COVID-19 updates: Seattle testing ramps up, $750K relief for music venues, and an update on Inslee’s dials

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.

  • Testing expansion: With adequate resources finally in place, Seattle and King County health officials are now recommending that anyone “who has COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with someone who has COVID-19” should be tested right away. The new recommendations clarify previous guidelines that prioritized testing for people most at risk for severe illness, healthcare providers, and first responders. It comes some ten weeks after the first “presumed positive” cases were identified in the region. The new position from local officials come after progress in securing federal testing supplies and as new drive-thru testing clinics have been put in place. “Testing as soon as possible after symptoms appear is important to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to family, friends, and the community,” the county update reads.
  • How to get tested: The county says contact your healthcare provider:

    Most testing is completed through healthcare providers. You should call your healthcare provider if you feel sick, live in the same household as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Each healthcare system has its own testing processes. Many providers require appointments to prevent overcrowding and to be sure that they have supplies.

    But if you need to be tested and don’t have a provider, call the King County COVID-19 call center, open daily 8 AM – 7 PM at 206-477-3977.

  • How are those COVID-19 dials doing? Remember Gov. Inslee’s dials showing the key metrics being monitored during the state’s phased approach to reopening? Hopefully the testing progress noted above will help. The state’s “Testing Capacity ​​​​​and Availability” dial is the one most stubbornly stuck in the “high risk” direction. In the latest weekly update on the metrics, officials say that statewide daily testing numbers remain “fairly steady” at approximately 6,000. “Test collection supplies remain limited, with the state waiting on large shipments from the federal government,” they write. “Testing adequacy is mixed regionally, with high positivity rates in some areas indicating hotspots with potentially inadequate testing.” The state’s daily testing goal is 22,000. You can track the dial progress here. Continue reading

FDA fast-tracked new COVID-19 rules but Seattle blood banks may take months to implement new policy for gay, bisexual men

(Image: Bloodworks Northwest)

By Dan Facundo, UW News Lab/Special to CHS

King County blood centers estimate it will take months to implement a new FDA policy for gay and bisexual male blood donors, leaving many otherwise eligible people unable to donate during the COVID-19 crisis.

As thousands of blood drives around the country have been canceled due to COVID-19, the FDA rushed out new guidelines for male blood donors who have sex with men, lowering the 12-month deferral period from their last sexual contact with a man to three months.

Despite the urgent need for blood donations, gay and bisexual men who fall under the “men who have sex with men” (MSM) umbrella will have to remain celibate for a year before they can donate blood, effectively barring them from donating and potentially turning away upwards of 345,400 pints of blood, according to a 2014 study by the Williams Institute. With modern testing able to detect HIV within as soon as 10 days of infection, many public health officials and HIV researchers think the deferral period can be reduced further. 

“We think that the window of time is enough to provide the ongoing safety of the blood supply right now where it is, without increasing risk,” said Dr. Kirsten Alcorn, Medical Director of Blood Services at Bloodworks Northwest. “It’s a very calculated risk level that needs to be backed up by lots of data.”

Under the best conditions, a policy change like this might have taken two to three months, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may take four to six months for blood centers to implement these changes as computer systems and procedures need to be updated, according to Alcorn. Continue reading

Phase 2: Hopes of Capitol Hill food and drink survival at ‘50%’

Capitol Hill food and drink venues have started telling customers about a new requirement for service. If you want to eat or drink, you first will need to provide a phone number and an email address.

The “contact tracing” data collection — familiar to, say, registering on a new website but not necessarily grabbing a burger for takeout — is part of a new roster of requirements and restrictions for Washington’s restaurant and bar industry as the state prepares for its “Phase 2” loosening of the COVID-19 lockdown that could be in place in June if infection rates continue to fall.

The opportunity to restart comes with a roster of changes in business practices and resources that must be in place for restaurants, cafes, bars, and taverns around Capitol Hill to reopen. Top of mind for most owners trying to sort out what comes next for the hundreds of venues and thousands of workers across the area is how to make the new math pencil out.

“We’re going to be back where we were in 2008 with the recession,” Capitol Hill food and drink veteran John Sundstrom of Lark says. “Our hope… this is such a big reset moment for the economy and the way we look at people’s lives… there is an opportunity for change.”

State requirements issued for the industry this week include 13 points of new guidelines: Continue reading

Seattle City Council adds more COVID-19 renter protections as ‘Amazon Tax’ for relief and affordable housing remains stalled

Seattle has added two new protections for renters facing the economic challenges of the COVID-19 crisis but City Hall wasn’t celebrating Monday as the Seattle City Council approved a bill that gives tenants who fall behind on rent during the crisis the right to catch up on an installment plan.

The second yes vote on a bill co-sponsored by council member Kshama Sawant approved a new rule prohibiting landlords from turning down a tenant because they were evicted for failure to pay rent during the crisis. Sawant marked the victory but also had a lot to say about her stymied “Amazon Tax.” Continue reading

Seattle to require face masks in ‘indoor public spaces or confined spaces’ — UPDATE

King County and Seattle officials are announcing new rules on face masks in a bid to quash the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Public Health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin are scheduled to hold “a virtual press conference” Monday afternoon to discuss a new directive on face coverings.

The new directive requires King County residents to wear “a cloth face covering in indoor public spaces or confined spaces where it could be difficult to maintain six feet of physical distancing,” according to materials being prepared to inform the public about the change.

UPDATE: “King County residents are directed to wear face coverings in most public settings” as of May 18th, the announcement reads.

Continue reading

COVID-19 updates: Concern transmission rate could be ‘no longer falling and may be rising again in Western Washington’

Hopes for a rapid progression in the phases in the state’s plans for reopening its economy might need to be tempered.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that key COVID-19 infection rates in both Eastern and Western Washington have “plateaued or gone up” and health officials are concerned about a trend that might mean the rate of new cases is increasing.

In his weekly Friday afternoon conference on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Inslee said rates are “going to rise again unless we find “some other measure to restrain the rate of infection.”

King County health officials highlighted the new concerns:

After dropping throughout March and into the first part of April, the transmission rate of COVID-19 is no longer falling and may be rising again in Western Washington, according to the latest report from Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM). The report also included an analysis of the rate of transmission in the eastern half of the state, finding it was persistently higher than in the western half.

Increased activity and travel could be contributing to the upward trend. The Institute for Disease Modeling says its latest updates (PDF) show an “estimated rise in transmission” and the new increase is “concordant with observed increases in King County’s highway traffic.” Continue reading

COVID-19 mixed-drink kits may never go away but you can order an honest to goodness cocktail again on Capitol Hill — to go

Elaborate cocktail kits might survive COVID-19 but craft cocktails (to go!) are ready for a comeback

With reporting by Alex Garland

The days of take-home kits born during the COVID-19 restrictions will probably never really die but you can once again order an honest to goodness craft cocktail on Capitol Hill — as long as it is served with an order that includes food, comes sealed in “a container with a secure lid or cap and in a manner designed to prevent consumption without removal of the lid or cap” and, if you’re talking about a transaction involving a delivery car, is placed “beyond the immediate reach of the driver.”

This week, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board relented and said it would allow the state’s hard-hit food and drink industry to begin serving “pre-mixed” cocktails for takeout and delivery. You can find a few Capitol Hill venues that have already jumped on the opportunity, sometimes taking creative measures to comply with requirements with supplies on hand. At 14th Ave’s Nue that means a sealed pack of Paloma to go: Continue reading

With online orders, curbside pickup, and window shopping, how Capitol Hill retailers are facing ‘phased’ reopening

Doghouse Leathers is seeing business at about 25% of normal as its sales have moved to online and pick-up — “mostly local customers needing essential supplies” (Image: @creativitythatconnects)

By Lena Friedman, CHS Intern

Big releases are still happening at Likelihood

Since Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement of a phased approach to reopening Washington’s economy, Capitol Hill retailers have been busily planning — and putting some of those new plans into motion. Many neighborhood retailers are now opening up for curbside pickup as part of Phase 1 and are making plans for what the “new normal” in-store shopping will look like when brick and mortar stores can reopen to the public.

Washington’s Phase 2, which will allow for in-store shopping with certain restrictions, is expected to go into effect early June although no date has been specified. This will mark the closest return to business as usual for Washington retailers since their announced closure as part of Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” mandate on March 23.

Fashion and shoe store Likelihood on 11th Ave and E Union is figuring out where it fits into Washington’s phased approach. The store has been busy coming up with a plan to reopen their storefront after moving business online about a week before non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down.

“We are a specialty retailer built on personal and individual partnerships with our customers, and a lot of our product is considered touch and feel, so the majority of our business before this was in-store” co-owner Daniel Carlson said. “We started Likelihood built around the experience of the store versus virtually online.” Continue reading

For now, no late nights hanging out in the park — Capitol Hill’s Volunteer and Cal Anderson part of new 8 PM closures for Seattle’s most popular parks

Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson and Volunteer Park will begin closing at 8 PM as part of Seattle’s ongoing efforts to cut down crowding in its most popular public gathering spaces during the COVID-19 crisis.

“This weekend is Mother’s Day and I want to remind everyone – the best thing you can do for your mother or grandmother is stay home. Please do not gather at our parks”, Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “We are not out of the woods, and we owe it to our moms and grandmas to fight COVID-19 with the only tool we have: social distancing.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill Seattle COVID-19 updates: latest totals, Washington ‘dial’ changes, to-go cocktails, drive-in church, and ‘coronavirus parties’

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. Continue reading