Photojournal: Seattle Rush Hour Evaporates

COVID-19 cases continue to grow in King County and officials recommend employers allow as many people to telecommute as possible to slow the spread of coronavirus. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and other tech firms tell their thousands of Seattle-based employees to stay home. Seattle typically ranks 2nd worst in the nation for traffic congestion but the streets clear rapidly. As many more businesses are restricted or closed, the roads become even emptier and the early morning commute becomes completely unrecognizable. I took these images overlooking downtown Seattle on a Friday morning, around 7:30-8:00am, during what should have been bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.

A Pandemic Photojournal Begins

A month ago, on January 20, the first known US case of COVID-19 appeared in King County, Washington, where I live. Yesterday, the virus began spreading. As a visual storyteller and photojournalist, I felt an urgent need to get out and photograph as much as possible. So, I decided to start a pandemic photojournal. Though I will be working on other projects and assignments, these particular images are not necessarily for any publication. They are one WOC photographer’s perspective during a time of pandemic.

Today, February 29, a King County man became the first to die from COVID-19 in the US. As case numbers grow in Washington State, shoppers are starting to panic-buy; hoarding toilet & tissue paper, sanitizer, disinfectant wipes & solutions, flour, sugar, and rice. Stores are selling out of these products across the state and emptied shelves are becoming a familiar site. When new stock comes in, customers line up to wait and buy everything instantaneously.

Emptied toilet and tissue paper shelves at a Safeway on Rainier Avenue in South Seattle.
Completely sold out of hand sanitizer at the same Safeway.
Shoppers queue up in a long line that wraps around the building at Seattle’s Costco.
To control the number of people entering the store (and maintain safe distance inside), shoppers are organized into three lines at Seattle Costco’s entrance using palettes stacked on the ground.
Just before shoppers enter Seattle’s Costco, they are advised by an employee how to shop safely and told what is out of stock.