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COVID-19 updates: testing and case count jump, Seattle Public Schools TV, Metro and light rail reductions, and a distillery pumping out craft hand sanitizer

Here are the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak and response around the Seattle region, Capitol Hill, and the Central District. See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959.

Through Thursday, March 19th — Source: King County Public Health, created by @LeiferMd. The latest updates are available here.

  • Numbers: Thursday’s case totals from King County Public Health are sobering. 131 new cases in a day marks a new high point for the county. The jump comes in lockstep with an increase in testing. University of Washington Virology reported that its testing has now reached capabilities of more than 2,000 people per day. With some 3,000 undergoing testing on Wednesday, it’s likely we’ll see new hight totals for positive cases soon.

Source: UW Virology real-time tracker. View latest totals here

  • Shelter in place: Gov. Jay Inslee was early in shutting down large gatherings and non-essential businesses. But the Washington governor hasn’t taken the state as far as others like California where so-called “shelter in place” restrictions are now in effect. With Seattle schools and most businesses closed except for deliveries or pick-up, what’s the difference? There are no prohibitions for people in Seattle to go outside for a walk or a bike ride — yet.
  • What comes next? Here’s what University of Washington virologist Trevor Bedford thinks needs to happen to calm the outbreak:

    a) a massive at-home testing effort

    b) using cell phone location data to tell people who may have been exposed to self-isolate

    c) allowing people who have known immunity (from having had it) back into the workforce once we know via blood test that they can’t get it or spread it anymore. That way, they can keep everything running while others fall sick.

  • Metro and Sound Transit: Seattle’s public transit is set for a pullback. Both Metro and Sound Transit announced they are cutting service with ridership down about 60%. Here’s Metro’s statement:

    Metro will temporarily move to a Reduced Schedule starting Monday, March 23. This shift comes two days after Metro’s pre-scheduled Spring Service Change goes into effect on Saturday, March 21, which will bring Eastside riders better bus connections and improved access to Seattle via Link light rail. The Reduced Schedule is in response to reduced ridership since the emergence of COVID-19. These service reductions are also designed to maintain a resilient and sustainable transit system that’s able to keep our region moving every day and to ramp back up when this chapter closes.

    Only routes 22, 105, 118, 119, and 154 will continue unchanged. Routes 9, 29, 47, 78, 125, 200, 208, 237, 308, 309, 330, and 541 are to be shut down entirely. The First Hill Streetcar will also operate on a reduced schedule starting on Monday. Metro says the situation is rapidly changing and has posted a reduced service page to help track the changes. Metro is also ending fare collection and is asking riders to board via rear doors.

    Sound Transit, meanwhile, says it is keeping in place the 14-minute frequencies that have been in place for the Connect 2020 construction project, responding “to greatly reduced rider demand.” Sound Transit says the schedule provides “ample capacity for current ridership while maintaining space for social distancing.” Meanwhile, this weekend brings the extra round of downtown light rail service disruption with no trains between Capitol Hill and SoDo. After Monday, at least you won’t have to transfer at Pioneer Square Station any longer.


More coverage…

  • Seattle Public Schools do TV: Seattle schools along with schools across Washington are closed through at least April 24th. While some districts and many private schools are rolling out remote learning services, Seattle Public Schools has prioritized equity and left online instruction and the use of learning platforms to individual teachers. Instead, it is launching some new learning programming featuring district instructors:

    Starting Monday, March 23, we will be providing educational programming on SPS TV, social media, and our website. These videos will feature Seattle Public Schools educators in short segments to support optional learning in a variety of subjects and grade levels. We will also be offering aligned, printed materials at school lunch distribution sites for families who do not have access to TV or internet.

    SPS has also ramped up efforts to help keep kids fed with a system of “26 Student Meal Distribution Sites” and, the superintendent Denise Juneau says, working on solutions for helping to provide day care for those most in need:

    Seattle Public Schools is working with our existing child care providers — City of Seattle, Public Health Seattle and King County, and the State Department of Children, Youth, and Families — to develop potential approaches for families with the most critical need, including first responders to COVID-19. We continue to receive updated guidance from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families on how school-based providers might offer child care as safely as possible in our buildings while ensuring recommended social distancing. SPS does not have funding to pay for child care. We are working with philanthropic and other municipal partners to find solutions to support operational and staffing costs. We will continue to keep families informed if child care options become available.

  • Homelessness: Encampment removals have been put on “pause,” the Seattle Times reports:

    Most of the encampments removed by the city are classified as obstructions, but according to Tuesday’s release, the Navigation Team will not clear these kinds of encampments unless they present “an extreme circumstance” that blocks city streets or sidewalks as well as “an extraordinary public safety hazard” that puts people at risk. The announcement arrived after both advocates and elected officials urged the city to stop removals during the novel coronavirus pandemic, particularly at a time when shelters are already under pressure to observe social-distancing rules and decrease the number of people crowding into the same spaces.

  • Parking tickets: Seattle’s 72-hour rule for moving vehicles isn’t meshing well with neighborhoods full of people “working from home” and going nowhere. Seattle Department of Transportation officials say they are considering how best to address the situation but, in the meantime, Seattle Police parking enforcement remains active on the streets of Capitol Hill and beyond.
  • Hand sanitizer: There are always new ways to help. Heritage Distilling is getting into the hand sanitizer business:

    Attention: HDC hand sanitizer will be available in Gig Harbor, Capitol Hill and Ballard tasting rooms starting tomorrow (March 20). Roslyn and Eugene to follow shortly. We will have pre-filled bottles to purchase and also on tap to let you refill your own containers. Details tomorrow. Proud of our team for pulling this together in less than a week.

    Heritage Distilling Capitol Hill is located at 1201 10th Ave.

  • Food, shopping, and events: We’ve converted the CHS Calendar to track what restaurants are open for “to go” orders and neighborhood events that you can enjoy when you “stay home.”

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4 thoughts on “COVID-19 updates: testing and case count jump, Seattle Public Schools TV, Metro and light rail reductions, and a distillery pumping out craft hand sanitizer

  1. In my humble opinion I’m betting that 2 months from now the story will be how the panic caused far more harm than the COVID19 spread. 7 billion people and people infected in the hundreds of thousands (presumptive) means odds are low. 95 percent survival rate means odds of recovery are high. I’m saying this is ridiculous and I’m in the danger zone as a senior citizen!

    Alternate story: All these precautions greatly reduced the danger. Well, maybe, but there is little evidence to support.

    In case I’m wrong, you’re all invited to my funeral.

    • People aren’t dying from panic.

      And while mortality rates may end up being low; people are still dying. They are dying because of this kind of attitude that this is all no big deal. All the while people who think they know more than scientists and health professionals continue to eschew measures that could save lives.

      Yes, you may or may not die from the virus. There may be a 95% or higher survival rate (love how blase some can be regarding 5% of people who get the virus dying – nice compassion) but you also fail to see what the infection rate is doing to our healthcare system. It’s currently being stretched to the limit. Putting the health and safety of doctors and nurses at risk. Those same doctors and nurses you’ll need if you slip and fall and break a leg or that need to operate on you if you get into a car accident.

      I get it. Some people just don’t give a shit and they’re all in it for only themselves. But don’t be that person. Our grandparents were asked to cross oceans to fight a war. We’re being asking to stay at home and watch TV. We should be able to cope with this ask.

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