Government authorities and private businesses continue to grapple with the rising tide of COVID-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant, by tightening mask and vaccination requirements, despite resistance from those claiming government overreach or personal choice.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has reinstated the state’s requirement that residents wear masks outdoors at any public event. It goes into effect Friday.

Disney Cruise Line has announced it will require that passengers be vaccinated, despite Florida’s law threatening cruise lines with fines for requiring proof of vaccination.

In Franklin County, former NFL player and unsuccessful GOP congressional candidate Clint Didier, a county commissioner, led a jeering revolt against Gov. Jay Inslee’s indoor mask mandate at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world.

Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

Japan further expands virus emergency areas as cases surge

Japan expanded its coronavirus state of emergency on Wednesday for a second week in a row, adding eight more prefectures as a surge in infections fueled by the delta variant strains the country’s health care system.

The government last week extended the state of emergency until Sept. 12 and expanded the areas covered to 13 prefectures from six including Tokyo. With four new prefectures added to a separate “quasi-emergency” status, 33 of Japan’s 47 prefectures are now under some type of emergency measures.

Eight prefectures were upgraded from quasi-emergency status to a full emergency.

Read the story here.

—Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press

Most municipalities in Washington state aren’t pursuing vaccine mandates for their workers

After an announcement from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office that most state employees and health care workers need to be vaccinated no later than Oct. 18, King County and the city of Seattle implemented similar mandates.

But most municipalities in Washington aren’t pursuing vaccine mandates for their workers. The city of Vancouver, Clark County, for example, is not considering implementing policies that would require that its employees receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, a spokesperson confirmed.

Vancouver director of communications Cara Rene said that the city does not have a comparable vaccine mandate for its public employees, and it isn’t considering one.

In most Washington cities, officials have indicated that they’re in a holding pattern — carefully watching for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and county health departments, before implementing any policy that goes beyond simply encouraging their employees to get vaccinated.

Read the story here.

—Calley Hair, The Columbian

FDA approval still may not convince vaccination fence-sitters

It was hoped that formal Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine might convince vaccination fence-sitters to be more inclined to get the shot, but that may not be happening.

The Washington Post has been following a group of people who haven't been vaccinated yet, but several of whom had said FDA approval of the vaccine might change their minds. Now that's happened, several say they still aren't convinced.

More than 85 million Americans have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, even as the contagious Delta variant has sent hospitalizations soaring and brought back mask and social distancing restrictions many hoped were in the past. Some argue that it's an argument for stronger mandates. Read the whole story here.

J&J says COVID-19 booster shot triggered an antibody surge

Johnson & Johnson said a booster of its COVID-19 vaccine provided a rapid and strong increase in antibodies, supporting use of a second shot among people who previously received its single-dose immunization.

A second dose of the J&J vaccine led to a ninefold increase in Covid-fighting antibodies compared with the levels participants had 28 days after getting their first shot, the health-care giant said Wednesday, citing interim data from an early-stage trial.

Trial participants were given the booster six months after the first shot, according to J&J. Significant increases in antibody responses were seen in subjects ages 18 to 55 years old, and among those 65 or older who were given a lower dose of the booster. The data are being submitted to a preprint medical publication, MedRxiv.

Read the story here.

—Riley Griffin, Bloomberg

Thinking about taking an at-home coronavirus test? Here’s what to know

As the demand for coronavirus tests soars amid a surge in cases, many people are turning to at-home test kits to avoid long lines at testing sites or visits to a health care provider.

It’s why the state Department of Health is reminding the public the importance of using the right type of tests and seeking care and self-isolating if a person tests positive.

And to help combat the spread of the virus, it’s crucial to report positive results to the state. DOH announced Tuesday that residents can now report their positive results from an at-home test through the state’s COVID-19 hotline.

Read the story here to find out what you need to know before taking a self-test.

—Daisy Zavala

Nebraska state job ad touts lack of vaccine requirement

Nebraska’s veterans affairs agency is facing questions from a state lawmaker after it published job advertisements for nurses touting the fact that the state doesn’t require its employees to get coronavirus vaccinations.

The ads on a state jobs website prominently note the lack of vaccination requirements for state employees, right after mentioning a $5,000 hiring bonus. In a separate mail advertisement, the state lists “No mandated COVID-19 vaccination” as one of the “many great benefits” of its nursing jobs.

State Sen. Carol Blood, of Bellevue, said she inquired about the ad after constituents with loved ones in Nebraska’s state-run veterans homes brought it to her attention. Blood said she understands that the state faces a chronic nursing shortage but was concerned because many veterans’ home residents are elderly and sick.

“It almost appears as if we saw this as an opportunity to scoop up people who don’t want to be vaccinated,” said Blood, whose district includes the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home. “I don’t know if that’s a really good strategy.”

The listings were posted shortly before Nebraska’s largest hospital systems jointly announced that they will require their employees to get vaccinated.

Read the story here.

—Grant Schulte, The Associated Press

State health officials confirm 3,054 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,054 new coronavirus cases and 31 new deaths on Wednesday.

The update brings the state's totals to 542,878 cases and 6,448 deaths, meaning that 1.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

In addition, 30,207 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 63 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 131,876 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,723 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,468,695 doses and 54.4% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 12,893 vaccine shots per day.

The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.


COVID-19 testing demand surges in Cowlitz County

The demand for COVID-19 tests has increased since July in Cowlitz County, limiting same-day appointments at some testing sites.

COVID-19 tests do not appear to be as scarce as they were back in the fall and winter when it took up to two weeks to get an appointment, said Stefanie Donahue, Cowlitz County Health and Human Services communication manager. The department is working with health-care facilities to identify ways to expand testing capacity locally, she said.

Cowlitz County has seen a significant increase in cases since early to mid-July. The county recorded 112 new confirmed cases and two new deaths Tuesday. Cowlitz County has recorded a total of 113 deaths, 8,165 confirmed cases and 903 probable cases (individuals with a positive antigen test and no positive molecular test).

Read the story here.

—Katie Fairbanks, The Daily News

Pfizer seeking FDA OK for COVID-19 vaccine booster dose

Pfizer is seeking U.S. approval of a booster dose of its two-shot COVID-19 vaccine.

The drugmaker said Wednesday that it has started the application process for a third dose of its vaccine for everyone ages 16 and older. The company said it will complete the application with the Food and Drug Administration by the end of this week.

The FDA earlier this month said transplant recipients or others with weakened immune systems can get an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Then last week, U.S. health officials announced plans to give COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant of the coronavirus.

That plan drew criticism from scientists at the World Health Organization, who noted that poor countries are not getting enough vaccine for their initial rounds of shots.

Read the story here.

—Tom Murphy, The Associated Press

Pierce Co. worries about firefighter exodus over vax mandate

Fire chiefs and union leaders in Pierce County, Washington, say about 30 percent of their departments or membership have yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and they worry that a vaccinate mandate will prompt people to quit.

The News Tribune reports some firefighters have told coworkers they are looking at other jobs, leaving the state or retiring early.

“We’re going to be forced to decide whether to take this vaccine or whether to seek alternatives that could potentially be outside of this job,” Pierce County Professional Firefighters President Aaron James said.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all state employees, educational employees, and health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 18 or face termination. Firefighters have EMT and paramedic training and are therefore considered health care workers.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

NRA cancels annual meeting in Texas due to COVID concerns

The National Rifle Association announced Tuesday it has canceled its annual meeting, which had been set to be held next month in Houston, due to concerns over COVID-19.

The NRA’s meeting had been set for Sept. 3 through Sept. 5 and would have been attended by thousands of people taking part in social gatherings and other events on acres of exhibition space.

The organization said it made the decision after analyzing relevant data regarding COVID-19 in Harris County, where Houston is located. Houston, like other Texas cities and communities, has seen a jump in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly contagious delta variant. Hospitals in the Houston area and around the state have continued to fill up with COVID-19 patients, with ambulances sometimes waiting hours to offload patients as beds have become scarce.

The NRA had announced in January it had filed for bankruptcy protection and would change its state of incorporation from New York to gun-friendly Texas. But a judge rejected the NRA’s bankruptcy case in May, ruling the nonprofit organization had not acted in good faith.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Wisconsin lawmaker with COVID-19 on ventilator, stable

A Republican state senator from Wisconsin who opposed mask and vaccine mandates and then developed pneumonia after testing positive for COVID-19 was in stable condition Wednesday after being placed on a ventilator, his spokesman said.

State Sen. Andre Jacque, 40, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month and was hospitalized Aug. 16. He was placed on a ventilator Monday night, spokesman Matt Tompach said in providing the first update on his condition in a week.

Placing COVID-19 patients on a ventilator is often the last option of treatment when a patient is struggling to breathe. Some patients who are placed on ventilators do recover.

Jacque said Aug. 16 that he had tested positive the previous week after testifying at a packed committee hearing while not wearing a mask. Jacque opposed mask mandates and requirements for vaccinations. It wasn’t known whether Jacque was vaccinated.

Read the story here.

—Scott Bauer, The Associated Press

Woman who coughed on market produce, claimed virus gets jail

A Pennsylvania woman who pleaded guilty to coughing and spitting on food at a supermarket in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic was sentenced Tuesday to at least a year in jail.

Margaret Ann Cirko, 37, pleaded guilty in June to a felony count of making bomb threats.

Authorities said Cirko entered a Gerrity’s Supermarket location in Hanover Township, near Wilkes-Barre, on March 25, 2020, and purposely coughed on fresh produce and other merchandise while yelling that she had the virus and that everyone would get sick.

Joe Fasula, co-owner of the supermarket chain, said that over $35,000 worth of merchandise had to be thrown out as a result of what Gerrity’s had called a “twisted prank.”

Cirko tested negative for COVID-19, according to her attorney, who said she was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Cirko apologized in court Tuesday.

“I wish I could take it back,” she said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

New NY governor adds 12,000 deaths to publicized COVID tally

Delivering another blow to what’s left of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legacy, New York’s new governor acknowledged on her first day in office that the state has had nearly 12,000 more deaths from COVID-19 than Cuomo told the public.

“The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening. And that’s whether it’s good or bad, they need to know the truth. And that’s how we restore confidence,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on NPR.

In its first daily update on the outbreak Tuesday evening, Hochul’s office reported that nearly 55,400 people have died of the coronavirus in New York based on death certificate data submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s up from about 43,400 that Cuomo reported to the public as of Monday, his last day in office. The Democrat who was once widely acclaimed for his leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak resigned in the face of an impeachment drive after being accused of sexually harassing at least 11 women, allegations he disputed.

The higher number is not entirely new. Federal health officials and some academic institutions tracking COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been using the higher tally for many months because of known gaps in the data Cuomo had been choosing to publicize.

Read the story here.

—Marina Villanueve, The Associated Press

Pentagon: US troops must get their COVID-19 vaccines ASAP

Military troops must immediately begin to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo Wednesday, ordering service leaders to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation.”

More than 800,000 service members have yet to get their shots, according to Pentagon data. And now that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the Defense Department is adding it to the list of required shots troops must get as part of their military service.

The Austin memo does not dictate a specific timeline for completing the vaccinations. But it says the military services will have to report regularly on their progress. A senior defense official said that Austin has made it clear to the services that he expects them to move quickly, and that this will be completed in weeks not months.

“To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” Austin said in the memo. “After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease…is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.”

Read the story here.

—Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press

Delta Air Lines will make unvaccinated employees pay charge

Delta Air Lines will charge employees on the company health plan $200 a month if they fail to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy the airline’s top executive says is necessary because the average hospital stay for the virus costs the airline $40,000.

CEO Ed Bastian said that all employees who have been hospitalized for the virus in recent weeks were not fully vaccinated.

The airline said Wednesday that it also will stop extending pay protection to unvaccinated workers who contract COVID-19 on Sept. 30, and will require unvaccinated workers to be tested weekly beginning Sept. 12, although Delta will cover the cost. They will have to wear masks in all indoor company settings.

Delta stopped short of matching United Airlines, which will require employees to be vaccinated starting Sept. 27 or face termination. However, the $200 monthly surcharge, which starts in November, may have the same effect.

Read the story here.

—David Koenig, The Associated Press

Dr. Fauci says no end to COVID pandemic before spring 2022 — at the earliest

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. won’t emerge from the COVID pandemic until next spring at the earliest.

The world-renowned infectious disease expert predicted the coming months will remain very difficult, with high caseloads and deaths especially in places with low vaccination rates.

“If we can get through this winter … I hope we can get some good control in the spring of 2022,” Fauci told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday night.

Fauci said it will be impossible to get a grip on the pandemic until underwhelming vaccination rates dramatically improve.

Read the story here.

—Dave Goldiner New York Daily News

Coronavirus vaccines remain highly effective at stopping severe disease amid spread of delta, data show

Unvaccinated people in Los Angeles County were five times as likely to get infected with the coronavirus and 29 times as likely to be hospitalized as people who were fully immunized, newly released data from California show. It’s the latest evidence that vaccines continue to reduce significantly the risk of severe illness — their fundamental purpose — despite the spread of the more contagious delta variant.

The report, published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also demonstrates the limits of vaccines. They are not an impenetrable barrier to the virus. Some inoculated people are continuing to develop COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Vaccine effectiveness — the statistical measure of protection from infection in the vaccinated population — has dropped as the delta variant has spread. On May 1, the report said, people who had not been immunized were more than eight times as likely to be infected as people who were fully vaccinated. That was before delta took hold, and on July 25, the ratio had dropped to about a fivefold greater risk.

But the vast majority of “breakthrough” cases among vaccinated people do not require hospitalization.

Read the story here.

—The Washington Post

The viral Milk Crate Challenge has left people injured. Doctors are begging them to stop.

Step by step, participants walk precariously up a pyramid of milk crates, inching closer to greatness or, more likely, a trip to the emergency room that will be viewed by millions.

When they fall — and they usually do — throngs of people who’ve helped make the social-media spectacle known as the Milk Crate Challenge into the latest viral phenomenon proceed to sing a chorus of “oh!” and “ah!” as the pyramid collapses and a person’s body painfully lands on a milk crate or the ground.

But many have noted that the Milk Crate Challenge has taken up where the Tide Pod Challenge left off as a viral meme that’s become a public health hazard largely fueled by social media.

Some doctors are also warning that the injuries from the challenge are putting more stress on hospitals at a time when emergency rooms nationwide are overwhelmed because of the surge in coronavirus infections.

Read the story here.

—Timothy Bella, The Washington Post

Most Florida students must wear masks, despite Gov. DeSantis

Just over half of Florida’s 2.8 million public school students now face mandates to wear masks in classrooms as a courtroom battle continues over efforts by Gov. Ron DeSantis to leave such decisions up to parents.

A majority of school board members in Orange County told the superintendent on Tuesday to require most students to wear masks, and agreed with her recommendation to keep the mandate through Oct. 30.

The district began its school year this month with a parental opt-out, but a surge in students across the Orlando area testing positive for COVID-19 has disrupted classes. Through Tuesday, the district reported 1,968 positive cases among students since school began, with 1,491 people under active quarantine, according to the district’s dashboard.

At least 10 school boards making up some of the largest districts in Florida are now defying the DeSantis administration’s attempt to ban local mandates on masks in schools.

Read the story here.

—Curt Anderson, The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Scientists are racing to unravel the pandemic's toll on kids' brains. Researchers’ latest findings on depression and anxiety are a dire signal that the youngest Americans are paying a steep cost, and those findings hold lessons for parents and teachers. The good news is that scientists are already identifying timely solutions to protect kids and help them recover. 

King County is the first big county in the nation to vaccinate more than 70% of eligible residents with at least one dose, the county's executive said yesterday.

A county commissioner in Washington refused to wear a mask at what was supposed to be a regular meeting. It all went downhill from there.

If you're going to Oregon, you'll need a mask in most outdoor public areas. The state once seen as a COVID-19 success story has hit "a level of crisis we have not seen" in the pandemic. You can track the virus' spread across the Northwest and the nation on these maps.

Deep breath: The pandemic won't end until spring at the earliest, Dr. Anthony Fauci said last night, predicting a very difficult winter. And with breakthrough infections, just how much protection are the vaccines providing? New research out of L.A. offers some clear indications.

More than 1 of every 100 school-aged children has tested positive for the virus in the past two weeks in Georgia, as outbreaks across the U.S. force schools back to remote learning.

—Kris Higginson