SEATTLE, WA — King County public health officials reported 35 new cases of the coronavirus and five more deaths linked to COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon.
The new numbers bring King County’s total death toll to 549, or about 6.9 percent of all patients who had the virus. Lab tests have confirmed 7,931 infections in King County since the crisis began.
The latest deaths related to the virus in King County were reported in Seattle, Kirkland, Seatac, Renton and Kent.
Across the state, the Department of Health added 225 new coronavirus cases and 17 additional deaths to its count Wednesday, bringing the official tally to 20,406 illnesses and 1,095 deaths. According to the state data, 6.1 percent of tests have returned positive among 335,801 Washingtonians tested.
Nationwide, the number of coronavirus deaths surpassed 100,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The latest modeling from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects more than 131,000 deaths linked to the virus by early August.
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Catch up on the latest developments:
King County launches new data dashboard
King County public health officials have unveiled a new, real-time dashboard tracking COVID-19 activity, testing capacity and the health care system’s readiness, as state officials weigh the timeline for more counties to reopen.
According to the latest data, Washington’s most populous county is meeting five of the eight metrics listed on the new system, including a decreasing risk of hospitalization and death linked to the illness. The information provided by the county accounts for several of the categories state health officials and the governor’s office monitor before authorizing each phase in Washington’s four-part Safe Start reopening plan.
Read more: King County Releases New Dashboard On Key Coronavirus Metrics
More Washington counties enter phase 2 of reopening
Kittitas, Thurston, and Walla Walla counties are the latest to be approved for the state’s second reopening phase, allowing for restaurants, salons and retail stores to resume some in-person operations.
The latest additions mean 24 counties have now moved into the new phase, after meeting state requirements to have fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days.
Exactly what the requirements will look like for the remaining counties, after the governor’s order expires Sunday, is still being determined. Inslee said Wednesday it was unlikely all counties would be able to reach phase 2 by June 1, and more specific guidance will be shared in the coming days.
Read more: 3 Additional Counties Enter Phase 2 Of Reopening Plan
State updates definition of a ‘close contact’
The state Department of Health has updated its official definition of a “close contact” with an infected person to align with new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new definition classifies someone as a close contact if they were within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, increasing the minimum time from 10 minutes.
“Our guidance has changed over time as we learn more about COVID-19, and will continue to do so in the future,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state health officer. “This update doesn’t change our recommendations for members of the public. We continue to urge people to maintain physical distance to protect themselves and others.”
Those identified as close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients are advised by the state to self-quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days.
New study finds decreasing coronavirus transmission in western Washington, increases to the east
A new report from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling found progress in decreasing coronavirus transmissions in Western Washington and some concerning tends east of the Cascades.
Researchers are monitoring the coronavirus’s effective reproductive rate, a measure of how many people an infected person spreads the virus to on average. According to the IDM, the trends largely ran parallel until late last month, when the western portion of the state trended further downward as transmission rates ramped up on the other side of the state.
The institute noted that the number of new cases can widely vary between counties, and research into the cause of the disparity is ongoing.
Read more: Coronavirus Transmissions Down In Western WA, Up In East
Updated rules allow for outdoor spiritual services, weddings and funerals
More religious services may resume in Washington, effective immediately, under updated rules released by Gov. Jay Inslee Wednesday.
While remote gatherings are still encouraged, the eased restrictions allow for outdoor services with up to 100 people, as long as certain precautions are followed, including physical distancing and the use of face coverings. For the 24 counties currently in phase 2, indoor services are permitted at 25 percent capacity.
The governor said organizers are encouraged to maintain a voluntary log of participants for two weeks, to assist contact tracing investigators should an outbreak occur.
Read more: More Religious Services Can Resume In Washington, Inslee Says
Boeing announces job cuts for thousands in Washington
Boeing will slash thousands of jobs in Washington as the company moves toward a 10 percent reduction in its global workforce. Dave Calhoun, Boeing’s CEO, sent a letter to employees Wednesday announcing involuntary layoffs for nearly 7,000 U.S. employees.
According to the Seattle Times, nearly 10,000 Washington jobs will be lost before August, including the latest round of layoffs and employees who accept voluntary buyouts.
Boeing cited the long-term economic impact of COVID-19 on airlines leading to a sharp decrease in demand for new jets and other services.
Calhoun said the company will move forward with plans to restart 737 Max production in Renton, as they work toward returning the planes to service by the end of the year.
Read more: Boeing Will Cut Thousands Of Jobs In Washington
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