Coronavirus: Seattle closes more streets to ease social distancing

SEATTLE -- Seattle will close six more miles of residential streets to vehicle traffic to create space for pedestrians and bicyclists during the coronavirus outbreak.

The closures began Friday in the Greenwood, Othello, Rainier Beach, Beacon Hill and Central District neighborhoods. That's in addition to about 2.5 miles of street that were closed last week in the Central District and West Seattle.

The Seattle Times reports that ultimately, the city wants to close about 15 miles of streets across Seattle in the coming weeks to nonessential vehicle traffic to give more space for people to practice social distancing.

Through traffic isn't permitted but people who live along the streets can drive to and from their homes, and delivery workers can operate on the streets. The city will install signs to alert residents about the closures.

Seattle’s initiative follows efforts from other cities, including Denver and Philadelphia, to provide more space for pedestrians and bicyclists at a time when vehicle traffic in many areas has plummeted. Legislation proposed in New York City would close up to 75 miles of streets across all boroughs.

More than 12,750 people in Washington state have tested positive for the virus and more than 700 have died. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear healthy and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.