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Seattle and King County are practicing social distancing

SEATTLE – Lesli Conti slides a tray of lemon tarts from her convection oven and sets them on the counter for the customers she suspects won’t be coming through the door today.

It’s 2 p.m. on a Friday, prime afternoon coffee-and-snacks time for the tens of thousands of Amazon workers who would ordinarily be streaming into Conti’s Café Suisse, across the street from the world headquarters of the online retailer. But based on credit card receipts, her sales are down 50% from a normal day, when regulars stop in for café mochas, muffins and croissants imported from France.

“I think we are in the shock phase right now, and we have to get used to the new normal,” she says as she places blueberries atop the still-warm tarts and the smell of pastry fills the small room decorated with Swiss cowbells and maps.

Outside, the streets would normally be swarming with Amazonians, their yellow ID badges swinging from blue lanyards, picking up snacks from the parked food trucks, getting hair cuts, buying flowers, hailing Ubers and hopping onto shuttle buses.

This is not a normal day.

This is Day 2 of a new coronavirus policy across Seattle and King County, where public health officials have recommended that people work from home if possible. They are also recommending that people with pre-existing conditions – such as heart or lung disease or diabetes – and anyone over the age of 60 avoid large crowds at concerts, sporting events and social gatherings.

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Tourists in face masks take pictures of a pig statue at the Pike Place Market in Seattle on March 5, 2020, during an outbreak of coronavirus that prompted local authorities to recommend that people temporarily work from home and avoid large gatherings.

Public health officials said stopping the spread of the coronavirus will take more than masks and hand-washing. Keeping people apart will play a major role in “flattening the curve” of the infections, they say.

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The impact of the “social distancing” recommendations was immediate. Amazon has about 50,000 workers in the Seattle area, and Microsoft, Twitter and other tech companies with offices in Seattle all immediately adopted the county’s recommendations.

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