Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Aug. 11, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.
With more than 5 million Americans infected, the cost of fighting the coronavirus pandemic is rising while tax revenue and many other economic indicators continue to falter. Congressional talks over another relief package have failed, with no immediate prospects for a restart.
In Washington state, the Department of Health’s data reporting problems persist, leaving an incomplete picture of the virus’s spread here. The latest technical difficulty has led the state to stop publishing daily tallies of negative results.
Throughout Tuesday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Monday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
New Zealand scrambles to find source of new virus infections
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Health authorities in New Zealand were scrambling Wednesday to trace the source of a new outbreak of the coronavirus as the nation’s largest city went back into lockdown.
Authorities have found four cases of the virus in one Auckland household from an unknown source, the first reported cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days. The news came as an unpleasant surprise to many and raised questions about whether the nation’s general election would go ahead as planned next month.
Authorities said two of the people who had tested positive had traveled to the tourist city of Rotorua last weekend while suffering symptoms, and they were now trying to track their movements.
“We are working with urgency to find out what places the family may have visited while in Rotorua over the weekend,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. “But the important thing is here, people in Rotorua and indeed around the country should be vigilant about their health and seek advice if they have symptoms.”
Governor creates $40 million relief fund for undocumented immigrants
After months of talks with immigrant advocates, Gov. Jay Inslee is setting up a $40 million relief fund for people who can’t access federal stimulus programs because of their immigration status.
The fund will make Washington one of only a few states, including California and Oregon, to use government funds to provide financial assistance to undocumented immigrants harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inslee is starting another $3 million fund for food-production workers — whether undocumented immigrants or not — who become ill and are staying home.
This governor’s announcement of the funds comes as COVID-19 surges through Washington’s Latino population, including documented and undocumented immigrant farmworkers who have continued working throughout the pandemic. Among Washingtonians testing positive for the novel coronavirus as of Aug. 9, 43 percent were Latinos, who represent only 13% of the state’s population.
Over 900 in Georgia district quarantine as high school shut
CANTON, Ga. — A Georgia school district has quarantined more than 900 students and staff members because of possible exposure to the coronavirus since classes resumed last week and will temporarily shut down a hard-hit high school in which a widely shared photo showed dozens of maskless students posing together.
The quarantine figures from the Cherokee County School District include at least 826 students, according to data the district posted online. Located about 30 miles (60 kilometers) north of Atlanta, the district serves more than 42,000 students and began its new school year on Aug. 3.
On Tuesday, Georgia on Tuesday posted its highest single-day death total yet in the pandemic at 137 fatalities, according to the state Department of Public Health. The state is currently averaging reports of more than 60 deaths each day though people may have died earlier.
Of the fatalities reported on Tuesday, Department of Public Health spokesperson Nancy Nydam said 75 occurred in August, 54 in July and eight earlier. More than 4,300 people have died overall in Georgia.
Facebook says it has taken down 7 million posts for spreading coronavirus misinformation
Facebook said Tuesday that it took down 7 million posts pushing COVID-19 misinformation from its main social media site and Instagram between April and June as the company tried to combat the rapid spread of dangerous information about the virus.
The company also put warning notes on 98 million COVID-19 misinformation posts on Facebook during that time period — labeling posts that were still misleading but not deemed harmful enough to remove.
Facebook and fellow big social media sites Twitter and YouTube have been scrambling to keep up with the flood of posts promoting fake cures or harmful speculation about the spread of the novel coronavirus since early this spring. Facebook put policies in place to try to regulate COVID-19 posts, but their moderation teams that monitor such posts have also been disrupted as offices remain closed.
Facebook sent its content moderators home in March, a move that led to fewer posts being removed in certain rulebreaking areas between April and June. But other policies benefited from improved artificial intelligence technology, and Facebook reported a bump in removing posts for violating some policies.
Washington state confirms 504 new COVID-19 cases and 19 more deaths
State health officials reported 504 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and 19 more deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 64,151 cases and 1,716 deaths, meaning that 2.7% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The DOH is experiencing persistent data reporting problems that had stopped it from publishing accurate negative test tallies after July 31. The issues "involved people who received multiple tests," the DOH said in a statement on its COVID-19 data website.
As the DOH works to fix its technical difficulties, it provided “preliminary” figures Tuesday afternoon for the total number of tests taken in the state — 954,355 — and for a positivity rate: 6.7%.
That positivity rate is about 1 percentage point higher than what the state had been reporting recently, before the testing data problem stopped that metric from being reported. On Tuesday, the DOH noted a decrease in the number of people testing negative that "dates back to June, but has been more pronounced recently."
“We hope to be able to share more about what caused this issue, and what our solution is, soon,” the DOH statement reads. “Our team is working hard to post new information as soon as it is available. Data will be finalized and available within a week."
The DOH also discovered that 135 labs were “mistakenly” entered as positives instead of negatives. Those labs were entered manually, including 133 added between Aug. 7 and Aug. 10, according to the DOH's statement.
In King County, the state's most populous county, state health officials have confirmed 16,808 diagnoses (101 more than the previous day) and 686 deaths (10 more than the previous day).
‘A smoking gun’: Infectious coronavirus retrieved from hospital air
Skeptics of the notion that the coronavirus spreads through the air — including many expert advisers to the World Health Organization — have held out for one missing piece of evidence: proof that floating respiratory droplets called aerosols contain live virus and not just fragments of genetic material.
Now a team of virologists and aerosol scientists has produced exactly that: confirmation of infectious virus in the air.
“This is what people have been clamoring for,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne spread of viruses who was not involved in the work. “It’s unambiguous evidence that there is infectious virus in aerosols.”
A research team at the University of Florida succeeded in isolating live virus from aerosols collected at a distance of seven to 16 feet from patients hospitalized with COVID-19 — farther than the 6 feet recommended in social distancing guidelines.
The findings, posted online last week, have not yet been vetted by peer review but have already caused something of a stir among scientists. “If this isn’t a smoking gun, then I don’t know what is,” Marr tweeted last week.
With no end to the pandemic in sight, coronavirus fatigue grips America
Gabe Rice began sheltering in his suburban Phoenix home with his wife and three youngest children in March. They worked remotely, learned remotely and put social events on hold to hunker down alongside much of the country.
It was challenging and frustrating, but, Rice initially assumed, temporary. It seemed like a plausible plan to help the nation get the pandemic under control within a couple of months.
But Arizona’s economic reopening in May, urged by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, was soon followed by a spike in coronavirus infections in June, which became a terrible surge in hospitalizations and deaths by July.
Then came August, and the devastating realization for many Americans that the pandemic, which has killed at least 159,000 people across the country and sickened more than five million, is far from over.
“It’s difficult when you think you have a light at the other end of the tunnel to look forward to, and then all of a sudden you realize it’s a train,” said Rice, 44, a program coordinator at Arizona State University.
An exhausted, exasperated nation is suffering from the effects of a pandemic that has upended society on a scale and duration without parallel in living memory.
Wearing a neck gaiter may be worse than no mask at all, researchers find
As the number of novel coronavirus cases continues to rise nationwide, the recurring message from many public health experts and doctors has been simple: Wearing masks saves lives.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in July. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting.”
But as face coverings have become increasingly commonplace in American life, so have questions about efficacy — and now a group of researchers from Duke University are aiming to provide some answers.
In a recently published study, the researchers unveiled a simple method to evaluate the effectiveness of various types of masks, analyzing more than a dozen different facial coverings ranging from hospital-grade N95 respirators to bandannas. Of the 14 masks and other coverings tested, the study found that some easily accessible cotton cloth masks are about as effective as standard surgical masks, while popular alternatives such as neck gaiters made of thin, stretchy material may be worse than not wearing a mask at all.
Light rail service to increase after COVID cuts
After reducing service during the coronavirus pandemic, Sound Transit will increase light rail frequency during the day.
Starting Sept. 19, trains will run every eight minutes during weekday peak hours and every 15 minutes during other daytime hours and on weekends. During the evening, trains will continue running every half hour.
As ridership plummeted during stay-home orders, trains were reduced to running every half hour and then later to every 20 minutes during the day.
Sound Transit will also add some trips on its reduced Sounder commuter trains and ST Express buses. Find more details about which routes are running on Sound Transit’s website.
The virus is killing young Floridians. Work, not partying, is often to blame.
Throughout the pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has stressed that the state’s coronavirus crisis is largely limited to the very old. He has repeatedly noted that Florida has seen more coronavirus deaths in people over the age of 90 than in all people under 65. But data reviewed by The New York Times shows that is changing: Deaths were greater in July for residents under 65 than for those over 90.
More than 100 adults ages 25-44 died of COVID-19 in Florida in July. That's more than had died in the previous four months of the pandemic combined, a review of Florida Department of Health data shows. More than 200 have died in all.
Although they still make up a relatively small number of the more than 8,000 total coronavirus deaths in the state, the number of younger adults who died of the disease quadrupled last month, underscoring a bitter mathematical reality: As more and more young people test positive for the coronavirus, more of them will die.
Health officials have worried that young people have been overly reckless in resuming social activities at parties and bars, and the number of infections among younger people has soared. However, the young people who are dying are not necessarily those who got sick at a party. A significant number were essential workers who had been continuing their jobs during the pandemic.
America’s obesity epidemic threatens effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine
For a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine.
But in the United States, where more than 5 million people have been infected and more than 161,000 have died, the promise of that vaccine is hampered by a vexing epidemic that long preceded COVID-19: obesity.
Scientists know that vaccines engineered to protect the public from influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies can be less effective in obese adults than in the general population, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and illness. There is little reason to believe, obesity researchers say, that COVID-19 vaccines will be any different.
“Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
“Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The state health department is having more problems publishing timely data about coronavirus testing in Washington, and there’s no estimate for when they’ll be fixed.
A new drug being developed by a Seattle biotech company could boost survival rates for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, according to a preliminary trial whose results sent the firm’s stock price soaring.
Russia says it has developed a coronavirus vaccine, and President Vladimir Putin says his daughter already has been inoculated. It’s called Sputnik V, and experts are skeptical.
Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide hit 20 million, more than half of them from just three nations.
Did they celebrate too soon? After 101 COVID-free days, New Zealand has four new cases.
Cal Anderson Park was packed on Sunday with people singing and praying with a worship leader from California, openly defying distancing guidelines and rules against large gatherings.
All the talk about possible cancellation of college football has columnist Matt Calkins asking: What's the rush?
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