Masks and vaccinations, vaccinations and masks. The debate over COVID-19 prevention and mitigation continues to rage, misinformation continues to spread and hospitals continue to be crowded.
A group of anti-mask protesters disrupted a Wenatchee School Board meeting Tuesday night after a board member complained about maskless audience members. In Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has publicly backed the use of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic deworming drug that has not been approved by the FDA for any kind of COVID treatment. And in Greece, hospital workers protested over vaccination mandates.
Powell: Fed on track to slow aid for economy later this year
The Federal Reserve will start dialing back its ultra-low-rate policies this year as long as hiring continues to improve, Chair Jerome Powell said Friday, signaling the beginning of the end of the Fed’s extraordinary response to the pandemic recession.
In a speech given virtually to an annual gathering of central bankers and academics, Powell said the economy had improved significantly this year, with average hiring in the past three months reaching the highest level on record for any similar period before the pandemic. Fed officials are monitoring the rapid rise in infections from the delta variant, he said, but they expect healthy job gains to continue.
The Fed has been buying $120 billion a month in mortgage and Treasury bonds to try to hold down longer-term loan rates to spur borrowing and spending. Powell’s comments indicate the Fed will likely announce a reduction — or “tapering” — of those purchases sometime in the final three months of this year. Most economists expect the announcement in November, with tapering actually beginning in December.
Brazilian town, not shy about bottoms, aims low for COVID-19 vaccine
RIO DE JANERIO -- Brazilians are not known for being bashful when it comes to their bottoms, and that proud affinity has extended to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the town of Joinville, population 600,000.
“I didn’t understand why almost no one in Joinville was posting vaccine photos,” editorial assistant Ana Siedschlag, a resident, said in a tweet that went viral. “Until I found out that almost everyone (including me) WAS TAKING THE VACCINE IN THE BUNDA.”
All of the memes and jokes — culminating in national news reports and a CNN Brasil broadcaster struggling to keep a straight face — have sent Joinville city officials scrambling.
They’ve been quick to clarify that, technically, people aren’t being vaccinated in the butt. They’re receiving it in the area right above it, an inch or two below the pants line, known as the ventrogluteal. This no man’s land is where Joinvillians have long received their vaccines, officials say.
Alaska governor outlines plans for addressing virus surge
Alaska this week reported its highest daily number of resident COVID-19 cases so far this year as health officials struggle to keep pace with testing and contact tracing and hospitals juggle a surge in patients with staff shortages and admissions for other conditions.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy and members of his administration on Thursday announced plans aimed at increasing staffing to help with COVID-19 cases, including speeding the licensing process for health care workers and seeking federal contracts for more workers, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
School bus company fined for ‘serious’ COVID-19 safety violations in Spokane
Durham School Services, which provides transportation to thousands of students in Spokane Public Schools, is facing a $7,000 fine for “serious” COVID-19 violations last winter during the height of the pandemic.
According to documents from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the company “did not provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, serious injury or death.”
Durham is appealing the fine, L&I officials said Thursday.
Cowlitz County’s COVID cases are 11 times higher than in early July
Weekly case counts have seen an elevenfold increase since early July in Cowlitz County, according to the county health department.
Statewide case counts increased eightfold over the same time period and are close to their winter peak, according to the county’s most recent data report.
“Case counts may continue to increase or have begun to level off both statewide and in Cowlitz County," the report said.
From Aug. 4 to Aug. 17, the most recent complete data, the county recorded 1,150 new cases, according to the state Department of Health.
US intelligence still divided on origins of coronavirus
U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the coronavirus but believe China’s leaders did not know about the virus before the start of the global pandemic, according to results released Friday of a review ordered by President Joe Biden.
According to an unclassified summary, four members of the U.S. intelligence community say with low confidence that the virus was initially transmitted from an animal to a human. A fifth intelligence agency believes with moderate confidence that the first human infection was linked to a lab. Analysts do not believe the virus was developed as a bioweapon.
China’s refusal to fully cooperate with U.S. and international investigations of the virus has hampered reviews of the virus’ origins. The Director of National Intelligence said Friday that China “continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information, and blame other countries including the United States.”
The cause of the coronavirus remains an urgent public health and security concern worldwide. In the U.S., many conservatives have accused Chinese scientists of developing COVID-19 in a lab and allowing it to leak. The scientific consensus remains that the virus most likely migrated from animals in what’s known as a zoonotic transmission.
Broadway theaters attack virus: ‘This is absolutely doable’
There’s a woman who has seen the play “Pass Over” multiple times in just a few days. She sat with the audience one night, returned another day to stand at the back of the theater and once stayed backstage for an entire performance.
Dr. Blythe Adamson loves the play. But she was searching for ways to lower the risks of COVID-19 transmission.
Adamson is tasked with making the August Wilson Theatre safer on both sides of the stage. She has climbed onto the roof to inspect the new HVAC ventilation system that brings in fresh air and put portable air filters around the building. She has talked to stage managers to understand the movement of people backstage and hung out in the lobby during shows to look for chokepoints. She once spent a performance loitering at the bathrooms to see how patrons could spread the virus.
At the August Wilson Theatre, the virus will have to grapple with Pam Remler, a former stage manager who is now a COVID-19 safety manager. Having been the stage manager there during the long run of “Jersey Boys,” she knows the theater’s nooks and crannies well.
“This is absolutely doable. We can have an industry. We can do it right. It takes all of us to do this, but it is absolutely doable,” said Remler.
State health officials confirm 4,299 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,299 new coronavirus cases and 36 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 550,988 cases and 6,507 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. Thursday.
In addition, 30,483 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 31 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 133,391 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,736 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,506,471 doses and 54.6% 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 13,970 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.
Jesse Jackson moves to rehab hospital, wife in ICU for COVID
The Rev. Jesse Jackson has been transferred to a hospital focused on physical rehabilitation after receiving treatment for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection while his wife, Jacqueline, has been moved to an intensive care unit, according to a family statement released Friday.
Jonathan Jackson, one of the couple’s five children, said that his father’s COVID-19 symptoms are abating.
Jacqueline Jackson is not on a ventilator but is receiving increased oxygen in the ICU at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Jonathan Jackson said.
EXPLAINER: What happens when an ICU reaches capacity?
The latest surge in coronavirus cases is overwhelming many intensive care units, causing hospitals and states to run out of ICU beds in some locations.
Kentucky and Texas broke records this week for COVID-19 hospitalizations, joining a handful of other states that had already reached the same milestone in recent weeks. Arkansas said it ran out of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients for the first time since the pandemic began.
Nearly 80% of the country’s ICU beds — or about 68,000 — were in use Thursday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And about 30 percent of those beds, or nearly 25,000, were filled by someone with COVID-19.
As states get hammered by the super-transmissible delta variant, the surge has raised questions about what it means for individual patients in places where there are no available beds.
COVID-19 vaccine rates, plus 2 new studies offer hope for U.S. schools
Officials offered new hope for the safety of U.S. schoolchildren threatened by COVID-19 on Friday as Gulf Coast hospitals already full of unvaccinated patients braced for the nightmare scenario of a major hurricane causing a wave of fractures, cuts and heart attacks without enough staff to treat the injured.
The Biden administration said half of U.S. adolescents ages 12-17 had gotten at least their first COVID-19 vaccine, and the inoculation rate among teens is growing faster than any other age group.
Meanwhile, new studies from California both provided more evidence that schools can open safely if they do the right things and highlighted the danger of failing to follow proper precautions.
A study of COVID-19 cases from the winter pandemic peak in Los Angeles County found that case rates among children and adolescents were about 3½ times lower than in the general community when schools followed federal guidance on mask wearing, physical distancing, testing and other virus measures, officials said.
Virtual schools saw little disruption, got equal virus aid
While many schools scrambled to shift to online classes last year, the nation’s virtual charter schools faced little disruption. For them, online learning was already the norm. Most have few physical classrooms, or none at all.
Yet when Congress sent $190 billion in pandemic aid to schools, virtual charters received just as much as any other school because the same formula applied to all schools, with more money going to those in high-poverty areas, an Associated Press investigation found.
“It’s scandalous that they’re getting that much money,” said Gordon Lafer, an economist at the University of Oregon and school board member in Eugene, Oregon. “There were all kinds of costs that were extraordinary because of COVID, but online schools didn’t have any of them.”
The infusion of federal relief has inflamed a decadeslong debate about the role of the nation’s 200-plus fully virtual charter schools, which are publicly funded schools that operate independently or under the umbrella of public school districts. They generally offer classes through online learning platforms provided by private companies.
Leaders of online schools say virtual charters offer a valuable option for students who don’t do well in traditional classrooms. But critics say they drain money from other schools and often lead to poor outcomes for students.
Arizona nurse shares highs, lows of 18-month COVID-19 fight
It was about two weeks ago when intensive care nurse Caroline Maloney stopped in her tracks as she walked toward the unit where she has spent the past year and a half caring for COVID-19 patients.
For months, her hospital’s six ICU units had been nearly back to normal, not sealed off because the beds were filled with patients battling the insidious infection that had claimed many of her patients — so many that she long ago lost count.
But on this day, the doors were closed. And she knew what it meant.
“I couldn’t believe we’re doing this again,” said Maloney, a 55-year-old nurse with nearly 30 years’ experience. “We’ve closed the unit again, and here we are again.”
Brutal benchmark: Arizona passes 1 million COVID-19 cases
Arizona surpassed 1 million COVID-19 cases Friday, becoming the 13th state to reach the grim milestone while contending with yet another major spike in infections.
The benchmark is the latest in a tumultuous year and a half where Arizona went from being touted as a pandemic success story to being “the hot spot of the world” and then being a model again when vaccinations became available. Now, the state, like the rest of the country, is coping with a surge — mostly of the unvaccinated — and ongoing conflicts over mask and vaccine mandates.
It ranks 13th nationwide in the number of cases per 100,000 residents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker.
Wife hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida gets home to find husband dead from same virus
Lisa Steadman had spent more than a week in a Central Florida hospital recovering from a serious case of the coronavirus while Ronald Steadman, who had also contracted COVID-19, battled a milder case from home.
She could not wait to get home, but when she did, her husband didn't seem to be there.
When she cracked open the bedroom door, she found Ron, 55, unresponsive on his side of the bed and their three dogs in distress. By then, his body had already began decomposing, she said. The dogs looked as if they had not been fed or given water for at least two days, she said.
Neither Ron, who died of COVID-19 complications, nor Lisa had been vaccinated. Both thought the vaccine came out too fast and they'd have time for their shots later.
State superintendent’s emergency rule will penalize Washington schools not complying with mask, vaccine requirements
Washington school districts that “willfully” violate state COVID-19 health mandates are at risk of losing state funding, the state’s top school official said Wednesday, but they will be given at least two chances to come into compliance.
Chris Reykdal, state superintendent of public instruction, filed an emergency rule outlining the penalties for school districts that fail to comply with Washington’s COVID-19 health measures, including the statewide mask mandate and the vaccine requirement for school employees. His office announced the penalty for districts that don’t follow state rules in July.
School districts that “willfully” don’t follow thehealth and safety requirements are at risk of having state funding withheld, Reykdal said.
COVID-19 forces Idaho hospitals past capacity, toward crisis
Hospital facilities and public health agencies are scrambling to add capacity as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise statewide. But many Idaho residents don’t seem to feel the same urgency.
Volunteers are helping with contract tracing at the Central District Health Department, and health education classrooms are being converted into COVID-19 treatment units in northern Idaho. On Thursday, some Idaho hospitals only narrowly avoided asking the state to enact “crisis standards of care” — where scarce health care resources are allotted to the patients most likely to benefit — thanks in part to statewide coordination.
Meanwhile, unmasked spectators sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the showing arena at the Western Idaho Fair this week as kids maneuvered livestock around the ring. At West Ada School District, Idaho’s largest school district, 21% of students had officially “opted out” of the district’s mask requirement before the first day of school ended on Thursday.
Judge blocks Florida governor’s order banning mask mandates
School districts in Florida may impose mask mandates, a judge said Friday, ruling that Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority by issuing an executive order banning the mandates.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper agreed with a group of parents who claimed in a lawsuit that DeSantis’ order is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The governor’s order gave parents the sole right to decide if their child wears a mask at school.
Cooper said DeSantis’ order “is without legal authority.”
His decision came after a three-day virtual hearing, and after at least 10 Florida school boards voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask requirements with no parental opt-out.
South Africa gets more vaccines from US amid ongoing surge
South Africa will this weekend receive 2.2 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses donated by the United States to add to the 5.6 million doses it received from the U.S. in July.
The new doses come as the country continues to battle an extended resurgence of COVID-19 infections and is racing to vaccinate 67% of its 60 million people by February next year.
They are expected to be delivered on Saturday, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said during a weekly COVID-19 briefing.
100,000 more COVID deaths seen unless US changes its ways
The U.S. is projected to see nearly 100,000 more COVID-19 deaths between now and Dec. 1, according to the nation’s most closely watched forecasting model. But health experts say that toll could be cut in half if nearly everyone wore a mask in public spaces.
In other words, what the coronavirus has in store this fall depends on human behavior.
“Behavior is really going to determine if, when and how sustainably the current wave subsides,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. “We cannot stop delta in its tracks, but we can change our behavior overnight.”
That means doubling down again on masks, limiting social gatherings, staying home when sick and getting vaccinated. “Those things are within our control,” Meyers said.
The U.S. is in the grip of a fourth wave of infection this summer, powered by the highly contagious delta variant, which has sent cases, hospitalizations and deaths soaring again, swamped medical centers, burned out nurses and erased months of progress against the virus.
Because of COVID surge, packed Tri-Cities hospitals turning ambulances away
One or more Tri-City hospitals was too busy to take patients coming by ambulance for significant periods nearly every day this month.
Dr. Kevin Hodges, emergency medical director for Benton and Franklin counties, said that there were also some days when all three of the Tri-Cities hospitals have been “on divert” for new patients at the same time, asking that ambulances take patients to a different hospital.
The busy hospitals and packed emergency rooms are causing substantial problems for Tri-Cities emergency medical services and the patients who call 911, either because they have COVID-19 or because of other medical emergencies, he said at a Benton Franklin Health District news briefing Thursday.
COVID-19 surge pummels Hawaii and its native population
Hawaii was once seen as a beacon of safety during the pandemic because of stringent travel and quarantine restrictions and overall vaccine acceptance that made it one of the most inoculated states in the country.
But the highly contagious delta variant exploited weaknesses as residents let down their guard and attended family gatherings after months of restrictions and vaccine hesitancy lingered in some Hawaiian communities.
Now, the governor is urging tourists to stay away and residents to limit travel, and leaders are re-imposing caps on sizes of social gatherings. And in an effort to address vaccine hesitancy, a group of businesses and nonprofits launched a public service campaign Thursday aimed at Native Hawaiians, many of whom harbor a deep distrust of the government dating back to the U.S.-supported overthrow of the monarchy in 1893.
Facing its worst virus surge, Oregon adopts nation’s toughest restrictions
Facing a 990% increase in coronavirus hospitalizations since July 9, Oregon leaders have deployed the National Guard to hospitals, dispatched crisis teams to the hardest-hit regions of the state and ordered educators and health care workers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.
Now, in her latest mandate that will take effect Friday, Gov. Kate Brown has gone beyond what any other state has done in battling the summer surge, requiring that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks when gathering closely in public, even when outdoors. She said more restrictions might be needed as the coming days unfold and the state tries to keep in-person schooling on track.
Oregon’s aggressive approach in restoring pandemic mandates is a stark divergence from states in the South, where outbreaks have been even worse but where many governors have resisted mandates for masks and vaccinations. But with the arrival of the delta variant, Oregon has become one of a handful of states where cases and hospitalizations have escalated beyond even the records set during the worst part of the pandemic last year.
Last week, a coronavirus patient in Roseburg died while waiting for an ICU bed.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Oregon, facing a 990% increase in coronavirus hospitalizations in less than two months, has adopted the nation's toughest restrictions — with more rules possible in the days ahead. Track the virus on these maps.
Washington schools that violate mask and vaccine mandates risk losing funding under a new emergency rule. Nationwide, controversies about masking at school are intensifying: In Florida, one ER doctor offered $50 mask exemption letters for kids. Then his hospital found out.
Before you take an at-home coronavirus test, it's important to know what kind you're picking and what to do about the test results. Here's a guide.
Pediatricians are getting besieged by parents who want vaccines for kids under 12. Among the reasons doctors say it's important to wait for the federal go-ahead: The dosage is likely to be different from what older kids are getting.
Half of COVID-19 patients in a new study had lingering symptoms a year after falling ill.
Most Read Local Stories
- This says it all: Congressman proposes 'Masks Off Act' for schools as 29% of COVID cases in his area are in schoolchildren
- Lack of answers is excruciating for family of man found shot to death at Seattle's Gas Works Park
- Wondering why society went off-kilter during the pandemic? It was all predicted in this book
- Kent man killed, Cougar football player injured in shooting near WSU campus
- Coronavirus daily news updates, September 25: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world