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Fires, COVID-19 continue to devastate Washington

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All but five counties in Washington state have reached Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's reopening plan, allowing some businesses and everyday amenities to open with COVID-19 restrictions in place as of last Friday. Through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, there were a total of 79,826 COVID-19 cases after an increase of 350. The Washington State Department of Health counted 7,081 hospitalizations from COVID-19, up 33. Statewide, more than 1,644,585 COVID-19 tests have been administered, up 13,423 from Saturday's count. State health officials reported 544 new COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths in Washington on Friday.

As of late August, the good news is that coronavirus activity in Washington appears to be declining, according to the latest situation report released by the Washington State Department of Health. Released Friday, the report shows the reproductive number, (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect), was estimated at 0.86 for western Washington on Aug. 17, which is down from the estimate of 0.97 in the state's last report. In eastern Washington, the reproductive number was estimated at 0.91 on Aug. 14, down from the estimate of 0.98 in the last report.

In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials confirmed 20,640 infections and 744 deaths. On recent weekdays, more than 13,000 people statewide have been tested for COVID-19. For the week preceding Sept. 1, nearly 3.3 percent of those tests came back positive for the virus.

Fires Most in State History

Wildfires have torched at least 626,982 acres as of Friday morning, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. "And these are just the active fires, not the ones that have already been contained and where recovery continues," Inslee said in a news conference. The fires in just the past five days are the most in state history, Inslee said, other than 2015's historic fire season. As of last Friday, there were 14 large active fires in the state.

Assistance to Families

Impacted by Wildfires

Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation last Thursday in response to damage from several wildfires across the state. It will help families and individuals impacted by wildfires with cash assistance for immediate needs. The assistance will be provided through DSHS' Family Emergency Assistance Program, which has been expanded to also serve individuals and waive the one-time distribution limitation.

"For families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the devastating wildfires ravaging our state, funding from the Family Emergency Assistance Program can be, quite literally, a lifesaver," Inslee said. "The state will continue to look for ways to support communities as we work together to recover from multiple economic and health emergencies."

As of Sunday, More than 1.5 million acres have burned this past week in Washington and Oregon. Scientists now are examining whether climate change could play a role in driving the wind events that history shows have wreaked destruction on the region's west side.

Indoor Fitness, Training Facility

Friday, Gov. Inslee announced updated guidance for indoor fitness and training facilities as part of Washington's Safe Start phased reopening plan. Effective Friday, indoor fitness and training facilities are allowed to operate in Modified Phase 1 counties under Phase 2 guidance. This means that facilities like gyms, yoga studios, and indoor sports facilities can open for personal fitness and training, group fitness classes, and practice for certain low- and medium-contact sports. Occupancy is limited to ensure proper physical distancing, and masks are required.

"As the seasons change and outdoor options for fitness and training become less accessible, it is important for Washingtonians across our state to have access to facilities where they can safely exercise indoors," Inslee said.

More Seattle Closings

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan closed all beaches, parks, boat ramps and play fields through Sunday because of wildfire smoke inundating the region.


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