covid-19

Courtesy: Washington Governor's Office

In early June, as Gov. Jay Inslee was overseeing a phased reopening of the state, his budget office signed a contract with the elite international consulting firm McKinsey & Company to provide access to a “Governor’s Decision Support Tool.” That tool was meant to aid Inslee’s decision-making as he gradually unlocked the economy.

But access to McKinsey’s customized COVID-19 risk tool didn’t come cheap. Under the contract, the state initially agreed to pay for eight weeks of access to McKinsey’s services and proprietary data sets. The cost to taxpayers: $165,000 per week. And that was McKinsey’s government discount rate.

Courtesy of Western Towboat Co.

The coronavirus pandemic has served to remind many of us how much we count on strangers staying healthy so we can restock our cupboards and go about daily life. That's especially true for Alaskans who depend on a marine cargo lifeline from the Pacific Northwest for the majority of their goods.

Anna King / NW News Network

NOTE: Anna King is based in Washington’s Tri-Cities. On Wednesday morning, June 3, she felt fine. Then, fever came on like a train — 104 degrees. She feared she had COVID-19. Early that Saturday, she headed to the emergency room. Here’s part of Anna’s seven-week diary. Listen to it above.

Body aches, nausea. Things are a blur. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to think. 

Courtesy of Susan Weber

The carefully followed death toll from COVID-19 may not fully capture the loss of life during the pandemic. Analysis of state and federal statistics for deaths from all causes shows hundreds of additional deaths above normal levels this spring in the Pacific Northwest. Some or many of those may actually be missed COVID deaths.

Washington State Governors Office

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state Health Secretary are hitting the pause button on the county-by-county reopening process in response to the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Inslee announced that for at least the next two weeks all counties in Washington state will stay in whatever reopening phase they are currently in -- with a couple of exceptions.

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

For the first time since Herbert Hoover won the presidency nearly a century ago, the state of Washington won’t have a statewide initiative to the people on the November ballot in a presidential election year.

At the Secretary of State’s office, the 5 p.m. Thursday deadline to submit 259,622 valid voter signatures to qualify an initiative came and went quietly. No campaigns made an appointment to drop off petitions, according to a spokesperson.

A review of Washington’s initiative history reveals that not since 1928 has the November ballot been bereft of an initiative to the people in a year when voters were electing a president. 

Courtney Flatt/NWPB

The Tri-Cities has seen what Gov. Jay Inslee called an “astronomical increase” in COVID cases. 

In a visit Tuesday, he said local officials have asked him to implement stricter mask requirements. They also asked to open more small businesses.

About 10 protesters – one wearing a T-shirt that read “Inslee is Non-essential” and none appearing to wear masks – shouted the governor away from his podium at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

Grassroots Garbage Gang

A favorable weather forecast and the Fourth of July falling on a weekend has beach communities in the Pacific Northwest bracing for an onslaught despite the ongoing pandemic. Two beach towns that tend to be holiday crowd magnets are particularly in the limelight this year.

A Chelan County judge has denied an injunction on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency order over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtesy Jared Wenzelburger, The Daily Chronicle

Hours after Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced a statewide mandate for people to wear masks in public, a Republican sheriff in southwest Washington appeared to urge open defiance of the order.

“Don’t be a sheep,” Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snaza said to loud applause from a mostly mask-less crowd gathered in a church parking lot. 

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Washington state leaders are expressing hesitancy about opening the door to the final phase of the governor's four-phase reopening plan. By the end of this week, eight rural counties will have spent the minimum three weeks in Phase 3 and can then theoretically apply to lift most remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Courtesy: Kathleen Hesseltine

At Christmastime last December, Sharon Gowdey was a healthy 56-year-old woman with Down syndrome. A video from a holiday party shows her in a Santa hat dancing to a Michael Jackson song as strobe lights light up the dance floor.

Four months later, Gowdey was dead of COVID-19.

“When they turned the ventilator off, it was less than five minutes and she passed away,” said her sister Kathleen Hesseltine.

Gowdey’s decline happened suddenly.

Economic and Revenue Forecast Council

In a move not seen since the Great Recession, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday canceled pay raises for some state employees and ordered furloughs for many more through at least this fall. The move came the same day a new state revenue forecast projected an $8.8 billion drop in tax collections over the next three years.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

As the state of Washington grapples with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers are bracing for a bleak revenue forecast on June 17 that could portend a $10 billion drop in state tax collections over the next three years.

Already, a preliminary forecast in May predicted state revenues would crater by $7 billion over that same time period. The official forecast is likely to be worse. The state’s current two-year budget is approximately $53 billion.

“We know that we are faced with a big problem over the next few years,” said David Schumacher, the governor’s budget director, in a recent call with reporters.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Washington's least populous counties will lead the way into the next phase of relaxing COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. This next phase allows for the resumption of team sports as well as for libraries, museums, gyms and movie theaters to at least partially reopen.

Spokane County Jail

When Mordecai Cochrane was found passed out behind the wheel of his Toyota Avalon by Spokane police in the dead of night, he’d been tested for coronavirus the day before, but was waiting for results. 

Five days later, he was back behind the wheel, driving at night with his lights off and with too many people in the car. Cochrane again encountered police. This time he had his test results. He’d tested positive, had no symptoms and was contagious. 

Washington Legislature

Saying that it’s time for the legislative branch to “intervene” in the state’s COVID-19 response, Republican leaders in the Washington Legislature on Thursday called for a special session of the Legislature to begin in June.

While Gov. Jay Inslee and majority Democrats in the Legislature have said a special session is likely sometime this year, they have not yet committed to a specific date.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

As Washington Gov. Jay Inslee exerts his emergency powers to battle COVID-19, behind the scenes legislative leaders are exploring the idea of a special session of the Legislature, perhaps as early as next month. 

“We are very much deeply in the weeds on trying to figure that out and I think in the next week or two we should have some more clarity,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, a Spokane Democrat.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

San Juan County in the northwest corner of Washington state is about to become the first county in the Pacific Northwest to require residents and visitors to wear a face covering in public places. Elsewhere in the region, governments have highly recommended wearing masks, but it's not the law.

Washington Military Department

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has instructed the state Department of Health (DOH) to prepare to test all nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19 in the coming weeks, according to the physician leading the state’s testing strategy.

“Last week, Governor Inslee gave us the directive to test everyone, both resident[s] and staff in the nursing homes in the state,” said Dr. Charissa Fotinos in an interview on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

Previously, the state's goal was to test all residents and staff in facilities where someone had tested positive -- something that has not yet been achieved, according to a Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) spokesperson. 

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

When Washington Gov. Jay Inslee first issued his stay home order in mid-March, Deanna Martinez was supportive. A registered nurse from Moses Lake who’s active in Republican politics, Martinez thought the Democratic governor’s drastic action was necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“I felt like Inslee really did do the right thing as quickly as he possibly could,” Martinez said.

But after eight weeks and two extensions of that order, Martinez’s support for Inslee’s COVID-19 response has evaporated.

“I don’t feel like my voice is being heard … as a person living in rural Washington,” Martinez said.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

For the second time in a month, opponents of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s extended “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order – many of them openly carrying firearms -- rallied at the state Capitol Saturday in an event that brought together sign-waving citizens, conservative state legislators, Republican and Libertarian candidates for public office and members of far right groups.

The unpermitted “Hazardous Liberty” event, which drew an estimated 1,500 people and stretched on for more than four hours, was smaller than a previous protest in April, but no less defiant in its message.

Courtesy Dr. Luke Hansen

At the end of March, Dr. Luke Hansen, an Olympia emergency room physician, was watching news of hospitals in New York overrun with COVID-19 patients. Then he heard Gov. Andrew Cuomo issue a plea for healthcare workers from elsewhere to come to New York to help.

“I really felt a call to go there and help,” Hansen said in an interview this week.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

More than 100 Washington state parks made the cut to reopen for day use beginning Tuesday, but aficionados of Pacific Coast and Columbia River Gorge getaways will have to wait a while longer.

Keith Ridler/AP

Idaho Governor Brad Little kicked off the process Thursday of “re-opening” the state after five weeks of “stay home, stay healthy” measures to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Outdoor enthusiasts in Washington may be looking forward to the reopening of many shuttered state parks and public lands next week. But a few of Washington's most popular state parks could stay closed because the surrounding communities are worried about crowds and renewed disease spread.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

With his current stay home order set to expire in less than a week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday strongly suggested  that, even though the COVID-19 peak appears to have passed, he intends to leave in place most of the current restrictions for the foreseeable future.

“The major part of our order, I believe, will stay in place after May 4th,” Inslee said in a one-on-one interview on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

Courtney Flatt/NWPB

As we all know, entertainment options are limited right now. Everyone is working to keep a social distance to help their communities stay healthy.

But for movie lovers like me and my roommate Sara Schilling, our living room, streaming services and homemade popcorn just aren’t cutting it.

Courtesy of Tyson Foods

Updated April 30, 2020, 10:40 p.m. PT:

County health officials are updating their numbers on the Tyson Fresh Meats plant near Pasco, Washington. They now say there are 56 new positive cases of coronavirus instead of 75, as they first said Thursday afternoon, April 30. That’s on top of more than 100 workers who were already confirmed positive.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

In a dramatic example of COVID-19’s impact on the criminal justice system, the number of people in Washington jails has plummeted in recent weeks, ending virtually overnight an overcrowding problem that plagued many facilities for years. Today, a few of the state’s smallest jails are reporting inmate populations in the single digits.

“Honestly, I would never have expected to see something like this in my lifetime and I’ve been doing this for 20 years now,” said Jose Briones, the chief deputy of the Island County Jail on Whidbey Island where the population has dropped by approximately half.

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