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caption: Moose, the Seattle Mariners mascot, rides in an elevator at the Space Needle, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Seattle with guests arriving for a news conference where baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the Mariners will host the 2023 MLB All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park.
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Moose, the Seattle Mariners mascot, rides in an elevator at the Space Needle, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Seattle with guests arriving for a news conference where baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the Mariners will host the 2023 MLB All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park.
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Pandemic updates for Seattle and the Northwest

Updated news about the coronavirus pandemic in Seattle and Washington state.

According to data from the Washington State Department of Health, as of Sept. 16, 2021:

  • 66.2% of eligible Washingtonians (ages 12 and up) are fully vaccinated. Since children are not yet eligible for a Covid shot, this means Washington state is 56.5% fully vaccinated.
  • 7,201 Covid-19 related deaths; 1.2% death rate since the beginning of the pandemic; 553,326 confirmed cases.
  • Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths has been higher for Black, Hispanic, and Native Washingtonians, compared to their share of the state's population.
  • According to the latest data from the department of health, 83.7% of people hospitalized with Covid were not fully vaccinated.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

Kirkland opens application for new Covid relief program

Renters and homeowners who are struggling to pay their rent, mortgage, or utilities in Kirkland can apply for a new financial assistance program.

The new relief program, which is funded from the American Rescue Plan, is open to any resident of Kirkland who has experienced financial hardships because of Covid, and has an income equal to the area's median income or less.

For a single person, the the median income is 81,000 dollars in King County.

Applicants will be contacted by the city to submit documentation that attests their hardship, such as tax returns, receipts, medical bills, and unemployment application materials.

— Paige Browning

Going to see the OL Reign? You'll need to be vaccinated

The OL Reign are the latest Northwest sports team to require fans to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to attend matches.

The Reign, a National Women's Soccer League team, plays at Tacoma's Cheney Stadium.

The vaccine mandate will start at their next game on Sept. 26.

— Paige Browning

About 1/3 of exemption requests approved at UW Medicine

As of Friday afternoon, UW Medicine has received about 60 requests for medical exemptions and 300 requests for religious exemptions from the state’s Covid vaccination requirement.

Roughly a third of all exemption requests have been approved.

UW Medicine’s Chief Medical Officer Tim Dellit reported the numbers during a Friday afternoon town hall on the current pandemic situation.

Jerome Dayao, chief nursing officer and senior associate administrator at UW Medicine, also spoke during the meeting and noted that some employees have opted to be vaccinated as a result of the mandate.

He also said that UW Medicine can likely find replacements for any staff they lose as a result of the mandate. Dayao said the hospital has been speaking with medical travel organizations (which provide temporary staff) and he believes UW Medicine can replace staff as necessary.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccine mandate for a range of jobs, including health care, in August. Affected employees have until October 18 to be fully vaccinated.

— Dyer Oxley

A potential new Covid vaccine being tested at UW Medicine

UW Medicine is seeking volunteers for an experimental Covid vaccine booster.

The three vaccines currently used in the United States target the spike protein of the coronavirus. This experimental version targets a variety of proteins with the aim of provoking an immune response from multiple angles. Researchers hope the approach will create a better defense against variants of the virus.

The study is seeking participants who have already been fully-vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna, or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“With the emergence of the Delta and other Covid-19 variants, we need to stay ahead of the virus by developing effective vaccines that will aid in the prevention of all strains of Covid,” said Dr. Anna Wald, director of the UW Medicine Virology Research Clinic.

More details here.

— Dyer Oxley

Seattle mayor: "...we'll do what we need to do to protect those businesses who are doing the right thing."

When King County's proof-of-vaccination mandate goes into effect in late October, it will be up to staff at bars, restaurants and other businesses to enforce it.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says she hopes customers will comply and be vaccinated. She adds that nobody deserves to be harassed for doing their job.

“If there are certain areas where there are problems we'll do what we need to do to protect those businesses who are doing the right thing," Durkan told KUOW.

The new rules do not apply to outdoor dining, to-go orders, or places like grocery stores.

Read the full story here.

— Kate Walters

Business associations respond to King County's new vaccine mandate

Business organizations are responding to King County’s new requirement that customers show proof-of-vaccination at restaurants, bars, and other places.

“The feedback I’ve gotten from members of the Downtown Seattle Association is that vaccine mandates are a good thing and can help us get over that hump and get to 90 plus percent vaccination in Seattle and King County, and put an end to this pandemic so we can all move past it …” said Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

Scholes notes that the region is “in a really strong position” with having more than 80% of eligible people vaccinated. But to improve pandemic conditions, more is needed.

“Vaccination is the only way we put an end to this pandemic and move forward as a community,” he said.

But not all business organizations favor King County’s recent vaccine mandate. Anthony Anton, CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association says that too much of a burden is being placed on restaurants and bars.

"The data shows without a doubt that Covid spreads everywhere, and any policy to reduce the spread must similarly apply everywhere. Anything less than that amounts to using our industry — which has been the hardest hit by far — as a carrot-and-stick for the small percentage of people in King County who have been unwilling to be vaccinated."

Anton is asking the public to be kind to hospitality staff.

— Kate Walters

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

King Country to require proof of vaccination for some businesses and events

King County will require proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses starting October 25.

“There will be a mandate that people going to certain establishments have to be vaccinated,” Mayor Jenny Durkan told KUOW. “…Places where people will congregate, particularly in the winter months, inside and not wearing masks, are going to be more dangerous than other venues. As we move into winter, we want to make sure we are keeping people safe.”

Patrons without proof of vaccination can also provide a negative Covid test from within 72 hours for entry into non-essential businesses.

According to an order from Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, starting Oct. 25:

  • Proof-of-vaccination will be required for outdoor events with more than 500 people.
  • The requirement also applies to live music venues, theatres, museums, indoor sports and conventions.
  • Proof-of-vaccination will also be required for indoor dining at restaurants and bars, but it does not apply to outdoor dining, take-out, or grocery stores.
  • The mandate will also go into effect on December 6 for restaurants with seating for 12 or fewer customers.
  • Customers can provide proof of vaccination by showing their vaccination card; a photo of their vaccination card on their phone or a photocopy; a printed certificate; a QR code from the state's vaccine records or a vaccine record from a healthcare provider.

The county will reevaluate the mandate in April.

You can read more about the requirement here.

— Dyer Oxley, Angela King, Katie Campbell

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

1 million Covid tests given in Seattle

Seattle has administered 1 million Covid tests since the start of the pandemic at sites throughout the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan the milestone Tuesday, saying one in three Seattle residents has used the free service.

UW Medicine now runs the city sites in SODO, Rainier Beach, West Seattle, and along Aurora.

Officials say testing has increased over the past couple of months with more than 2,900 tests being administered daily.

— Angela King

Northshore schools to begin regular Covid testing

The Northshore School District is getting ready to start testing students and staff for Covid-19. It will begin the tests next week.

The district says the process will be similar to the batch testing conducted last spring. It will be done 2-4 times a month based on community transmission rates. Students will administer the test themselves with a short nasal swab rather than using the long ones you see at testing sites. Families will be allowed to opt out.

— Angela King

Half of state employees verified as vaccinated

Preliminary data released this week shows that less than half of Washington state employees have been verified as vaccinated against Covid-19. State workers have until October 18 to get fully vaccinated or face the possibility of losing their job.

The numbers are incomplete and they are more than a week old. But they give a window into the challenge of identifying how many workers are already vaccinated. Agencies need to know that in order to enforce the governor’s mandate that everyone get vaccinated by next month.

Some of the lowest vaccination rates are at the Department of Corrections, the State Patrol and the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. The highest rates are at agencies like the Department of Financial Institutions and Puget Sound partnership and the Governor’s office, which reports that 55 of its 60 employees are vaccinated.

The state Office of Financial Management says the numbers will be updated every two weeks.

— Austin Jenkins

7% of state workers seeking religious or medical exemption from vaccine mandate

Approximately 4,300 (or 7%) of state workers in Washington have now asked for a religious or medical exemption ahead of the deadline to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

That's according to the state office of financial management. Of those requests, only 737 have been granted on religious grounds and 49 for medical reasons, so far.

Workers who don't get an exemption will lose their jobs if they refuse to get vaccinated. But those who aren't fully vaccinated by the October 18 deadline will be allowed to take leave to complete to vaccine regiment.

A group of nearly 100 state workers has filed a lawsuit against the Governor Inslee's vaccine mandate claiming it's unconstitutional, capricious, and arbitrary.

— Angela King

Health officer faces harassment for vaccination policy

Dr. Allison Berry is the public health officer for both Jefferson and Clallam counties. Last year, she shut down some businesses when Covid cases spiked. Now those counties are seeing more cases than ever before.

"I'm on these calls with my colleagues who are crying because they're watching person after person die," Berry said.

So she acted again. This time with a softer approach. Proof of vaccination is now required at bars and restaurants.

That's the toughest rule in the state. And it's led to resistance. Especially in Clallam County where QAnon and other conspiracy theories are driving local politics.

There have been calls for her resignation, hate mail and death threats.

"This was the first time that I felt unsafe, in my own home," Berry said.

Berry says police are investigating and have increased patrols around her home.

— David Hyde

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Covid-19 testing locations in Seattle administer 1 million tests since opening

Seattle's Covid-19 testing sites have hit a milestone: one million tests have been administered since opening in 2020, according to a statement published on Tuesday by Mayor Jenny Durkan's office.

The Mayor's Office also reports that one in three Seattleites have used the city's free testing program since the start of the pandemic.

The Seattle Fire Department started testing first responders in March 2020, and began testing residents and workers in long-term care facility the following month. As of Aug. 1, UW Medicine has taken over the testing sites.

The mayor's office also shared a break down of the number of Covid tests that have been administered so far at each testing site in Seattle:

  • Curative kiosks: 83,085
  • Aurora: 392,716
  • SODO: 320,790
  • Rainier Beach: 102,866
  • West Seattle: 100,965

— Noel Gasca

State rep: My 1-year-old son got Covid, then so did we

Recent reporting from the CDC indicates children younger than years old now have higher Covid case rates than those 65 and older.

It's a fact that Democratic Washington state representative Noel Frame personally knows. Frame represents parts of Seattle. Her 1-year-old son recently came down with Covid.

"I panicked. I was really scared. We had our son during the pandemic, and were vaccinated, and felt like we had done everything we needed to do to protect ourselves and our son," Frame told KUOW.

Their son Holden started showing severe symptoms at daycare. After taking him home, he started vomiting, had trouble breathing, and was severely congested.

What followed was a visit to the ER and a difficult few days. Representative Frame is now urging people to get vaccinated and mask up.

She shared her story with KUOW’s Kim Malcolm. Read the full story here.

— John O’Brien

Skagit County limiting who gets Covid tests at fairgrounds

Skagit County Public Health is restricting who can get tested for Covid at the county fairgrounds in Mount Vernon. That's because so many people are trying to get tested.

GoSkagit.com reports demand for testing at the site has considerably increased since it reopened on August 30. Now, the site will serve only those who live, work or go to school in the county.

Testing will be reserved for those who are 5 or older, have Covid-19 symptoms or were exposed to the virus.

There is also a nationwide shortage of the antigen tests used at the fairgrounds site. Skagit County health officials say they just don't have the supplies needed to meet demand.

— Angela King

Washington has little room to take on Idaho Covid patients

The Washington State Hospital Association says the state is facing its worst Covid wave since the pandemic began.

The Associated Press reports that Washington's hospitals are canceling necessary surgeries and taking longer to deal with heart attacks and strokes because Covid patients are taking up so many beds.

Meanwhile, hospitals in northern Idaho are so packed, authorities say facilities are now allowed to ration care. Idaho currently has 1,700 hospitalized Covid patients; 260 are on ventilators. The state was dealing with 350 such patients just a couple of months ago. About 95% of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.

Washington hospitals say they have little capacity and generally cannot take any Idaho Covid patients. Idaho hospitals have been making calls to see if any beds are available over the state border. The WSHA says that the patients Washington has taken from Idaho already have caused a "ripple effect" in the system, felt all the way in western Washington.

— Kim Malcolm

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

Covid hospitalizations continue to stress Washington's health care system

Hospital leaders say Washington state's health care system remains strained under the current rate of Covid-19 hospitalizations.

"Including fairs, Labor Day was not that long ago, and school events are also resuming. So we're unsure of the impact of those events even as our numbers perhaps are starting to plateau," said Taya Briley with the Washington State Hospital Association.

Briley says more than 1,600 people are hospitalized for Covid across the state, and the unvaccinated make up an overwhelming majority of those admitted.

But, as the deadline for the state's Covid-19 vaccine mandate inches closer, hospital leaders say there has been an uptick in the number of health care workers getting their shots.

Briley says the association doesn't have an overall number on vaccination rates among workers, but she's hearing anecdotally that the rate varies from place to place.

"We have some facilities that are, you know, in the 80s, close to 90 percent; we have others that are at this point, unfortunately not very vaccinated at all. So it's a very wide range."

Hospital leaders say they're worried the potential impact will exacerbate already strained staffing levels at facilities across the state.

Workers have until October 4 to get their final vaccine dose.

— Kate Walters

Mask mandate begins in Washington

Starting Monday, people ages five and older across Washington state must mask up in outdoor settings with 500 people or more. And it doesn't matter whether you've been vaccinated against Covid-19 or not. Outdoor mask mandates were already in place in King and Pierce Counties. However, not following the order may result in a misdemeanor subjecting the violator to a fine of up to $100 and/or up to 90 days in county jail per RCW 43.70.130.

— Angela King

New rule for food delivery apps goes into effect in Seattle

A new rule for food delivery apps kicks into effect this week in Seattle. It requires companies like Grubhub and DoorDash get restaurants' permission before they list their menus or take orders online. In the early months of the pandemic, eating out was replaced by take out. Many customers relied on food delivery apps to place their orders. Problem was, some of the menus posted online were outdated. And some restaurant owners weren’t aware their menus were being used or that their businesses were listed as part of the delivery service. Seattle’s new rule will require a restaurant’s written consent before the platform can offer delivery service on its behalf. A restaurant may request to be removed from the listing. Delivery platforms must comply within 72 hours or pay a $250 penalty for each violation.

— Ruby de Luna

Washington is the 9th most vaccinated state

There are a few sources that rank the most vaccinated states in the USA. But numbers can vary depending on if you're considering partially or fully vaccinated people, or different age ranges (12 and older, 16 and older, etc.)

When it comes to all vaccines — flu, MMR, and others — the folks over at WalletHub crunched some numbers and found that Washington sneaks into the top 10 most vaccinated states. Washington ranks 9th.

Though Washington is surrounded by Oregon and Idaho, which rank 17th and 45th respectively. It's worth noting that Idaho, with its generally low vaccine adoption rate, it is also currently experiencing a massive surge in Covid cases.

Source: WalletHub

— Dyer Oxley

Troopers, prison guards, ferry workers and others sue to overturn Inslee vaccine mandate

Washington state troopers, prison guards and ferry workers are among the dozens of plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate.

The suit was filed Friday in Walla Walla County on behalf of more than 90 public sector employees. The majority work for the Washington State Patrol.

But there are also plaintiffs from the Department of Corrections, state ferries, University of Washington Medicine, as well as other agencies, along with several city fire departments.

They allege Inslee’s requirement that they get vaccinated against COVID-19 is unlawful and unconstitutional. They call the penalty for not getting vaccinated – firing – “arbitrary and capricious.”

Inslee issued his order in August amid a significant upswing in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. State employees, educators and health care workers are covered by the mandate.

Inslee’s office says the requirement that workers get vaccinated is both “legal and essential for saving lives.”

Read more about the legal action here.

-- Austin Jenkins

Group holds seminars on claiming religious exemptions for vaccine mandates

As the deadline nears for many Washington state employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19, a group called One Washington is holding seminars to instruct people how to obtain a religious exemption.

Governor Jay Inslee's vaccination mandate for many employees does allow a person to claim a "sincerely held religious belief."

KUOW's Deborah Wang went to one seminar on Bainbridge Island recently where about 100 unmasked people attended. The group promoted itself as a "pro-freedom-of-choice" and not an anti-vaccination.

Wang notes that while this group is holding its meet ups at churches, "many religious groups, including the Catholic Church, have come out urging people to get the vaccine in the name of protecting others. For example, the Pope has called getting the Covid vaccine an act of love, and he suggested it's a moral, ethical obligation to get one."

The state also asks anyone seeking a religious exemption to affirm they have never received a vaccine or medicine from a health care provider as an adult. One Washington is advising people not to answer the state's questions regarding their beliefs.

The deadline for requesting a medical or religious exemption for state employees is Monday, Sept. 13.

Read the full story here.

— Angela King

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10

Protestors return to Skyview High School

On Friday, anti-mask protestors defied a Clark County Superior Court Judge's order banning "disruptive protests" within one mile of Vancouver School District property.

Members of the far-right group Patriots Prayer joined about 40 demonstrators outside Skyview High School.

On Sept 7., Clark County Superior Court Judge Suzan Clark ordered an injunction to prevent rallies after protestors caused a lockdown at Skyview High School the previous day.

— Troy Brynelson, OPB

Washington's largest state worker union overwhelmingly ratifies agreement connected to Gov. Inslee's vaccine mandate

Washington’s largest state employee union has ratified an agreement that addresses the implementation of the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The Washington Federation of State Employees said Friday that more than 80 percent of its voting members supported ratification.

Under the agreement, union members will be able to use work time to get their shots. They’ll also have access to what the union calls an “equitable and consistent” process to seek a medical or religious exemption. In addition, workers will receive an additional vacation day next year as a “vaccine incentive.”

And there will be an option for retirement-eligible employees who don’t want to get the vaccine to take leave until their retirement date.

Workers who aren’t fully vaccinated by Governor Jay Inslee’s October 18th deadline, will also have the ability to take paid or unpaid leave until they are fully vaccinated – rather than lose their jobs.

The agreement came together after the union sued the governor alleging that his administration was negotiating in bad faith. Inslee this week called the agreement a template for other unions negotiating with his administration.

Austin Jenkins

53K Washingtonians could be affected by federal employee vaccine requirement

The requirements that federal workers get vaccinated against Covid-19 will impact about 53,000 Washingtonians.

That's how many people in Washington work in federal government jobs, from research to the Department of Defense, and more, according to federal data from 2017.

Multiple news outlets report President Biden is planning to sign a new executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch, and federal government contractors.

— Paige Browning

King County to give out $20 million in arts/entertainment grants

King County is going to dole out $20 million in federal Covid-19 recovery funds to help local arts and entertainment community recover from the pandemic.

Things like theaters, music venues, clubs, and museums will be eligible to receive the money. So will science and nature educational organizations, such as the Pacific Science Center.

“These grants will help save our exhibition spaces, concert venues, movie theatres, and creative places where we congregate and foster the culture that makes King County special,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “We want to ensure that, as we find our way back to normal, King County’s cultural life can bounce back too — vigorously and safely.”

The county has approved more than $1.4 billion in emergency funding since the start of the pandemic. Organizations with the greatest need and serve a variety of audiences with diverse performances and programming will receive priority in the application process.

The application process begins Monday and runs through October 18.

Local arts organizations suffered a 65% loss of income over the first half of 2021, according to a survey by local arts advocacy group ArtsFund.

More information at kingcountycreative.com.

Smaller organizations will have their own application process opening September 23. Information for that process can be found here.

— Angela King

Washington Congress member rebukes Biden vaccine plan

Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers is speaking out against the President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.

In a statement posted on Twitter, she accused him of using fear and control to undermine people’s confidence in safe and effective vaccines. The Congress member called Biden "authoritarian."

She went on to say “the pandemic will never end if American people aren’t trusted or given the information they need to assess risks and make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

— Angela King

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is root, root, rooting for the home teams

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says the new policy implemented by the Seattle Kraken, Seahawks, Sounders, and Storm, requiring fans to be vaccinated, is an important step to get shots into unvaccinated arms.

"You know, the sports teams are embedded in our community," Durkan said. "They want the best for our community. They want to keep their fans and players safe. And I think them taking this step is a really clear signal showing that that's what people can individually do to help their community."

Fans who want to attend home games will have to show proof of vaccination and wear their masks.

In some cases, a negative Covid test may be accepted.

The Seattle Mariners are not requiring fans to be vaccinated. The club has said it would start a vaccination requirement in the unlikely event they make the playoffs.

— Katie Campbell

Vaccinated or not, it doesn't matter — Washington state's mask mandate is back.

Starting Monday, Sept. 13, everyone in the state will need to mask up at large outdoor events with 500 people or more. The move comes as Covid-19 case counts remain at record high levels.

Such large events include fairs, sporting events, and concerts. The new requirement follows a series of outdoor gatherings that became what the state Department of Health calls "super spreader events." Governor Inslee says his requirement is similar to ones recently adopted by King and Pierce Counties.

“When you combine large crowds with the delta variant, without any mitigation measures in place, we’re going to keep seeing these super spreader events even in outdoor environments. Science has proven that masks can reduce the risks of those transmissions," Inslee said.

Inslee previously required masks in indoor public places. Meanwhile the governor also praised local counties and sports teams that are requiring proof of vaccination to attend games or go to bars and restaurants. He says it’s the kind of requirement he might consider at the state level.

Read the full story here.

— Austin Jenkins

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

Alaska Airlines removes passengers from flight after violating mask guidelines

Five passengers on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska were removed after one passenger threatened a flight attendant and the others refused to follow masking guidelines.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the flight was diverted to Juneau on Sept. 4, where police and Alaska state troopers removed the group. The flight then continued.

Several people in the same group had been removed from the flight before take-off for disruptive behavior.

President Biden announced on Thursday the Transportation Security Administration would double fines for passengers who don't comply with the federal mask requirement for transit.

— Kim Malcolm

Microsoft workers in the U.S. won't be headed back to the office anytime soon

On Thursday, Microsoft told employees they will delay an earlier plan to return to in-person work in October.

The decision was made due to uncertainty about the current risks of Covid-19, and to protect the health and safety of employees.

"We've been alarmed by what's happening with the delta variant and as we continue to watch the data very carefully we just decided that our previous date wasn't the right date," said Jared Spataro, Microsoft's vice president for modern work.

Last year, Microsoft announced that working from home up to 50% of the time is their new standard for most employees.

"For us, the future of work is all about flexibility," Spataro said. "About how, when, and where you work."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared on TV news programs Thursday promoting new products with could facilitate more remote work.

For now, Spataro says the company will wait to announce new return to work dates until Covid data supports it.

— David Hyde

Clallam County health officer threatened over vaccine policy

The health officer for Clallam County says she's receiving threats over her recent decision to issue a vaccine mandate for restaurant and bar customers. The mandate requires customers show proof they're vaccinated against Covid-19.

"It's been really scary. It's certainly affected my life, the way I take care of my child," said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam County on the north end of the Olympic Peninsula.

Dr. Berry says people have been circulating her old address online and have encouraged opponents to go find her.

The Clallam County Sheriff Department says it is investigating the threatening messages, but so far, it hasn't seen anything that rises to the level of a criminal violation.

Dr. Berry says she's working from home now.

— Angela King

Protesters banned from within 1 mile of Vancouver School District property

A Clark County judge has banned what she calls "disruptive protests" from occurring within one mile of Vancouver School District property. The order comes days after anti-mask demonstrators caused a lockdown at Skyview High School.

In court filings, a school employee wrote that he and other staff spent all last Friday dealing with the anti-mask rally. That day, demonstrators — including alt-right group the Proud Boys — rallied on Skyview High's lawn.

Witnesses said the protesters also tried to escort a maskless student into the building, prompting the lockdown.

Superintendent Jeff Snell said in a statement that the district sought an injunction banning protests on district property to “ensure student and staff safety.”

Clark County Superior Court Judge Suzan Clark signed the order Tuesday, September 7. The ban will last for as long as Washington state requires masks in classrooms.

— Troy Brynelson, OPB

Cowlitz County coroner requests refrigeration truck to handle increase in Covid deaths

The coroner for Cowlitz County says that the number of Covid deaths is exceeding their capacity to hold the bodies and has requested refrigerated trucks to handle the increased load. County officials recently approved that request.

Coroner Tim Davidson told the Daily News that the region is beyond capacity and funeral homes and other services are "being creative." The county's facilities can generally hold about 45 bodies; it is currently dealing with 65.

Cowlitz County's morgue already has limited capacity, due to construction on a new facility that has yet to be completed.

The Associated Press notes that two Oregon counties have recently made similar requests for refrigeration trucks.

Cowlitz County is in southwest Washington and includes the city of Longview.

— Dyer Oxley

Watch out for scammers texting and calling about stimulus payments

The IRS is warning that scammers are targeting Northwest residents with emails and text messages about fake stimulus payments at a nearly unprecedented rate.

The scam messages state things like "unclaimed stimulus surprise" or tell a person that they need to provide their bank information again to get the money.

But do not do any of that. The IRS does not send people texts or emails out of the blue like this.

The IRS is asking that anyone who gets a suspected scam message to report it to phishing@irs.gov.

Read more details about these scams here.

— Paige Browning

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

Schools begin seeing Covid cases as fall classes begin

More than 30 students in the Federal Way School District have tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week of class.

A district spokesperson told the The Federal Way Mirror that the students, along with at least five other staff members, were exposed to Covid outside of school. And at least 19 students notified the district they tested positive before school started.

Possible exposures occurred in second through seventh grades, as well as all high school grades. A total of 96 families have been notified about possible exposure. No entire classrooms have been told to quarantine.

In the Lake Washington School District, 53 students and staff have been told to stay home after possibly being exposed to Covid-19.

KING 5 reports that the district learned about an infected person at Kamiakin Middle School on Monday. It is unknown if that person was a student or staff member. A spokesperson said people who had close contact were inside the school building and on one bus.

This isn't the first time Kamiakin has dealt with something like this. Last week, 28 students and faculty members were told to quarantine after they were exposed to an infected student.

“We can confirm that the number of close contacts at this time is 53, but that number could increase or decrease based on the results of the investigation, which is ongoing. We are still looking at who is being deemed a close contact on the bus route associated with this positive case,” the school district told KING 5.

— Angela King

More sports teams implement vaccine requirements for spectators

More teams are announcing vaccine requirements to attend their games in Seattle and elsewhere in Washington.

The Sounders, Seattle Storm, and Washington State Cougs are now requiring proof of full vaccination for attendees 12 and older.

Being fully vaccinated means it's been two weeks since your final shot.

Each team has different deadlines and some are allowing fans to show proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of a game in lieu of being vaccinated.

The Mariners plan to implement the same requirement in October if they make it to the post season.

Read more below about how the Seahawks, Huskies, and the Kraken have announced similar vaccine requirements for spectators.

— Angela King

Snohomish, King Counties consider vaccine verification programs

The Everett Herald is reporting that Snohomish County health officials are thinking about creating a vaccine verification system for non-essential businesses.

They're also weighing whether to implement an outdoor mask mandate, like the ones in Pierce and King Counties, for large events that attract at least 500 people.

Snohomish County Health managers say the latest two-week Covid case rate is higher than it's ever been. There were 106 Covid patients in the county's hospitals as of Tuesday; 28 required ventilators. Also, 95% of ICU isolation rooms are now full after the number of intensive care patients nearly doubled over the past week.

Officials are concerned that hospitals will soon have to start deciding who gets beds and ventilators.

The Associated Press is also reporting that King County is considering its own vaccine verification program. Such a system could be up and running in October and would allow restaurants, bars, and other businesses to check customers' vaccine status.

If implemented, Snohomish and King Counties would join a handful of other areas that have started vaccine verification programs, such as New York, San Francisco and British Columbia.

— Angela King, Dyer Oxley

State employees won't necessarily be fired if they are not vaccinated on time

Members of Washington state’s largest union are going to vote this week on whether to ratify an agreement, recently reached with Governor Jay Inslee, over how to implement his vaccine mandate.

State employees, health care workers and educators have until October 18 to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19. And state workers who aren’t fully vaccinated by that deadline won’t necessarily lose their jobs that day.

The governor hasn’t backed away from his “get vaccinated or get fired” mandate. But if an employee has requested a medical or religious exemption, and that’s still being reviewed, they will not lose their job when the deadline arrives, so long as they request the exemption by Monday, September 13. They can take paid or unpaid leave to finish their vaccine cycle. However, that concession expires on November 17.

The agreement also allows state employees who are close to retirement and who don’t want to get vaccinated to take leave until their retirement date.

— Austin Jenkins

Coldplay is going to break-in the new Climate Pledge Arena

Climate Pledge Arena announced the British band Coldplay will play the first concert there on October 22, one day before the Kraken's first home game.

Tickets for the show go on sale next week.

Fans 12 and older will have to show proof of vaccination to sing along to "Yellow." They'll have to sing through face masks, too.

The venue has been under construction since 2018. It can now hold 17,000 people.

— Angela King

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Hospital officials hope antibody treatment will curb hospitalizations

Washington state hospital officials want to expand their use of monoclonal antibodies, a Covid treatment. Monoclonal antibodies mimic the immune system's response by helping block the coronavirus' entry into cells.

Officials hope this method will keep as many Covid patients as possible from needing hospitalization.

The treatment is now available not just as an infusion but also as four shots, which makes it easier to administer quickly.

Research shows the treatment can help keep people out of the hospital if they receive it within seven to ten days of their first symptoms.

"Our hope now with people that are diagnosed early, if they receive the infusion or the [subcutaneous injection] that we'll be able to minimize the impact that the disease has," said Peggy Currie with Providence Health Care in Spokane.

Monoclonal antibodies are free for patients, and they’re authorized for people over 12 years old who have mild to moderate Covid and are at risk of developing a severe case.

That includes everyone over 65, plus people who are immunocompromised or have a BMI over 25, and many other conditions, including pregnancy.

Pregnant patients (and their babies) often have bad outcomes when they contract Covid, and pregnant people in Washington state also have low vaccination rates compared to other groups. That's why Linda Eckert, an obstetrician and gynecologist with UW Medicine, said they are hoping to offer the treatment to their pregnant patients soon.

Eilís O'Neill

Mask mandate for some outdoor events now in effect

As of today, masks are required at outdoor events in King County and Pierce County — if 500 people or more are attending.

Masks are also still required in all indoor public settings statewide, regardless of a person's Covid vaccination status.

If you're going to an outdoor event with less than 500 people, public health officials still suggest covering your face when you're unable to stay six feet away from others.

— Paige Browning

Latest King County data: Unvaccinated folks are 7 times more likely to test positive

The latest data from Public Health Seattle & King County (covering the past 30 days) states that you are seven times more likely to test positive for Covid if you haven't been vaccinated.

Health officials say unvaccinated folks are also 49 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 32 times more likely to die of a Covid-related illnesses than those who've gotten their shots.

— Angela King

Hospitals in eastern and central Washington feeling the strain from Covid cases

Many eastern Washington hospitals are being strained by having to care for Covid patients.

It's not quite as dire as the situation facing north Idaho hospitals, which are rationing resources.

But Spokane’s hospitals have more than 200 Covid patients, which are putting a strain on the city’s four major facilities.

In Colville, Peg Currie, the chief operating officer at Providence Health Care, says the company’s Mount Carmel Hospital is at least half full of Covid patients.

“Stevens County today has 14, when you think about only having 25 beds or less in critical access. Imagine what the emergency rooms are like, the waiting lists are like, to try to get into a higher level of acute care,” Currie said during a media briefing with the Washington State Hospital Association.

Other small Washington hospitals are also trying to keep pace with the demand for care.

In Ellensburg, Kittitas Valley Hospital CEO Julie Petersen says her hospital is already full. Now, she’s waiting to see what will come from the Labor Day weekend’s Ellensburg Rodeo, fair and parade.

“I don’t believe there was a lot of masking going on and, again, our vaccination rate is less than 50%. K-12 begins in person this week and Central Washington University is welcoming students back for in-person education again on campus this week," she said.

Peterson said the hospital will add staff to ensure the community testing clinic can meet a possible increase in demand.

Elsewhere, the Kittitas County jail has seven or eight inmates and staff who tested positive for Covid over the weekend.

-- Doug Nadvornick, Spokane Public Radio


Seattle sports teams requiring vaccination to see games

The Seattle Seahawks have announced that fans 12 and older will need to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 to attend games at Lumen Field, starting September 19. Fans will also have the option to show a negative Covid test result that was taken within 72 hours.

The Huskies will have the same requirement for UW football fans, starting September 25. UW fans can attend the game on September 18 to have the proof of vaccination approved for the rest of the season.

The Kraken will be slightly more strict for their debut season. Fans who want to see the team take the ice at Climate Pledge Arena this fall/winter will need to show proof of vaccination (12 years and older). The Climate Pledge Arena's website does not give an option to take a Covid test to enter. Everyone will be required to wear a mask. And those 12 and odder who have a valid reason for not getting a vaccine can show a negative antigen test taken within 48 hours.

The Kraken will begin exhibition games in late September. The official hockey season begins in mid-October.

— Dyer Oxley

Washington Poison Center sees spike in calls for ivermectin

The Washington's Department of Health has warned against using ivermectin as a Covid preventative or treatment, but calls to the poison control hotline about the drug are now spiking in the state.

In early August, prescriptions for the anti-parasite drug across the United States was 24 times higher than normal (88,000). The drug, which is commonly used to deworm animals and sometimes humans, has garnered popularity on social media and among conspiracy theory circles as a treatment for Covid-19. There is, however, little if any evidence this is true.

The Seattle Times reports that the Washington Poison Center has now received three times more calls for ivermectin since last year. Many calls involved questions as to the safety of ivermectin. Others were calls after people experienced symptoms of poisoning.

To put this in perspective, last year the hotline got nine calls for this drug. So far this year, they've received 31 calls.

No deaths or hospitalizations are known as a result of ingesting ivermectin, however the Times notes that DOH does not track this data.

Early in the pandemic, hydroxychloroquine experienced a similar popularity. It too is an anti-parasite drug and is commonly used for malaria. But studies showed that it had no effect on Covid. Hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin are anti-parasite drugs. Coronavirus is a virus and not a parasite.

— Dyer Oxley

Largest state labor union reached tentative agreement over vaccine mandate

Washington's largest state labor union has announced a tentative agreement over Governor Jay Inslee's order for state workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

The deal was announced Saturday, and comes just days after the union sued to block what's believed to be among the nation's strictest Covid-19 employee vaccine mandates.

The Northwest News Network reports the Washington Federation of State Employees has negotiated terms for Inslee's mandate stating that all 46,000 of its union members be fully vaccinated by October 18 or lose their jobs.

The new agreement still needs to be ratified. It defines the religious and medical exemptions process for employees who can't or won't get their shots.

More details here.

— Guy Nelson


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