A person wearing a mask walks past a sign banning visitors at the Life Care Center in Kirkland on Monday. Dozens of people associated with the facility are reportedly ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized and are being tested for the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A person wearing a mask walks past a sign banning visitors at the Life Care Center in Kirkland on Monday. Dozens of people associated with the facility are reportedly ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized and are being tested for the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

State coronavirus death toll rises to 6; some schools close

Health officials announced four new deaths Monday, including a man from Snohomish County.

Herald staff and Associated Press

SEATTLE — Four more people have died from the new coronavirus in Washington, including a Snohomish County resident, health officials said Monday, bringing the total to six dead in the state.

Those are the only reported fatalities in the U.S.

Dr. Jeff Duchin from Public Health–Seattle & King County announced the new deaths at a news conference.

Including patients who have died, there are now 18 documented cases of COVID-19 in Washington, officials said. Four of those originated in Snohomish County, including the nation’s first patient who fully recovered after being hospitalized in Everett.

Many of the cases are centered around EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, where the Snohomish County patient died, and a nearby Life Care Center nursing home, where dozens of sick patients were to be tested for the virus. Three residents of Life Care died Sunday at EvergreenHealth, according to Public Health–Seattle & King County.

The Snohomish County man who died was in his 40s and had underlying conditions, the Snohomish Health District said in a news release. The agency also announced a new infection, the county’s fourth, a woman in her 40s who is hospitalized with underlying health conditions.

King County Executive Dow Constantine declared an emergency Monday and said the county was buying a hotel to be used as a hospital where patients who need to be isolated can be placed to recover. Constantine said that should be available by the end of the week.

“We have moved to a new stage in the fight,” he said.

Constantine said the county was also deploying modular housing, some of which had been recently used to house Texas oil workers, to house homeless people who would need to be isolated. Up to 100 people could be housed this way soon, he said.

Coronavirus cases in Washington are now so numerous that some health officials are no longer announcing them as they happen. The Snohomish Health District said it will now post case updates once a day, at 4 p.m., at its website. The agency held a special Board of Health meeting on Monday evening to provide the latest information. That meeting was live-streamed via Facebook.

School closures

Meanwhile, more than a dozen schools in the Puget Sound region, including four in Snohomish County, closed Monday for cleaning as reports of infections began to roll in to health officials and school districts.

The Northshore, Mukilteo and Everett school districts closed some schools for cleaning.

The Mukilteo district said the parent of a student at Mariner High School south of Everett — the man whose death was announced separately Monday — was diagnosed Sunday, but the student was not exhibiting symptoms. The student visited Discovery Elementary School last week, according to the Mukilteo School District. Both schools were closed Monday for cleaning as a precaution.

A sign warns people to stay out of Mariner High School near Everett, which was closed for cleaning Monday after a student’s family member tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

A sign warns people to stay out of Mariner High School near Everett, which was closed for cleaning Monday after a student’s family member tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

And the Northshore School District said it closed Frank Love Elementary School in Bothell as a precaution for cleaning because a staffer there developed flu-like symptoms.

“Closing Frank Love is the prudent thing to do when we are considering the health of our students and staff as well as our entire community,” Northshore Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a letter to parents.

All Northshore schools will be closed Tuesday “so we can provide training to staff to engage students in remote learning that may take place outside the four walls of their classrooms should this become necessary in the coming days,” Reid said.

Jackson High School in Mill Creek also was closed Monday for cleaning after a student there tested positive for the virus last week. And Bothell High School was closed two days last week, although the test for the family member of a staffer there came back negative.

Life disrupted — and not

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) announced Monday that no changes have been made to the state high school basketball tournaments despite a growing number of coronavirus cases in the state. The Hardwood Classics get underway Wednesday morning in Tacoma.

The F5 technology company said it was closing a 44-story tower in downtown Seattle after learning an employee had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. The employee tested negative, but company spokesman Rob Gruening told The Seattle Times the tower is being closed out of an abundance of caution.

Authorities weren’t yet recommending widespread cancellations of activities or school closures. However, Dr. Duchin of Public Health–Seattle & King County said residents, especially those with underlying health conditions, “should consider avoiding crowded settings to the extent possible.”

Help from Olympia

State Secretary of Health John Wiesman on Monday told Washington lawmakers in Olympia that he anticipates the number of cases will increase in the days ahead.

“This is a very dynamic situation, moving very quickly,” he told members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Wiesman said $3.5 million has already been spent, with $2.3 million of that by the state and the remainder by local health jurisdictions. He asked lawmakers for an additional $100 million for the current budget cycle that ends July 2021 so the state’s public health system can adequately respond to the increasing number of cases of coronavirus.

“We want to mount a response that is the right response for Washington and one where I’m not worried about ‘do I have the money to actually mount the response we need?’” he told the panel.

Two bills introduced Monday would tap the state’s emergency reserves to fill some or all of Weisman’s request.

Legislation from Sen. Steve O’Ban. R-University Place, would transfer $100 million from the budget stabilization account, also known as the Rainy Day fund, into the state’s disaster response account.

In the House, Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, dropped a similar bill. It would transfer $50 million from reserves into the disaster response account.

O’Ban said Monday that while he preferred using the state general fund, he wasn’t sure it would get the necessary votes.

“I think this is the approach we should take,” he said.

In the meantime, Weisman will provide briefings to the state House on Tuesday morning and to the Senate on Wednesday.

Lawmakers are nearing the end of a 60-day legislative session, and the House and Senate are currently negotiating a supplemental budget plan that they will have to pass before the Legislature adjourns March 12.

Herald writers Chuck Taylor, Ben Watanabe and Andrea Brown contributed.

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