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coronavirus pandemic

It's June 30: Most COVID restrictions lifted in Washington

Jun 30, 2021
June 30 is the day for Washington state to fully reopen.
Eric Gay / The Associated Press file

Updated 1:30 p.m. June 30:

Fifteen months after Washington state's first “stay at home” order was issued in response to the coronavirus, businesses across the state are now allowed to return to pre-pandemic operations.

Andreea Marian, right, gives a COVID-19 vaccine to Cristian Hernandez, 16, as his mother Gabina Morales, who had her vaccine moments earlier, looks on at a vaccination clinic at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center on June 3, 2021, in Bellingham.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Washington state is in an ambiguous place with COVID-19. The state plans to fully reopen once 70% of the population over the age of 16 initiates vaccination. Current estimates suggest the state won’t hit that number before June 30, but the state plans to reopen on that day anyway.

We also aren't sure how well Washington’s COVID-19 lottery is working yet. And there’s a new strain of COVID-19 that’s deadlier and more contagious.

A COVID-19 vaccination card and sticker are displayed.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / The Associated Press

Washington is supposed to be fully reopened by the end of this month. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about the state's latest pandemic response efforts and how some of those are receiving pushback.

A pharmacist working for the Seattle Indian Health Board holds a syringe of COVID-19 vaccine March 15, 2021, at a SIHB clinic in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Public health officials in King and Pierce counties are preparing to administer COVID vaccines to adolescents ages 12 to 15 after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for young people.

Those efforts include working closely with school districts to get that age group vaccinated.

Cars come and go at a Safeway grocery store, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Seattle. Seattle is among the cities that have approved mandatory hazard pay for grocery workers during the pandemic. Pierce County's measure was recently vetoed by the executive.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press file

Local governments throughout Western Washington are passing hazard pay ordinances requiring extra income for grocery store workers during the pandemic. The Pierce County Council passed its own measure earlier this week. But it was swiftly vetoed by County Executive Bruce Dammeier. 

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Diagnosed COVID-19 cases have been dropping for weeks in Washington, following record high rates of infection through the holiday season. But King County's top public health official said the decline is likely temporary. 

Airlift Northwest flight nurse Mikaela Hagberg looks on as she receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccinations at UW Medicine on Dec. 15, 2020, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Doctors and nurses on the critical-care team of Seattle-based medical system Swedish were left out of an initial electronic call-out inviting staff to get the coronavirus vaccine, sparking confusion and anger among workers caring for some of the sickest COVID-19 patients, according to internal emails and meeting recordings.

A sign directs vehicles toward a drive-up testing site at the Tacoma Dome in March 2020. It was one of the test sites hosted by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department early in the pandemic.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Pierce County residents had their first opportunity to respond to a controversial proposal that would terminate a public health partnership between the county and the City of Tacoma.
 
And their collective response during Monday’s Pierce County Council committee meeting was overwhelming: many called the effort “reckless” and “dangerous” as the county faces a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee and the president of the Washington Education Association had a meeting on Wednesday to talk about the process of reopening schools for in-person learning. But they disagree about the content of the conversation.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, bangs the gavel as she presides over the Washington Senate, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Washington state's Employment Security Department has been hit hard during the pandemic. There was a dramatic increase in jobless claims when businesses were forced to shut down in the spring. And a crime ring used stolen identities to take hundreds of millions of dollars from the unemployment insurance program.

Anya Gavrylko (left) and Anna Nollan are part of the Washington COVID Response Corps working on food insecurity issues.
Courtesy of Schultz Family Foundation

Demand for food assistance has surged this year as many people have lost their jobs.

The Schultz Family Foundation, which was started by former Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz and his wife, Sheri, has created something called the Washington COVID Response Corps to employ young people to work on addressing food insecurity.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Joshua Piatok should be in London right now.

It’s where he had planned to spend his first semester as a Northeastern University student. Instead, he’s staying in a Boston hotel with other science, technology, engineering and math majors.

It’s one of many adjustments college freshmen have had to make in a year of crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many to temper dreams and expectations, and navigate a new social world amid social-distancing rules.

screenshot of online class / courtesy of the Franklin Pierce School District

Being a teacher right now is not easy. Ryan Davenport had to buy a new Ikea chair because teaching online means sitting around a lot, and that makes his neck hurt. During a regular school year, he’s usually on his feet much of the day, moving around. 

Ryan teaches social studies to seventh-graders in the Franklin Pierce School District in Parkland. But even more than that discomfort, this school year of disruption means Ryan has a harder time making the connections with his students that normally bring him joy. KNKX is following one of his classes this year to illustrate what school is like in the middle of a pandemic. 

Jack McQuade, center, the owner of The Swiss Restaurant and Pub in Tacoma, Wash., walks behind his bar on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. The restaurant announced in September that it was closing permanently.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

The governor’s new ban on indoor dining in restaurants will mean a financial toll for many businesses, and it’s a particular blow for new restaurants. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the new restrictions on Sunday as coronavirus cases have hit a new peak in the state.

Dr. Nicole Yarid, an associate medical examiner for King County, walks into the autopsy room dedicated to examining people who died from COVID-related complications. Yarid told KNKX that the pandemic response has detracted from other priorities.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Since its founding more than a century ago, Washington state has seen few changes to the way sudden or unusual deaths are investigated. And experts from every corner of the system acknowledge it’s far from perfect. 

New COVID-19 restrictions on dining, gyms in Washington

Nov 15, 2020
The Legislative Building, left, stands at night after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, gave a statewide televised address on COVID-19, which health officials have warned is accelerating rapidly throughout the state, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next four weeks, as the state continues to combat a rising number of coronavirus cases.

Starting at 11:59 p.m. Monday, a host of businesses must close their indoor services, including fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums. Retail stores — including grocery stores — must limit their indoor capacity to 25 percent.

Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi, delivered a live address to the state Thursday night urging Washington residents to change their Thanksgiving plans amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

The number of COVID-19 cases has doubled in Washington state over the past two weeks. In response, Gov. Jay Inslee recommends a 14-day quarantine for people coming into the state and is asking people to stay close to home. California and Oregon are doing the same to try and slow the spread of the virus.

A worker wears PPE as he walks along a line of cars, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, at a King County COVID-19 testing site in Auburn.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Make some sacrifices now to avoid future pain. That was the message from Washington state health officials Tuesday as confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state are at their highest levels yet — and accelerating quickly.

The Grand Cinema is a nonprofit movie theater in Tacoma.
Amelia Vaugh / Courtesy of The Grand

Many of the region’s annual film festivals are going virtual this year, as the pandemic continues. That includes next year’s Seattle International Film Festival and the Tacoma Film Festival, which is going on now and continues through Sunday.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

For weeks, public health officials have been sending the same message: confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising quickly in many parts of Washington state, and it's more important than ever to take precautions. 

But, amid "pandemic fatigue" and muddled messaging from political leaders, it's gotten harder to break through with that advice, King County's top public health official said Friday. 

screenshot of State Board of Education virtual meeting

Most students in the state are still doing school remotely because of the pandemic. Some parents who are frustrated with distance learning are criticizing a move by the State Board of Education to allow the status quo to continue.

This summer, the state board passed emergency rules to allow schools to provide Zoom classes or other remote instruction in the pandemic. Now the board has adopted new emergency rules to continue that, with a plan to propose permanent rules and hold a public hearing in early January.

AP File Photo

It’s not a matter of if a third wave of the coronavirus will hit Washington state, but a matter of when, says Dr. Steve Mitchell at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Positive cases are ticking up in Washington, and area hospitals are planning for a surge.

javacolleen / Flickr

It’s been eight weeks since the school year began, and Seattle Public Schools has just started offering in-person services for students in special education. One student started this week and the district plans to expand that to 65 children.

A house in West Seattle has a candy chute among its Halloween decorations, in preparation for socially distanced trick-or-treating. But experts say families should steer clear of the annual door-to-door tradition.
Posey Gruener / KNKX

Getting COVID-19 can be scarier than any horror movie or Halloween haunted house. Health officials and pediatricians aren't telling us to skip Halloween this year, but they do urge serious caution.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement about the relief fund: “The pandemic continues to impact all aspects of life for Washingtonians, and we need to remain steadfast in our support of those bearing the greatest burden.”
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Washington state’s $40 million COVID-19 relief fund for immigrants is open to applications. It’s intended to help undocumented workers who have been hurt financially in the pandemic.

Hayley Thompson, the coroner in Skagit County, says the makeshift morgue she rents from the local hospital — a space converted from a closet — has a lot of flaws. But it's better than what most coroners have.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It isn’t often a coroner gets to deliver good news. Last week was an exception for Hayley Thompson.

The Skagit County coroner learned her office was awarded a $250,000 federal grant, seed money that will eventually fund a renovation to bring all of her operations under one roof.

Thompson told KNKX Public Radio that this will offer the county consistent control of death investigations. And it’s long overdue.

 

There has been some talk at the national level about aiming for herd immunity with this pandemic. Officials in the Trump administration are eager to reopen the economy. 

Herd immunity would involve allowing COVID-19 to spread, which in theory would eventually make people immune.

Photo courtesy of Michael Gill

Most music venues in Washington closed early on in the pandemic, and they'll be among the last to reopen under the state’s phased plan. A new fundraising effort called Keep Music Live aims to raise more than $10 million to provide relief for the state's small, independently owned venues.

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce in February 2019.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press (file)

Instead of a room full of people, University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce gave her annual address in the empty Intellectual House, a longhouse style building on UW’s main campus built as a gathering space for Native American and Alaskan Native students.

Wearing purple, she spoke into a camera to her remote audience.

Before entering the school, students at Blue Heron Middle School in Port Townsend go through a screening process to prevent anyone who might show COVID-19 symptoms from entering.
Ashley Gross / KNKX

On a recent sunny fall morning, a school bus pulled up in front of Blue Heron Middle School in Port Townsend. A few kids got off, but before they could enter the school, they had to go through a new pandemic-era procedure.

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