Tom Banse / NW News Network

The unemployment rolls in Washington state and Oregon continue to swell like never before. Washington's Employment Security Department said Thursday that close to half a million workers have applied for jobless benefits over the past three weeks. Oregon recorded just shy of 270,000 new claims in the same period, which is far more than the 147,800 net job losses in Oregon over the whole duration of the Great Recession.

There are hundreds of thousands of additional jobless workers waiting in the wings to file claims, including part-time and gig economy workers and self-employed who qualify under expanded federal benefits. But they are temporarily frozen out. The wait for overloaded unemployment systems to catch up is leaving some of them frustrated or anxious.

Anna King / NW News Network

In recent weeks, Armand Minthorn led two traditional Washut religious services for elders at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation longhouse. Washut is the traditional religion of many Northwest Native Americans.

But now, everything is different.

“We’re all in a sense warriors,” Minthorn says. “We’re at war. There’s people — sad to say — there’s people dying all around us.”

U.S. Army

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has generally earned praise for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But a recent decision has prompted tough words from a fellow Democrat.

Mason County Auditor Paddy McGuire is preparing to hold a special election later this month for fire and school district levies.

Beginning 18 days before the election, Washington law requires that he offer in-person voter registration.

But because of COVID-19, McGuire said the county has closed his building and he doesn’t think in-person registration is a safe idea. So, he asked the governor’s office to use its emergency powers to waive the requirement for this election. The answer back, he said, was “no.”

Courtesy KOMO TV

A large disturbance Wednesday evening at the Monroe Correctional Complex was likely triggered by rising tensions over COVID-19, according to the Washington Department of Corrections. So far, six inmates at the facility have tested positive for the virus.

Scott Leadingham/NWPB

A resident at the Spokane Veterans Home has died after testing positive for COVID-19. It marks the first death at a state-run veterans’ home in Washington.

The announcement Wednesday of the resident’s death came less than 24 hours after the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs said two residents there tested positive for COVID-19. 

None of the three other state-run veterans homes have confirmed cases as of Wednesday afternoon.

Courtesy: Maria Claudio

As a psychiatric social worker at Washington’s Western State Hospital, Maria Claudio’s job is to care for some of the most complex mental health patients in the state.

But these days when she gets home, she has a second job waiting for her: making homemade masks for her colleagues who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ann King / NW News Network

The coronavirus pandemic continues to make its presence known in all facets of daily life, including agriculture. That extends to some supply and demand economics lessons for Northwest apple and potato growers.

Potato Cuts  

Some of the largest potato processors in the world are dramatically cutting back their contracted acres with farmers this spring. 

That’s largely because the global pandemic has closed restaurants, and therefore demand for frozen french fries. 

William Birchfield / US Air Force, 2019

When the coronavirus outlook got scary and hairy in mid-March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recruited an outsider to join his crisis management team. He convinced a retired vice admiral to temporarily move cross-country to serve as Washington state's COVID-19 hospital "czar." Dr. Raquel Bono says she is now cautiously optimistic the state's health care system can handle a surge of ill patients.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr - tinyurl.com/ha5h3wp

A prisoner at the Monroe Correctional Complex has tested positive for COVID-19, making him the first incarcerated individual in a Washington prison known to have contracted the virus.

Anna King / NW News Network

It’s springtime in the Northwest: birds sing, emerald shoots are pushing up from the earth and the irrigation sprinklers tick, tick like clocks — same as always. 

But so much else has changed. 

Still, spring work starts up, ready or not. And Northwest growers are scrambling to figure out how to work around the global coronavirus pandemic and still bring in the coming harvest. 

Farmers wonder: Can they get it done safely?

First Up: Asparagus

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