It’s time for another installment of of our special series COVID-19 Update, bringing you the latest developments on the novel coronavirus outbreak that public health authorities here and across the country are working to mitigate.
On Tuesday, May 19th, the Firestone Pacific Foods processing facility in Vancouver was closed due to an outbreak that resulted in thirty-eight infected employees. It also resulted in a “pause” of Clark County upgrading to Level 2 status, and Clark County Public Health is presently working with Firestone to redeem the situation.
A similar situation is sadly unfolding at the Stemilt Growers Old station facility – twenty-five employees on a packaging line crew out of sixty have tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 23rd — but no “pause” is presently under consideration as a result within Chelan County.
On Thursday, May 21st, state officials confirmed that hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits were stolen in what appears to have been a “coordinated criminal attack” through the creation of thousands of fraudulent accounts.
We at NPI strongly recommend that you create an account on the state Employment Security Division website and then link your Social Security Number to that account as a means of preventing fraud through use of your personal data.
If you already have a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account because you’ve use DOL’s LicenseXpress to renew your driver’s license, simply login with your credentials on the ESD website and then create your profile. Creating the profile is the essential step that you must to take to deter fraud.
Also last Thursday, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler extended his emergency order to facilitate healthcare coverage in terms of the means by which access is available and diagnosis is attempted.
Pacific, Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Mason and San Juan counties were approved on Saturday, May 23rd, to move into Phase II of Governor Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan. They join fourteen other counties in Phase II.
Meanwhile, a Tim Eyman hyped demonstration against Governor Inslee’s stay home, stay healthy orders — which reportedly drew around four hundred participants — took place at the Yakima Speedway.
As noted in the state’s COVID-19 — Risk Assessment Dashboard, more than one third of new cases are happening in Yakima County.
Almost 20% of new cases are from fruit-packing warehouses.
Controversy regarding homeless sweeps in various neighborhoods in Seattle since the start of the pandemic finally being addressed by their City Council.
Funds will no longer be available to clear camps that don’t represent an “active” health risk, and the city will be providing shower trailers, portable toilets and hand-washing stations across the city to improve access to hygiene.
King County Metro is considering adopting a reservation system to manage rider access to buses that are part of its Night Owl service between 1 AM and 5 AM, in order to ensure best use of existing resources.
Ridership has declined significantly since the onset of the pandemic.
Compared to last year, depending on the day of the week, estimated ridership in the mornings has dropped 75–84%, midday and evening ridership has dropped 60–67%, and late-night to early morning ridership is down an estimated 53–57%.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has approved a set of rules effective starting May 26th which are meant to cite and fine businesses violating the stay home, stay healthy orders by creating an unsafe workplace.
Finally, right wing activists are up in arms a month after the Washington State Supreme Court, in a 5–4 vote on April 23rd, denied a petition from Columbia Legal Services demanding the early release of thousands of inmates within Washington state prisons to protect them from falling victim to COVID-19 due to conditions within the facilities, most especially overcrowding.
Because the petition’s conditions for release were solely focused on the health, age and time towards completion of sentence of the prisoners, if accepted as presented, the petition could have potentially released violent prisoners, although it’s very likely that there would have been exceptions placed on an accepted form of the petition that would ensure violent criminals remained in custody.
State Supreme Court justices Montoya-Lewis, Gonzalez, McCloud and Yu voted in favor of granting relief sought by the petition. Justice Montoya-Lewis was appointed by Governor Inslee to the state Supreme Court in December of 2019 and is running for election to the seat in her own right this year.
This decision did not have an effect on the over three hundred prisoners released by Governor Inslee on April 16th, possibly to be expanded to over 1,100 over time, due to health concerns.
The State Supreme Court has decreed thay Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff either vacate his recent ruling (which has been stayed for the moment), or more completely explain his ruling and give both the churches involved in the suit and the state the ability to present arguments that buttress their cases.
Shirtcliff had opined last week that Brown’s order was invalid.
Brown’s stay at home order has been extended to July 6th, but most counties are presently in Phase I of the state’s “Building a Safe & Strong Oregon” plan.
Some confusion seems to exist regarding Portland’s pandemic-era response to homelessness. Jonny Lewis, with the city’s Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, said on May 19th that they would continue to clear camps that pose the greatest public health risk, but that in general people and their property would not be moved. However, on May 21st, sweeps took place in the Old Town and Chinatown districts of the city, exacerbating fears.
Governor Brad Little initiated the second stage of a four-stage reopening of the state on May 16th. On Friday the 22nd, Little and the Department of Health and Welfare’s Elke Shaw-Tulloch joined together at a press conference to establish new plans to increase testing and attempt to integrate it with improved levels of contact tracing, physical distancing and personal hygiene to be effective.
Notable is that antibody testing will have a limited role in this new process.
There were also issues with the state Department of Health and Welfare tracking website the next day. A number of cases were missing, tabulated incorrectly or declared in the incorrect county of origin. Idaho officials have been trying to resolve those issues and set yesterday as their target date for getting them fixed.
Washington state has had 21,422 cases and 1,093 attributable deaths.
335,801 people have been tested.
Oregon has had 4,038 cases and 148 attributable deaths.
116,992 people have been tested.
Idaho has had 2,731 cases and 82 attributable deaths.
43,629 people have been tested.
British Columbia has had 2,550 cases and 162 attributable deaths.
138,043 people have been tested.