COVID-19 UPDATE: SATURDAY MORNING,MARCH 14

LOCAL

* Washington state now has 510 confirmed cases, with 37 deaths. More than half of all confirmed US cases are in three states: ours, New York (421), and California (314). Next are Massachusetts (123), Colorado (77), and Florida (71).

* Mayor Durkan plans to sign an emergency order halting residential evictions, No details have been released yet. Seattle City Council members, particularly CM Kshama Sawant, have been urging the move since last week.

* The City of Seattle is closing all public-facing customer service counters.

* My alma mater, the Stranger, has laid off 18 employees and is suspending its print edition, noting that 90 percent of its revenue comes from advertising that involves large groups of people (bars, restaurants, shows, concerts, movies, etc.). The layoffs include invaluable local journalists Lester Black and Katie Herzog. Now is the time to support the rapidly shrinking pool of independent journalists in Seattle.

* Metro says it has seen a 45 percent drop in passengers in the last two weeks as people telecommute, self-isolate, and seek safer means of transportation. Metro Access, a service for disabled riders likely to be at high risk from the virus, has seen a 51 percent drop. King County Water Taxi ridership has dropped by 61 percent. Taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers report similar drops in ridership, with no programs yet to help them weather the crisis. Air traffic to SeaTac is down dramatically. Kenmore Air, which flies seaplanes from Lake Union, is apparently grounded.

* The University of Washington now has two students confirmed with COVID-19: An undergraduate living in the Lander Hall dorm on Campus Way, and a graduate student who is recovering at home out-of-state.

* The man who left a Kent quarantine facility, formerly an EconoLodge, has tested negative for COVID-19. His stunt yesterday led King County to narrow its eligibility criteria for who could stay at its four planned sites for homeless and others who cannot easily self-quarantine. King County officials said they expect that eventually “hundreds of thousands” of people will need such quarantine facilities,.

* All Seattle farmers’ markets are suspended until April 13.

* SIFF has cancelled all screenings and events, and has closed its three cinema locations. The annual month-long film festival in May and June is still planning to go ahead – for now.

* All public events at the state capitol campus in Olympia have been canceled until April 24,

NATIONAL

* After reaching a deal with the White House, the House passed 363-40 an emergency bill in response to the COVID-19 crisis that would allow for two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for people affected by the crisis. Also part of the bill enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing, and extra money for food assistance and Medicaid. It also included tax relief, sought by Republicans, for small and medium-sized businesses. The cost is not yet known. The Senate is expected to act on the bill when it reconvenes Monday. The House is already working on another emergency response bill that will expand federal efforts to help Americans impacted by the pandemic.

* Forty-nine states have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Only West Virginia has escaped the pandemic so far. The US now has 2,177 confirmed cases, and rising,

* The New York Attorney General has ordered “InfoWars” con man Alex Jones to stop claiming that diet supplements and toothpaste kills COVID-19. Jones is only the most prominent of a new class of online fraud seeking to cash in on the pandemic.

GLOBAL

* South Korea’s infection rate has been slowing for a week, a sign that its aggressive testing program has paid off, Over 260.,000 people have been tested so far.

* Schools have been closed in Jakarta, Indonesia – one of most populous cities in the world. Singapore has closed its mosques for five days to disinfect them, and suspended religious instruction in mosques until the end of March.

* Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are closing their borders to non-citizens. Ukraine banned gatherings of more than 200 people..Western Europe continues to be hard hit, with Italy, Spain, and the UK having particularly large increases in confirmed cases. The UK9’s number of cases has increased five-fold in two days.

* New Zealand announced it will quarantine everyone entering the country for 14 days. All cruise ship arrivals are suspended until at least the end of June.

* Afghanistan closed its schools for a month and asked that weddings and engagements, which often involve large crowds, be avoided.

* Rwanda and Namibia, in sub-Saharan Africa, reported their first cases today. At least 125 countries now have confirmed cases.9

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