(The Center Square) – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency aid bill as the number of coronavirus cases there topped 1,000, second-highest in the country behind New York.
The bill will take $200 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund, with $175 million of that going toward public health measures. The rest will go to a dedicated unemployment fund specifically aimed at the impacts from the disease.
Inslee on Monday had issued an executive order closing restaurants, bars, entertainment and recreational facilities. Restaurants can still operate on a take-out, drive-through or delivery basis. The order lasts through the end of the month, but Inslee said it could be extended.
As of Tuesday, there were 1,012 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state and 54 deaths, nearly half of the 112 that have been reported nationwide. Of those cases, 569 and 43 deaths were in King County, which is where Seattle is located. More than 20 of the deaths in Washington have been linked to a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb of Seattle.
The first confirmed case occurred in January in Seattle. The man had recently returned from China but recovered after being quarantined in a hospital.
All schools in Washington are closed until at least April 24. The Centers for Disease Control had recently suggested people not gather in groups of more than 50 people, lowering that from an earlier recommendation of 250, but federal officials on Monday suggested gatherings of no more than 10 people.
The federal government also announced that it and Canada had agreed to close their 5,500-mile border to all non-essential traffic. Washington has 13 drivable crossings along its 427-mile border with British Columbia, including four between Seattle and Vancouver.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan had previously closed the city’s libraries and recreation centers and has asked city council there to approve a 60-day moratorium on evictions for private residences and small businesses.
According to the Seattle Times, a local health expert recently predicted there could be 10 times the number of currently confirmed cases – about 20,000 – across the U.S.
Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said he based his numbers on the original 60 cases that entered the country from China between mid-January and mid-February. He said about 20 of those cases became “sparks” that have led to transmission chains over the past six to eight weeks.
With the number of infections double every five to six days, Bedford estimates those original 20 sparks have created an average of 1,000 cases each.