Here’s what we’re talking about this week on the GeekWire Podcast.
It was another tumultuous week in Seattle, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, with restaurants and bars ordered closed, large gatherings banned, and the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to climb. We recap the week’s news, check in with gig economy workers, and hear what Bill Gates has to say.
Among the week’s events: A worker at a tech company in Seattle became the first person injected with a possible COVID-19 vaccine; Amazon says it wants to hire 100,000 workers to deal with demand, the city and state brace for a possible shelter-in-place order, and much more.
Listen above, subscribe in any podcast app, and keep reading for highlights.
- Gov. Jay Inslee closed all restaurants and bars, recreation places, entertainment venues, beauty salons and barbershops, and many more. Many restaurants and coffee shops have gone to takeout only.
- Gatherings of more than 50 people were banned and Monday President Trump asked people to limit gatherings to 10 or less. However, Gov. Inslee has so far avoided a full “shelter in place” mandate.
- The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington state as of Friday was 1,524 with 83 deaths. (Note: this number has been corrected since publication.)
- An Amazon warehouse worker in Queens, NY, tested positive for COVID-19, the company’s first known positive case in a warehouse employee.
- COVID-19 vaccine trials start in Seattle.
- Numerous retailers have closed: Microsoft and Apple stores, REI, Nordstrom, and many more. T-Mobile was closing 80% of their stores. Seattle businesses have taken a huge economic toll, with a report from the Seattle Metro Chamber showing that nearly 40% of all jobs in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties will be severely impacted by the virus.
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a $200M emergency funding bill. President Trump signed a federal relief bill, with discussion of direct payments to Americans to stimulate the economy.
- Use of Microsoft Teams went up 37% in the last week, from 32 to 44 million users, spurred by demand as more people work from home.
- The NYTimes obtained a 100-page report prepared by the federal government that warns the pandemic “will last 18 months or longer” and could include multiple waves of infection, stressing the healthcare system, critical infrastructure and state and local governments.
- Testing is ramping up. Inslee said the state had received federal approval for private labs to test. The University of Washington opened a drive-through testing station.
- Amazon says it wants to hire 100,000 additional warehouse workers to help with demand. Amazon told third-party sellers it will bar shipments of non-essential items to its warehouses so it can prioritize medical supplies and household goods.
- Traffic in the Seattle area has vanished as people are either working from home or they have lost their job due to the economic downturn.
- The US and Canada closed their border except for cargo and “essential” traffic.
- And schools remain closed, with parents attempting to fill in as teachers and keep kids occupied. Rumors abound that schools might stay closed through the end of this school year or even the end of 2020. University of Washington classes will be remote for spring quarter.
Follow our live blog for up-to-date news: Coronavirus Live Updates: The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of tech
More from the podcast: It’s a tough time to be a worker in the gig economy. We interviewed gig workers who expressed fear, desperation and uncertainty.
And don’t believe that story about Bill Gates trying to woo Tom Brady to play in Tampa. But do believe what Gates has been saying for years about preparing for a pandemic.
With GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, Taylor Soper and Monica Nickelsburg. Our podcast producer is Curt Milton. Our theme music is by Daniel L.K. Caldwell.