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Life in Seattle is changing because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The elbow bump has replaced the handshake, gatherings from a woman's march yesterday to university classes have moved online, and everyday decisions like whether to grab a coffee, ride a bus, even take prenatal yoga have become more difficult, as NPR's Leila Fadel reports.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: There are 16 pregnant women in this yoga class at a Seattle studio, and as peaceful as it's supposed to feel here, there's that underlying tension that runs beneath everything in the city these days. Before they start, Aubrey Jackson, the instructor, addresses the class.
AUBREY JACKSON: I just want you to know we've taken due diligence, and we do that all the time. And so after you leave, if you guys don't mind, just take a little extra time. Wipe down the blocks for me.
FADEL: Coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, is on everyone's mind. Jackson spent almost six hours the day before disinfecting because people are still coming.
JACKSON: There's just so much hype. There's the anxiety. People can feel it. And so we work on breathing, relaxing. You know, really, we can't isolate this thing.
FADEL: The class starts with the sharing circle. COVID-19 dominates that, too. Jessie Rymph (ph).
JESSIE RYMPH: I needed a lot of encouragement to come here today from my husband.
FADEL: And Lena Stockton.
LENA STOCKTON: Totally echo everyone...
STOCKTON: ...About feeling like crap about the state of the world this week and the fact that I'm bringing a human into this world and this state.
FADEL: These types of conversations - well, they're happening across the city as Seattleites cautiously go about life despite the outbreak of the virus.
JACKSON: You bring your hands to your belly.
FADEL: But for at least an hour, these women try to forget as they stretch and they breathe.
RYMPH: It's been really hard to leave the house.
FADEL: That's Jessie Rymph again. She's 30 weeks pregnant. It's her first baby, and this is her first big public outing since the outbreak.
RYMPH: I just need to know from other people that they feel like it's also OK to go out and be around other people and that we're not endangering our babies.
FADEL: She says she feels like there's shifting advice for pregnant women.
RYMPH: Canceling our baby shower - we're doing that today - yeah, because we have 30 people coming to our house. And I was more concerned right now for my parents coming in.
FADEL: Her parents live in rural Washington, and she doesn't want them to get sick. She and her husband canceled dinner plans the other night because their friends may have been exposed to the virus, and she's decided on a birthing center rather than the hospital they'd looked at because it has a couple cases of the illness. Danielle Wallace's mother was supposed to fly in for the birth of her baby. Now everything's up in the air. The answer to pretty much every question is...
DANIELLE WALLACE: I don't know. I don't know (laughter).
FADEL: Jessie Rymph and Lena Stockton are both working from home. They say their city is now infamous.
RYMPH: Yeah. I was on a meeting, and I told someone I was in Seattle. And they're in San Francisco, and he's like, oh, headquarters of coronavirus. Yeah, thanks. Yeah.
STOCKTON: We're the Wuhan of America.
RYMPH: Yeah, we are.
FADEL: Outside, Seattle is quieter, the rush hour traffic thinner. But some people are out shopping, eating, running. Marlin Watson is waiting for a bus near the University of Washington. In-person classes are canceled there.
MARLIN WATSON: Everyone's a little scared. Everyone's a little uneasy.
FADEL: He says it's hard to protect yourself from something you can't see.
WATSON: It's not tangible. It's - what can you do except for just follow the advice?
(SOUNDBITE OF BUS DOOR OPENING)
FADEL: He gets on the bus. Watson's job is to cook for homebound patients. They're particularly vulnerable to this disease, so he's slightly uneasy with public transportation right now. But he's got to get to lunch.
WATSON: I don't have a choice. Those of us that take public transportation, we - this is all we have.
FADEL: So Watson will wash his hands, try not to touch his face. And he hopes others do the same. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Seattle, Wash. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.