covid-19

Courtesy Providence SW Washington

The state of Washington, hamstrung as many states have been by a slow distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, will deploy the National Guard, set up mass vaccination sites and create a new public-private partnership to lead a renewed effort to get the vaccine into the arms of people.

The move comes as the state prepares to immediately advance to the next phase of people eligible for a vaccination beyond health care workers, first responders and those living and working in nursing homes.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Hundreds of elderly drivers put their cars in line way before dawn for the opening day of a first come, first serve drive-thru COVID vaccination clinic in Sequim, Washington. The scene provided a dramatic illustration of eagerness among many seniors to get the coveted shots. Hospitals in other medium-sized and smaller Washington communities that have opened vaccination appointment lines to all seniors in recent days report being swamped as well.

Megan Farmer / KUOW

People age 70 and older as well as some people living with an elder will be next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington. The state Department of Health on Wednesday provided awaited details for whose turn comes when to get the precious and scarce shots.

Austin Jenkins / NW News Network

Amid the ongoing pandemic and threats by far-right protesters to "occupy" the Capitol, Washington lawmakers will convene Monday for what will ultimately be a mostly remote 2021 session with a focus on the ongoing response to COVID-19, police reform, addressing climate change and writing a two-year state budget.

Grant County Sheriff's Office

A central Washington sheriff’s deputy has died of COVID-19,  according to the Grant County Coroner's office. 

Jon Melvin, 60, was found Dec. 11, 2020, in bed at his home in Desert Aire, in southwestern Grant County. Fellow deputies were checking on his welfare after family members were unable to reach him.

“He had pneumonia due to COVID-19,” Jerry Jasman, chief investigator with the Grant County Coroner's office, said Monday.

Courtesy of Danica Garcia

Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea says that this year, the “capital of Christmas” isn't doing any of the usual characters, festivals, open fire pits or even the famous tree lighting

“The only thing left that basically says we’re a Christmas town is that the trees in our park are still lit up with lights,” he says. 

Pool photo / Courtesy of UW Medicine

The initial deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Oregon, Washington state and Idaho are spoken for — at least well into next month. High-risk health care workers, EMT/paramedics and nursing homes have top priority to get the vaccine jab. But then who?

As he prepares to begin a third term in office, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing a new tax on health care premiums to fund post-pandemic public health. He’s also once again urging the Legislature to pass a capital gains tax.

The tax measures are contained in Inslee’s two-year, $57.6 billion operating budget proposal released Thursday in advance of the 2021 Legislative session. Separately, the Democratic governor also released proposed capital construction and transportation budgets.

Courtesy: TVW.org

The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine should start arriving in Washington on Monday, with the first vaccinations of front line health care workers beginning as early as Tuesday.

An upbeat Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that timeline at a rare Sunday news conference.

“We are ready to go,” Inslee said. “We now know there will be an end to this turmoil and this trauma and this challenge.”

City of Tonasket

Debbie Roberts wishes her step-brother had just slid away from his advanced Parkinson’s disease.

He died November 29, just one person among many who died in an outbreak of COVID-19 at North Valley Extended Care in the Okanogan County town of Tonasket — population about 1,000. So far, at least 16 people at the facility have died since Thanksgiving.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch / KUOW file photo

Since early in the pandemic, rapid contact tracing has been considered one of the keys to controlling the spread of the coronavirus. But in recent weeks, an overwhelming surge in new cases has let thousands of COVID-positive people and their close contacts fall through the cracks.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

At Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, nurses with desk jobs are being told to prepare to come back to the front lines, and elective surgeries and procedures are once again being put on hold.

The desperate measures come amidst an ongoing spike in coronavirus cases in the community and as the hospital prepares for a post-Thanksgiving surge of COVID-19 patients.

“Unfortunately, I think within the next week it’s going to be a significant rise in COVID-19,” said Dr. Kevin Caserta, the chief medical officer for Providence SW Washington.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in Washington foster youth spending more nights in hotel rooms while overall reports of child abuse and neglect have declined precipitously. Those are among the pandemic-related findings of an annual report from the state’s Office of the Family and Children's Ombuds (OFCO) released Monday. 

Derek Wang / NW News Network

An online survey conducted out of Whitman College found more than half of Washingtonians say they have delayed medical visits this year. The findings underscore widespread concerns about disruptions to health care during the pandemic.

Tom Banse / NW News Network, file photo

You can add a new term to your lexicon: "Zoom towns." These are scenic places experiencing a surge of house hunters. Booming demand comes from workers freed by the pandemic to work from home long term.

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.

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.

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. 

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has scheduled an unusual Sunday news conference to announce new restrictions to combat what his office calls "the rapid and alarming rise of Covid in our state."

Previously, Inslee's office had said an announcement would be forthcoming as early as Monday.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

On a recent rainy morning, a long line of cars snaked around the block at Providence Southwest Washington’s drive-through testing site near Olympia.

“I’m in awe,” said Irene Wood who sat at the wheel of her Prius, mask on, having just been tested. “It’s awful and it’s amazing there’s this many people being tested.”

This was Wood’s second trip to the testing site in a week. Her first test came back negative. But then she hugged her daughter who had previously tested positive.

Coronavirus cases are spiking. A major election is looming. And Washington’s legislative session is still two months away. But Washington’s beer lobby has a message for top elected officials that apparently can't wait.

Nomad Go

A tech startup in the Seattle area is offering new software that it says can help businesses track whether they are COVID-safe, including monitoring for whether employees and customers are wearing masks and social distancing.

Anna King / NW News Network

Before I got sick with COVID-19, I was a social-distance ninja: I hadn’t been anywhere. Not even the grocery store. 

I recently wrote about my nearly two-months as a COVID-19 longhauler. And the number one question I heard was: “How did you get it?” So I decided to dig into the possibilities.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

It was common through the 1800s for American school children to attend a one-room schoolhouse. In 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Swanson family in rural north Olympia will attend a one-garage schoolhouse.

On a recent morning, Molly Swanson rolled up her garage door and welcomed a visitor into the classroom she and her husband created this summer as a place to educate four of their six children, plus two foster children.

In February, Tiffany Krueger and her business partner Joanna Sather fulfilled their dream of opening a small training gym focused on serving women in the Olympia area. Athena Fitness and Wellness offered large group workout classes, small group training, a Himalayan Salt room, a sauna and even child care.

And then the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“I think it’s like the worst timing ever,” Krueger said in a recent interview.

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. 

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