of patients. Some hospitals are canceling surgeries that require ICU beds or long hospital stays.

Hospital officials are urging people to avoid indoor social gatherings in order to knock down the Covid-19 case numbers. Cassie Sauer is president and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.

"Thanksgiving is really keeping me up at night," Sauer said. "I am not thankful for Thanksgiving right now. We are hearing too much of a sense of -- Thanksgiving as a break day. People saying 'I've been following the rules for eight months, but I'm not giving up my Thanksgiving.' And the possibility that two weeks after Thanksgiving we could have an explosion of cases is truly terrifying."

Just last week, the number of Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalization increased by 40% across Washington.

Many of Governor Inslee's new restrictions are now in effect, including a ban on indoor gatherings from people outside your household.

-- Paige Browning

Shop for what you need

7 a.m. -- Local grocers are urging people to only shop for what they need and avoid stockpiling aka hoarding.

Karl Schroeder, Seattle Division President of Safeway and Albertsons says there will be enough supplies for everyone. They have stocked their warehouses with paper and cleaning products.

"We roll trucks to our stores every single day and so if a store sells out, they’ll have more within 24 hours," Schroeder said. "And again, as long as folks aren’t buying more than they need to get through the next week or so, we'll be fine.

Just to be safe, there will be purchase limits on certain items like toilet paper, disinfecting solutions and wipes, and vitamins.

If people want to avoid coming in altogether, Schroeder says more of their stores are now offering curbside pickup.

-- Ruby de Luna

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16

"No need to panic buy" says grocery trade group

2:48 p.m. -- Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s new Covid restrictions have set off another wave of panic buying. There have been long lines at area Costco stores and there’s been a run on essentials like toilet paper.

Tammie Hetrick with the Washington Food Industry Association represents independent grocers and said Monday that there’s no reason to panic.

caption: Richard grocery shops in the bath tissue aisle at Fred Meyer on Monday, November 16, 2020, on Northwest 45th Street in Seattle. New statewide restrictions were announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19.
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Richard grocery shops in the bath tissue aisle at Fred Meyer on Monday, November 16, 2020, on Northwest 45th Street in Seattle. New statewide restrictions were announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

“We’re in good shape, we’ve got supplies available as long as people aren’t panic buying and over buying. So there’s enough for everyone, we just have to make sure that we’re only getting what we need," Hetrick said in an interview.

Hetrick added that suppliers are also better prepared this time around, compared to last March when the governor issued a stay home order.

More on the reaction to Gov. Jay Inslee's restrictions here.

Inslee’s office says it anticipated some “hoarding,” but is also encouraging people to buy only what they need. Under the governor’s new orders, grocery stores have to limit the number of customers to 25 percent of capacity.

-- Austin Jenkins

There goes the toilet paper again

1 p.m. -- Customers across the Seattle area flooded into stores ahead of new statewide restrictions that will shut down many businesses, and limit capacity as grocery stores.

Reports of empty toilet paper shelves started coming in Sunday night, shortly after Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the shutdown, which is aimed at curbing the alarming surge in Covid-19 cases across the state.

Local Safeway and Albertsons stores are going to offer special shopping hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays between opening and 9 a.m. for seniors and vulnerable populations.

caption: A line forms outside of Costco on Monday, November 16, 2020, on 4th Avenue South in Seattle. New statewide restrictions were announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19. 
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They're also asking the public to avoid hoarding certain products -- some of which will have purchase limits. Things like toilet paper, antibacterial wipes, and vitamin C.

According to a statement from Safeway Sunday, only one entrance will be open at all its stores in Washington state. An employee will be stationed at the entrance during peak times to monitor customer numbers entering and exiting the stores.

-- Megan Farmer and Angela King

Washington GOP wants a special session

9 a.m. -- Some GOP leaders are calling on the governor to convene an emergency session of the state Legislature in response to the new restrictions.

State Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler released a statement calling the surge “very concerning,” but added more voices need to be included in the decision making process.

He also mentioned the governor’s ban on social gatherings is going to be “hard to enforce.”

Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday he did not rule out the possibility of a special session, but said there aren't plans at this time to hold one.

-- Angela King

Monroe students will return to class

8:30 a.m. -- First-grade students in the Monroe Public School District are getting ready to return to class. Instead of today, the students return for in-person hybrid learning Tuesday.

The teachers union says it's working on an agreement with the district that will outline health and safety protocols as well as any supports needed. Some kindergartners and special needs students are already back in class.

-- Angela King

Urgent care employees plan for strike

8 a.m. -- Employees at 20 urgent care clinics in the Puget Sound region have given notice that they plan to go on strike.

They say their employer, the MultiCare health system, has failed to provide them reasonable hours, scheduled breaks, and adequate personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks.

Nurse practitioner MC Nachtigal says the strike follows on the heels of a Covid outbreak at MultiCare's Auburn Medical Center.

"Given that we are currently in discussion with MultiCare about many safety issues, including PPE, it doesn't surprise us about how MultiCare approaches the business of providing health care," Nachtigal said.

MultiCare said in a statement that, to date, none of its urgent care employees has contracted Covid at work.

Officials say they'll be meeting with the union again next week to see if they can negotiate an agreement before the strike occurs.

-- Eilis O'Neill

caption: A pedestrian walks in front of the Elliott Bay Pizza Co. & Flame Burger on Monday, November 16, 2020, along Queen Anne Avenue North in Seattle. New statewide restrictions, including a ban on indoor dining beginning Wednesday, were announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19.
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A pedestrian walks in front of the Elliott Bay Pizza Co. & Flame Burger on Monday, November 16, 2020, along Queen Anne Avenue North in Seattle. New statewide restrictions, including a ban on indoor dining beginning Wednesday, were announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Restaurant owners preparing to be hit hard by 4-week restrictions

7:45 a.m. -- Restaurant owners in Washington are expecting to lay off thousands of workers in coming weeks now that the state is shutting down indoor service at restaurants and bars.

Desirae Aylesworth owns the Wild Mountain Café in Seattle says that despite understanding the reasons behind the shutdown, it's still going to be difficult.

“If this is what needs to be done, then we respect that," Aylesworth said. "We definitely understand that it's affecting people and don't want people getting sick and things like that. But it is definitely a hard pill to swallow when it comes to your business relying on walk-in traffic and sales on a daily basis to survive.”

Governor Jay Inslee announced the restrictions on indoor gatherings Sunday, calling them difficult, but necessary to save lives adding that he had to act urgently, even before financial aid for affected businesses is available.

Thoa Nguyen owns the Chinoise Restaurant in Issaquah and notes that the new restrictions come ahead of the holidays -- the busiest time of the year for restaurants.

“I get it. I understand," Nguyen said. "It's going to be tough, especially going toward the holidays. And I've been in business for a long time. So I will do my best. But I can't imagine people who haven't done this for a long time.”

Nguyen says her restaurants will only be able to endure the ban for so long and she's skeptical the shutdown will only last four weeks.

-- John Ryan

People lining up for hours for Thurston County Covid-19 tests

7:30 a.m. -- In Thurston County, people are waiting for hours to get a drive-up Covid-19 test. Some are even being turned away.

“Our caregivers, they’re tired, very tired. Not defeated, but tired and if we people would maintain the appropriate precautions, we could limit the spread of this virus significantly," said Doctor Kevin Caserta, the chief medical officer for Providence Southwest Washington.

Doctor Caserta says his wish for the upcoming holidays is that people take the threat of Covid seriously and change their behaviors.

“It’s going to help our community’s health," Caserta said. "It’s going to help businesses to continue to be able to run. It’s going to help our economy. And most importantly it’s going to help our caregivers too.”

Providence is considering extending testing hours or creating a new site so it can serve all of those wanting a test.

-- Austin Jenkins

Hollywood North is hard at work as pandemic surges in US

7:15 a.m. -- The film and television industry in British Columbia is busier than ever right now, with more than 60 shows and movies in production this fall.

That's according to the Vancouver Film Commission. And the flurry of activity reflects high demand from broadcasters and streaming services for fresh content.

"Production in British Columbia, studios like ours are working at 100% capacity," said Marjorie Poore who co-founded the Canadian Motion Picture Park -- a film studio with 18 soundstages in suburban Vancouver.

"There is huge demand," Poore said. "We are getting calls every day from producers who want to come up to the region and produce, but there is literally no availability."

The much smaller film industries in Washington and Oregon are coming back too, although not as dramatically. The state film offices say the significant added expenses of coronavirus testing and other safety protocols are holding back smaller productions.

-- Tom Banse

caption: Bartender Cooper Smith makes a drink for a customer behind a sheet of plexiglass on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at Spinasse on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
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Bartender Cooper Smith makes a drink for a customer behind a sheet of plexiglass on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at Spinasse on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

100K restaurant workers likely to be laid off amid 4-week lockdown

7 a.m. -- Restaurant officials call it a sad day for the industry. Washington state will be shutting down indoor service at restaurants and bars for the next four weeks.

“This is devastating news," said Anthony Anton, head of the Washington Hospitality Association. "This likely leads to 100,000 workers out of work right before the holidays.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the new restrictions Sunday. He says the move is necessary to save lives as cases of Covid-19 skyrocket across the state. The virus spreads most easily indoors.

Inslee says another $50 million in federal aid for businesses will be available soon.

-- John Ryan

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15

Where are Covid-19 outbreaks occurring in Washington, beyond healthcare settings?

5 p.m. -- Restaurants, agriculture and construction settings have seen some of the most Covid-19 outbreaks outside of healthcare, according to recent data from the Washington Department of Health.

The most recent DOH outbreak report gives a breakdown of cases by the type of group locations, or “congregate settings.” The following non-healthcare location types have seen the most outbreaks ever reported since the start of the pandemic, according to the DOH:

  • Food service, restaurants: 151 outbreaks
  • Agriculture, employer housing, produce packing: 110 outbreaks
  • Construction: 106 outbreaks
  • Childcare: 91 outbreaks

DOH defines an outbreak in a non‐healthcare congregate setting by specific criteria, including at least two positive cases within 14 days of each other.

According to the DOH report, a total of 1,316 non‐healthcare associated Covid‐19 outbreaks have been reported since the start of the pandemic through November 7, the most recent reporting date available.

Long-term care facilities continue to be hotspots, with a total of 1,092 outbreaks reported so far in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult family homes across the state.

-- Liz Jones

caption: Julie Ding and James Che, right, look at a QR code menu on their phones before ordering on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at Spinasse on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
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Julie Ding and James Che, right, look at a QR code menu on their phones before ordering on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at Spinasse on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Indoor gatherings, dining banned in WA as Covid-19 cases spike. Grocery stores limited

11:05 a.m. — Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday announced various new restrictions, including a temporary ban on most non-essential indoor gatherings and services, aimed at slowing the transmission of the coronavirus in Washington state.

The announcement comes on the heels of earnest pleas by state and local health officials that people continue social distancing as the holiday season approaches.

Washington has seen more than 127,000 known Covid-19 cases and over 2,500 deaths since January, when the first known U.S. case of the disease was reported in Snohomish County.

The state Department of Health reported 2,286 new Covid-19 cases on Friday — the highest number on record for Washington.

That number is double what it was two weeks ago, indicating that community transmission — or transmission in which infections can't be linked back to a known case — is up again.

Read more about the new restrictions here.

—Liz Brazile

Read previous updates here.