A few days before an evaluation of each Washington county’s coronavirus metrics, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday altered the criteria used to determine whether a county moves from one COVID-19 reopening phase to another, making it easier for counties to remain in their current phases.

Meanwhile, local and state health officials are discouraging Washingtonians from making long trips across the state to get vaccinated — despite eligibility requirements — because doses are allocated to counties based on population and equity, and making an appointment could potentially take one away from a someone who lives or works in that area.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say those who are vaccinated can travel without quarantining before and afterwards, Seattleites are gearing up to navigate the ways the pandemic has changed how we travel.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. 

Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.

Washington may soon be first state to guarantee lawyers for low-income tenants facing eviction

Washington may soon become the first state in the country to ensure that low-income tenants have legal representation when faced with an eviction, an idea lawmakers see as a way to head off a feared wave of evictions once pandemic-era rental restrictions are lifted. 

Washington’s Senate Bill 5160 is likely to pass the state Legislature after years of organizing by tenant advocates across the country who say guaranteeing lawyers for tenants during evictions, also known as “right to counsel,” keeps people in their homes at far higher rates than the current system. 

The bill passed the state Senate and House and now goes back to the Senate for final approval. It would provide attorneys to tenants who receive certain public assistance, have been involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility, can’t afford a lawyer or who have incomes at 125% or below the federal poverty level.

A last-minute amendment added to the  bill would also lift the state’s moratorium on evictions less than three months from now.

There’s still significant uncertainty about whether there would be enough help for tenants by the time the statewide eviction moratorium lifts.

Read the rest of the story here.

—Sydney Brownstone

Siblings in Washington state find closure a year after COVID thrashed choir

With dish soap, brushes and plastic water jugs in hand, Carole Rae Woodmansee’s four children cleaned the gravestone their mother shares with their father, Jim. Each scrub shined engraved letters spelling out their mother’s name and the days of her birth and death: March 27, 1939, and March 27, 2020.

Carole passed away on her 81st birthday.

That morning marked a year since she died of complications of COVID-19 after contracting it during a choir practice that sickened 53 people and killed two — a superspreader event that would become one of the most pivotal transmission episodes in understanding the virus.

For the siblings, the somber anniversary offered a chance at closure after the pandemic stunted their mourning. They were finally holding a memorial befitting of their mother’s footprint in the community.

Of the more than 550,000 people who have died of the virus in the United States, Carole was among the first. Her death came just weeks after the first reported outbreak at a nursing home in Kirkland, about an hour south of Mount Vernon. Carole, who survived heart surgery and cancer, had fallen ill at her home. Bonnie took care of her until they called the paramedics.

The rehearsal of the Skagit Valley Chorale, a community choir made up mostly of retirees and not associated with the church where they practiced, happened two weeks before Gov. Jay Inslee shut down the state. The choir had taken the precautions known at the time, such as distancing themselves and sanitizing. But someone had the virus.

“I think this outbreak in the choir is viewed … as the one event that really woke people up to the idea that the virus could be spreading through the air,” said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech professor and expert in airborne transmission. Marr was among 239 experts who successfully lobbied the World Health Organization to change its guidelines on transmission.

Read the rest of the story here.

—Associated Press

More Black Americans open to vaccines after outreach efforts

Campaigns aimed at Black communities across the U.S. are making headway in the effort to persuade people that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. With millions of dollars in assistance from President Joe Biden’s administration, local groups have urged Black Americans to roll up their sleeves for shots and set aside what for some is a shared historical distrust of science and government.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in late March found that about 24% of Black American adults said they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated. That’s down from 41% in January. The latest number shows Black Americans leaning against getting shots in almost the same proportion as white Americans at 26% and Hispanic Americans at 22%.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said attitudes toward the vaccine among Black Americans have taken “almost a 180-degree turnaround” as outreach campaigns have worked to combat misinformation.

Read the rest of the story here.

—Associated Press

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