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.
With summer more than halfway over, local health departments and school districts are deciding if and how they will allow students back in the classroom.
On Wednesday, July 29th, the Boeing Company declared a $2.4 billion quarterly loss, made significant cuts in commercial aircraft production and warned about the possibility of expanding company-wide layoffs beyond a planned 10% of the workforce (and beyond a planned 15% of its Commercial Aircraft unit) as the pandemic ravages demand for air travel. For the first time in a decade, Boeing’s Defense unit will likely outperform its Commercial Aircraft unit in 2020.
On Monday, August 3rd, Alaska Airlines filed notice with the State of Washington, announcing layoffs for almost 1,600 employees, effective October 1st.
In late July, Alaska stated that it was losing around $4 million per day due to the significant reduction in commercial air travel as a result of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, August 5th, Governor Jay Inslee, in a press conference accompanied by Chris Reykdal, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced new recommendations for the 2020–2021 school year (which runs September-June) from the Washington State Department of Health.
As with the Safe Start phased reopening plan, local school districts, advised by county departments of health, will decide if and how they will allow students back in the classroom. That said, as most counties are presently considered Moderate or High Risk per the recommendations, remote or online learning is strongly recommended for most Washington students at this time.
On Thursday, August 6th, Inslee announced new guidance for long-term care facilities, allowing for a graduated reopening of facilities that meet specific requirements. The following graphic explains what is allowed.
On Saturday, August 7th, eleven confirmed cases of children suffering from Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS‑C) were confirmed in Washington state. MIS‑C is associated with the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV‑2.
Six of the children affected are nine years of age or younger. “While MIS‑C is very rare, parents should be aware it can happen and contact their health care provider if their children develop new or unusual symptoms,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer for the Washington state Department of Health.
On Sunday, August 9th, Christian Contemporary musician Sean Feucht held a rally in Cal Anderson Park in Seattle. Although there were sound bytes about “racial reconciliation,” Feucht has been using these rallies to deliberately flout mask laws in multiple states, repeating the process in Portland on August 8th.
On Monday, August 10th, Governor Inslee provided specific guidance for agricultural events and updated guidance for indoor fitness facilities and faith-based services. That same day, he also announced the availability of new relief funds for immigrants and agricultural workers.
On Tuesday, August 11th, a firefighter who helped put out the Anglin Fire near Tonasket, which was contained August 1st, was diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s the third state Department of Natural Resources firefighter diagnosis this fire season.
Franklin County, one of the hotspots within the state for the pandemic, will open its public schools on Friday, August 14th, with remote access an option.
Eduardo Castañeda-Díaz, the Democratic challenger for one of the 13th Legislative District’s House seats, has focused his message on farmworker safety in the midst of the pandemic and has called for the boycott of locally grown fruit.
On Friday, August 7th, the Oregon Health Authority disclosed that an investigation of Smith Frozen Foods in Weston had been triggered on Friday, July 24th. The facility has three hundred and twenty-five employees who work around the clock.
On Monday, August 10th, the State of Oregon disclosed that on July 29th, Alaska Airlines filed notice that it would lay off two hundred and seventy-seven employees at its Portland facility.
At about the same time, Nike began letting go of around five hundred employees at its Beaverton headquarters, and of three hundred and fifty-five food service employees at Aramark being laid off which work on the Nike campus.
On Tuesday, August 11th, the Pac-12 Conference joined the Big Ten in canceling their autumn sports (including the gridiron season) over concerns regarding the pandemic and the potential for infecting players and other students within their university communities. Needless to say, certain people aren’t taking this well.
Of the remaining members of the “Power Five” collegiate football conferences, the Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Southeastern Conference (the SEC) have all, with enough wiggle room in their official comments to opt out if deemed necessary, declared their intent to play.
On Wednesday, August 12th, the Oregon Department of Education bowed to pressure from rural community leaders and released new standards for in-person instruction in the state’s most sparsely-populated areas.
That same day, Oregon health officials encouraged parents to ensure their children’s vaccines are up to date after months of canceled doctors’ appointments due to the pandemic. Last August, one of the largest outbreaks of measles in the state in the last twenty years occurred due to deliberate refusals by parents to inoculate children against the disease. With many children and teenagers behind on their vaccine schedule, the Oregon Health Authority is worried about outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases amid the pandemic.
There were four hundred and fifty-seven new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, July 29th, five hundred and fifty-nine new cases on Tuesday, August 4th, four hundred and twenty-nine new cases on Monday, August 10th, four hundred and ninety-five new cases on Tuesday, August 11th and five hundred and thirty-eight new cases on Wednesday, August 12th.
On Tuesday, August 11th, Eastern Idaho Public Health’s board of directors, in a unanimous vote, made wearing masks in public in Teton, Fremont and Jefferson counties mandatory. That same day, by a four to two vote, the Central District Health Board of Health made wearing masks in Valley County mandatory, and in a five to one vote, limited social gatherings to ten people or less in Ada County, which includes Idaho’s largest city and state capital of Boise.
A group of Republicans in the state legislature, known as the Education Working Group, are pushing for a proposal whereby school boards, the governor and the State Board of Education would have the authority to close schools to prevent the spread of disease, but public health districts would not.
Whether this proposal will be considered anytime soon depends on what Governor Brad Little declares the topics to be addressed before he convenes an extraordinary session of the Legislature over the week of August 24th.
The Idaho Statesman is providing an interactive map to track food processing facilities falling prey to outbreaks of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, August 12th, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced eighty-five new confirmed cases of COVID-19; the third highest number of cases recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
That same day, Premier John Horgan declared that the province would be hiring 500 health-care professionals to help with its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts to prepare for a potential further surge in COVID-19 cases as flu season approaches. Horgan also called on B.C. celebrities, such as Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen, to to help with messaging regarding the pandemic for younger people.
That same day, provincial education minister Rob Fleming declared that schools would open on September 10th, two days later than originally intended per the province-wide plan to return children to classrooms.
Washington state has had 66,497 cases and 1,726 attributable deaths.
1,010,191 people have been tested.
Oregon has had 22,022 cases and 375 attributable deaths.
461,395 people have been tested.
Idaho has had 26,133 cases and 246 attributable deaths.
212,898 people have been tested.
British Columbia has had 4,196 cases and 196 attributable deaths.
293,127 people have been tested.