Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Coronavirus: Inslee warns businesses of new enforcement measures as Army medics set up shop

Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) | Twitter
SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee announced new enforcement plans Monday to ensure businesses are complying with the state’s emergency measures put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had thousands of calls coming in” about people and businesses not complying with the stay-at-home order announced last week, Inslee said in the news conference.

The state will begin by asking businesses to comply voluntarily, but penalties could be imposed if the non-compliance continues. Read more about enforcement here.

Inslee’s Monday announcements came as crews began setting up a 150-bed field hospital for non-COVID 19 patients at CenturyLink Field Event Center.

The state Department of Health says more than 65,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in Washington. The state’s coronavirus death toll now sits at 195, among 4,896 confirmed cases, according to new data collected from the Department of Health as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

Officials with the state Department of Health on Tuesday said they’re unable to give an update on case numbers due to technical issues with the Washington Disease Reporting System. They did not provide an ETA for the next release of numbers.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the counties with the highest totals: King County has 144 deaths among 2,161 cases; Snohomish County has 21 deaths among 1,068 cases; Pierce County has 6 deaths among 288 cases..

Click here to see where other counties in the state stand.

Key coronavirus updates:

  • There are at least 4,896 confirmed coronavirus cases with at least 195 deaths in Washington, according to the latest Department of Health numbers released late Saturday.
  • President Trump is urging all Americans to practice social distancing for at least another month amid the coronavirus outbreak. Over the weekend, the United States became the most overwhelmed country fighting the global pandemic.
  • Washington state saw an 843% week-over-week increase in claims for unemployment benefits last week.
  • Five Western State Hospital employees test positive for COVID-19.
  • Inslee announced a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order March 23, with exceptions for essential activities such as going to the grocery store, for a minimum of two weeks. Wondering what is still open? Find out here.
  • Boeing shut down its Seattle-area production facilities for two weeks starting Mar. 25 after an employee died from the virus.
  • Thirty-four Washington counties have cases confirmed with the Department of Health. Nine counties reported deaths through the DOH.
  • All K-12 schools in Washington state are closed until at least April 24.
  • KIRO 7 will send breaking news updates through the KIRO 7 News app, which you can download here.

Gov. Inslee considers extending stay-at-home order

As Washington moves into the second week of the stay-at-home order that began on Mar. 23, Inslee is considering extending the measure.

Inslee appeared on CNN’s Face the Nation Sunday and said our state needs the federal government to step up to provide much-needed supplies.

“I think it’s highly probable that the two week Stay Home, Stay Healthy initiative we started two weeks ago is going to have to be extended," he told CNN.

Inslee was apparently spurred by scenes like a bustling I-5 and scores of people outside, despite the statewide order to stay home.

The mandatory statewide stay-at-home order restricts all activities except those deemed essential by the executive order. It also closes all non-essential businesses.

All grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, food supply chains and other things that offer people basic, crucial needs remain open. Restaurants continue to offer take-out and delivery, consistent with a previous directive from Inslee.

“No one should make a run on the grocery store to over stock,” Inslee said.

The governor’s office released a list of business sectors that are considered essential. It includes health care, emergency services, food and agriculture, energy, water and sewage treatment, transportation, information technology, hazardous materials, financial services, chemical and defense-industrial sectors. Click here for the list.

People can still go outside as long as proper social distancing is practiced and residents stay 6 feet away from others at all times.

Information from local officials

  • There is a 30-day statewide moratorium on evictions
  • Inslee called on all public utilities in the state to suspend shut-offs, waive late fees for out-of-work customers and expand bill assistance for economically impacted customers
  • The one-week period to receive unemployment insurance is waived
  • The state Department of Social and Health Services is expanding eligibility for the Family Emergency Assistance Program to families without children
  • There are new restrictions on non-urgent medical and dental procedures to ensure medical workers in the coronavirus pandemic have enough equipment
  • Doctors are allowed to perform an elective surgery if delaying the surgery would cause harm to the patient within the next three months
  • Inslee provided guidance regarding funerals and real estate.

Information from the White House

President Donald Trump weighed in on the coronavirus pandemic in a Monday morning interview with “Fox and Friends.”

When asked whether the country has enough equipment to deal with the crisis, he pointed to efforts to build a 2,900-bed mobile hospital and medical centers in New York City, and said “massive planeloads” of deliveries and thousands of ventilators were on the way.

Trump said he expected the pandemic to peak in the U.S. “around Easter,” and by June 1, “the deaths will be at a very low number.”

He said that he reassessed his initial “15 days to slow the spread” plan after listening to advice from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah L. Birx.

“We picked the end of April as the day where we can see some real progress,” he said of the new timeline to continue social distancing through April 30.

He added that if the government hadn't "shut [the economy] down," up to 2.2 million people here could have died from the virus.

Trump also said new, rapid coronavirus tests could be available as soon as this week.

On Friday, the president signed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.

The package will expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses. It will also provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

How you can protect yourself and what to do if you think you were exposed

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Patients reportedly have mild to severe respiratory illness. These are steps health officials recommend to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact: coronavirus@kingcounty.gov.
  • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127 and press #.

Cases and guidelines for senior living facilities

Senior living facilities have been the focal point of the state’s fight against the spread of coronavirus, as health officials said older adults with preexisting conditions are the most vulnerable. Inslee announced new rules around nursing homes and assisted living facilities centered around visitors, screening, and precautionary measures.

  • Visitors must be adults and the visit must take place in the resident’s room. This does not apply to end-of-life situations.
  • All visitors must follow COVID-19 screening and follow reasonable precautionary measures. Precautionary measures include, but are not limited to, wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, or visiting in designated locations.
  • All visitors must sign into a visitor’s log. Owners and operators must retain that log for 30 days.
  • Employees or volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift.
  • People who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and who test positive for COVID-19 must be isolated away from other people.
  • Owners, operators, staff and volunteers are prohibited from disclosing protected and confidential health information, except as otherwise provided by law or with the resident’s consent.
  • The rules are expected to be in effect until midnight on April 9, 2020.

Colleges no longer meeting in person

The University of Washington, Western Washington University and Washington State University all moved to online classes and will continue to do remote instruction through spring quarter.

Seattle Pacific University, Shoreline Community College, Pacific Lutheran University, Bellevue College and the DigiPen Institute of Technology all announced that classes will be canceled or completed online.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.