Coronavirus death toll in Washington state surpasses 130

Coronavirus death toll in Washington state surpasses 130

Washington state health officials said there were more than 300 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the total to 2,580 with 132 deaths. The bulk remains in the Seattle area, where King County has seen 1,359 people fall ill with 94 deaths.

The state Health Department indicated the increase in confirmed cases was due to expanded testing capacity.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who Monday night issued a stay at home order, has also suspended some parts of Washington’s open-government laws. His mandate temporarily suspends parts of the state’s Open Public Meetings Act that require government bodies to hold meetings in public places that are open to residents.

Inslee also suspended a requirement in the Washington Public Records Act that requires government bodies to provide a response to public records requests within five days.

According to The Seattle Times, Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, said the change to the Public Records Act will not cause much of an impact as most requesters now obtain records electronically.

Nixon wrote on a journalism list-serve that his group is “encouraging the public to follow their local agencies via electronic participation when meetings are convened, and to submit the records requests they would normally make also through online means.”

Inslee’s stay at home order has caused a bit of confusion as to which businesses are allowed to stay open and which are non-essential and must close. Although restaurants are allowed to stay open for carry-out, drive-through and delivery services, Domino’s Pizza chain issued letters to all drivers indicating they were legally allowed on the roads should they be questioned by law enforcement.

Farmers markets were also given the OK to remain open, although some cities have said they would stop issuing permits for them.

Although Inslee earlier said people could go outside for recreational or exercise purposes, the Washington Department of Natural Resources said it is closing all public land it manages to aid with social distancing. That includes all campgrounds, 1,200 miles of trails and 160 recreation sites.

“I cannot ignore the unfortunate reality of what we saw this weekend: crowded trails, people should to shoulder and large gatherings,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz said in a statement. “This behavior undercuts the sacrifices that Washingtonians of all means and ability are making in order to adhere to social distancing.”

The Army announced 300 members of the 627th Hospital Center from Colorado’s Fort Carson would be deployed to Washington to assist in treating patients. The unit can operate a 148-bed full-service hospital in tents or re-purposed government buildings.

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