March 4, 2020 at 7:04 am Updated March 5, 2020 at 7:55 am
Editor’s note: This is a live account of updates from Tuesday as the events unfolded. Extended coverage of the outbreak of a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2; the illness it causes, COVID-19; and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world can be found here.
New cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, continue to pop up around the Puget Sound region. In total, 28 people in Washington state have been diagnosed, including 10 people who have died.
Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Tuesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
10:53 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Amazon recommends Seattle and Bellevue employees work remotely until the end of March
Amazon is recommending all its employees based in Seattle and Bellevue work from home until the end of the month, according to an email sent to staff Wednesday.
“Every team is different and not all work may be conducive to working from home, so please talk with your manager and your team to establish expectations on working remotely,” the email said.
The company previously told employees they may make arrangements with their managers to work from home, “where practical, through the end of March.”
—Elise Takahama and Ben Romano
10:42 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Sammamish Presbyterian Church cancels events until Sunday after someone in community tested positive for COVId-19
Sammamish Presbyterian Church announced Wednesday evening that someone who attended service in the past two weeks tested positive for COVID-19.
The church decided to close the campus, effective immediately, for deep cleaning and cancelled all activities Wednesday night, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, according to a letter sent to the community.
The church plans to hold services Sunday, though Sunday-school classes and meetings before or after worship have been cancelled.
“We want to come together as a community of faith to worship this Sunday,” the letter said.
Church leaders said that Sunday’s services will be different — offering plates, friendship pads or bulletins will not be passed around. The community will also refrain from shaking hands when greeting each other.
The leadership team will decide Sunday afternoon what the campus closures will look like next week, the letter said.
10:30 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Grant County resident tests presumptive positive for the virus
A Grant County resident hospitalized at Central Washington Hospital and Clinics has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, the county health district announced Wednesday evening.
Health officials will provide more information Thursday morning.
8:48 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Northshore School District closes all campuses for up to 14 days
All Northshore public schools will be closed beginning Thursday for up to 14 days, the district announced Wednesday evening.
“I have spent the past few weeks researching and monitoring the rapidly changing COVID-19 coronavirus health issue in our region and across the world … Now, I believe that the time has come for our district community to make an important shift,” Northshore School District superintendent Michelle Reid wrote in a Wednesday letter to families.
The school district will communicate plans to “transition instruction from classroom to cloud (online learning)” beginning next Monday, the statement said.
Read the full story here.
8:32 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Response in China slowed outbreak of coronavirus — but experts caution against extreme measures in Seattle
As the state’s novel coronavirus crisis grows and Washingtonians take steps to reduce contact with one another, researchers look to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the starkest example of social distancing amid outbreak, to better understand the virus and how to stymie it.
China has managed to slow the virus’s spread, but only after draconian quarantine measures that halted travel there.
Read the full story here.
8:24 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Washington state Senate approves $100 million funding to support outbreak response
The Washington state bill that asks for $100 million to help respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak passed unanimously, 47-0, in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon.
The legislation will return to the House, where it passed 96-0 Tuesday, with some amendments before landing on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.
If signed into law, the bill would transfer money from the state “Rainy Day Fund” to the state disaster-response account, according to a statement from Washington House Democrats.
It would also allow the state Department of Social and Health Services to increase nursing-care-facility payments, which would move more patients into nursing-care facilities and free up beds for patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.
—Elise Takahama and Joe O’Sullivan
8:14 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Questions about patient costs stir concern amid Seattle area’s coronavirus outbreak
Some are wondering about testing and treatment costs that could dissuade uninsured people from obtaining care and thereby help the virus spread.
Local authorities have been talking about that concern. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) laboratory in Shoreline isn’t billing for COVID-19 tests at this time. Swabs are taken at doctor’s offices or hospitals and then taken to the lab.
“Right now we don’t know how much each test costs, but the public health lab is not charging patients for these tests,” DOH’s website said Wednesday.
No steps have been taken to date that would help Seattle-area residents pay for care related to COVID-19, other than testing, said Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for state’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
Read the full story here.
7:48 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Health care centers offering virtual appointments to reduce ‘unnecessary exposure’
The Everett Clinic, which treats patients in King and Snohomish counties, began offering video visits to those with potential COVID-19 symptoms, said a clinic spokesman Wednesday.
The goal is to “avoid unnecessary in-person exposure,” according to the clinic’s website.
Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System also starting providing free virtual care to anyone with symptoms. The online visits usually cost $25, but patients can use the promo code “COVID19” to waive the fee.
7:21 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Facebook employee in Seattle diagnosed with COVID-19
Facebook said an employee in Seattle has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the first known infection within the company as the virus continues to spread in the region.
The employee, a contractor, was last in Facebook’s Stadium East office in Seattle on Feb. 21. The company alerted employees Wednesday night and said the Seattle office will be closed to all employees until March 9.
Employees in Seattle are also being encouraged to work from home until the end of the month.
7:04 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
No confirmed COVID-19 cases among Boeing employees
Boeing spokesman Bernard Choi said Wednesday there are no confirmed cases of infection among employees.
“I know we worked with a small number of employees who reached out to report potential second-hand exposure,” Choi said. “For example, employees reported contact with asymptomatic people. We asked these employees to stay home out of an abundance of caution while we completed an assessment of the health risk they posed. We have since contacted several of these employees to ask them to return to work and self-monitor for any symptoms based on guidance from CDC and local public health departments.”
6:33 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
King County Metro to use backpack sprayers to sanitize buses
King County Metro Transit workers will now spray all bus handrails, seats and windows each night with a sanitizing solution called Virex, in response to the area’s coronavirus outbreak.
The cleaning will occur after buses are fueled and vacuumed. The spray replaces bleach-soaked cloths that Metro used Tuesday.
In a demonstration Wednesday, equipment-service worker Larry Bowles hoisted a backpack over his shoulders and sprayed the bluish fluid from back to front of a bus. The mist settled on seats, and sometimes he sprayed them directly.
Read the full story here.
6:22 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
University of Washington lab given emergency approval to test for coronavirus
A medical lab scientist at UW Medicine in Seattle shows a collected nasal swab sample from Washington to be tested for the novel coronavirus Wednesday. A code on the bag has been digitally blurred to protect the patient’s identity. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
To combat the national shortage of diagnostic tests for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency authorization to the University of Washington to test patient specimens provided by physicians and health care providers, according to two UW scientists involved in developing the test and ensuring its accuracy.
The UW’s virology laboratory has the capacity to dramatically speed up the time it takes to determine if someone has the virus.
The lab got the green light to begin testing Saturday. As of Tuesday, scientists had tested about 200 specimens.
Read the full story here.
—Sara Jean Green
5:57 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Faculty member at Lake Washington Institute of Technology confirmed to have COVID-19
A faculty member at Lake Washington Institute of Technology has tested positive for COVID-19, the college said in a statement Wednesday.
The faculty member had been under self-quarantine since recently visiting the nursing home Life Care Center in Kirkland, where at least eight people had died from the infection as of Wednesday evening.
The school had already been cleaned last weekend and was closed Monday and Tuesday. It reopened Wednesday. The school closed its campus again at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and will remain closed through the weekend, the statement said.
“We made this decision swiftly, to continue disinfecting the college while no students, faculty and staff were on campus, and to provide us time to get a clear sense of who could have been exposed,” the statement said.
The school asked students to be in contact with their instructors throughout the closure.
5:41 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
New Jersey sees first presumptive positive case of COVID-19
New Jersey officials confirmed the state’s first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The patient, a man in his 30s, has been hospitalized in Bergen County since Tuesday, according to a statement from Gov. Phil Murphy’s office.
5:36 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Shoreline Public Schools postpone all after-school and evening events
Shoreline Public Schools announced plans to postpone all after-school and evening events that are open to the community that take place on school campuses until further notice, according to a notice sent to families Wednesday.
The school district has not had any confirmed COVID-19 cases, and classes and other “normal school day operations” will not be affected, the notice said.
The change follows an announcement from Public Health — Seattle and King County officials, who recommended cancelling or postponing large community events to help stop the spread of the virus.
5:24 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Starbucks switches to a “virtual only” annual shareholders meeting due to outbreak
In yet another financial ripple-effect of the COVID-19 outbreak, Starbucks says it will hold its March 18 annual meeting as a “virtual only meeting.” The meeting was originally planned as large event at the WaMu Theater at the CenturyLink Field Event Center.
“In consultation with local health officials and out of an abundance of caution during the Seattle-area COVID 19 outbreak, we are modifying the location and scope of our Annual Meeting of Shareholders,” a spokesperson said Wednesday. “At this point, a large meeting is simply not advisable.”
A request for comment by WaMu Theater staff had not been answered by press time.
5:22 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Coronavirus and your dog: No need to panic yet
Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday updated their reports on the lone dog that appears to have a low-grade infection from coronavirus, saying it’s likely a case of a human transmitting it to the dog.
A government spokesperson said the dog, which has been tested several times, is still under quarantine but is not sick.
More than 3,000 people have died from the virus as it spreads around the globe.
But you should not be worried about the welfare of your pets, or other people’s pets, according to authorities.
—The New York Times
5:16 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to award $2.75 million to support state’s COVID-19 response
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Wednesday that it would provide $2.75 million in “initial funding” to support Washington’s COVID-19 response.
“State and local governments are the backbone of our public health system. They have been essential partners in the ongoing work to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the United States,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “The Trump Administration is acting swiftly through every avenue we have to ensure state and local governments have the support they need to combat this outbreak.”
The award will be sent through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statement said.
4:49 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Scrutiny of nursing-home infection control rises
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is ordering health inspectors to focus on infection-control practices at nursing homes and hospitals, particularly those where coronavirus infections have been identified among patients or in the community, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced Wednesday.
In a call with reporters, nursing home industry leaders said they supported the inspection directive, but they asked White House officials in a Wednesday meeting to address other problems, including potential shortages of supplies, such as masks and gowns, if the contagion continues to spread.
—Kaiser Health News
4:43 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Boeing cuts flying due to virus
As the coronavirus threat spreads in the U.S., even the jet set is cutting down on flying.
On Wednesday, Boeing announced it will reduce employee travel to “business-essential activities.”
In addition to restricting company travel, Boeing said it will reschedule some events; reduce face-to-face meetings in favor of virtual meetings; enable telecommuting where possible; and encourage employees to take appropriate health and safety measures.
Read the full story here.
4:41 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Coronavirus anxiety outpacing virus itself in the U.S.
COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus that originated in China and recently arrived in the United States, has already transformed our personal worlds. A subway pole is now a memento mori. An itchy eye is a trap. A cough is a harbinger.
Coronavirus anxiety has outpaced the virus itself.
—The Washington Post
3:56 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Snohomish County declares state of emergency
Snohomish County officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon due to the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, according to a statement from the county health district.
“We know people are concerned, and this declaration will help us work together to keep people safe,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in the statement. “Collaboration with all of our partners is what makes Snohomish County resilient. The public can be assured we are responding as quickly and decisively as possible.”
Snohomish County health officer Chris Spitters, who simultaneously declared a public health emergency for the county, added that these proclamations make it easier for health officials to work with community partners and carry out the best medical strategies.
More information will be available at a Thursday morning press conference.
3:32 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Fred Hutchinson’s South Lake Union office implements mandatory remote work policy
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced Wednesday that almost all its South Lake Union (SLU) campus employees will be required to work remotely starting Thursday.
This includes all SLU staffers, except “those whose presence on campus is deemed essential,” according to a statement from the company. The policy will remain in place through the end of the month.
“All staff are expected to continue working to the same extent as before the mandatory remote work policy,” the statement said.
All on-campus events and in-person meetings and gatherings of more than five people also have been cancelled, the statement said.
3:17 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Q&A: When to stay home, when to see a doctor, when to get a coronavirus test
By now, you may have memorized some of the most common symptoms of coronavirus: fever, cough and a runny nose. In other words, many of the same symptoms as the common cold or the flu.
But as the coronavirus outbreak progresses, experts say it’s increasingly likely that you might have the new illness.
So how do you know if you have coronavirus, and when should you see a doctor? Here are answers to some of your most common questions regarding symptoms, medical care and testing.
—The Washington Post
3:10 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Gov. Jay Inslee says he will cancel large events if medical evidence shows it could slow the spread of the virus
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, stands in front of a recreational vehicle at a potential coronavirus isolation and quarantine site with Nathan Weed, incident commander for the coronavirus response team at Department of Health, Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Centralia, Wash. Eight RVs are located at the site. The state has now reported over 35 COVID-19 cases, all in the greater Seattle area, including 10 deaths. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
CENTRALIA, LEWIS COUNTY – Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday said he would use his legal authority to cancel large events if medical evidence shows it can prevent or slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“If we reach the point where the medical evidence … suggests that this is necessary to incur whatever disruption would be required, we’ll make that decision,” Inslee said.
Read the full story here.
2:55 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Kent officials protest county’s decision to buy motel for coronavirus quarantine site
Joined by city council members and the police chief, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph protested a King County plan to buy a motel along a key downtown corridor to be used as an emergency public-health quarantine facility for coronavirus patients, contending city officials weren’t informed or consulted about the decision that could put their community at risk.
“We are very concerned about the public health and safety implications this has for our community,” Ralph said. “They are replicating and bringing a situation similar in scale to the Life Care Center of Kirkland and dropping it off in Kent.”
Read the full story here.
—Lewis Kamb and Ryan Blethen
1:54 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
King County recommends avoiding large groups, working remotely when possible
Officials are recommending (not mandating) that people at higher risk of developing serious symptoms from COVID-19 stay home and avoid large groups (10+ people).
They’re also advising companies to allow remote work. County employees who can will work remotely for the next 3 weeks.
Public Health is not recommending school closures at this time unless there is a confirmed case, because children have not been shown to be a high risk group, unless they have compromised immune systems.
1:40 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
WA attorney general investigating coronavirus-related price gouging
Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he “is investigating price gouging in the wake of the COVID-19 public-health emergency.” Ferguson asks that anyone who sees price gouging file a complaint with his office.
“We do not identify the targets of our investigations, but we are taking formal investigative actions,” Ferguson said in a statement released Wednesday.
1:11 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Washington state tells voters not to lick mail-in ballots
In an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, officials in Washington are asking voters not to lick the envelopes used for mail-in ballots in the state, which has become the epicenter of the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Washington, which will hold its primary next Tuesday, offers only mail-in ballots. That means officials don’t have to contend with germ-ridden polling booths, but vote-by-mail comes with its own concerns.
“We are recommending that voters, instead of licking their envelopes, they use a wet sponge or cloth to seal them,” said Kylee Zabel, spokeswoman for the Washington secretary of state’s office.
—Los Angeles Times
1:04 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Gov. Inslee provides updates on coronavirus response
Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington health Secretary John Wiesman discuss the response Wednesday to the coronavirus outbreak. (Joseph O’Sullivan / The Seattle Times)
12:17 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
Jefferson County health officer: Contrary to school district’s warning, no schools have been exposed
The Chimacum School District sent out a false statement saying two students had been exposed to the virus, and the public health officer near them went on the record and said they were wrong.
No Jefferson County schools have been exposed, health officials said.
12:10 pm, Mar. 4, 2020
6 Kitsap County residents being tested for coronavirus
Six Kitsap County residents are being tested for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the Kitsap Public Health District. The tests were sent to the state Public Health Laboratory in Shoreline.
11:52 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Bellevue School District: Announcement about school closures is false
On its Facebook page, the Bellevue School District said someone impersonating the district superintendent sent a false announcement saying schools would be closed March 5-19.
“We want to reiterate that any decisions made about school closures or other actions related to COVID-19 will be shared via official district communication channels,” the district wrote. “If there are any decisions made to close schools, we will inform our community immediately via SchoolMessenger, our district website, and our official social media channels.”
11:25 am, Mar. 4, 2020
10th coronavirus death reported in Washington; California reports its first death
A 10th person in Washington state has died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to state health officials.
Meanwhile, California officials reported the state’s first coronavirus death, which is also the first reported U.S. fatality outside Washington state, on Wednesday. Officials in Placer County, northwest of Sacramento, said an elderly person who tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday after returning from a San Francisco-Mexico cruise has died.
11:06 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Woodmoor Elementary volunteer tests positive for coronavirus
A parent at Woodmoor Elementary in Bothell who has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, volunteered in a classroom on Monday, the Northshore School District said Wednesday.
The parent was diagnosed with a different illness and hospitalized in late February, and then tested for coronavirus on Tuesday, according to the school district.
Students who may have been exposed in the classroom will need to be picked up, and parents of all students can be checked out of school at any time.
Woodmoor will be closed Thursday for a deep cleaning, the school district said.
10:52 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Deal reached on bipartisan $8.3B bill to battle coronavirus
Capitol Hill negotiators have reached agreement on an $8.3 billion measure to battle the coronavirus outbreak that’s spreading and threatening a major shock to the economy and disruptions to everyday life in the U.S.
The legislation came together in little more than a week, a rarity in a deeply polarized Washington. It triples the $2.5 billion plan unveiled by President Donald Trump just last week.
The House will vote on the deal later Wednesday and Senate leaders are pressing for a vote in that chamber by the end of the week.
10:47 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Seattle Public Schools postpones all district-sponsored travel
Seattle Public Schools officials said that they’re postponing all district-sponsored travel for students and staff out of Washington state – on air, bus or train.
The postponement will last through the end of the year. The update came after the district said it was postponing all international travel. “We continue to monitor and will communicate any changes for local travel including school field trips,” the district said
10:42 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Some Seattle tech companies tell employees to work from home
More Seattle-area technology companies, including Redfin and Textio, began instructing employees to work from home in an attempt to protect them and the community from the novel coronavirus and slow its spread.
It was unclear Wednesday morning whether the region’s two largest tech employers, Amazon and Microsoft, were taking similar steps.
Read the full story here.
10:39 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Chicago State University basketball team cancels game at Seattle U
The Chicago State University men’s basketball team will not travel for two regularly scheduled Western Athletic Conference games this week, including a trip to face Seattle University, the school said late Tuesday, citing the spread of the coronavirus.
Its women’s team will not host two games, including Seattle University.
Read the full story here.
10:33 am, Mar. 4, 2020
State tracking school closures
Which schools are closed for coronavirus-related reasons? The state is tracking closures of K-12 schools and colleges here.
10:28 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Vice President Pence to meet with Gov. Inslee in Washington state
Vice President Mike Pence will visit Washington on Thursday to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee about the coronavirus outbreak.
Pence, who has been placed in charge of coronavirus response for the Trump administration, announced his plans in a tweet, saying “We are here for every American and will continue to work with state and local leaders as we protect their health and well-being.”
No immediate details were available on Pence’s itinerary for the trip.
I will be traveling to Washington to meet with Governor @JayInslee tomorrow. We are here for every American and will continue to work with state and local leaders as we protect their health and well-being.
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) March 4, 2020
8:55 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Community college student in Olympia being tested after possible exposure
A student at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia is being tested for COVID-19 after informing the school that they’d been exposed to the new coronavirus “at a social gathering with people who later tested positive,” according to an alert on the school’s website Tuesday evening.
“The student was exposed 9 days ago and neither they nor their spouse have shown any symptoms of coronavirus disease. The student has attended classes at SPSCC’s Olympia campus since their exposure,” the announcement states. “… The student has agreed to notify SPSCC of the test results and has volunteered to stay off of campus until they are notified by their health care provider that it is safe for them to return.”
The campus remains open as of the Tuesday evening announcement, which advises students and employees that they “can attend classes and work normally.” Areas of campus where the student attended classes, in buildings 32 and 35, were being disinfected Tuesday night, according to the announcement.
No cases of the virus have been confirmed in Thurston County.
6:38 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Person reportedly taken by ambulance from Life Care Center in Kirkland
A person was taken away by ambulance Wednesday morning from Life Care Center in Kirkland, the nursing home connected to seven of Washington’s nine known deaths from coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Ambulances were at the facility around 4 a.m., according to a KOMO News reporter outside the facility.
Telephone calls to Life Care and the Kirkland Fire Department around 6 a.m. Wednesday weren’t answered.
RIGHT NOW: ambulances are in the parking lot of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, WA. At least 5 of the 9 coronavirus deaths have been linked to this care center #2NewsAM #KOMONews pic.twitter.com/veZpjWGkdf
— Jade Elliott (@JadeElliottTV) March 4, 2020
6:01 am, Mar. 4, 2020
What has developed over the past 24 hours
In Washington state:
- Faulty tests and red tape: A problem with the federally approved testing kits initially supplied to state public health laboratories across the nation last month didn’t work well, and new kits only began arriving in labs late last week. The delay meant the virus and its spread in Washington largely went undetected for weeks. On top of that, restrictive guidelines limit who can be tested, which means people who may have been exposed won’t know for sure if they have the virus.
- Senior communities are taking more precautions than most, given that health officials have said people over 60 and those with underlying health conditions are at particular risk. Administrators have only to look at Life Care Center of Kirkland for an example of what they want to avoid; as of Tuesday, seven of the nine people known to have died of COVID-19 in Washington state lived at that nursing home.
- Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat writes that this outbreak is exposing another disease gripping America: the total politicization of everything.
Elsewhere in the world:
- From religion to sports, countries are taking drastic and increasingly visible measures to curb the outbreak. For example: Saudi Arabia banned citizens from performing the Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca, Italy weighed closing schools nationwide and Iran canceled Friday prayers for a second week.
- Facing growing pressure to demonstrate that it is moving aggressively to combat the virus’ spread in the United States, Vice President Mike Pence vowed late Tuesday that any American can now be tested for the virus if a doctor deems it necessary. Pence’s comments perplexed some public health officials, as physicians already have discretion to order testing. The announcement also raised questions about whether the government can rapidly accelerate the production of testing kits, as well as how much patients will ultimately have to pay for getting tested.
- Passengers who have returned home after being stuck on a cruise ship are facing a new struggle as societal stigma bears down on people who are perceived to be endangering public health, even if they pose no actual threat.
12:22 am, Mar. 4, 2020
Hazen High School student tests positive for coronavirus; school closed for rest of week
A student from Hazen High School in Renton has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The school will be closed for the rest of the week.
“While initially Public Health (Seattle & King County) recommended that Hazen High remain open regardless of test results, they now recommend we close Hazen High School for the remainder of this week as they work to determine who, if anybody, came in contact with the ill student to ensure it is safe for students and staff to return to school,” the Renton School District wrote in a message to the school community.
Hazen was closed Monday while the student, who had flu-like symptoms, awaited test results. It then reopened Tuesday.
All other Renton schools will remain open.
12:00 am, Mar. 4, 2020
How is this outbreak affecting you?
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More than 3.2 million people worldwide – including more than one million people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. While efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak continue, states have begun shifting their focus to reopening their economies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Thursday, April 30, continue below: Twitter stock slips amid pandemic-caused revenue uncertainty Update 3:55 p.m. EDT April 30: Twitter’s stock tumbled Thursday after the company failed to show that it’s weathering the pandemic-borne digital advertising slump the same way its bigger rivals Facebook and Google are. The San Francisco-based social company’s higher expenses outweighed its revenue growth in the first three months of the year, leading to a loss of $8.4 million. And when asked during a conference call how April looked in terms of revenue, executives pointed back to the second half of March — when advertising declined. That period is “the best time frame to look at if you want to think about what it’s been like for us,” Twitter’s Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said. Facebook, in contrast, said on Wednesday that after a March decline, it saw “signs of stability” in the first three weeks of April. And it said ad revenue during that period has been flat compared with the year-ago period. Google parent company Alphabet also posted results this week that didn’t look “quite as bad as some people had feared,” said Edward Jones analyst David Heger. All three companies are seeing an increase in usage, since the virus outbreak has forced people to stay at home. Twitter reported that average daily users grew 24% year over year, the highest growth rate in the company’s history. Ohio governor says stay-at-home order will be extended ‘with exceptions’ Update 3:55 p.m. EDT April 30: Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said Thursday that he will extend the state’s stay-at-home order, which was scheduled to expire Friday, WHIO-TV reported. “The stay-at-home order will be extended with exceptions,” DeWine said, noting that some businesses will be allowed to reopen in mid-May. As of Thursday, health officials have recorded 18,027 cases of COVID-19 in the state. Authorities said 975 people have died of the viral infection, according to WHIO-TV. >> Read more on WHIO.com 2,633 new cases of COVID-19 reported in New Jersey Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 30: Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said Thursday that 2,633 new coronavirus infections have been reported, raising the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 118,652. Officials also reported 460 new fatal COVID-19 cases, 131 more new fatal cases than had been reported one day earlier. Statewide, 7,228 people have died of coronavirus. California governor closes beaches in Orange County Update 3:45 p.m. EDT April 30: Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Thursday announced the closure of beaches across Orange County after images of crowded beaches surfaced over the weekend. Newsom said he hopes the order won’t last very long but he felt it was necessary to protect public health. A memo to the state’s police chiefs that surfaced on Wednesday had indicated Newsom planned to close all beaches in the state. Little League cancels 2020 World Series, regional tournaments Update 3:35 p.m. EDT April 30: Officials with the Little League announced Thursday that the league’s seven World Series tournaments and their regional qualifiers have been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Officials said the MLB Little League Classic was also canceled with plans for it to return next year. Little League President and CEO Stephen Kenner called the decision “heartbreaking.’ ‘After exhausting all possible options, we came to the conclusion that because of the significant public health uncertainty that will still exist several months from now … it will not be possible to proceed with our tournaments as we’ve hosted them for nearly 75 years,” he said. The decision was based on recommendations and guidance from public health officials, according to Kenner. NASCAR scheduled to return to racing next month Update 3:20 p.m. EDT April 30: Officials with NASCAR announced Thursday that racing will continue without fans beginning May 17. Shelter-in-place order to expire tonight in most of Georgia Update 3:05 p.m. EDT April 30: Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia announced Thursday that he will formally extend his previously issued emergency declaration for the state and end his shelter-in-place order for most residents at 11:59 p.m., according to WSB-TV. The shelter-in-place order will continue for “medically-fragile and elderly Georgians” until June 12, WSB-TV reported. The governor’s extended public health emergency declaration is set to expire that same day. “The health and well-being of Georgians are my top priorities,” Kemp said. “I will do what is necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people.” WSB-TV reported that while the mandatory shelter-in-place order is coming to an end, people are still encouraged to stay home whenever possible statewide. >> Read more on WSBTV.com Nearly 1,400 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Pennsylvania Update 2:55 p.m. EDT April 30: Health officials in Pennsylvania announced 1,397 new coronavirus infections in the state Thursday, according to WPXI. The new cases bring the total number of coronavirus infections detected in the state to 45,763, according to the state Department of Health. The cases include 9,144 reported at nursing and personal care homes across the state. A majority — 8,112 — involved residents of the homes while the remaining 1,032 involved employees, WPXI reported. Officials said 2,292 people have died statewide of COVID-19. WPXI reported the deaths included 1,505 among residents of the state’s nursing or personal care facilities. Russian prime minister tests positive for COVID-19 Update 2:35 p.m. EDT April 30: Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin of Russia said Thursday that he’s tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple reports. Mishustin, who was named prime minister in January, is the highest-ranking Russian official to be diagnosed with a novel coronavirus infection since the outbreak began. “The tests I did for coronavirus came back positive,” Mishustin said in a televised video conversation with President Vladimir Putin, according to Bloomberg News. “As a result, I must observe self-isolation and fulfill my doctors’ orders, which is necessary to protect my colleagues.’ According to The Associated Press, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov will temporarily carry out the prime minister’s duties as he recovers. Several cases of COVID-19 reported among Tyson Foods employees at NC meat processing plant Update 2 p.m. EDT April 30: Several employees of meat processing giant Tyson Foods have tested positive for novel coronavirus infections in North Carolina, WSOC-TV reported Thursday. The employees, who have been instructed to self-isolate at home, worked at a Tyson Foods meat processing plant in Wilkesboro, the news station reported. The plant’s on-site medical professionals were performing additional contact tracing Thursday within the facility, and the Wilkes County Health Department is tracing contacts the infected employees who live in Wilkes County made outside the facility, according to WSOC-TV. Tyson Foods has come under scrutiny over questions about workplace safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, the company and other meat manufacturers have been forced to close several plants due to the infections among workers. Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, suspended production at a facility in Pasco, Washington last week after nearly 100 workers tested positive for COVID-19. In Wisconsin, JBS USA, a beef production plant, was forced to close its fourth location after nearly 200 employees tested positive for coroanvirus infections. President Donald Trump earlier this week signed an executive order requiring meat processing plants to stay open under the Defense Production Act. UK ‘past the peak’ in coronavirus outbreak, prime minister says Update 1:30 p.m. EDT April 30: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that the U.K. is “past the peak” and “on a downward slope” in its coronavirus outbreak. In his first news conference in more than a month following his hospitalization with COVID-19 and his subsequent recuperation, Johnson said he would be presenting a “comprehensive plan” next week about how and when the U.K. will ease the lockdown restrictions, which are due to last at least until May 7. Though he said it would provide a “roadmap,” Johnson is widely expected to extend the current lockdown further. Johnson also voiced frustrations in getting personal protective equipment, and in ramping up the testing program, but he insisted that the government was throwing “everything at it, heart and soul, night and day, to get it right.” Johnson, whose partner Carrie Symonds gave birth to a boy on Wednesday, said another 674 people with the coronavirus have died in all settings, taking the total to 26,711, the second highest in Europe behind Italy. Number of COVID-19 patients continues to decline in Italy Update 1:20 p.m. EDT April 30: The number of active coronavirus infections reported in Italy continues to decline, falling Thursday to 101,551, according to numbers released by health officials. The number reported Thursday continues a decline in active cases first noticed last week by Italian officials. Authorities said that as of Thursday, 27,967 people have died in the country of novel coronavirus infections. Since the beginning of the viral outbreak, officials have identified 205,463 COVID-19 cases in Italy. The country has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world behind Spain, which has more than 239,000 cases, and the United States, which has more than 1 million cases, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Boston will reopen in phases, mayor says Update 12:55 p.m. EDT April 30: Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston told WFXT the city will reopen in phases no matter what happens on the state level and that the timeline for the process will be dependent on testing. “Let’s say we flip the light on tomorrow and everyone goes back to work tomorrow,” Walsh said. “That second surge that everyone talks about could be much worse than the first surge.” The mayor told WFXT that officials aren’t just looking at when to reopen, they’re looking at which workers should go back first. He added that he anticipates people will have to wear face coverings and take precautions for between six and 10 more months. >> Read more on Boston25News.com Boeing to cut 16,000 jobs due to virus slowdown Update 12:25 p.m. EDT April 30: Officials with Boeing announced plans Wednesday to cut its global workforce by 10% due to a slump in plane demand due to the novel coronavirus, KIRO-TV reported. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told the KIRO-TV that the company has sent 70,000 workers invitations to apply for voluntary layoffs. “That’s a big number. And it’s a big number relative to any other action Boeing has taken in its history and honestly we are hoping we get a reasonably big number out of that, for no other reason than to minimize the number of involuntary actions we take,” Calhoun said. >> Read more on KIRO7.com New York reports 306 new fatal coronavirus cases Update 11:50 a.m. EDT April 30: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said the number of new coronavirus-related deaths continued to slow Thursday with 306 new fatal cases of COVID-19 reported. The number was less than the 330 new fatal cases reported Wednesday and the 330 new fatal cases reported the day before, though Cuomo said the number was “still terrible.” Team executives pushing for cancellation of NBA season, report says Update 11:40 a.m. EDT April 30: Frustrated by a lack of information and feeling the pressure to resume play, NBA team executives and players’ agents are calling for the cancellation of the season, according to CNBC. Team owners told the news network they were worried about liability issues and many were conflicted about whether to cancel the season and perhaps hold only postseason games. CNBC reported. The move, if taken, could both help and hurt teams that don’t make it to the playoffs: They would be unable to earn money from TV rights to play games during the season but they also wouldn’t have to deal with the cost of holding games. Last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters that it was too soon to say when the league would be ready to resume its season. “We’re just not ready to set a date yet in terms of how long we can wait before we no longer would be able to continue this season,” Silver said, according to Newsday. “I would just say everything is on the table, including potentially delaying the start of next season. We need more information.” Earlier Thursday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told CNN that he was “cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to finish the season for television.” “I don’t expect that we’ll have fans,” Cuban said. Officials with the NBA suspended the league’s season until further notice beginning March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. One day later, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell confirmed he had also tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus. The players have since recovered. US intelligence does not believe COVID-19 was ‘manmade or genetically modified’ Update 11:10 a.m. EDT April 30: Intelligence agencies in the U.S. have concluded that the novel coronavirus “was not manmade or genetically modified’ although they continue to investigate whether the outbreak was caused by an accident at a Chinese laboratory. In a statement released Thursday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, officials said the conclusion was in line with “wide scientific consensus.” In recent weeks, President Donald Trump and others have floated the unproven theory that the COVID-19 pandemic began at an infectious disease lab in Wuhan, China, where the novel coroanvirus was first detected late last year. “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,’ the statement released Thursday said. ‘The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.” Trump addressed the theory earlier this month, saying, “More and more, we’re hearing the story.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added, “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers — that China hasn’t shared the answers — I think is very, very telling.” Scientists say the virus arose naturally in bats. 217 new cases of COVID-19 reported in DC Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 30: Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington D.C. said Thursday that 217 new coronavirus infections have been reported in the area, raising the total number of cases in the area to 4,323. The number of new cases is nearly double the 112 new cases reported one day earlier. Bowser said 19 more people between the ages of 48 and 95 also died of COVID-19. As of Thursday, 224 Washington D.C. residents have died of coronavirus, officials said. Stocks open lower as virus-related economic damage piles up Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 30: Stocks opened lower Thursday on Wall Street as more grim news piles up about the damage that lockdowns related to the coronavirus are causing the global economy. The S&P 500 fell 0.9% in early trading Thursday. European markets were also lower. The U.S. government reported that consumer spending plunged 7.5% in March, and more than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. The U.S. economic crisis is shaping up to be the worst since the 1930s. Meanwhile new data came out showing that the European economy contracted by a record 3.8% in the first three months of the year. COVID-19 vaccine could be available by January, Fauci says Update 9:35 a.m. EDT April 30: Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health, said Thursday that he believes a COVID-19 vaccine could be widely available beginning in January. “We’re in the early phases of a trial, phase 1,” Fauci said during an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. “When you go into the next phase, we’re going to safely and carefully, but as quickly as we possibly can, try to get an answer as to whether it works and is safe.” The New York Times reported Wednesday that President Donald Trump has been pushing health officials to speed through development and testing of a vaccine to get it out to the public as fast as possible in an effort dubbed “Operation Warp Speed.” The newspaper reported that health officials were concerned by the timeline, as it’s estimated it will take between 12 and 18 months to safely develop a vaccine, however, Fauci said Thursday that the January timeline lined up with his initial estimates. “I think that is doable if things fall in the right place,” Fauci said. “I was saying in January and February that it would be a year to 18 months, so, January is a year.’ 3.8 million new jobless claims filed in US Update 8:35 a.m. EDT April 30: More than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s. Roughly 30.3 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the six weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors and slash their workforces. That is more people than live in the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas combined, and it’s by far the worst string of layoffs on record. It adds up to more than one in six American workers. With more employers cutting payrolls to save money, economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%. That would be the highest rate since it reached 25% during the Great Depression. Worldwide cases surge past 3.2M, total deaths approach 228K Update 7:45 a.m. EDT April 30: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus reached 227,958 early Thursday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 3,207,248 people worldwide. Meanwhile, nearly one in every four deaths reported worldwide has occurred in the United States. The 10 nations with the highest number of infections recorded to date are as follows: • The United States has reported 1,040,488 cases, resulting in 60,999 deaths. • Spain has confirmed 236,899 cases, resulting in 24,275 deaths. • Italy has reported 203,591 infections, resulting in 27,682 deaths. • France has confirmed 166,543 infections, resulting in 24,121 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 166,441 cases, resulting in 26,166 deaths. • Germany has reported 161,539 cases, resulting in 6,467 deaths. • Turkey has recorded 117,589 cases, resulting in 3,081 deaths • Russia has confirmed 106,498 cases, resulting in 1,073 deaths. • Iran has recorded 93,657 cases, resulting in 5,857 deaths. • China has recorded 83,944 cases, resulting in 4,637 deaths.’ Macy’s plans to reopen 68 stores on Monday, nearly 710 more within 6 weeks, report says Update 7:35 a.m. EDT April 30: Macy’s plans to reopen 68 stores on Monday in states that have relaxed stay-at-home orders necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Meanwhile, Macy’s Chief Executive Jeff Gennette told the Journal he expects to have all the retailer’s roughly 775 locations reopened within six weeks, provided the plans mesh with state and local guidelines. A few changes shoppers might notice include: • Beauty departments will offer “no touch” consultations. • Customers will be required to use hand sanitizer before trying on jewelry. • Plexiglas will be installed at all cash registers. • Fitting rooms will be open only a few at a time. UK coronavirus death toll on pace to surpass Italy’s as highest in Europe Update 6:45 a.m. EDT April 30: The United Kingdom now has the second-highest recorded novel coronavirus death rate in Europe and remains on pace to surpass Italy’s toll today, according to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. With 26,166 confirmed virus-related deaths, the U.K. now trails only Italy, whose 27,682 coronavirus deaths to date remain the continent’s highest. Japanese media reports nation’s state of emergency will be extended by one month Update 6:37 a.m. EDT April 30: Japan will extend its national state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus to June, Japanese media reported on Thursday. The announcement comes as Japan experiences a second wave of COVID-19 infections, caused by the novel coronavirus. According to Kyodo News agency, regional governors support extending the state of emergency, originally slated to expire May 6. In bid to avoid furloughs Smithsonian slashes top executives’ pay amid coronavirus closures Update 5:57 a.m. EDT April 30: The Smithsonian Institution is cutting top executives’ pay and imposing additional salary and hiring freezes to cover some $22 million in losses resulting from ongoing coronavirus-related museum closures, The Washington Post reported. The majority of the institution’s 6,300 are federal employees, who will not be affected by the belt-tightening measures. Beginning May 24, the salaries of 89 senior executives will be cut by 10 percent for 12 months. Meanwhile, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III and Deputy Secretary Meroe Park will each take 15% pay cuts, the Post reported. Russia reports more than 7,000 coronavirus cases in single day Update 5:32 a.m. EDT April 30: Russia reported its largest single-day increase in novel coronavirus cases on Thursday with 7,099 new infections recorded. According to the country’s coronavirus response headquarters, Russia has reported a total of 106,498 coronavirus cases to date, resulting in 1,073 deaths. Fed chair forecasts bleak Q2 for US economy following worst Q1 since Great Recession Update 5:09 a.m. EDT April 30: The U.S. economy has suffered its worst financial quarter since the Great Recession, and the Federal Reserve chief says none of the data collected to date indicates a quick recovery. “We are going to see economic data for the second quarter that’s worse than any data we’ve seen for the economy,” Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell said in a Wednesday video news conference. He called the millions of documented job losses in a matter of weeks, especially in minority communities, “heartbreaking.” Read more here. Ventilated prisoner gives birth, dies after testing positive for coronavirus Update 4:35 a.m. EDT April 30: The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has confirmed an inmate who gave birth while on a ventilator died nearly one month later after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. According to CNN, the woman had been in federal custody since March 20, when she was transferred from a South Dakota jail to a federal prison medical center in Fort Worth, Texas. Eight days later the unidentified woman, 30, was transferred to an area hospital for pregnancy issues but was discharged the same day. The prison facility’s medical staff evaluated the inmate again on March 31 because she was experiencing fever and dry cough among other symptoms. After transporting her again to the nearby hospital, the woman was placed on a ventilator. The following day, the prisoner’s baby was delivered via cesarean section. Although the bureau did not provide specific details, it did confirm the prisoner suffered a pre-existing medical condition that, based on CDC guidance, placed her at higher risk for coronavirus-related complications. She died on April 28, CNN reported. According to the network, an estimated 1,534 federal inmates and 343 bureau staff nationwide have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Although there have been no virus-related staff deaths to date, at least 31 federal prisoners have died. Private company, not White House, selling commemorative COVID-19 coins, report says Update 3:15 a.m. EDT April 30: Two commemorative COVID-19 coins posted for purchase on the White House Gift Shop website drew widespread ire Wednesday, but at least some of the indignation expressed across multiple platforms appears misplaced, The Washington Post reported. The coins, featuring phrases such as “Everyday HEROES Suited Up” and “World vs The Unseen Enemy,” were being offered for a discounted double purchase price of $100 and quickly attracted a cacophony of public outcry. The Post determined, however, the coins’ seller is in no way attached to the federal government, and the private, for-profit company claims it has received exclusive trademark rights for the commemorative items. The coronavirus coins are listed as the 11th edition of a “historic moment art series,” the Post reported. South Korea reports zero new local coronavirus transmissions for the first time in 72 days Update 2:48 a.m. EDT April 30: For the first time since Feb. 18, South Korea recorded no new, locally transmitted novel coronavirus cases on Wednesday. Although four new cases were confirmed, all four were imported from abroad, according to the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Texas zoo reopening to the public with a drive-through experience Update 1:50 a.m. EDT April 30: The San Antonio Zoo is reinventing the visitor experience – at least temporarily – by inviting families to cruise through the park in their vehicles for a limited time. “This is a very unique and safe way for families to see the zoo while we are closed from the comfort of their own car,” Tim Morrow, president and CEO of San Antonio Zoo, said in a news release, adding, “This new, creative way to see the zoo will be a gradual step towards our plan to reopen to foot traffic when we are given the ‘green light’ and the time is right.” The Texas zoo has been closed to the public since March 14 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Morrow told CNN the proceeds from the drive-through zoo experience will allow staff to continue caring for the animals and to hire back some of its furloughed employees. California beaches, state parks to close again Friday after residents ignore coronavirus distancing guidelines, report says Update 1:16 a.m. EDT April 30: A memo sent Wednesday night to police chiefs across the state indicates California Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to order all beaches and state parks closed again on Friday after tens of thousand of residents flouted his stay-at-home order last weekend to flock to the shore, The Associated Press reported. Eric Nuñez, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, confirmed to the AP that the memo was circulated to give chiefs time to prepare ahead of Newsom’s expected announcement later today. US coronavirus deaths hit 60,966, total cases top 1M Update 12:28 a.m. EDT April 30: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed one million early Thursday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 1,039,909 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 60,966 deaths. Of those cases, nearly 300,000 have been reported in New York, meaning the state has, itself, confirmed more cases than any other nation outside the United States, including Germany with 161,539, the United Kingdom with 166,441 cases, France with 166,543, Italy with 203,591 and Spain with 236,899. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 23,477 – or roughly 39% of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 6,771 in New Jersey and 3,670 in Michigan. In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak with at least 299,691 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 116,365 and Massachusetts with 60,265. Ten other states have now confirmed at least 20,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • Illinois: 50,358 cases, resulting in 2,215 deaths • California: 48,747 cases, resulting in 1,946 deaths • Pennsylvania: 46,327 cases, resulting in 2,373 • Michigan: 40,399 cases, resulting in 3,670 deaths • Florida: 33,193, resulting in 1,218 deaths • Louisiana: 27,660, resulting in 1,845 deaths • Texas: 27,257, resulting in 754 deaths • Connecticut: 26,767, resulting in 2,168 deaths • Georgia: 25,775, resulting in 1,101 deaths • Maryland: 20,849, resulting in 1,078 deaths Meanwhile, Ohio and Indiana and each has confirmed at least 17,000 cases; Virginia, Colorado and Washington state each has confirmed at least 14,000 cases; Tennessee and North Carolina each has confirmed at least 10,000 cases, followed closely by Rhode Island with 8,247; Missouri and Arizona each has confirmed at least 7,000 cases; Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases, followed closely by South Carolina with 5,882; Nevada, Delaware, Minnesota, Kentucky, Utah and the District of Columbia each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Oregon, South Dakota and New Hampshire each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.
The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is doing to the economy. (Source: WECT/Gray News)
The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is inflicting on the economy. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs.
Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into a recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have closed factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they’re cutting jobs to save money.
As job losses mount, some economists say the nation’s unemployment rate could approach 13% by May. By comparison, the highest jobless rate during the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, was 10%.
“What seemed impossible just two weeks ago is now reality,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, an economist at Oxford Economics, a consulting firm. “The US economy will experience the largest economic contraction on record with the most severe surge in unemployment ever.”
The economic deterioration has been swift. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3.5%. And the economy was growing steadily if modestly. Yet by the April-June quarter of the year, some economists think the economy will shrink at its steepest annual pace ever — a contraction that could reach 30%.
In its report Thursday, the Labor Department said 3.283 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, up from 282,000 during the previous week. Many people who have lost jobs in recent weeks, though, have been unable to file for unemployment aid because state websites and phone systems have been overwhelmed by a crush of applicants and have frozen up.
That logjam suggests that Thursday’s report actually understates the magnitude of job cuts last week. So does the fact that workers who are not on company payrolls — gig workers, free-lancers, the self-employed — aren’t currently eligible for unemployment benefits even though in many cases they’re no longer able to earn money.
With layoffs surging, a significant expansion of unemployment benefits was included in an economic relief bill nearing final approval in Congress. One provision in the bill would provide an extra $600 a week on top of the unemployment aid that states provide. Another provision would supply 13 additional weeks of benefits beyond the six months of jobless aid that most states offer. The new legislation would also extend unemployment benefits, for the first time, to gig workers and others who are not on company payrolls.
Separate legislation passed last week provides up to $1 billion to states to enhance their ability to process claims. But that money will take time to be disbursed.
In the United States, the jump in applications for benefits is playing out in states across the country. In California, claims for unemployment benefits more than tripled last week to 187,000. In New York, they rose by a factor of five to 80,334. Nationwide, about 2.25% of the entire workforce applied for jobless aid last week. In Nevada, the figure was 6.8%, in Rhode Island 7.5%.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said 1 million claims for unemployment benefits had been filed in California since March 13. Many of those applications were likely filed this week, suggesting that next week’s report could show an even larger number of claims.
In Florida, Jessy Morancy of Hollywood was laid off last week from her job as a wheelchair attendant and customer service agent at Fort Lauderdale Airport. Morancy, 29, called the state unemployment office on Monday to try to file for unemployment benefits but encountered just a recorded message telling her to call back later.
She was also concerned that even a full unemployment benefit of $275 a week would be less than half of what she earned at her job and insufficient to provide for her children, ages 10 and 7.
“I’m still in a state of shock,” Morancy said.
Even for those able to file a claim, the benefits will take time to kick in. It typically takes two to three weeks before applicants receive any money. State agencies must first contact their former employers to verify their work and earnings history. Only then can the employee’s weekly unemployment benefits be calculated.
Worsening the problem, most state agencies that handle unemployment claims are operating at historically low funding levels and staffing that are intended to handle a trickle of claims. Just weeks ago, the job market was in the strongest shape it had been in decades.
Kim Boldrini-Sen, 41, has also struggled to file her claim. She has tried in two states: In Connecticut, where she works as an acupuncturist in a private practice, and in New York, where she lives and has her own acupuncture business.
In Connecticut, she thought her application had been submitted. But when she returned last week to re-file as applicants are required to do each week, she found there was no record of her initial filing. After taking an hour to re-file, she received a pop-up notice that she was ineligible to do so online.
In New York, the state’s website repeatedly crashed when she was halfway through filling out her request. When she finally managed to press submit, she received a pop-up saying she had to file over the phone. That hasn’t worked well, either.
“I’ve called at all hours of the day,” she said. “That’s been my life for a week, and I still can’t get through to anyone.”
On Wednesday, the New York State Department of Labor tweeted, “If you have been unable to get through our phone and/or online system this week, please keep trying.”
“We are working as hard as we can to ensure that all benefits are paid and appreciate your patience,” the agency said on Twitter.
Worldwide, the United Nations estimates that up to 25 million jobs could be lost in the economic upheaval from the viral outbreak. That would exceed the 22 million that were lost during the 2008 global financial crisis.
In Europe, companies are laying off workers at the fastest pace since 2009, according to surveys of business managers. Official statistics for Europe that would reflect the outbreak’s impact are not yet out. But companies have been announcing tens of thousands of job cuts, both permanent and temporary. Major car companies like Fiat Chrysler and airlines like Lufthansa are suspending most of their operations, putting tens of thousands of workers on temporary leave, many with only a partial salary.
The unemployment rate in the 19 countries that use the euro was 7.3% at last count in January. It’s expected to rise toward 10%, depending on the duration of the outbreak, economists say. The rise in joblessness may not be as sharp as in the U.S. because it’s harder to fire workers in Europe, where many governments are supporting companies financially to keep employees on partially paid leave.
Ellen Zentner, an economist at Morgan Stanley, said in a note to clients that 17 million jobs could be lost through May — twice the entire 8.7 million jobs that were lost in the Great Recession. She expects the unemployment rate to average 12.8% in the April-June quarter, which would be the highest level since the 1930s.
Still, Zentner also expects the economy to start recovering by the second half of the year. But it will take time for things to return to something close to normal, she projects: The unemployment rate could still top 5% at the end of next year.
AP Writers Carlo Piovano in London, David Lieb in Jefferson City, Missouri, and Matthew Barakat in Falls Church, Viriginia, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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