Surge in coronavirus deaths comes as state works to keep health care system from being overwhelmed

VIDEO: Inslee says might need to extend stay-at-home order

SEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Health on Friday reported 28 new coronavirus-related deaths -- the biggest single-day increase in deaths the state has seen since numbers were first reported.

The death total now sits at 175 among 3,700 confirmed cases, according to DOH numbers released at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the largest counties: King County has 125 deaths among 1,760 cases, Snohomish County has 23 deaths among 913 cases and Pierce County has 5 deaths among 231 cases.

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Click here to see where other counties in the state stand.

The growing number of confirmed cases and deaths comes as the state works to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee said the state’s health care system is not overwhelmed, but added “it is absolutely necessary that we dramatically increase our hospital capacity, or we will be overwhelmed if we don't get this curve down to negative very, very quickly."

To help keep the health care system afloat the US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA agreed to deploy a military field hospital at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field Event Center to assist the region’s hospitals.

Three hundred soldiers from Fort Carson, Colorado were deployed to Seattle to staff the hospital, which is expected to create at least 150 hospital beds for cases not related to coronavirus.

Key coronavirus updates:

  • There are at least 3,700 confirmed coronavirus cases with at least 175 deaths in Washington, according to the latest Department of Health numbers released Friday.
  • President Donald Trump signed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law Friday.
  • Trump issued an order allowing the Pentagon to reactivate former troops for the coronavirus response.
  • Washington state saw an 843% week-over-week increase in claims for unemployment benefits last week.
  • Five Western State Hospital employees test positive for COVID-19.
  • A TSA employee at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport tested positive for the coronavirus. The employee last worked March 21.
  • Inslee announced a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order Monday, with exceptions for essential activities such as going to the grocery store, for a minimum of two weeks. Wondering what is still open? Find out here.
  • Boeing announced it was shutting down its Seattle-area production facilities for two weeks starting Wednesday. The shutdown comes after a Boeing employee died from the virus.
  • Thirty-four Washington counties have cases confirmed with the Department of Health. Nine counties reported deaths through the DOH.
  • All K-12 schools in Washington state will remain closed until at least April 24.
  • KIRO 7 will send breaking news updates through the KIRO 7 News app, which you can download here.

Inslee announces mandatory stay-at-home order

Inslee announced a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order Monday restricting all activities except those deemed essential by the executive order.

The order is effective for a minimum of two weeks.

“To be socially irresponsible during these times is to risk the lives of our loved ones,” Inslee said. “We want to get back to normal as soon as possible. The fastest way to get back to normal is to hit this hard.”

All grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, food supply chains and other things that offer people basic, crucial needs will remain open. Restaurants can continue to offer take-out and delivery, consistent with a previous directive from Inslee.

“No one should make a run on the grocery store to overstock,” Inslee said.

The governor’s office released a list of business sectors that are considered essential. It includes health care, emergency services, food and agriculture, energy, water and sewage treatment, transportation, information technology, hazardous materials, financial services, chemical and defense-industrial sectors.

The Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers list is to “help state, local, tribal, and industry partners as they work to protect communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.” Click here for the list.

Non-essential businesses must now be closed.

People can still go outside as long as proper social distancing is practiced and residents stay 6 feet away from others at all times.

The order builds on prior actions taken by the governor, including the closure of schools, entertainment venues and other businesses where large groups gather.

Inslee said the order is partly in response to some Washingtonians not grasping the seriousness of the pandemic and not practicing proper social distancing.

Watch the news conference below:

Information from local officials

Last week, Inslee placed a 30-day statewide moratorium on evictions as the number of positive coronavirus cases in the state continues to increase.

“No person should be put out of their home because they can’t pay rent during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Inslee said.

Inslee called on all public utilities in the state to suspend shut-offs, waive late fees for out-of-work customers and expand bill assistance for economically impacted customers.

He also waived the one-week period to receive unemployment insurance and directed the state Department of Social and Health Services to expand eligibility for the Family Emergency Assistance Program to families without children.

Inslee also announced new restrictions on non-urgent medical and dental procedures to ensure medical workers in the coronavirus pandemic have enough equipment. The proclamation impacts all ambulatory surgery centers and dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices in the state. It does not apply to treatment for patients with emergency and urgent needs.

Doctors are allowed to perform an elective surgery if delaying the surgery would cause harm to the patient within the next three months, Inslee said.

Information from the White House

The Senate passed an unparalleled $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote — and he released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed.

The package is intended as relief for an economy spiraling into recession or worse and a nation facing a grim toll from an infection that's killed more than 21,000 people worldwide. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, asked how long the aid would keep the economy afloat, said: “We’ve anticipated three months. Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months."

Underscoring the effort's sheer magnitude, the bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion-plus annual federal budget. The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House's best guess.

Insistently optimistic, President Donald Trump said of the greatest public health emergency in anyone’s lifetime, “I don’t think its going to end up being such a rough patch” and anticipated the economy soaring “like a rocket ship” when it’s over.

The sprawling measure is the third coronavirus response bill produced by Congress and by far the largest. It builds on efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers and food aid.

Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to pass it Friday. House members are scattered around the country. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the measure would pass by voice vote without lawmakers having to return to Washington.

The package would expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

The bill would also provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks to an estimated $130 billion. Another $45 billion would fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services.

How you can protect yourself and what to do if you think you were exposed

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Patients reportedly have mild to severe respiratory illness.

These are steps health officials recommend to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease
  • “If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, call your healthcare provider. Isolate yourself and wear a mask before leaving the house. Do not go to the emergency room. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs,” Public Health - Seattle & King County said.
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact:
  • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127 and press #.

Cases and guidelines for senior living facilities

Senior living facilities have been the focal point of the state's fight against the spread of coronavirus, as health officials said older adults with preexisting conditions are the most vulnerable.

Inslee announced new rules March 10 around nursing homes and assisted living facilities centered around visitors, screening, and precautionary measures. On March 13, Inslee expanded the restrictions to include adult family homes.

Among the measures is required coronavirus screening for all visitors. Employees and volunteers must also be screened for symptoms at the start of each shift.

Rules now in effect:

  • Visitors must be adults and the visit must take place in the resident’s room. This does not apply to end-of-life situations.
  • All visitors must follow COVID-19 screening and follow reasonable precautionary measures. Precautionary measures include, but are not limited to, wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, or visiting in designated locations.
  • All visitors must sign into a visitor’s log. Owners and operators must retain that log for 30 days.
  • Employees or volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift.
  • People who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and who test positive for COVID-19 must be isolated away from other people.
  • Owners, operators, staff and volunteers are prohibited from disclosing protected and confidential health information, except as otherwise provided by law or with the resident’s consent.
  • The rules are expected to be in effect until midnight on April 9, 2020.

Colleges no longer meeting in person

The University of Washington, Western Washington University and Washington State University all moved to online classes and will continue to do remote instruction through spring quarter.

Seattle Pacific University, Shoreline Community College, Pacific Lutheran University, Bellevue College and the DigiPen Institute of Technology all announced that classes will be canceled or completed online.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.