Gov. Jay Inslee officially announced Friday that Washington’s stay-at-home order will be extended until May 31, as he and state officials try to keep the new coronavirus from roaring back. Here’s what his four-phase plan looks like for businesses and gatherings.
Although Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned against rushing to reopen local economies, Inslee’s announcement was met with some backlash. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman joined some small-business owners in suing the governor in federal court Friday, contending the stay-home order has imposed “unacceptable tyranny.”
Meanwhile, researchers are working tirelessly to find a vaccine for the virus. U.S. regulators on Friday approved the first experimental drug shown to help fight COVID-19. The drug, remdesivir, shortens the time to recovery by 31%, a government-sponsored study showed.
Throughout Saturday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Friday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Friday afternoon.
More than 100 Washington state parks to re-open Tuesday after coronavirus shutdown
Ready for a little bit of positive news? More than 100 Washington state parks will re-open on Tuesday for daytime use.
Gov. Jay Inslee had announced earlier this week some parks would open again as part of a phased-in relaxing of restrictions imposed by his emergency coronavirus stay-home order. The parks, along with other public lands and water-access points have been closed since late March.
On Saturday, Washington State Parks revealed the list of which parks will be opened up. The roster includes popular hiking, fishing and boating destinations including Deception Pass, Lake Wenatchee and Fort Worden.
The parks system is delaying the re-opening of some spaces beyond May 5, including ocean beach parks and those along the Columbia River Gorge. In addition, State Parks will limit parking capacity at some urban parks, such as Lake Sammamish, Saint Edward and Dash Point, to discourage overcrowding.
Franklin County, home to plaintiffs in lawsuit against coronavirus stay-home order, has second-highest rate of infections in state
Initiative promoter and gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman is undoubtedly the most recognizable plaintiff among those suing Gov. Jay Inslee Friday in federal court over his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
But the lead plaintiff in the case is Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, who declared at Friday’s lawsuit news conference in Tacoma that the coronavirus should be allowed to spread. “We can take care of this virus by letting the people catch it,” he said.
In fact, Didier’s county in rural southeastern Washington already has had a notable rate of coronavirus infections for its size.
As of Friday, Franklin County ranked second among the state’s 39 counties in confirmed COVID-19 cases per capita, with 32.6 cases per 10,000 residents, according to data from the state health department. That’s behind only Yakima County, with 47 cases per 10,000 residents. For comparison, King County’s rate is 28.2 cases per 10,000 population.
There have been 11 deaths in Franklin County attributed to the virus as of Friday, up from five reported by the health department as of last week. Some of the county’s infections are attributable to a cluster of cases at nearby meat-packing plants.
Of the seven named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Didier vs. Inslee, four are from Franklin County, including two small business owners and a nurse. Two other business owners in the lawsuit are from Okanogan County, which has a far lower coronavirus infection rate of 4.9 per 10,000 residents.
Didier, a farmer and former NFL tight end, has been consistent in his opposition to most government regulations and programs, though he did accept farm subsidies for years. He first ran for political office in 2010 as a “tea party” challenger for the U.S. Senate, losing to fellow Republican Dino Rossi in the primary to take on Sen. Patty Murray.
Following unsuccessful campaigns for Congress and state lands commissioner, Didier was elected in 2018 to the Franklin County Commission. He led a charge by the commission last month to pass a resolution defying Inslee and allowing businesses to reopen. However, the commission later rescinded the resolution, with Didier opposing the reversal.
Read more about Didier’s lawsuit, and view the federal complaint, here.
Yakima County has top rate of coronavirus cases on West Coast
Yakima County has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases among any county on the West Coast.
Health experts point to a large number of essential workers, a large number of cases in long-term care facilities and a large agricultural workforce living and working in close quarters as the causes of the trend in the agriculture-dominated county of 250,000.
“We just haven’t been as much down as the rest of the state because our workforce is going to work,” said Lilian Bravo, a spokeswoman for the Yakima Health District. “Physically going to work every day is going to put you at a higher risk than others.”
As of Friday, Yakima County had 1,203 positive cases, a rate of 47 cases per 10,000 residents, the highest in Washington state. The statewide average was 18.5 cases per 100,000 residents.
Yakima County, 140 miles (225 kilometres) southeast of Seattle, also had a relatively high number of deaths from coronavirus with 47. Bravo said people in long-term care facilities account for about a third of cases and most of the deaths from COVID-19 in the county.
—Nicholas Geranios, The Associated Press
Washington state to resume trapping wolves under easing of coronavirus lockdown
OLYMPIA — Washington Fish and Wildlife officials say they will start spring trapping of wolves, an activity that was previously considered non-essential under Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
The department now has training procedures and personal protection equipment to trap wolves while staying within the governor’s order, Fish and Wildlife wolf policy leader Donny Martorello said. “We are geared up to get back in the field,” he told The Capital Press. “This is a very high priority for the agency.”
Fish and Wildlife will put a high priority on putting collars on the members of packs that have a history of attacking livestock or are being tracked for ongoing research into how wolves affect its wild prey, such as deer.
Rep. Herrera Beutler calls for reopening of national wildlife refuges
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, is asking the federal government to reopen national wildlife refuges to the public.
In a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Robyn Thorson, the congresswoman pointed to a recent decision from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to reopen state-run lands.
Inslee’s order, which applies to all sites operated by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and state Department of Natural Resources, opens the land back up to visitors Tuesday. Herrera Beutler wrote in her letter that accessing federal nature reserves can boost physical and emotional health.
“During this challenging time, public lands can provide an excellent opportunity for families and residents to safely get out of the house and enjoy our region’s beautiful wildlife, which would be a significant boost to their emotional and physical health,” Herrera Beutler wrote in her letter.
—Calley Hair, The Columbian
Catch up on the past 24 hours:
Don’t expect to get a haircut any time soon. Or go to a library or gym. In extending his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order through May 31, Gov. Jay Inslee also outlined a phased-in plan for how various businesses and other workplaces can reopen. The first phase is expected to begin May 4, with reopening of recreational fishing, car washes and other activities deemed safe. Other sectors could take several months to reopen.
Washington potato farmers have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, as global sales of french fries plummet. Without a major reversal of demand, 1 billion pounds of Washington potatoes — 10 percent of last year’s $845 million crop — could remain piled up in warehouses later this summer as the new crop starts to be harvested.
A ‘feminine’ crisis? Columnist Danny Westneat says opinions about government response to the coronavirus expose an already giant gender gap in politics, with women much more likely to oppose a swift reopening of the economy than men. That split echoes a similar pattern when it comes to views of President Trump, who faces record lows in backing from women.
New modeling and data from a community testing program suggests confirmed cases of COVID-19 in King County are just the tip of the much larger iceberg. While there are about confirmed 6,300 cases in the county, the new analysis says about 46,000 people likely have been infected, or about 2% of county residents. The rate of infections in the county also shows some big racial disparities.
Amazon’s decision to encourage engineers and other office staff to keep working from home until Oct. 2 is another blow for struggling merchants in downtown Seattle and Bellevue. The decision could signal a broader trend, with other businesses following suit and keeping employees away from central offices, even after they get clearance to re-open from Gov. Jay Inslee.