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Coronavirus in Washington state: Updates from April 26-28

Find updates on the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from April 26-28.

Editor’s note: This story shows updates about the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state from April 26-28, 2020.

Click here for real-time updates for April 29 - May 1.

Key facts:

  • 21 new coronavirus deaths and 156 new cases overall reported Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health.
  • TOTAL: 786 deaths and 13,842 overall cases in Washington.
  • 182,515 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 7.6% of those cases have been positive.
  • Gov. Inslee could extend Washington's stay-at-home orders past May 4 in an announcement later this week, reports the Associated Press.

Read previous daily updates here.

Tuesday, April 28:

Trump orders meat processing plants to stay open 

President Donald Trump took executive action Tuesday to order meat processing plants to stay open amid concerns over growing coronavirus cases and the impact on the nation's food supply.

The order uses the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to try to prevent a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on supermarket shelves. Unions fired back, saying the White House was jeopardizing lives and prioritizing cold cuts over workers' health.

RELATED: Trump orders meat processing plants to remain open

RELATED: Coronavirus outbreak at Washington beef plant could have impact on grocery shelves

Washington's stay-at-home orders could extend past May 4

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff says Inslee could announce an extension of the state’s COVID-19-related stay-at-home order later this week. 

Inslee in early April extended orders to keep non-essential businesses closed and most of the state’s more than 7 million residents home through May 4, saying social distancing measures needed to continue to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. 

Inslee has since announced the easing of some restrictions. The Washington Department of Health on Tuesday reported 21 additional deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 786.

Contributed by the Associated Press 

RELATED: Some fishing, golfing, hiking, hunting can resume May 5 in Washington state

Washington coronavirus cases 

  • 21 new coronavirus deaths and 156 new cases overall reported Tuesday, according to the state Department of Health
  • TOTAL: 786 deaths and 13,842 overall cases in Washington. 
  • 182,515 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 7.6% of those cases have been positive.

Trump hints state bailouts could depend on policies of sanctuary cities

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said sanctuary cities would be something that needs to be taken under consideration when considering a possible federal bailout of states during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump was asked at the White House what his administration thinks of the federal government sending relief money to states that have already suffered the economic ramifications of quarantines and lockdowns that have lasted for weeks and are likely to continue.

Trump drew a distinction between states along the lines that some would be deserving of bailout money because of the pandemic, while suggesting others have been mismanaged before the pandemic.  

RELATED: Trump hints state bailouts could depend on policies of sanctuary cities

CDC extends social distancing guidelines to include pets

As the world continues to adjust to the rules of social distancing, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention has added a another layer of precaution.

The CDC is now recommending that pet owners also exercise social distancing guidelines when it comes to their pet's interactions-- in addition to their own with other humans amid the global pandemic. 

While several animals have tested positive for the disease, the organization reaffirms there is "no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19." 

The CDC recommends treating pets as you would other family members," do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets," their website reads. 

RELATED: CDC extends social distancing guidelines to include pets

Trump to sign order keeping meat processing plants open

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday meant to stave off a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on American supermarket shelves because of the coronavirus.

The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep production plants open.

The order comes after industry leaders warned that consumers could see meat shortages in a matter of days after workers at major facilities tested positive for the virus.  

Two of the nation's biggest pork processing plants are currently closed. Meat processing giant Tyson Foods suspended operations at its plant in Waterloo, Iowa. And Smithfield Foods halted production at its plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The 15 largest pork-packing plants account for 60% of all pork processed in the country. 

A senior White House official said the administration was working to prevent a situation in which a majority of processing plants shut down for a period of time, which could lead to an 80% drop in the availability of meat in supermarkets.

In Washington state, the Tyson beef processing plant near Pasco announced last week it would temporarily close to test its 1,400 employees for coronavirus after about 100 employees tested positive for coronavirus, and one person died. The state's other major plant, Washington Beef in Toppenish, is operating at reduced capacity as part of its coronavirus control measures. 

COVID-19 transmission may have slowed or plateaued in King County

Transmission of COVID-19 in King County is slowly declining or likely plateaued due to social distancing efforts, according to a report from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM).

Using data through April 9, researchers estimate each person infected with COVID-19 infected one other person through April 4. That number declined from three people being infected with the virus in early March. Case counts in King County have slowly decreased since early April.

However, researchers said in the report that “relaxation of social distancing would quickly lead to increased transmission.” Researchers warned that if restrictions are loosened on May 1, IDM’s computer model predicts a rapid increase of new COVID-19 cases “that would likely exceed recent peak levels by the end of May.”

Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, said social distancing would likely need to be continued “to some extent until we have effective treatments and a vaccine.”

“Although we have significantly decreased the spread of COVID-19 through stay-at-home and distancing, the daily number of new cases remains unacceptably high and our community remains vulnerable to a rebound in cases that could overwhelm our healthcare system if we change course too quickly,” said Dr. Duchin. “We are working hard to better understand how and where new infections are happening, which may suggest other measures that can help reduce transmission.”

As of 1 p.m. Monday, Public Health – Seattle & King County reported 416 deaths among 5,990 COVID-19 cases in the county.

Click here to see the report from IDM.

Tribes urge federal government to disburse coronavirus aid, after early victory against Alaska Native corporations

Tribal nations are urging the federal government to quickly disburse coronavirus relief funding after a judge handed them an early victory in a legal battle involving the money.

At least 18 tribes sued the federal government seeking to keep any portion of the $8 billion in funding allocated to tribes out of the hands of Alaska Native corporations.

A judge in Washington issued a ruling late Monday to temporarily halt any payments to the corporations while he settles the larger question of eligibility. The decision clears the U.S. Treasury Department to begin distributing money to 574 federally recognized tribes. An attorney for the agency declined comment. 

Local tribes that took part in the lawsuit include Tulalip Tribes and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation. Other tribes that took part include Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Maine, and three tribes in Alaska, the Akiak Native Community, the Asa’carsarmiut Tribe, and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island.

Snohomish County COVID-19 drive-through testing site

The Snohomish Health District will open a drive-through COVID-19 testing site on Wednesday. The site will be in the back parking lot of the health district’s south county office, located at 6101 200th St SW in Lynnwood.

Testing will be available by appointment only from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday. The health district said slots will open Wednesday for testing appointments on Friday. Officials will be monitoring appointments and making adjustments for Friday’s availability.

Testing will only be available for those who are sick and developed any of the following symptoms within the last 14 days:

  • Fever greater than 100.4 degrees,
  • Cough,
  • Difficulty breathing,
  • Chills,
  • Repeated shaking with chills,
  • Muscle pain,
  • Headache,
  • Sore throat, or
  • New loss of taste or smell

Click here for more information or to register.

Seattle expands small business takeout map

The City of Seattle is expanding its small business map to help residents find restaurants currently providing takeout or delivery throughout the region. The city released the map in March in an effort to spur sales among restaurants, cafes, and breweries during the state's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order.

As of April 28, 20 cities and counties were participating. Each municipality is working with its economic development organizations to keep the map updated.

There are around 2,600 small businesses in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties alone.

RELATED: Seattle takeout map expanded to include Pierce, Snohomish counties

New data raises US death toll projections

The latest projection from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) shows more people could die from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States than previously thought.

A previous projection from April 22 showed the pandemic’s first wave could cause approximately 67,600 deaths in the U.S. Based on the latest report from Monday, the U.S. death toll increased by more than 6,400 to 74,073.

Researchers said the increase is due, in part, “to many states experiencing flatter and thus longer epidemic peaks.”

“Further, updated data indicate that daily COVID-19 deaths are not falling very quickly after the peak, leading to longer tails for many states’ epidemic curves. In combination – less abrupt peaks and slower declines in daily COVID-19 deaths following the peak – many places in the US could have higher cumulative deaths from the novel coronavirus.”

Click here to see the IHME model for the U.S. and Washington state.

Washington mental hospital staff call virus testing unsafe

Workers exposed to the novel coronavirus at a troubled psychiatric hospital in Washington state told The Associated Press that a flawed testing process likely produced inaccurate results and exposed them to the virus again.

Employees at Western State Hospital said they were crowded into a small space where few wore masks and told to swirl a swab inside their noses. The method is meant only for people showing symptoms, and the staffers said none of them did. They said it's another failure to protect staff and patients.

The facility, which is the state’s largest psychiatric hospital, has a pattern of attacks and lost its federal funding after multiple investigations. Officials defend the test as accurate and said they’re working to regain employees’ trust.

COVID-19 cases in the US, Washington state

There were more than 988,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 5 a.m. PDT Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is likely to reach 1 million by the end of the day. There have been more than 56,000 deaths and more than 111,000 recoveries in the U.S.

There is a total of 765 deaths among 13,686 COVID-19 cases in Washington, according to the state Department of Health.

The global total of confirmed cases is more than 3 million, with 211,000 deaths and nearly 900,000 recovered.

For most, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Germany cases uptick after lockdown easing

Germany’s disease control center says the country’s rate of coronavirus infections has slightly increased but the number of new infections remains at a manageable level.

Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute says the “R” factor -- the number of people infected by every person with COVID-19 -- is now 0.96. Authorities have said they want to try to keep it below 1 to keep the pandemic manageable for the health care system.

It had been around 0.7 before Germany eased lockdown restrictions on April 20 to allow smaller businesses to open, while keeping social distancing in place. It’s too early to say whether that move has led to the increase.

Trump urges states to consider opening schools before summer 

President Donald Trump says states should “seriously consider” reopening their public schools before the end of the academic year, even though dozens already have said it would be unsafe for students to return until the summer or fall.

Trump made the comments Monday in a call with governors discussing how to reopen their economies, among other topics.

“Some of you might start thinking about school openings, because a lot of people are wanting to have the school openings. It’s not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through," he said. While addressing Vice President Mike Pence, Trump added that it's something "they can seriously consider, and maybe get going on.”

None of the governors on the call responded to the suggestion, according to a recording obtained by The Associated Press.

Reopening schools is considered key to getting the economy moving again. Without a safe place for their kids, many parents would have difficulty returning to work.

Monday, April 27: 

Gym memberships 

Gyms and fitness centers must allow customers to cancel memberships any time and for any reason, including the inability to access the facilities due the global coronavirus pandemic, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. 

RELATED: Washington gyms must allow members to cancel any time during coronavirus crisis

Boeing projections 

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said it will take years for travel to be at 2019 levels, before coronavirus. 

In a shareholder’s meeting held online, Calhoun said, “Based on what we know now, we expect it will take two to three years for travel to return to 2019 levels. And an additional few years beyond that for the industry’s long term trend growth to return.”

It’s a future where “the commercial market will be smaller and our customers’ needs will be different,” he adds, also noting that the virus may actually change how future airliners are designed.

RELATED: Boeing CEO: It will take 2 years for travel to be at 2019 levels before coronavirus

Washington coronavirus cases 

  • 16 new deaths and 165 new cases overall were reported Monday in Washington, according to the state Department of Health
  • TOTAL: 765 deaths and 13,686 overall cases in Washington. 
  • 179,679 people in Washington have taken a test for coronavirus and 7.6% of those cases have been positive.

Fishing, golfing and some Washington state lands can reopen by May 5

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a partial reopening of state lands and parks on May 5.

However, not all state parks will be reopened on that date, coastal lands and beaches will remain closed, and gatherings and overnight use are still not allowed.

The state will allow day use of some state parks, day use of state lands, and day use of state Fish and Wildlife areas. This includes fishing, hunting and the ability to play golf, Inslee said.

However, coastal areas are not open yet. Marine areas 1-4, which incldues Ilwaco, Westport-Ocean Shores, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, LaPush and Neah Bay, will not be open for fishing on May 5, people will not able to gather clams or shellfish. 

Some state parks won't be open on that date due to the impact on rural communities and the potential for crowding, state officials said. State parks is working with local communities and its partners to determine the best approach and timing to reopening these areas.  

Additionally, public gatherings, team sports and camping, among other things, are not allowed at this time, Inslee said.

Last week, Inslee announced some private construction could resume. 

On Sunday, boaters gathered on Lake Union to ask Inslee to ease fishing restrictions during the pandemic. 

Colorado, Nevada join Western States Pact 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak are joining Washington, Oregon, and California in the Western States Pact. 

The pact is a working group of governors with a "shared vision for modifying at home orders and fighting COVID-19."

"In Washington state, our decisions are guided by public health data and science and this is a principle we share up and down the West Coast. Governor Polis and Governor Sisolak are taking that approach as well, and the addition of their states will strengthen this regional partnership and save lives," Inslee said. 

Earlier in April, Inslee and California Governor Gavin Newsom and Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced they would work together to gradually modify stay-at-home orders.

Bellingham bans city-permitted summer events 

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood signed an order Friday to cancel city-permitted events and facility reservations through Aug. 30.

The order cancels most events that require any type of city approval or permit, along with most uses of city facilities and reservable park spaces. 

The announcement follows the recommendation made by Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach. 

“Scenarios suggest that with continued social distancing, the next wave could be mitigated as well. However, if group gatherings resume too soon, the virus' spread could be deadlier," according to a statement from Lautenbach.

“We acknowledge there are painful financial and social impacts of these cancellations throughout our community,"  Mayor Fleetwood said. “Yet the Health Department recommendation and other data we are seeing leads us to feel strongly these are the right steps to take to protect public health and be able to resume economic activity."

Possible extension on eviction ban

Legislation that would essentially extend the ban on evictions until six months after the coronavirus emergency ends will be introduced to the Seattle City Council on Monday.

The bill was introduced by council President M. Lorena Gonzalez. It would allow tenants facing eviction to use the coronavirus pandemic as a defense. 

Seattle and King County previously placed moratoriums on evictions.  

Tysons Foods warns that 'the food supply chain is breaking'

Tyson Foods is warning that "millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain."

In an ad published in The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, John H. Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods' executive board, said "the food supply chain is breaking."

"In small communities around the country where we employ over 100,000 hard-working men and women, we're being forced to shutter our doors," Tyson wrote. "This means one thing - the food supply chain is vulnerable."

Tyson Foods has already been forced to close pork plants in Waterloo, Iowa and Logansport, Indiana last week so that workers could be tested for this virus, according to CNN.

Tyson said that given these challenges, there will be a limited supply of products available in grocery stores. 

Nations, US states each chart their own path on reopening

Nations and U.S. states have begun gradually easing coronavirus lockdowns, each pursuing its own approach but all with a common goal in mind: restarting their economies without triggering a new wave of infections. 

The easing of restrictions are being implemented piecemeal, with no clear signs of coordination. Technology is likely to play an important role in helping countries ease their restrictions. Many governments are working on mobile virus-tracking apps and other technology, keen for automated solutions. 

COVID-19 cases in the US, Washington state

There were more than 965,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States around 4:30 a.m. Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 54,000 deaths in the U.S. and more than 206,000 deaths worldwide.

The global total of confirmed cases is 2.9 million.

There were 11 new deaths and 202 new COVID-19 cases overall Sunday in Washington state. According to the Department of Health, a total of 749 people have died among 13,521 cases of COVID-19 in the state. Garfield County is the only county without any cases of coronavirus.

For most, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Farmworkers test positive for COVID-19 at Washington orchard

Dozens of workers at a Central Washington orchard have tested positive for COVID-19 but were apparently not showing signs of the illness. Stemilt Ag Services, which operates the orchard, and local health officials tested the farmworkers in East Wenatchee after some fruit packaging warehouse workers tested positive.

The company said it decided to expand testing to orchard workers as a precaution. The company says of the 71 agricultural workers who were tested, 36 were positive for COVID-19.

United Farm Workers and other advocates filed a lawsuit earlier this month against Washington state, arguing that farmworkers do not have adequate protections.

Seattle closes streets for those trying to exercise during pandemic

Seattle will close six more miles of residential streets to vehicle traffic to create space for pedestrians and bicyclists during the coronavirus outbreak. 

The closures began Friday in the Greenwood, Othello, Rainier Beach, Beacon Hill and Central District neighborhoods. That’s in addition to about 2.5 miles of street that were closed last week in the Central District and West Seattle. 

Ultimately, the city wants to close about 15 miles of streets across Seattle in the coming weeks to nonessential vehicle traffic to give more space for people to practice social distancing. 

Seattle’s initiative follows efforts from other cities, including Denver and Philadelphia, to provide more space for pedestrians and bicyclists.

China says it sees no COVID-19 deaths again after more than a week

China on Sunday reported no new deaths from the coronavirus for the 11th straight day. 

The country also confirmed 11 more cases, raising its total to 82,827. Five of the new cases were in Heilongjiang province, a northeastern border area with Russia that has seen a surge in infections. Another was in Guangdong province, a manufacturing and tech region bordering Hong Kong in the south. 

The other five were imported from overseas. China has identified 1,634 imported cases in all.

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