15 U.S. states to jointly work to advance electric heavy-duty trucks

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday unveiled a joint memorandum of understanding aimed at boosting the market for electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and phasing out diesel-powered trucks by 2050.

The announcement comes weeks after the California Air Resources Board approved a groundbreaking policy to require manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles, starting in 2024 and to electrify nearly all larger trucks by 2045.

The 14 states said the voluntary initiative is aimed at boosting the number of electric large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, school and transit buses, and long-haul delivery trucks, with the goal of ensuring all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2050 with a target of 30% ZEV sales by 2030.

The states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont.

The states committed to developing a plan within six months to identify barriers and propose solutions to support widespread electrification, including potential financial incentives and ways to boost EV infrastructure.

Trucks and buses represent 4% of U.S. vehicles, but account for nearly 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

California’s mandate will put an estimated 300,000 zero-emission trucks on the road by 2035. California’s planned rules will initially require 5%-9% ZEVs based on class, rising to 30%-50% by 2030 and nearly all by 2045.

The push comes as a rising number of companies – including Rivian, Tesla Inc., Nikola Corp., and General Motors work to introduce zero emission trucks.

Major businesses like Amazon.com, UPS and Walmart have also said they are ramping up purchases of electric delivery trucks.

California later plans to adopt new limits on nitrogen oxide emissions, one of the major precursors of smog, as well as require large fleet owners to buy some ZEVs.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Climate change, COVID-19 stoke wildfire’s economic risk, Fed says

(Reuters) – Wildfires threaten the economy of the western United States to a greater extent than the rest of the country, and the coronavirus pandemic and climate change will only make that worse, according to research from the San Francisco Fed on Monday.

Some 52% of economic output in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington originates in counties with elevated wildfire hazard, putting the economies of the region in jeopardy as wildfires become more frequent and more destructive, the researchers found. By 2040 that proportion will have risen to 56%, they estimate. By comparison, about 25% to 30% of the Southeast’s economy faces elevated wildfire risk.

The states together account for a bit more than one-fifth of U.S. economic output.

“The portion of real output produced in (the counties of these states) with elevated exposure increases from $2.1 trillion in 2018 to $4.0 trillion in 2040 in the baseline scenario,” the researchers wrote in the regional Fed’s latest Economic Letter. The economic output under particular wildfire threat rises to $4.4 trillion under a more severe climate change scenario, they said.

Wildfire risk is a combination of the likelihood of a big fire happening – which climate scientists have shown has been rising as the planet warms – and the economic destruction, in terms of lives and livelihoods destroyed that it could cause.

The coronavirus pandemic is increasing the latter risk because the fiscal pinch to states and local governments from the drop in sales tax and other revenue means cuts to wildfire suppression and prevention spending, the researchers said.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Tom Brown)

Washington to retire Redskins name and logo

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) – The NFL’s Washington team announced on Monday it will retire its Redskins name and logo in a decision made after sponsors stepped up pressure to scrap a name that the franchise has used since 1933 but long has been criticized as racist by Native American rights groups.

Team owner Dan Snyder, who bought the franchise in 1999, had previously said he would never change the name but softened his stance after FedEx Corp, which owns the naming rights to the team’s suburban stadium in Landover, Maryland, urged the NFL club to re-brand.

The team said on July 3 it would conduct a thorough review of the club’s name.

“Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,” the team said in a statement.

The team did not provide a time line for when the review would be completed. Its statement did not specify a reason for the name change.

Critics have ramped up pressure on the team to change its name, which is widely seen as a racial slur against Native Americans, amid the nationwide reckoning on racism and police brutality triggered by the May 25 death of a Black man named George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

In June, a group of more than 80 socially minded investment firms, collectively with more than $620 billion in assets under management, urged FedEx, Nike Inc and PepsiCo Inc to terminate relationships with the team unless it changed its name.

PepsiCo and Nike both followed FedEx’s lead and said they welcomed the call for a review of the team’s name.

The team that became the Washington Redskins was founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves. Its name was changed to the Redskins the following year and it moved to Washington in 1937. Many American professional and collegiate sports teams have nicknames on Native American themes.

Snyder and Ron Rivera, the team’s new head coach, “are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years,” the team said.

The team has won three Super Bowls and is one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, ranked by Forbes last September as the league’s seventh most valuable franchise at $3.4 billion.

In June, a memorial to the team’s founding owner, George Preston Marshall, who fought against the racial integration of the National Football League, was removed from RFK Stadium, the team’s former home in Washington.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the team’s announcement.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue and Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Franklin Paul and Will Dunham)

China orders some American media to give details on staff, after U.S. move

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has asked four U.S. media organizations to submit details about their operations in the country, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, in what it described as retaliation for U.S. measures against Chinese media outlets.

The Associated Press (AP), UPI, CBS and National Public Radio (NPR) are required to provide information about their staff, financial operations and real estate in China within seven days, ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news briefing.

“We urge the U.S. to immediately change course, correct its error, and desist (from) the political suppression and unreasonable restriction of Chinese media,” Zhao said.

The United States and China have been locked in a series of retaliatory actions involving journalists in recent months, amid increasing tensions over issues ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to Hong Kong.

Last month, the United States said it would start treating another four major Chinese state media outlets as foreign embassies, following similar measures taken by Washington earlier in the year.

That designation similarly required the outlets to report their personnel and real estate holdings.

In March, China expelled about a dozen U.S. journalists from the New York Times, the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. At the time, it also asked those outlets, as well as broadcaster Voice of America and Time magazine, to provide details on their China operations.

That had followed Washington’s move to slash the number of journalists permitted to work in the United States for four major Chinese state-owned media outlets.

“NPR is in communication with the relevant authorities and we are studying the request,” said an NPR spokesperson.

The AP said in a statement that it was “seeking more information about the requirements announced today and will review them carefully”.

CBS and UPI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In May, Washington limited visas for Chinese reporters to a 90-day period, with the option for extension. Previously, such visas were typically open-ended.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Kim Coghill and Mark Heinrich)

Exclusive: U.S. delays diplomats’ return to China amid concerns over coronavirus testing, quarantine

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has postponed flights for dozens of diplomats who had planned to return to China later this month, after failing to reach agreement with Beijing over issues including COVID-19 testing and quarantine.

Five months after the coronavirus epidemic forced the evacuation of some 1,300 U.S. diplomats and family members from China, Washington and Beijing remain locked in negotiations over conditions for their return, according to more than a dozen internal State Department emails seen by Reuters and people familiar with the matter.

The impasse comes as the pandemic intensifies in many parts of the world, including the United States, with the global tally this week topping 10 million cases and half a million deaths.

It also comes as relations between the world’s two largest economies have sunk to their lowest in decades over issues including China’s handling of the pandemic, bilateral trade and a new security law for Hong Kong.

In a previously unreported June 30 email, Terry Branstad, the U.S. ambassador to China, told embassy staff that two charter flights for diplomats returning to Shanghai and Tianjin planned for July 8 and July 10 respectively had been scrapped and would be rescheduled.

“Protecting the health and safety of our community remains our guiding principle and our top priority in this unprecedented situation,” Branstad wrote. “This means that flight plans will not be confirmed until we have reached an agreement that meets these goals.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to questions about the flight cancellations.

In an emailed response to Reuters questions, the State Department did not specifically discuss negotiations with Beijing, but said: “Mission China and the Department have engaged with Chinese authorities at both the Central Government and the local level to receive assurances of the safe and orderly return of our employees and family.”

A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there had been close communication regarding the return of U.S. diplomats to China.

“The virus is still spreading overseas and China continues to be under a fair amount of pressure to prevent the import of cases from overseas,” the spokesperson said in fax response to Reuters’ questions.

“The epidemic control measures for the diplomatic corps in China are applied equally across the board. China strives to preserve its hard-won achievement in countering the virus together with the diplomatic corps, and to provide good conditions and a good living environment for everyone to work and live in China.”

‘SIGNIFICANT LOGISTICAL HURDLES’

People familiar with the matter say Washington and Beijing have not been able to overcome the “significant logistical hurdles”, including the lack of an agreement on Chinese testing and quarantine procedures for diplomats and families that were cited in a May 28 State Department email to China staff.

Diplomats say agreeing to be tested contravenes the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. While an internal State Department guideline dated June 17 says it has approved a plan that includes testing under Chinese procedures upon arrival, sources familiar with the matter say the agency does not want to waive the diplomatic inviolability of staff and is still negotiating with Chinese authorities on the issue.

Several diplomats said they were concerned about the potential for Chinese authorities to take DNA samples and the possibility of parents being separated from their children if some family members tested positive.

“This essentially puts us at the mercy of the Chinese government, with whom tensions have run extremely high,” a U.S. diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters while preparing to return to work in China.

“We are in a situation where officers are being forced to decide between being separated from their families or bringing them into a potentially dangerous situation,” the diplomat said.

The experiences of diplomats taking the first and so far only flight back to China, to Tianjin in late May, had concerned some others planning to return, several diplomatic sources said.

Around 60 passengers of ‘Flight One’ were met by more than 150 Chinese officials in HAZMAT suits who directed them for COVID-19 testing, according to a newsletter for China Mission staff, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

Swabs were taken by U.S. medical officials, with the tests conducted by Chinese labs.

Diplomats were questioned about their activities prior to the 18-hour journey in a cargo plane from Washington.

“Have you been to any parties? Have you eaten in a restaurant? Do you feel good?” Chinese officials asked before the American diplomats were ushered into a VIP lounge to wait some 10 hours for their test results before they could leave.

Uncertainty about returning has been magnified by regulations that cap the amount of time the State Department can cover the expenses of diplomats evacuated from their posts.

“A lot of people don’t feel like going back, but after 180 days, you’re out of options,” said another foreign service officer familiar with the matter. “Basically your choice is to curtail your job and choose a different assignment.”

A State Department spokeswoman acknowledged that 180 days was the limit for evacuees to receive allowances, and said the agency continued to “assess options on how best to protect and support employees and family members in China and across the globe.”

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Tony Munroe in Beijing; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Alex Richardson)

Where COVID-19 is spreading fastest as U.S. cases rise 46% in past week

By Chris Canipe and Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – The United States saw a 46% increase in new cases of COVID-19 in the week ended June 28 compared to the previous seven days, with 21 states reporting positivity test rates above the level that the World Health Organization has flagged as concerning.

Nationally, 7% of diagnostic tests came back positive last week, up from 5% the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

The World Health Organization considers a positivity rate above 5% to be a cause for concern because it suggests there are more cases in the community that have not yet been uncovered.

Arizona’s positivity test rate was 24% last week, Florida’s was 16%, and Nevada, South Carolina and Texas’s were all 15%, according to the analysis.

Thirty-one states, mostly in the U.S. West and South, reported more new cases of COVID-19 last week compared to the previous week, the analysis found. Florida, Louisiana, Idaho and Washington state saw new cases more than double over that period.

In response to the new infections, Louisiana and Washington state have temporarily halted the reopening of their economies. Washington also mandated wearing masks in public.

Florida ordered all bars and some beaches to close. Idaho was not immediately available for comment.

Nationally, new COVID-19 cases have risen every week for four straight weeks. While part of that increase can be attributed to a 9% expansion in testing, health experts have also worried about states relaxing stay-at-home orders that had been credited with curbing the outbreak.

State officials across the country report the same trend in the new cases: People under 35 years old are going to bars, parties and social events without masks, becoming infected, and then spreading the disease to others.

Cases continue to decline in Northeast states, but some Midwest states that had new infections under control are seeing cases once again rise, including Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

 

(Reporting by Chris Canipe in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

A picture and its story: A shooting in Seattle

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Stunned protesters surround a car that has driven into their ranks. A man is lying on the ground nearby. Another man exits the driver’s side of the vehicle brandishing a gun. The protesters back away from him and he runs off and melts into the crowd as medics rush to help the wounded man.

The dramatic scenes of a drive-by shooting on the streets of Seattle were captured by Reuters photographer Lindsey Wasson during protests against police brutality and racism that have rocked the city – and many other places across the United States – in recent days.

Wasson, a Seattle native, has been covering the protests in Washington state’s largest city since May 31.

She took the series of pictures on Sunday evening from the window of a local newspaper that has offices overlooking a street that became a flashpoint.

A combination picture shows Dan Gregory appearing to try and enter the vehicle of a man who tried to drive through the crowd during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, (top) and Gregory falling back and tended to by medics after being shot in the arm (bottom), in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

“I had maybe just stepped to the main window, and I was looking over the crowd and seeing what was going on. I heard a scream and commotion and rushed to the dirty side window to photograph what was happening in a side street,” she said.

“The whole sequence probably took a minute, it happened very quickly.”

Video taken by others at the scene show that the man who was injured fell to the ground after he appeared to lean into the car. The shooter handed himself over to the police shortly after the incident.

“Suspect in custody, gun recovered after man drove vehicle into crowd at 11th and Pine. Seattle Fire transported victim to hospital,” Seattle Police wrote in a tweet.

A police report of the incident obtained by a local NPR radio station named the injured man as Daniel Gregory and said he had a gunshot wound to the arm.

A GoFundMe page set up for Gregory said he was recovering in the hospital. Reuters could not immediately reach Gregory for comment.

The demonstrations were sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis two weeks ago, and have evolved into a movement for racial equality and reforms to police departments across the country.

For Wasson, the protests in her home town have been of a size and intensity unlike others she has seen before.

“It has been very odd to see something like this where you grew up. What feels different this time is the scale and how sustained it’s been. I’ve never seen it happen for this long, this extended energy and purpose,” she said.

The majority of her coverage of the protests over the last week has been of more peaceful moments, said Wasson.

At those times, she has focused on how she will tell the story. But it is also important for a photographer on the ground to read the situation and be aware of exit routes if needed, she added.

In this case, she had an unusually high vantage point that gave her the perfect view. Taking photos through glass is never ideal, because of the challenges related to reflection. How the images turn out depends on the light and how close you can get, said Wasson.

“It’s not ideal but at that particular moment it was the only thing available to me.”

(Reporting by Greg Scruggs and Rosalba O’Brien; Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Minneapolis city council pledges to disband police

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Minneapolis city council members pledged to abolish the police force whose officer knelt on the neck of a dying George Floyd, as the biggest civil rights protests in more than 50 years demanded a transformation of U.S. criminal justice.

Demonstrations have swept a country slowly emerging from the coronavirus lockdown in the two weeks since Floyd, an unarmed black man, 46, died after choking out the words “I can’t breathe” under the knee of a white police officer.

Trump said on Twitter he ordered the National Guard to start withdrawing from Washington D.C. “now that everything is under perfect control”.

Though there was violence in the early days, the protests have lately been overwhelmingly peaceful. They have deepened a political crisis for President Donald Trump, who repeatedly threatened to order active-duty troops onto the streets.

Huge weekend crowds gathered across the country and in Europe. The high-spirited atmosphere was marred late on Sunday when a man drove a car into a rally in Seattle and then shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him.

“I have cops in my family, I do believe in a police presence,” said Nikky Williams, a black Air Force veteran who marched in Washington on Sunday. “But I do think that reform has got to happen.”

The prospect that Minneapolis could abolish its police force altogether would have seemed unthinkable just two weeks ago. Nine members of the 13-person city council pledged on Sunday to do away with the police department in favor of a community-led safety model, though they provided little detail.

“A veto-proof majority of the MPLS City Council just publicly agreed that the Minneapolis Police Department is not reformable and that we’re going to end the current policing system,” Alondra Cano, a member of the Minneapolis council, said on Twitter.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters he would shift some funds out of the city’s vast police budget and reallocate it to youth and social services. He said he would take enforcement of rules on street vending out of the hands of police, accused of using the regulations to harass minorities.

Curfews were removed in New York and other major cities including Philadelphia and Chicago.

 

In the nation’s capital, a large and diverse gathering of protesters had packed streets near the White House, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” and “I can’t breathe.”

A newly-erected fence around the White House was decorated by protesters with signs, including some that read: “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.”

The “Black Lives Matter” protest slogan was also embraced on Sunday by Trump’s predecessor as Republican candidate for president, Senator Mitt Romney, who marched alongside evangelical Christians in Washington.

Romney told the Washington Post that he wanted to find “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter”.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama also addressed the protests in a YouTube speech for 2020 high school and college graduates. The demonstrations “speak to decades of inaction over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system,” Obama said.

“You don’t have to accept what was considered normal before,” he told the graduates. “You don’t have to accept the world as it is. You can make it the world as it should be.”

 

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Andrea Shalal, Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, and Jonathan Allen and Sinead Carew in New York, and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Writing by Peter Graff, Brad Brooks and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Frank McGurty, Peter Cooney, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Tattersall)

Australia asks embassy in U.S. to register concern over cameraman

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has asked its embassy in the United States to register its concerns with authorities there about an apparent police assault on an Australian cameraman during a protest in Washington, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, thousands of Australians marched in Sydney to protest against the death of black American George Floyd in U.S. police custody, after days of demonstrations and clashes in the United States sparked by the killing.

The Sydney protest came as Australian police face questions about use of force during the arrest of a teenager of aboriginal descent.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Australian government would support Channel Seven, where the cameraman worked, should it wish to lodge its concerns over the incident in Washington with U.S. authorities through the embassy there.

“I want to get further advice on how we would go about registering Australia’s strong concerns with the responsible local authorities in Washington,” Payne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“So our embassy in the United States will approach the relevant authorities, and Channel Seven will also provide us with their views on how they wish to deal with it.”

Video footage posted on social media showed Channel 7 correspondent Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers broadcasting live on a street when riot police approached to clear the area, hitting Myers with a shield.

The pair are then seen trying to leave the scene while another policeman swung at them with a baton.

“This is obviously a very troubling period in the United States, and a very tough period,” Payne told the ABC. “We encourage all involved on both sides to exercise constraint and avoid violence.”

‘EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM’

Earlier, protesters in Australia’s biggest city defied coronavirus restrictions on crowds to march from a park towards government buildings, holding signs saying “I can’t breathe!” and chanting “Black lives matter” and “Take a knee” while mounted police stood by.

“This is everybody’s problem,” Kira Dargin, an aboriginal Wiradjuri woman at the protest told Reuters.

“As a black woman, I’m tired of seeing my brothers go down. As a black mother I fear for my child. Got to stop.”

An investigation has been opened in Sydney into the arrest of a 17-year-old of aboriginal descent after video footage appeared on social media showing him being handcuffed and kicked to the ground after an argument with police.

The constable involved has been put on restricted duties while the investigation takes place.

“This is not the United States of America,” Assistant Commissioner Michael Wiling told reporters. “We have very, very good relations with our local community. I’m concerned that people will pre-empt the outcomes of the investigation and draw conclusions prior to that.”

(Reporting by Paulina Duran, Loren Elliot, and Jill Gralow in Sydney; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Robert Birsel)

A daughter learns in voicemails that coronavirus has killed her mother

By Tim Reid

(Reuters) – Debbie de los Angeles woke up on March 3 to two voicemails from nurses at the Seattle-area care home that housed her 85-year-old mother, Twilla Morin.

In the first one, left at 4:15 a.m., a nurse asked a troubling question – whether the “do not resuscitate” instructions for her mother’s end-of-life care were still in force.

“We anticipate that she, too, has coronavirus, and she’s running a fever of 104,” the woman on the recording said. “We do not anticipate her fighting, so we just want to make sure that your goal of care would be just to keep her here and comfortable.”

The nursing home in Kirkland, Washington was dealing with the beginnings of an outbreak that has since been linked to more than 30 deaths. De los Angeles had not yet fully grasped the grave threat; she comforted herself with the thought that her mother had made it through flu outbreaks at the center before.

Then she took in the next voicemail, left three hours after the first by a different nurse.

“Hi Debbie, my name is Chelsey … I need to talk to you about your Mom if you could give us a call. Her condition is declining, so if you can call us soon as possible that would be great. Thanks. Bye.”

De los Angeles called the home immediately. Her mom was comfortable, she was told. She did not change the “do not resuscitate” instruction. She wanted to visit, but held off: She is 65, and her husband Bob is 67; both have underlying medical conditions that pose serious risks if they contract coronavirus. She thought they had more time to find the best way to comfort her mother in what might be her final hours.

At 3 a.m. the next morning, Wednesday, March 4, de los Angeles woke up and reached for her phone. Life Care Center had called – leaving another voice message just a few minutes earlier, at 2:39 a.m.

“I know it’s early in the morning but Twilla did pass away at 2:10 because of the unique situation,” the nurse said. “The remains will be picked up from the coroner’s office. They’ve got your contact.”

The “unique situation” has of course become tragically common worldwide, as thousands of families have been separated from their loved ones in the last days before they died in isolation, often after deteriorating quickly. The three voicemails – eerily routine and matter-of-fact – would be de los Angeles’ final connection to her mother. She had gone from knowing relatively little about the threat of COVID-19 to becoming a bereaved daughter in the span of one day.

The hurried voicemails with such sensitive information were one sign of the chaos inside the facility at the time, as nurses worked feverishly to contain the outbreak while residents died from a virus that was just hitting the United States. One of the nurses who called de los Angeles, Chelsey Earnest, had been director of nursing at another Life Care facility and volunteered to come to Kirkland to care for patients through the outbreak. She never expected the disease would cause dozens of deaths and the mass infection of patients and staff.

Earnest worked the night shift, when patients with the disease seemed to struggle the most, and many, like Morin, succumbed to the disease. Infected patients developed a redness in and around their eyes. The center’s phones rang constantly as worried families called for updates. About a third of the center’s 180 staff members started showing symptoms of the disease; the rest started a triage operation.

“There were no protocols,” said Life Care spokesman Tim Killian, as nurses found themselves thrust into a situation more dire than any faced by an elderly care facility “in the history of this country.”

The center’s nurses, he said, would not normally leave such sensitive information about dying relatives in voicemails, but they had little time to do anything else – and did not want anyone to hear about a loved one’s condition in the news before the center could inform them. Outside the home, journalists and family members gathered for the latest scraps of information on the home’s fight against the virus. Many relatives, barred from going inside for safety reasons, stood outside the windows of their loved ones’ rooms, looking at them through the glass as they conversed over the phone.

Leaving the emergency voicemails, Killian said, made “the best of a difficult situation.”

From the outside, the messages appear abrupt and impersonal, but may well have been the best or only way to properly notify families in such a crisis, said Ruth Faden, professor of biomedical ethics at John Hopkins University’s Berman Institute of Bioethics. While medical professionals should normally aim to impart such urgent information in person, the circumstances – an overwhelmed staff, dealing with dozens of dying patients – likely made that impossible, she said.

“The way to find out is difficult, always,” Faden said. “What people remember is how much the nurse cared about the person.”

When de Los Angeles heard of her mother’s death in one of those voicemails, she immediately called one of the nurses back, looking for any bits of information about her mother’s final hours. The nurse sounded upset.

“She told me my Mom was one of her favorite people there; she was going to miss seeing my Mom going up and down the hallway in her wheelchair,” de los Angeles said.

They had given her mother morphine and Ativan to keep her calm and comfortable, the nurse told her.

“My Mom was asleep, and then she just went to sleep permanently,” de los Angeles said.

De los Angeles, an only child, aches over not having spoken to her mother before she died. Morin had been a bookkeeper for several companies. De los Angeles fondly remembers doing household chores with her mother on Saturday mornings, then going to the local mall or to Woolworth’s for lunch.

The separation continued even after her mother’s death. De los Angeles telephoned the crematorium where her mother had been taken, as Morin had arranged years earlier, to ask if she could view the body.

“Absolutely not,” the woman told her, out of concern de los Angeles could be infected.

Morin had been tested for coronavirus shortly after she died, on March 4. The results confirmed her coronavirus infection a week later. Soon afterwards, she was cremated.

“We picked up her ashes on Saturday,” she said. “I never saw or spoke to mom. It’s put off the closure.”

It’s also put off the funeral. De los Angeles had planned the ceremony for April 4 – the birthday of her father, who died ten years ago. Her ashes would be placed next to his. But the service will have to wait because Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, has banned gatherings of 10 people or more.

In the meantime, de los Angeles has worked to make sure her mother’s death certificate records her as a causality of the pandemic. The doctor who signed it did not have confirmed test results showing a COVID-19 infection at the time of her death, de los Angeles said, and listed the cause as “a viral illness, coronary artery disease and a respiratory disorder.” But the doctor has since moved to include coronavirus as a cause, at de los Angeles’ request.

As she waits for the funeral, de los Angeles has put the urn holding her mother’s ashes behind some flowers on the mantle in her living room. She says she can’t bear to look at it.

(Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Brian Thevenot)