COVID-19 | KNKX

COVID-19

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Washington state health officials are considering changing the guidance they give to school districts on when to offer in-person education, according to draft documents presented to Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this month.

When COVID-19 hit, experts were not only concerned about how would it affect us physically, but also how it would affect us emotionally. Dr. Kira Mauseth is co-lead for the behavioral health strike team for the state Department of Health. She has been working on a forecast for how our behavioral health would change over time in Washington.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Due to the high demand, health officials say if you don’t have coronavirus symptoms, then hold off on getting a test right now. Last month COVID testing sites in the Seattle area were conducting about 4,0000 tests a day. Now that number is up to about 8,000. Testing centers are straining to keep up.

Also, just because you get a negative test result does not mean you are safe to socialize with other people this Thanksgiving. 

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. 

A tent stands at the emergency entrance to Seattle Children's Hospital. As health officials across Washington state prepare for the latest COVID-19 surge, rural hospitals face unique challenges.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Rural hospitals are feeling the effect of the surge in coronavirus cases in Washington. Unlike earlier in the pandemic when urban areas felt most of the impact, this time small town hospitals are also being slammed with cases. And this is happening as some of the same hospitals are dealing with an influx of patients from out of state.

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.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, talks to reporters on March 4, 2020 at a news conference in Seattle.
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.

Sameth Mell is project director with Partners in Change, a division of the Equity in Education Coalition. He organizes around pandemic issues in King County.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Throughout the pandemic, local grassroots organizations have stepped up to help people in need, by getting people things like food, child care or rental assistance. They’re often trying to fill the gaps left by federal and local governments. 

This work likely will be impacted by the outcome of Tuesday's election.

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.

Gen Nashimoto, of Luminalt, installs solar panels in Hayward, Calif., on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. From New York to California, the U.S renewable energy industry is reeling from the new coronavirus pandemic
Ben Margot / The Associated Press (file)

The clean energy sector was one of the fastest growing parts of the economy before the pandemic, and it’s been one of the hardest hit. But researchers say jobs in energy efficiency or solar or wind power are still some of the best paid.

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.

A flu vaccine is administered in Seattle in 2018.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? It’s something you hear every year, but this flu season public health officials are going the extra mile to convince you. They say a bad influenza outbreak could overwhelm the health care system, which is already stretched by COVID-19. This year, there are more flu shots available for free. 

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.

Skagit County Coroner Hayley Thompson (left) and Connie Le Sourd, owner of Mount Vernon Cemetery, arrange urns of unclaimed remains in a shared crypt during a committal service in October 2019. Thompson is one of 17 elected coroners in Washington state.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Dr. Carl Wigren could stand in for just about any medical examiner as seen on TV. He’s witty, a fast talker who knows a lot about investigating deaths.

In fact, Wigren has been on TV, after testifying as an expert witness in high-profile criminal cases. He’s the guy you call when a death investigation furnishes more questions than answers. 

And, Wigren says, that happens a lot more than you think. 

Barrett and Audrey Stowe with their parents, Courtney and James. Barrett interviewed Audrey and two friends about what advice they'd give themselves if they could travel back in time to before the pandemic.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Imagine you could step into a time machine and travel back to a year ago. What would you tell yourself now that you’ve experienced life in a pandemic? 

Seventeen-year-old Barrett Stowe, who attends Tacoma School of the Arts, asked two friends and his sister that question. It turns out the upheaval of the past six months has led to some realizations about what’s important to them in life.

Barrett produced his own radio story, with guidance from KNKX staff, as part of our Take the Mic youth voices project.

In this photo taken Tuesday, June 16, 2020, Cirio Hernandez Hernandez moves a ladder as he works to thin honey crisp apples in an orchard in Yakima, Wash. The coronavirus pandemic is hitting Latino communities especially hard.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press (file)

The Latino population in Washington state is just 13 percent of the population, and this group of people accounts for more than 40 percent of COVID-19 cases. By contrast, white residents make up 68 percent of the population, but account for only 39 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Now, Latino doctors and community leaders are trying to understand why this is the case. 

The Associated Press (file)

Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay socially distant — and get a flu shot. This is the message health officials are preaching as we head into cooler months when we’ll all be spending more time indoors.

A bed sits made at a long-term care center in Rockland, Mass., back in March. Long-term care facilities in Washington state and across the country have been particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks during the pandemic.
David Goldman / The Associated Press (file)

For months, long-term care facilities in Washington were closed not only to visitors but also to state regulatory authorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These facilities were early hotspots, driving the nation's coronavirus death toll this spring.

That posed a big problem for the staff and volunteers of Washington's long-term care ombuds office.

"For our role, visitation is key," ombuds Patricia Hunter told KNKX. 

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