As coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout the country, restaurants and other local businesses are seeing familiar struggles with returning restrictions and lockdown orders.
In Seattle, dozens of restaurants have shuttered their doors, some temporarily and some permanently. But others are soldiering on — here’s a list of local restaurants that have opened up during the pandemic, many with outdoor dining.
Meanwhile, U.S. colleges that are considering bringing students back after the winter holidays are mulling over new virus protocols for the spring.
How widespread is mask-wearing in Washington? UW study aims to find out, starting in King County
We’ve all noticed that fellow shopper at the grocery store with a mask snugged over his mouth — but not his nose. Maybe you’ve also got a neighbor who tugs her mask down to talk. Or perhaps you’ve detoured around groups of barefaced teenagers jostling each other in a park.
Mask use may be mandated in Washington, but compliance varies — and no one knows by how much.
With novel coronavirus infections soaring to their highest levels since the pandemic started, researchers at the University of Washington are conducting the first systematic survey of mask usage in the state.
Starting this week in King County, they hope to identify the types of public settings where inconsistent mask-wearing could be contributing to the ongoing explosion of cases. They also want to find out which groups of people, by age and gender, are more or less likely to take the mask mandate seriously.
The goal is to help health officials address problem areas with targeted persuasion and educational campaigns, said Dr. Judith Wasserheit, a leader of the study and chair of the UW Department of Global Health.
“I think we all recognize that COVID-19 infections are exploding, and the data are clear that masks are one of the best prevention tools we have,” she said. “Understanding what’s happening — where people do and don’t use masks — is going to be really important to inform the development of targeted interventions to … help get us out of this pandemic.”
COVID-19 outbreak reported on Oregon mink farm
An Oregon mink farm has reported an outbreak of COVID-19 among animals and staff.
The Statesman Journal reports the farm has been placed under quarantine, meaning no animals or animal products can leave the farm.
Outbreaks in farmed mink have been reported in several states and countries. Earlier this month Denmark announced it would kill all 17 million of the mink raised there after confirmation that 12 people had been infected with a mutated strain of COVID-19 that had spread from mink to humans.
Minks are small mammals with long, thin bodies, short legs, pointed snouts and claws. They are related to ermines, ferrets and weasels, and their fur is highly valued.
—The Associated Press
Los Angeles orders more “safer at home” restrictions as coronavirus surges
Los Angeles County announced a new stay-home order Friday as coronavirus cases surged out of control in the nation’s most populous county, banning most gatherings but stopping short of a full shutdown on retail stores and other non-essential businesses.
The three-week “safer at home” order takes effect Monday. It came as the county of 10 million residents confirmed 24 new deaths and 4,544 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The order advises residents to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear a face covering when they go out. It bans people from gathering with others who aren’t in their households, whether publicly or privately. However, exceptions are made for church services and protests, “which are constitutionally protected rights,” the county Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Indoor retail businesses, which make much of their profits during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, are allowed to remain open but with just 20% of capacity, including nail salons and other personal care services. Stores considered essential will be allowed 35% capacity.
—The Associated Press
Fears grow over Eastern Washington’s hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases surge
Health officials in rural communities in Eastern Washington are worried that Thanksgiving gatherings could take the COVID-19 pandemic from bad to worse and, in some places, overwhelm already strained health systems.
The Spokesman-Review reports the small towns surrounding Spokane County have experienced a surge in cases in recent weeks, mirroring trends seen statewide.
In the past two weeks, the Northeast Tri County Health District, which covers Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, reported more than 300 new COVID-19 cases, a record number accounting for a third of their total cases confirmed thus far in the pandemic.
Similarly, Lincoln County has seen more than 50 cases in the past few weeks, which account for a third of the total cases recorded in the county.
“What we’re finding is a lot of our cases that we’ve identified here, we can track back to people in Spokane,” said Ed Dzedzy, public health administrator in Lincoln County. “People move from rural to urban to buy goods and go to work.”
—The Associated Press
With no action by Congress, states race to offer virus aid
Faulting inaction by President Trump and Congress, governors and state lawmakers are racing to get pandemic relief to small business owners, the unemployed, renters and others whose livelihoods have been upended by the widening COVID-19 outbreak.
They want Trump and Congress to extend the Dec. 30 deadline for spending virus relief money already allocated under the CARES Act, which was approved in March, and to provide more federal funding to deal with the consequences of the latest surge.
“It’s just heartbreaking what they’re allowing to happen with no federal government intervention,” said Washington state House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, a Democrat.
—The Associated Press
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Amazon has embarked on an extraordinary hiring binge, vacuuming up an average of 1,400 new workers a day as online shopping becomes more entrenched in the coronavirus pandemic.
Health officials on Friday evening confirmed an updated total of 158,167 coronavirus cases in Washington state — though they have noted that the number of cases may be temporarily inflated by double-counting.
As COVID-19 cases have spiked across King County, wait times for coronavirus testing have increased. Wait times for public records at the Seattle Police Department and many other state and local agencies also are dragging on, deepening concern about government transparency at a critical time.
As thousands of college and pro football players get tested for COVID-19, some nurses are wondering, “What about us?” A panel of U.S. experts established by the Centers for Disease Control will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.
Seattle Times staff & news services