COVID-19 activity intensifying in Washington

SEATTLE (AP) — State health officials say a new COVID-19 report shows an increase in cases and hospitalizations throughout Washington.

If not brought under control, officials said the spike could jeopardize progress toward reopening schools, strain the health care system and increase risks during the holiday season.

In an updated situation report released Wednesday, the state Department of Health said the virus is spreading faster in Western Washington than Eastern Washington, but is rising on both sides of the Cascades.

Estimates show each new COVID-19 patient is infecting 1.34 others, on average, in Western Washington. In Eastern Washington the average infection rate is 1.12. The goal is a number well below one, which would mean COVID-19 transmission is declining, officials said.

“High rates in the community increase the chance that someone at your gathering — even people you know well and trust —could have COVID-19,” Deputy Secretary of Health Lacy Fehrenbach said in a news release. “If we act now, we can get these increases in control in time for the holidays.”

Recent growth in cases is widely distributed across the state. Several larger counties including Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston are seeing steady growth in cases. After increases through Oct. 7, King County case counts began to decline, possibly because of decreased testing in that time period.

Health officials say the trends can be reversed if everyone wears a mask around people they don’t live with and limits the number, size and frequency of gatherings.

Since the pandemic began, more than 104,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the state. The state dashboard shows 2,337 people with confirmed cases in the state have died.

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NowPow Expands Community Care Networks in Washington to Support Students and Other People with Behavioral Health Needs

NowPow, the personalized community referral platform powering care across the nation, is expanding its digital footprint in the state of Washington. NowPow is launching a new, first-of-its-kind partnership with Educational Service District (ESD) 105, a state agency serving 25 public school districts and over 20 private and tribal schools. The company is also furthering its work with Ideal Option, one of the nation’s largest outpatient medication-assisted treatment providers for substance use disorder.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Washington State Skyline – Powering Communities With Knowledge (Graphic: Business Wire)

This means hundreds of thousands of Washington residents can now be connected with personalized services that are highly matched to both their health and social needs, as well as age, gender, eligibility, location, languages spoken, and insurance coverage. ESD 105 and Ideal Option will also work closely with community-based and government organizations to “close the referral loop,” utilizing NowPow to track engagement throughout the process so that providers and community-based partners are able to monitor the outcome of referrals and follow-up as needed.

“Often the biggest obstacle to resource access is a knowledge gap. People don’t know what’s available to them or how to find it. Our mission at NowPow is to support community health and wellness by powering those connections,” said Rachel Kohler, CEO, NowPow. “Thanks to these unique cross-sector partnerships, NowPow is now able to connect vulnerable populations, like students and people with behavioral health needs, to community-based organizations throughout Washington.”

NowPow’s partnership with ESD 105 has the potential to connect more than 66,000 K-12 students and their families to behavioral health resources in the community. Even before the pandemic, 93 percent of school districts in the state had insufficient systems to address behavioral health needs, which have now been compounded by the crisis. After the initial launch, ESD 105 also plans to utilize NowPow’s referral network to address things like food and housing insecurity.

“During these unprecedented times, it is critical that our students have access to behavioral health services to facilitate learning and support overall wellbeing,” said Kevin Chase, Superintendent, ESD 105. “Our partnership with NowPow will help our students and their families address social risk factors and overcome systemic barriers to these critical resources.”

“Knowing the available resources is a challenge. NowPow makes this an easier and more personalized process,” added Chris De Villeneuve, Division Director, Behavioral Health and Integrated Care, Catholic Charities Serving Central Washington.

Ideal Option has seen the value of the NowPow platform at work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Ideal Option and its sister company, Ideal Balance, have leveraged NowPow’s platform to administer comprehensive screening to more than 420 patients with opioid use disorder in the Greater Columbia region and match them to more than 3,600 critical community resources like housing and job assistance. On the heels of this success, Ideal Option brought the NowPow referral network to patients in five more counties in the North Puget Sound region.

“NowPow has been a lifeline

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Washington Offering Free Flu Shots To Uninsured Adults

WASHINGTON — This year’s flu season has been very mild, and state health officials would like to keep it that way.

The Washington State Department of Health has announced a new program, offering free flu shots to uninsured adults at 23 participating Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies across the state.

To qualify for a free shot, patients must be over 18 and uninsured. No proof of residency or immigration status will be required. Flu vaccines are already being offered and the program will run through June of 2021.

Participating Pharmacies in Western Washington



Phone Number

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1546)

221 West Heron Street
Aberdeen, WA 98520

(360) 532-8743

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0531)

101 Auburn Way S
Auburn, WA 98002

(253) 735-4404

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #3285)

1275 E Sunset Drive
Bellingham, WA 98226

(360) 650-1537

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1467)

900 N Callow
Bremerton, WA 98312

(360) 792-9262

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0474)

1715 Broadway
Everett, WA 98201

(425) 339-9448

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1484)

4128 Rucker Ave
Everett, WA 98203

(425) 258-3552

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1294)

210 Washington Ave S
Kent, WA 98032

(253) 852-5115

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1464)

3215 Harrison Avenue NW
Olympia, WA 98502

(360) 956-3827

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1492)

110 East 3rd Street
Port Angeles, WA 98362

(360) 457-0599

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1563)

200 S 3rd Street
Renton, WA 98057

(425) 226-0325

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1508)

3820 Rainier Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98118

(206) 725-9887

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #3213)

15332 Aurora Ave N
Shoreline, WA 98133

(206) 539-5500

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #0329)

1112 South M Street
Tacoma, WA 98405

(253) 627-8840

Safeway Pharmacy (Store #1437)

1302 E 38th Street
Tacoma, WA 98418

(253) 471-1630

Learn more about the program from the Washington State Department of Health’s website.

Washington’s top health officials say, in the middle of a pandemic, the last thing our medical system needs is an influx of flu patients.

“The potential for a severe influenza season, or even an average influenza season, compounding the COVID outbreak is very, very disturbing and worrisome,” said King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.

Read more: Health Experts: Now ‘More Important Than Ever’ To Get Flu Vaccine

The flu shot is recommended for everyone six months old or older. Patients over 65 should consult with their doctor first.

The Washington State Department of Health says there are several changes patients should be aware of for the 2020-2021 flu season:

  • All children under 19 can now receive flu vaccines and other recommended vaccines for free.

  • Most insurance plan cover the cost of the flu vaccine for adults.

  • Adults without insurance may qualify to recieve the vaccine at no cost. Find more information on free vaccination from your local health department.

Guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the best time to get vaccinated is between September and October, though if the flu season persists past October it’s never too late to get the vaccine. Receiving a vaccine too early, like in August or July, can leave it

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Washington blood donors urged to help amid surge in hospital usage

This year’s blood supplies aren’t quite keeping pace with the needs of local hospitals around the Seattle area, according to Bloodworks Northwest officials.

Bloodworks officials noted requests for blood donations are up 120% of normal as of early October, particularly for type O blood. As need increases, so too does pressure on the current supply for even common surgical procedures, making the need for more donors relatively urgent this month within Pacific Northwest hospitals.

This month, blood donors can learn if they have COVID-19 antibodies that may help patients currently fighting coronavirus because Bloodworks is testing all whole blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies through Oct. 31 in conjunction with pandemic response efforts. A positive test result indicates if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) regardless of whether the person ever showed symptoms.

Bloodworks Northwest is backed by 75 years of Northwest history and 250,000 donors. The local, non-profit remains an independent, volunteer-supported and community-based organization and leader in transfusion medicine.

With patients across hospitals in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, Bloodworks partners closely with local hospitals to deliver a high level of patient care among blood components, complex cross-matching, specialized lab services for organ transplants, care for patients with blood disorders, and collection of cord blood stem cells for cancer treatment.

Many patients with traumatic injuries, undergoing surgeries or organ transplantation, or receiving treatment for cancer and blood disorders fall dependent on Bloodworks’ services, especially among an already trying year given the expanse of the novel coronavirus.

“Hospitals are seeing an increase in traumas, transplants, and emergency situations requiring blood,” said Bloodworks President and CEO, Curt Bailey. “Overall blood usage is up 20% which translates to an additional 600 units of blood needed each week. This is unsustainable unless more community members step up to fill these growing needs of our hospitals and those lives depending on them.”

To fill the need, it typically takes around 1,000 people each day to make appointments and give blood at Bloodworks donor centers and pop-up blood drives happening throughout Western Washington and Oregon, according to Bloodworks.

“As this high usage trend continues, our deficit increases with our most-needed Type O blood types fast approaching critically low levels,” said Vicki Finson, executive vice president of blood services. “Local hospitals are counting on all of us to meet their commitment to provide the best patient care possible.  Whether you’re a first-time donor or longtime donor, please make an appointment now to keep our shelves stocked for patients.”

Notably, donations alongside Bloodworks provide 95% of the lifesaving blood supply to Pacific Northwest hospitals, according to Bloodworks officials.

So whether you have a spare hour to check in and enjoy a post-donation cookie, or are searching for ways to help hospitals amid COVID-19, check out information about who can donate and where, available here.

As of late, they’ve launched pop-up locations across Bellevue, Bellingham, Central Seattle, Everett, Federal Way, Lynnwood, Olympia, North Seattle, Silverdale, Tukwila, Vancouver and Eugene, Oregon.

Appointments and masks are required,

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Washington residents warned of drug surge, fentanyl dangers

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Federal and state officials have warned residents in eastern Washington about the dangers of illicit synthetic opioids after multiple teenagers died in recent weeks.

U.S. Attorney William Hyslop said the community is facing a “growing and increasing influx of deadly fentanyl into eastern Washington,” The Spokesman-Review reported Wednesday.

Data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency shows that seizures of fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, have increased by about 200% compared to last year.

DEA special agent Keith Weis said the drug is often smuggled over the border from Mexico, where it is produced at a much cheaper cost than heroin and cut into a pill form without dosage regulations. The drug then reaches distribution networks including in the Tri-Cities.

Fentanyl is a potent drug that can become fatal with as little as 2 milligrams. Anyone who is exposed to the drug could experience breathing effects, including shortness of breath or not breathing, at a much lower dosage than a usual medical dose.

Hyslop announced Wednesday that the U.S. attorney’s office, the drug enforcement agency, local law enforcement and school districts have collaborated to create a public campaign warning families of the danger posed by fentanyl and other opioids.

“Here in Spokane, we’re seeing a lot of these fentanyl pills being stamped as OxyContin pills,” Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said. “Now, we’re seeing these pills being stamped into the shape of baby aspirin as well.”

Fentanyl falls under the same criminal category as methamphetamine, cocaine and OxyContin under federal drug laws, Hyslop said, adding that police do not believe they can “arrest our way out of this.”

“This is greater. This is a community issue,” he said. “This requires everybody to be involved.”

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Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, October 17: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

As healthcare workers throughout the country continue to battle coronavirus, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle confirmed Friday an outbreak in a surgical unit has infected four patients, killing one. Ten Harborview staffers have tested positive for the virus, and 30 more are in quarantine after possible exposure.

Chances remain low, however, that a vaccine for the virus will be approved before Election Day — and on Friday, pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer Inc. announced it cannot request emergency authorization of its vaccine before the third week of November.

Throughout Saturday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Friday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

The coronavirus pandemic sidelined many Seattle-area food trucks. Here’s how the survivors made it

Lorelei Johnston, manager of the BeanFish food truck, pushes a cart toward the kitchen where she picks up supplies for the day ahead. The food truck stays overnight at Chop Kitchens in White Center, the commissary where food trucks park and where owners and their employees do kitchen prep. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Lorelei Johnston, manager of the BeanFish food truck, pushes a cart toward the kitchen where she picks up supplies for the day ahead. The food truck stays overnight at Chop Kitchens in White Center, the commissary where food trucks park and where owners and their employees do kitchen prep. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to a food truck in a global pandemic, swing by Chop Kitchens in White Center. 

Before COVID-19, the commercial commissary was a bustling mother ship for nine food trucks. The vendors prepped their meals in the big commercial kitchen, raced out to crowded spots like South Lake Union or a farmers market or a festival and returned a few hours later — often just as others were leaving for evening shifts. “It was just nonstop,” recalls Avery Hardin, who launched his Layers Sandwich Co. truck with his wife Ashley at Chop Kitchens last fall. 

All that changed when COVID-19 came to town this spring. Office parks became ghost towns. Festivals canceled and diners hunkered down at home. The food truck bubble collapsed like a mishandled soufflé. 

Today, just four of Chop Kitchens’ 10 current tenants take their trucks out with any regularity, say owners Vatsana Nouanthongme, 53, and Montanee Suthanasereporn, 44, two former truck vendors who opened the commissary in 2017 in an old Dairy Queen. Most of the rest of the big trucks, each of which can represent investments of $75,000 or more, now sit in the commissary’s big, fenced lot waiting for better times.

Chop Kitchens is probably a microcosm of the larger food truck business.

In King County, the official tally of “health-permitted food trucks,” which includes both trucks and trailers, fell from 460 in January 2020 to 327 as of September, according to the Washington State Food Truck Association. 

It isn’t clear how much of that decline is pandemic-related — but it’s also unclear how many of those 327 are actually operating. Anecdotally, vendors say, many trucks are either temporarily parked or working just a few days a month. 

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts

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