‘Traffic does not exist’: What it’s like in Seattle amid coronavirus fears

(SEATTLE) — Half-full buses and empty bars are just two of the signs that concerns about the coronavirus have struck the Seattle area.

The changes come a day after King County officials announced sweeping public health guidelines by directing residents who are at high risk of severe illness to stay home and avoid large groups of people in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Eleven people have died from the coronavirus in Washington state, with dozens more infected with the virus.

“Seattle is literally a ghost town — traffic does not exist,” Seattleite and Microsoft employee Alina Nadoyan told ABC News Thursday.

“I take the bus into Pioneer Square every day, and it’s maybe halved in passengers,” Seattle resident Keelan Wood said.

Health officials have suggested that workplaces allow people to work from home for the next three weeks in order to reduce the chance of transmitting COVID-19.

Amazon confirmed Tuesday that an employee had tested positive for the virus, and on Wednesday issued a recommendation that local employees work from home.

“I started being remote this week, and unless they tell us otherwise I’ll be home through March,” Amazon employee Jordan Scott told ABC News. “They told us we could go into the office to get anything we may need, and if for some reason your job requires you to be in the office you have to let your director know.”

Facebook, in the meantime, closed its Seattle office until next week, after confirming that a contractor based in their Stadium East office had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The company is also recommending that all employees work from home.

“We’ve notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritize everyone’s health and safety,” Facebook officials said in a statement.

Washington state health officials confirmed the state’s number of positive coronavirus cases jumped to 70 on Thursday.

“I work in downtown Bellevue and it’s been a ghost town,” said bartender Gabrielle Larson. The restaurant she works at is usually packed all weekend, but the past few nights she was sent home early, she said.

Other bartenders from nearby restaurants also told her it was “completely dead” at their locations, Larson said.

Larson said she’s worried about the impact on the service industry workers who can’t do their jobs from home and rely on tips or in-person appointments.

“This is a shifting landscape,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a press conference Wednesday. “We are determined to slow the spread of this virus in the community.”
 
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