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Gov. Inslee lifts two-week travel quarantine


Travelers wait in line for security screening at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The state Department of Health says there have been over 336,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington, and 5,213 people have died from the virus statewide. The state says 2,882,195 doses of vaccine have been administered. Check below for more updates.

Washington state is currently in Phase 1B, Tier 2, of vaccine distribution, which includes high-risk critical workers who work certain congregate settings. It also includes those who are 16 years or older who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at a high risk for severe illness. Anyone who was eligible in an earlier phase or tier remains eligible now.

Vaccine Phase Finder allows you to see if you’re eligible for a vaccine.

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Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Thursday, March 25

5:22pm – There have been 336,547 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,213 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. There are an additional 22,059 probable cases, bringing the state total to 358,606.

3:40 pm – Washington is moving the social distance requirement between K-12 students from 6 feet to 3 feet, consistent with revised guidance from the CDC. Read more.

1:33pm – The governor’s 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers arriving in Washington has been lifted. However, state health officials still say it’s safest to avoid travel and opt for a staycation instead.

If you must travel, officials say you should get tested and quarantine for a week when you get home.

12:02pm – After confirming to KIRO Radio that Washington state will be opening up vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16 on May 1, the state Department of Health is working to solidify its roadmap ahead of that date. Read more.

10:14am – The Department of Health delivered its weekly briefing Thursday, providing an update on the state’s progress on vaccinations.

The state continues to meet its goal of administering 45,000 doses a day. In total, nearly 25% of Washingtonians have received at least one dose, while 14% of residents are now fully vaccinated.

Secretary of Health Umair Shah also reaffirmed that the state will adhere to President Biden’s directive to open up vaccine eligibility by May 1.

“We will be following that directive, but we also acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do between now and May 1,” Shah said. “Supply continues to be the main limiting factor, but we are hopeful that will continue to increase, but we also recognize more is needed to be done from a supply standpoint.”

8:21am NBC News reports that President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that his new goal is to have 200 million COVID-19 vaccination shots delivered within his first 100 days in office.

That’s double Biden’s original goal of 100 million doses in 100 days. Currently, the federal government has an agreement in place for 600 million total doses combined between Pfizer and Moderna for their two vaccines, and for another 200 million doses from Johnson & Johnson.

6:57am – A King County judge allowed a lawsuit to move forward against the University of Washington from a graduate student who is suing the school over the cost of tuition during the COVID pandemic. Now, two of Oregon’s largest universities are also being sued by students because of online learning costs. Should these students get a refund? Read more. 

5:09am – The City of Seattle plans to cease COVID-19 testing at facilities in West Seattle and Rainier Beach, and convert them into full-time vaccination sites.

According to the Seattle Times, that will enable the sites to provide as many as 1,500 additional vaccinations a day, an increase from the 1,000 a day they were performing as dual testing/vaccination facilities.

Both facilities report a decreasing demand for COVID-19 testing — the one in West Seattle has been doing roughly 200 tests daily, while the Rainier Beach site has been testing 100 people a day.

Wednesday, March 24

5:50pm – The Washington State Department of Health confirmed to KIRO Radio on Wednesday that Washington state will comply with the directive from President Biden to open vaccination to everyone 16 and older on May 1.

5:02pm – There have been 335,606 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,200 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 2.8 million vaccine doses have been given.

4:33pm – Pierce County is the latest county in Western Washington to announce a turn-around and now an increase in COVID-19 cases. The county health department reports a 24% increase in the last 10 days.

1:47pm – KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott reports that 46 inmates at the King County jail have tested positive for COVID-19 between March 9 and March 24, 2021. Much of the outbreak occurred just since the past weekend, with 19 cases detected on Monday alone. Contact tracing is occurring for all confirmed cases.

Health services at the jail is working to administer COVID tests to all inmates this week, in addition to the regular surveillance testing that’s been ongoing since January. Individuals in detention are not eligible for vaccination until the end of the month, though many employees are eligible as of Phase 1B-2.

12:06pm – Washington state lost an estimated 214,000 jobs between February 2020 and February 2021, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Private employers accounted for about two-thirds of those cutbacks. By industry, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and government positions took the biggest hits.

The state employment security office says jobs numbers are improving so far this year.

10:11am – Two of Oregon’s largest universities are being sued by students over online learning.

The three lawsuits claim the University of Oregon and Oregon State, charged students full price for online classes they claim were poorer quality than in-person learning, although school officials refute those claims.

Last week, a judge allowed a similar lawsuit to go forward against the University of Washington from a grad student.

Nationally, more than 250 lawsuits challenging pandemic pricing at colleges and universities have been filed.

8:39am – Grand plans for multi-year, 20-plus billion dollar transportation packages full of green energy proposals are on the back burner now, as the Legislature focuses on trying to survive the impacts of the pandemic. Read more. 

6:56am – As of March 22, Washington state has moved forward to Phase 3 and more activities and businesses are allowed to resume or reopen. But Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, warns that this move does not mean the pandemic is over. In fact, patient numbers are climbing again in some areas of the state. Read more.

5:15am – King County is reporting that 31% of residents over the age of 16 have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 16.5% now fully vaccinated.

Next Wednesday, March 31, vaccine eligibility statewide will expand to people with two or more comorbidities, anyone between the ages of 60 and 64, restaurant and food service workers, manufacturing and construction, and anyone living in a congregate setting.

That said, the county notes that “vaccine supply has not yet caught up with this expansion in eligibility.”

“We have just one first dose for every 8 eligible residents,” it said Tuesday. “We know this is frustrating, but hope is on the horizon. In April and May, the national vaccine supply will increase and it will get easier to get a vaccination appointment.”

Tuesday, March 23

5:39pm – New COVID cases are rising in King County, to the tune of 23% higher than the week before. Public health leaders in the county attribute this increase to people letting their guard down after so many months of lockdown. They are worried about people vacationing for spring break, and ask people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

The good news is that 31% of people in King County have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about half of those people are fully vaccinated. The weekly supply should double in April, which will hopefully help close the gap between dose supply and demand. Until then, health officials are asking everyone to remain diligent and not let up on precautions this close to the finish line.

Kitsap County is also seeing a rise, and Snohomish County’s numbers have stopped declining. Pierce County is holding steady for now.

4:56pm – There have been 334,841 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,186 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. With an additional 21,695 probable cases, that brings the total cases in the state to 356,536.

4:14pm – The state Department of Labor and Industries says city councilmembers in Woodland, Washington, were unmasked during meetings and could have exposed staff members. The Daily News reports the city was fined $1,200.

The Woodland City Council has been holding in-person meetings since last summer, after voting to ignore Governor Inslee’s stay-at-home order.

2:42pm – Washington state may have its first cases of breakthrough coronavirus, when someone who has been fully vaccinated still catches COVID-19. Read more.

1:13pm – The Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup will be drive-thru this year. The fair runs April 7-11, and April 14-18. You can get tickets here.

The fair includes drive-in movies and timed-sessions for ThrillVille and SillyVille rides.

12:17pm – King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin sat down for a conversation this week to go over the risks posed by COVID-19 variants, the positive effect of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the reopening of schools. Watch the full video here.

10:26am – Since the shutdown started last March, every restaurant in America has suffered. But those located in Chinatowns may have been hit the hardest. In January 2020, when there were only whispers that COVID-19 had started in China, President Trump began referring to it as the “China flu,” and Asian restaurants quickly started to lose customers. Read more.

8:49am – Some of America’s most vulnerable citizens are partying like it’s 2021 after getting COVID vaccines. We’re seeing pictures of 80-year-olds dancing and drinking while millennials look on forlorn. Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss vaccines and the nature in which society is reopening. Read more. 

6:54am – With COVID-19 cases rising 31% in Seattle over the last two weeks, Mayor Jenny Durkan is warning residents to remain cautious.

“The variants in our community pose a real threat even as we are making significant progress on vaccinations,” she said. “We are not out of the woods, yet. Don’t let your guard down. Mask up. Don’t gather. Keep your distance. Get vaccinated.”

5:08am – Seattle City Councilmembers passed a resolution this week detailing its priorities for spending the $239 million the city is expected to received from the American Rescue Plan.

That will include investments in vaccines and COVID testing, food assistance, housing services, child care, immigrant and refugee support, and more.

“With additional federal funding, we can address the deep needs our community has,” Council Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda said. “The funding decision must address immediate needs as well as long-term equitable economic recovery.”

Monday, March 22

6:58pm – Health officials say there have been 334,392 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state and 5,183 deaths since the outbreak began last year.

6:15pm – A new study by JAMA Network and reported on by the New York Times suggests Americans might have gained up to 20 pounds over the course of the last year if they didn’t change their habits. Based on weight measurements collected from Bluetooth-connected smart scales, adults sheltering in place gained more than half of a pound every 10 days.

The study included 269 people involved in a cardiology study across the United States.

3:22pm – The Washington State School Directors’ Association is requesting a 3-foot rule for students. Directors say the 6-foot rule is making it nearly impossible for some schools to reopen.

The professional organization says the federal government has relaxed its distancing guidelines to 3-feet for schools and it hopes our state will allow that, as soon as possible.

12:11pm – With the ongoing pandemic limiting the ability of Girl Scouts to sell cookies in person, local QFC locations will be selling the cookies themselves. Read more. 

10:37am – Yakima will be piloting drive-thru vaccination option at its Central Washington State Fair Park, FEMA announced Monday.

Capacity at that location will expand from 200 doses a day to 1,200 as a result.

9:02am – In early March, Facebook became the first major tech company to announce its plans to bring Puget Sound employees back into the workplace. Now, Microsoft is following suit, unveiling its plan for a “hybrid workplace” on Monday. Read more. 

7:18am – As of Monday, all of Washington state has now moved into Phase 3 of reopening, affording restaurants and other indoor spaces more flexibility with looser restrictions. Read more.

5:23am – Seattle’s mass vaccination site at Lumen Field has reportedly encountered some early issues with equitable access.

A recent report from KING 5 describes one instance where a senior woman who speaks Vietnamese was not given a translator, nor did she receive the proper information regarding when she’d need return for her second dose.

“At a certain point, this elderly woman, who has no husband and no children, who had spent two hours trying to get there, started to think that it was her fault,” Treehouse CEO Lisa Chin said. “That somehow she had done something wrong and therefore was not getting vaccinated.”

According to Chin, inequities can be seen in the fact that informational flyers on site are printed in Spanish and English, without iterations for any of the languages spoken by the region’s Asian-American population.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has vowed to fix these perceived inequities, ensuring that volunteers can use on-site translation devices, updating signage, and tagging an “equity lead” to manage situations like the one with the elderly woman.

Read last week’s updates here.

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