covid-19

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.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Coronavirus risk and ongoing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) are leading fire departments around the region to rediscover the enduring truth of the idiom, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Since the virus epidemic emerged in the Pacific Northwest, the fire service has changed tactics, improvised and resorted to creativity to keep first responders healthy and available to serve the public.

Capt. Brad Chaney / South King Fire and Rescue, 2019

More than 500 firefighters and EMTs in the Pacific Northwest have been temporarily quarantined after suspected exposure to the coronavirus over the past two months. The Washington State Council of Fire Fighters and the Oregon Fire Service Coronavirus Response Team have been monitoring the number of first responders taken out of service. Fortunately, only a small fraction have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Courtesy Washington State Farmers Market Association

Jordan Dyck grows a lot of produce on his three-acre farm in North Idaho.

“We got a lot of lettuce crops, tomatoes,” Dyck sayd. “A lot of root crops. Fair amount of sweet corn.”

Dyck owns Homestead Produce, which is “about a mile north of Three Mile” in Bonners Ferry, he says, referring to a well-known “corner.”

This time of year, when he’s not farming, he’s selling his produce at the Bonners Ferry Farmers Market, which opens Saturday, April 25 — the first to open in the region.

But this year is different.

Office of WA Governor Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday that state officials believe the spread of COVID-19 in Washington is likely on the decline. That's based on point-in-time data on hospitalizations.

However, Inslee said officials don't expect to lift many social distancing restrictions by May 4, the current end date for his stay-at-home order.

Inslee outlined the state's approach to relaxing social distancing orders during a televised public address Tuesday afternoon.

Will James / KNKX

In recent weeks, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has repeatedly thanked Washington residents for complying with his emergency orders to shutter their businesses, avoid crowds and stay home unless absolutely necessary. He often praises Washingtonians as heroes who are saving lives in the face of a global pandemic.

But while most may be complying with his orders, not all are. In fact, there’s evidence of growing restlessness with the shutdown of the economy, the skyrocketing job losses and the infringement on normal, daily activities. And in some places there are examples of outright opposition.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is facing increasing pressure from state lawmakers to move quickly to reopen certain sectors of the economy, perhaps even before his current “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order expires on May 4.

On Friday, three of the four legislative caucuses sent Inslee a request that he consider allowing a specific set of businesses to reopen, provided they adhere to strict public health guidelines.

Jaksmata / Wikimedia - tinyurl.com/nxtz7xz

Construction industry advocates are asking Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to allow more home building to continue under his “stay home, stay healthy” order meant to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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.

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.

Courtesy: Office of Gov. Jay Inslee

In anticipation of state revenues cratering because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday vetoed more than $200 million of new spending from the supplemental budget passed by state lawmakers last month.

Among the bigger ticket items Inslee eliminated was more than $100 million to hire 370 more school guidance counselors statewide and $35 million for para-educator training.

Megan Farmer

Arthur Longworth is 35 years into a life without parole sentence for aggravated murder. He’s currently housed in Cell Block A, a medium security unit at the Monroe Correctional Complex, a hundred-year-old prison that’s been featured in movies. 

“It’s four tiers high, 40 cells long, which is about as far as you can see, and higher than you’d want to fall if you fell off the fourth tier,” said Longworth, who is an award-winning prison writer

While he has a single cell, Longworth said many of the six-by-nine cells hold two men. A couple of weeks ago, they were all put on quarantine after a prison staffer tested positive for COVID-19.