Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Because of disruptions wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, majority Democrats in the Washington House have been asked to restrain themselves and introduce no more than seven bills each during the 2021 legislative session -- and then only bills that “are urgently needed.”

Committee chairs in the House have also been instructed to limit the number of public hearings they grant and dial back the number of bills they pass out of their committees.

Derek Wang / NW News Network

Washington state on Monday launched a coronavirus exposure alert tool for smartphone users statewide. Washington joined more than a dozen other states further east using an automated, anonymous notification system to aid in the fight against virus spread. Oregon and California are expected to roll out similar smartphone-enabled exposure alerts statewide soon, too.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

University students and staff in the Pacific Northwest are giving a trial run to a smartphone app that tells you if you were recently near someone who just tested positive for COVID-19. State health departments are rolling out similar apps across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW

Lauri Jones has been working in public health in Washington’s Okanogan County for 17 years.

But after repeated threats to her safety, she recently got a new security system for her home.

“I still find myself sometimes looking over my shoulder,” Jones says. “Especially if I walk out of the building and it’s getting obviously dark earlier.”

She’s not leaving her post as the community health director. But her colleague Dr. John McCarthy is in December. He says the workload has become too heavy.

Derek Wang / NW News Network

As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, it's now increasingly apparent that 2020 will be remembered for an unusually high death toll -- not just from COVID-19. In the medical field, deaths above what you would normally expect are called "excess deaths." Even after you subtract out COVID-19 casualties, many thousands more Oregonians, Idahoans and Washingtonians have gone to an early grave this year compared to a typical year.

Washington State Parks

You’ve seen the movies: Navy SEALs slowly emerge from the water and walk up a beach. In real life, the Navy is hoping to conduct special operations training exercises at 28 Washington State Parks.

But many park users say it ups the “creepiness” factor.

In the dark of night, six to eight SEAL trainees would swim or dive out of a battery-powered submersible vessel and head up onto a beach. They’d clandestinely disappear into the environment, said Warrant Officer Esteban Alvarado.

Tom Banse / NW News Network, file photo

The most recent extension of the U.S.-Canada border closure expires this Friday, November 21, but no one expects the restrictions to be lifted then. First implemented in March, the closure of the land and sea border to nonessential crossings have been extended monthly by mutual agreement between Ottawa and the Trump administration.

Courtesy Office of Gov. Jay Inslee

The director of public health in the third most populous county in the United States will be Washington's next secretary of health. 

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced the appointment of Dr. Umair A. Shah to lead the state Department of Health beginning on December 21.

Since 2013, Shah has been executive director of Harris County Public Health in Houston, Texas. He will replace outgoing Secretary John Wiesman who has served in the position since 2013. Previously, Wiesman announced his plan to leave the post at the end of the year to take a teaching job in North Carolina. 

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington Republicans say the Legislature should immediately meet in special session to address the economic fallout from Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest Covid-19 orders – and even consider tapping the state’s “rainy day” fund.

Under Inslee's orders, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums will once again have to close. Also, restaurants and bars will have to cease offering indoor dining service and limit outdoor dining to five people per table. Many other businesses will also be affected. The new rules will remain in effect for at least the next four weeks. 

KUOW Photo / Megan Farmer

Washington has seen more than 127,000 known Covid-19 cases and over 2,500 deaths since January, when the first known U.S. case of the disease was reported in Snohomish County.

The state Department of Health reported 2,286 new Covid-19 cases on Friday — the highest number on record for Washington.

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