Will James | KNKX

Will James

South Sound Reporter

Will James covers the South Sound region, as well as housing and immigration issues, for KNKX. He came to the station from Newsday in his home state of New York. 

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Federal officials are reportedly re-evaluating whether people should wear face masks in public to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health–Seattle & King County, told reporters earlier this week there’s no evidence a homemade face mask, or one that’s not medical-grade, will prevent you from getting sick. But there’s a chance having something covering your nose and mouth could protect someone else from you. 

Dr. Nick Mark, a pulmonary critical care doctor in Seattle, tries on new protective gear.
Courtesy of Nick Mark

Dr. Nick Mark usually takes 10 or 15 seconds to breathe, relax and focus before starting a delicate procedure like inserting a breathing tube into a patient.

But, on a recent day, the tactic backfired. Mark was about to perform a procedure on a patient with COVID-19, a situation that puts him at risk of catching the coronavirus if his protective gear were to fail. 

Seattle and King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin talks to reporters while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine listen on March 11, 2020.
Stephen Brashear / The Associated Press

Limits on social interaction seem to be slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus in King County, health officials said Monday.

Two studies from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling appear to show people have been moving around less and that each person carrying the virus is now infecting fewer people on average than they were a month ago.

Swedish Medical Center has launched a mobile COVID-19 testing clinic for people staying in homeless shelters or living in Plymouth Housing buildings.
Will James / KNKX

Four people staying in King County shelters have tested positive for COVID-19, county officials said, signaling the first signs of the novel coronavirus in the Seattle area's homeless population. 

The four people were staying in at least three different shelters, according to a news release Saturday by health officials in King County.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, right, public health officer for Seattle and King County, talks to reporters on March 4, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

King County's top health official ordered residents to follow quarantine and isolation guidelines meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, signed the order Saturday.

It directs anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms and has been tested to remain in quarantine while awaiting results.

Judie Shape, center, who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but isn't showing symptoms, at Life Care Center in Kirkland on March 17, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

A study of a King County nursing home shows just how insidious an outbreak of the novel coronavirus can be, federal investigators said Friday.

The study looked at one unnanmed nursing home where an outbreak of the virus was suspected earlier this month.

It found that more than half of people who tested positive for the virus had no symptoms at the time. 

A mobile COVID-19 testing station set up by Swedish Medical Center outside a Plymouth Housing building in downtown Seattle on March 24, 2020.
Will James / KNKX

Dave Rodriguez tilts his head back. A health care worker in a mask and gown inserts what looks like an extra-long Q-tip into one of Rodriguez's nostrils. The worker pushes it all the way through the nasal cavity until it touches the back of Rodriguez's throat.

They're sitting in folding chairs on a downtown Seattle sidewalk. Swedish Medical Center has set up a mobile COVID-19 testing center here for the afternoon, the first outing in an effort to detect the novel coronavirus in some of the city's most vulnerable people.

Nativity House, operated by the nonprofit Catholic Community Services, saw its first case of COVID-19 last week.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A Tacoma homeless shelter has had four residents test positive for the novel coronavirus, so far the largest publicly disclosed outbreak in Washington state's homeless population.

Sisters Seri Sedlacek, left, and Susan Simpkins look in on their father, Chuck Sedlacek, at the Life Care Center, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Kirkland. Shuksan Healthcare Center in Bellingham is working to avoid what happened at the Kirkland facility.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

More than 30 residents and employees of a Bellingham nursing facility have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting officials to take steps to avoid a deadly scenario that played out in Kirkland.

Tents are pictured inside a homeless encampment in Olympia.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Editor's note: This reporting is the result of a partnership between KNKX's Will James, host of the Outsiders podcast,  and the team of Transmission — a new podcast about life at the center of an epidemic. Listen to Episode 3: Houseless and subscribe.  

The first publicly disclosed cases of novel coronavirus in the U.S. homeless population emerged this week, as local governments and nonprofits rushed to prevent the virus from spreading to tens of thousands of people living outside or in shelters on the West Coast.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

When the novel coronavirus outbreak hits Olympia, it arrives in the middle of a "state of emergency" around homelessness. What happens to people surviving outside when the government says to stay at home? This crossover episode with the KNKX podcast Transmission looks at the effects of the pandemic on the homeless population. 

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

For more dispatches from a COVID-19 "hot spot," subscribe to Transmission by KNKX.

ADRIAN FLOREZ / KNKX

When the novel coronavirus made its way to the United States, it landed here, in the Pacific Northwest. Transmission is a podcast about life at the heart of an epidemic. 

Today’s episode: Houseless. In this episode, Transmission teams up with the Outsiders podcast.  

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Does something about Olympia attract desperate people from all over? We examine the “magnet theory” of homelessness.

Inside Outsiders

Mar 11, 2020
Adrian Florez / KNKX

The Outsiders team holds a live event to explain how we made the series and what we learned. We answer listeners’ questions: Are some people homeless by choice? After a year of reporting, do we feel society is any closer to solving homelessness?

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

A small homeless encampment sits under a bride in Seattle. Officials in the Puget Sound region are bracing for the novel coronavirus to hit homeless shelters and camps.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

 

Officials across the Puget Sound region are bracing for the novel coronavirus to hit homeless shelters and encampments, where they say the virus could pose more of a threat than in the general population. 

Discussion of the virus is expected to dominate a meeting of service providers Friday in Pierce County, where cases have yet to be reported. 

Episode 6: The Bridge

Mar 4, 2020
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Homelessness divides Olympia and forces people to re-examine their politics. Emotions converge on an encampment under the Fourth Avenue Bridge.

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support 

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

Ramon Dompor / The Seattle Times

Sam Miller is a husband, a father of two, and a comedian with a growing following in the Puget Sound region.

But, a little over a decade ago, he was homeless in downtown Olympia, struggling with addictions to alcohol and methamphetamine.

The story of Miller’s fall into homelessness and substance use, and his journey back out, is featured in Episode 5 of Outsiders, a podcast about homelessness by KNKX and The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless team.

Episode 5: Let's Dance

Feb 26, 2020
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Sam Miller can help us understand how addiction and homelessness intersect because he’s lived them both. Plus he can make us laugh. He points to one reason he was able to overcome homelessness while many others get trapped.

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Despite Olympia’s efforts, hundreds of people remain in unsanctioned camps around the city. They invent ways to stay alive and help each other survive.

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

Olympia's sanctioned tent city, known as the "mitigation site," as seen on Jan. 8, 2020.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

In late 2018, the number of tents in downtown Olympia swelled from around 30 to more than 300 in about a three-month period.

It was an extreme example of what cities up and down the West Coast have wrestled with during the post-recession years: unprecedented levels of visible, unsheltered homelessness.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

How did people end up on the streets of Olympia? Some can point to a catastrophe that bent their lives toward homelessness. For others, it almost seemed like life was moving in that direction from the very beginning.

Donate to KNKX: knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times: seattletimes.com/subscribe

ADRIAN FLOREZ / KNKX

The rise of homelessness in Olympia looked different depending on where you were standing. To many people, it swept over the city like a storm in a matter of weeks. But a few could see the pressure building for decades.

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

The podcast Outsiders follows people like Jessica, a woman in her 30s pictured here, over the course of a year as they try to survive while homeless and unsheltered in Olympia.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

In the new podcast Outsiders, KNKX partnered with The Seattle Times' Project Homeless team to provide an up-close look at life and death among people who are unsheltered, and delve into some of the most pressing questions about the rise of homelessness on the West Coast.

Episode 1: The Rain

Jan 29, 2020
Adrian Florez / KNKX

The West Coast's homelessness crisis arrives in Olympia, Washington. City leaders scramble to respond, and wonder if they can succeed where larger cities have failed. People trying to survive outside face a choice: whether to set aside years of distrust and go along with the city’s plans. 

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

An encampment in downtown Olympia in December 2018.
Will James / KNKX

Discussions about homelessness dominated Olympia's first City Council meeting of 2020. It was standing room only, as residents packed the council chambers last night to speak about the issue.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Homelessness on the West Coast is rising to crisis levels at a time of historic economic growth and prosperity. Why? KNKX Public Radio and The Seattle Times' Project Homeless spent one year in a city that’s grappling with homelessness. What’s it like to live outside for months on end? What’s it like when tents come to your neighborhood? What new solutions can city leaders find?

This is Outsiders.

Outsiders is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe now so you don't miss the first episode debuting Jan. 29.

 

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Right-wing protesters and their left-wing critics held opposing rallies in downtown Seattle on Sunday.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Tacoma's annual New Year's Eve celebration, First Night, returns this year after it was canceled last year due to a budget shortfall.

The event includes performances and celebrations throughout Tacoma's Theater District beginning at six 6 p.m. on Dec. 31. Some events are free, while others require the purchase of a button, which functions like a ticket.

Will James / KNKX

Author's note: I've covered homelessness for more than three years for KNKX. I knew how challenging it was for anyone to get out of that situation, especially those considered chronically homeless. But this story was the first time I got to witness just how difficult that path can be. I interviewed Jayson Chambers both at the beginning and the end of a one-year journey from a tent on Tacoma's tideflats to an apartment in Puyallup. The journey literally almost killed him. For me, it was a lesson in how people can get lost in the interlocking systems that touch their lives. But it also showed how even people facing some of the most daunting obstacles can escape homelessness. (This story originally aired March 14).  

Gov. Jay Inslee proposes $300 million in new funding for homeless services.
Will James / KNKX

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says he has a plan to cut the number of unsheltered homeless people in the state by half in two years.

The $300 million proposal would take money out of the state's "rainy day" fund. It would require approval from state lawmakers, whose session begins next month. 

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