Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday Aug. 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Health officers representing all 35 local health jurisdictions in Washington state are urging all residents to wear face coverings in public indoor settings, saying it is the “best public health advice” they can give.

Masks have drawn lawsuits across the nation from parents, students, school districts and counties. The newest Supreme Court Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, refused to block a plan by Indiana University to require students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Barrett’s decision, made without input from her colleagues, came in response to an emergency request from eight students, and marked the first time the high court has weighed in on a vaccine mandate. 

The United States is averaging about 500,000 new coronavirus vaccinations a day for the first time since June, with shots quadrupling in some states with the lowest vaccination rates, such as Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

But even as the White House pushes vaccination aggressively, President Joe Biden has refrained from using all his powers, instead trying to make life more uncomfortable for the unvaccinated without spurring backlash in a deeply polarized country.

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 and the world.


Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Florida changed how it reports COVID data. The result? The pandemic appears less severe, with fewer recent deaths

Just as a highly contagious new delta variant sent Florida into a vicious COVID-19 surge, the state Department of Health changed the way it reports cases and deaths attributed to the virus.

The result: Florida no longer provides a real-time picture of how COVID is affecting the state.

The most dramatic example is that Florida’s daily death count had been trending upward since the end of June, but with the recent adjustments made by the state Department of Health, the number of deaths due to COVID appeared to decline dramatically over the past week. At least on paper. Experts say the downward trend is not at all what’s really happening.

Florida changed its COVID reporting method Tuesday and now reports when cases or deaths actually occurred rather than when they were communicated to the state — allowing health officials to assign cases or deaths to days in the past rather than the present.

Read the story here.

—Cindy Krischer Goodman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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Wildfire smoke may be linked to thousands of coronavirus cases, study finds

The Bobcat Fire burns in Juniper Hills, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. A new study links air pollution from wildfire smoke to higher rates of coronavirus cases and deaths. (Eric Thayer/The New York Times)

Exposure to wildfire smoke during last summer’s wildfire season could be associated with thousands of additional coronavirus infections as well as hundreds of deaths, potentially causing an even greater challenge to public health officials in Washington, Oregon and California, a new study has found.

Wildfire smoke contains high levels of the smallest, most dangerous type of soot, known as PM 2.5.

Researchers at Harvard University estimated that there were nearly 20,000 extra coronavirus infections and 750 COVID-19 deaths associated with exposure to wildfire smoke between March and December 2020 in the American West. The paper was published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

Exposure to smoke, whether from air pollution or cigarette smoke, is believed to impair the function of white blood cells in the lungs, blunting the body’s immune response. The chemicals in particulate matter can also inflame cells lining the airways and lungs. In both cases, if the body is exposed to a virus in addition to air pollution, the immune response may be slowed and the person may develop a more severe illness than they would have otherwise, researchers say.

—The New York Times

More than 160 COVID cases tied to Watershed Festival at the Gorge

More than 25,000 people attended the Watershed Music Festival the weekend of July 30-Aug. 1 at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Grant County. (Michael Rietmulder / The Seattle Times)

More than 160 cases of COVID-19 across Washington state have been confirmed so far among people who attended the recent Watershed Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre, the Grant County Health District said Friday.

More than 20,000 fans packed the Gorge, in George, Grant County, for the three-day outdoor country music festival July 30-Aug. 1.

“The outbreak is the first one traced to an outdoor entertainment event since the lifting of statewide COVID-19 prevention measures at the end of June,” Laina Mitchell, communicable disease coordinator for Grant County Health District, said in a news release.

The cases are tied to residents in multiple counties, including King, Grant, Pierce, Skagit, Kittitas, Okanogan, Whatcom, Kitsap, San Juan, Lincoln and Stevens. There’s also one case tied to an Oregon resident.

Read the full story here.

—Crystal Paul

COVID-stricken Oregon deploys National Guard to hospitals

Oregon’s governor said Friday she will send up to 1,500 National Guard troops to hospitals around the state to assist healthcare workers who are being pushed to the brink by a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said the first group of 500 Guard members will be deployed next Friday to serve as material and equipment runners in the most stricken hospitals and to help with COVID-19 testing, among other things. Troops will be sent to 20 hospitals around Oregon.

There are 733 people hospitalized with the virus in Oregon as of Friday, including 185 people in intensive care units — more than 60 people more than just a day before and nearly double what the number was two weeks ago.

Read the story here.

—Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press
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DeSantis blames Florida’s surge on ‘COVID season.’ That’s misleading, experts say.

In Florida, there’s hurricane season, lobster season and now, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis, “COVID season.”

“This is our COVID season,” the Republican governor told reporters last week when asked about the state’s record-breaking surge in infections. “We thought we would see an increase. I don’t know that we thought we would necessarily see this many positive tests.”

DeSantis has argued the recent record-breaking rise in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations was unavoidable as temperatures rise and more gather indoors, denying that easing restrictions and an uptick in tourism led to the surge.

But the claim that the time of year has a greater impact on transmission than mitigation measures such as mask mandates and social distancing contradicts guidance from researchers and public health experts, who warn people should get vaccinated and take precautions amid the rampant spread of the delta variant in Florida.

—The Washington Post

State health officials confirm 3,185 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,185 new coronavirus cases and 24 new deaths on Friday.

The update brings the state's totals to 507,294 cases and 6,239 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, 28,377 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 221 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 124,891 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,693 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,303,954 doses and 53.5% 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 10,643 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.

State superintendent is ‘confident’ Inslee will expand mandate, require teachers to be vaccinated

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said Friday he is “confident” Gov. Jay Inslee will soon expand the requirement that state workers be vaccinated to public school employees. 

Reykdal, who held a news conference Friday to lay out his case for a teacher and staff vaccination mandate, sent a letter to the governor Thursday “strongly encouraging” him to include school employees in his sweeping order requiring state employees and health care workers be vaccinated.

If the order is extended, public school employees who don’t get vaccinated could risk losing their jobs. And districts that don’t adopt the mandate could lose federal funding, Reykdal said.

“Thankfully we are not seeing the hospitalization for those who have been vaccinated,” Reykdal said. “Vaccines work. It is the science of vaccines that demonstrates this for us.”

Read the full story here.

—Monica Velez
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US allows extra COVID vaccine doses for some. Now what?

Americans at high risk from COVID-19 because of severely weakened immune systems are now allowed to get a third vaccination in hopes of better protection as government advisers grappled with exactly who qualifies.

The Food and Drug Administration ruled that transplant recipients and other similarly immune-compromised patients can get a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. But the decision offers an extra dose only to those high-risk groups — not the general public.

These patients have been clamoring for months for better protection, some of them traveling across state lines or lying to get another dose. About 1.1 million people already have gotten at least a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines on their own, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed Friday — although it’s not clear how many did so because they had weakened immune systems.

—Associated Press

More US cities requiring proof of vaccination to go places

Hold on to that vaccination card. A rapidly growing number of places across the U.S. are requiring people to show proof they have been inoculated against COVID-19 to teach school, work at a hospital, see a concert or eat inside a restaurant.

Following New York City’s lead, New Orleans and San Francisco will impose such rules at many businesses starting next week, while Los Angeles is looking into the idea.

The new measures are an attempt to stem the rising tide of COVID-19 cases that has pushed hospitals to the breaking point, including in the Dallas area, where top officials warned they are running out of beds in their pediatric intensive care units.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the situation is so dire that if a parent is seeking care for a sick or injured child, “your child will wait for another child to die. Your child will just not get on a ventilator. Your child will be care-flighted to Temple or Oklahoma City or wherever we can find them a bed, but they won’t be getting one here unless one clears.”

—Associated Press

Florida mother holds her newborn one time before dying of COVID

Kristen McMullen holds her daughter before being taken to the ICU. (Courtesy of Melissa Syverson).

With her round cheeks, Summer Reign McMullen was born a healthy baby on July 27. Her 30-year-old mother, Kristen, smiled at the pink bundle cradled in her tattooed arms. That was the last time she would hold her daughter. Two pictures and a couple of minutes later, she was taken to the ICU, where she died more than a week later from COVID-19 in a hospital in Brevard County, Fla.

Summer will never know her mother’s “bubbly and vivacious” personality, said McMullen’s aunt, Melissa Syverson. She will not meet the “active and full-of-life” young woman who grew up dancing, horseback riding and playing the piano in her native Virginia. Yet Syverson said she is determined to not let her niece’s memories perish: she’s sharing her story in the hope that people – especially pregnant women – take safety measures during the pandemic.

“We want to make sure that everybody, pregnant women and also people that know pregnant women take extra precautions,” said Syverson, who declined to discuss McMullen’s vaccination status.

The loss of a youthful mother who, according to Syverson, was otherwise healthy comes as more young people are being infected and hospitalized with covid-19. Some doctors are also warning of an uptick of severe cases among pregnant women – a group with a low vaccination rate that has also been found to be subject to a high risk for complications related to the virus. Amid the delta variant’s spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has moved to encourage expectant mothers to get vaccinated, as research shows they are more likely to require admission to intensive care and use of ventilators than non-pregnant women.

—The Washington Post
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Extra COVID vaccine OK’d for those with weak immune systems

WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators say transplant recipients and others with severely weakened immune systems can get an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to better protect them as the delta variant continues to surge.

The late-night announcement Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration applies to several million Americans who are especially vulnerable because of organ transplants, certain cancers or other disorders. Several other countries, including France and Israel, have similar recommendations.

It’s harder for vaccines to rev up an immune system suppressed by certain medications and diseases, so those patients don’t always get the same protection as otherwise healthy people — and small studies suggest for at least some, an extra dose may be the solution.

“Today’s action allows doctors to boost immunity in certain immunocompromised individuals who need extra protection from COVID-19,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s acting commissioner, said in a statement.

—Associated Press

Canada to require air travelers to be vaccinated

TORONTO — The Canadian government will soon require all air travelers and passengers on interprovincial trains to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Friday that includes all commercial air travelers, passengers on trains between provinces and cruise ship passengers.

“As soon as possible in the Fall and no later than the end of October, the Government of Canada will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to be vaccinated. The vaccination requirement will also extend to certain travelers. This includes all commercial air travelers,” his office said in a statement.

The government is also requiring vaccinations for all federal public servants in the country.

—Associated Press

Washington State University to eliminate personal and philosophical COVID-19 vaccine exemption for students

Washington State University will no longer allow students to claim personal or philosophical exemptions from its COVID-19 vaccination requirement, the school announced Thursday, citing the “increasing threat of the delta variant for those who are unvaccinated.”

The change will happen once the FDA grants approval to any of the three vaccines under emergency use authorization, WSU said in a statement this week. The school also announced that it is moving up its vaccination deadline from November, so students will have until Sept. 10 to initiate the vaccination process.

If a student doesn’t get vaccinated, the school said it “may impact (their) ability to participate in campus events and (they) will need to wear a mask while on campus.” Students who don’t get the shot also won’t be able to register for spring classes, and a hold will be placed on their accounts.

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama
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Chicago Public Schools: Teachers, staff must be vaccinated

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools announced Friday that it will require all its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-October unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.

The mandate — announced two weeks before the full-time in-person learning begins Aug. 30 — applies to all Chicago Board of Education workers, a group that includes teachers, staff, workers in the district’s central office, and regular vendors and network employees.

“Our Chicago Public School communities deserve a safe and healthy environment that will allow our students to reach their greatest potential,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that California would become the first state to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

“This new policy enhances the district’s comprehensive reopening plan and ensures that students and staff can confidently learn in-person,” Lightfoot said. “Taking this step will further our citywide vaccination efforts and build on our progress in slowing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

—Associated Press

Moscow reports surge in deaths last month due to coronavirus

MOSCOW — Deaths in Moscow increased 60% in July compared to the same month a year earlier, health officials in Russia’s capital said as the country reported a new daily record for COVID-19 fatalities.

Moscow’s Health Department said Friday that 17,237 people died of all causes last month. The number included 6,583 coronavirus-related deaths, which corresponded to a COVID-19 mortality rate of 3.95%.

Health officials blamed the increase on COVID-19 deaths on the more contagious delta variant and unusually hot weather that exacerbated coronavirus-induced complications.

The Russian government’s coronavirus task force on Friday reported 22,277 new confirmed cases and 815 deaths, the highest daily toll of the pandemic.

Extra COVID vaccine OK’d for those with weak immune systems

WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators say transplant recipients and others with severely weakened immune systems can get an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to better protect them as the delta variant continues to surge.

The late-night announcement Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration applies to several million Americans who are especially vulnerable because of organ transplants, certain cancers or other disorders. Several other countries, including France and Israel, have similar recommendations.

It’s harder for vaccines to rev up an immune system suppressed by certain medications and diseases, so those patients don’t always get the same protection as otherwise healthy people — and small studies suggest for at least some, an extra dose may be the solution.

—Associated Press
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Biden eyes tougher vaccine rules without provoking backlash

WASHINGTON — When the pace of vaccinations in the U.S. first began to slow, President Joe Biden backed incentives like million-dollar cash lotteries if that’s what it took to get shots in arms. But as new coronavirus infections soar, he’s testing a tougher approach.

In just the past two weeks, Biden has forced millions of federal workers to attest to their vaccination status or face onerous new requirements. He’s met with business leaders at the White House to press them to do the same.

Meanwhile, the administration has taken steps toward mandating shots for people traveling into the U.S. from overseas. And the White House is weighing options to be more assertive at the state and local level, including potential support for school districts imposing rules to prevent spread of the virus over the objection of Republican leaders.

“To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders, who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protection for our kids: thank you,” Biden said Thursday. “Thank God that we have heroes like you, and I stand with you all, and America should as well.”

—Associated Press

Boise police arrested a man for not wearing mask in Costco. Now, he wants $4.5 million

A Boise man is seeking $4.5 million in compensation after Boise police officers arrested him for refusing to wear a mask inside a Costco store.

Peter Hearn, 51, said police arrested him in December after he refused to wear a mask inside the Costco at 2051 S. Cole Road, according to a tort claim filed with the city. Hearn said he argued for 10 minutes with store employees who implored him to wear a mask inside the store.

“(Hearn) informed them all that they were unlawfully harassing, trapping, assaulting, imprisoning, arresting, abusing and violating him,” the tort claim said.

In their incident report, police said they arrested Hearn after he refused to show them identification and he was later taken to Ada County Jail due to a previous trespassing incident.

Eventually, employees let him shop in the store without a mask before they contacted police, according to the tort claim. Police arrived and arrested Hearn, with Hearn noting that other shoppers were cheering as police took him away.

—Idaho Statesman

They regret not getting the vaccine – and became social media evangelists for the shot

Curt Carpenter, left, shown in a photo with his mother, Christy, and younger sister, Cayla, died of COVID-19 at age 28 and had not received the vaccine. Christy Carpenter has become a pro-vaccine booster on social media, saying, “It took watching my son die and me suffering the effects of COVID for us to realize we need the vaccine,” she told The Washington Post. “We did not get vaccinated when we had the opportunity and regret that so much now.” (Courtesy of Christy Walker Carpenter)

“Anybody else out running in the rain?” asks a drenched but gleeful Louie Michael in a TikTok video, before starting to sing, “I have been blessed.”

The Missouri-based entertainer and real estate agent had ample reason to be celebrating. He was “about forty days past covid” when he made the video on July 17, and his only persistent symptom was hives. The disease had landed both he and his wife, Pattie Bunch, in the hospital.

Michael has been documenting various milestones of his recovery on TikTok, including a clip in which he belts out Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to showcase the return of his voice.

Mostly, though, he’s used social media to urge people to get the vaccine – because he didn’t and now knows the consequences.

Regret has become a new tool in the battle against the coronavirus. As media outlets pump out story after story of people who fell ill only to wish they’d gotten vaccinated, individuals and health institutions are sharing similar stories across social media platforms in hopes they will persuade at least some of the tens of millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated to have a change of heart and get the shot.

—The Washington Post
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Cyprus eases COVID-19 vaccination for uninsured foreigners

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Lekulutu Nsima considers himself a “lucky man” after receiving his first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shot against COVID-19 in Cyprus.

The 33-year-old asylum seeker said that in his native Congo, the government has only procured a handful of vaccine doses for one of Africa’s most populous nations, and those are often reserved for the country’s elites — the wealthy and politically connected.

Nsima was one of hundreds of foreign nationals who stood in line on Friday under Cyprus’ searing midsummer sun at the capital’s only walk-in vaccination center geared toward vaccinating free of charge those who aren’t covered under the country’s General Healthcare System, or GHS.

Cypriot authorities have been surprised by the huge turnout at the center. The idea was to enable those without GHS coverage to walk in for a shot without having to go through the hassle of online appointments that could be weeks away.

On the center’s first day a week ago, 2,555 people without GHS coverage received a vaccine shot.

—Associated Press

27 people aboard Carnival cruise test positive for COVID-19

BELIZE CITY — Twenty-seven people aboard a Carnival cruise tested positive for COVID-19 just before the ship made a stop in Belize City this week, according to the Belize Tourism Board.

The positive cases were among 26 crew members and one passenger on the Carnival Vista, which is carrying over 1,400 crew and nearly 3,000 passengers, the board said in a statement. The ship arrived Wednesday in Belize City.

All 27 were vaccinated, had mild or no symptoms, and were in isolation, according to the statement. The tourism board said 99.98% of the ship’s crew was vaccinated, as well as 96.5% of its passengers.

The Washington Post reported Carnival said it announced last week that there were positive cases on board, but the cruise line did not not give specific numbers. The ship left from Galveston, Texas, according to the Post.

—Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

It's time to mask up inside all public spaces, officers for Washington state's 35 health jurisdictions are telling the public. Here's experts' latest guidance on picking the best masks against the delta variant.

Washington's schools chief is pushing for a vaccine mandate for public school employees. The idea has been gaining traction. 

You can get a booster shot if your immune system is especially weak, the FDA announced last night. This comes as the U.S. averages a half-million new vaccinations per day — with some states seeing particularly dramatic increases — and President Joe Biden considering a tougher approach on requiring shots.

Police arrested a man for not wearing a mask in Costco. Now the Boise man wants $4.5 million. 

Here we go again: Dozens of people aboard a Carnival cruise have tested positive for COVID-19.

—Kris Higginson