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 It is no longer being updated.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

Efforts in Washington, D.C., to compromise on a new coronavirus relief package remain at an impasse, leaving Americans struggling with the financial hit of the pandemic and few answers. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said a deal was “not going to happen.”

Meanwhile, some schools in the U.S. have reopened — and hundreds of students have already been ordered to quarantine as outbreaks emerge. In Seattle, the School Board on Wednesday approved a new plan for online learning in the fall, with the possibility of outdoor classes.

Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

The state Department of Health has stopped releasing the number of tests that have come back negative. The agency, which initially cited technical difficulties for the lack of data, announced Wednesday it is changing its test-tracking methodology and won’t report testing totals or the state’s positivity rate again until its new data reporting system is operational, which it estimates will be around the middle of next week.
The state Department of Health has stopped releasing the number of tests that have come back negative. The agency, which initially cited technical difficulties for the lack of data, announced Wednesday it is changing its test-tracking methodology and won’t report testing totals or the state’s positivity rate again until its new data reporting system is operational, which it estimates will be around the middle of next week.
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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New Zealand probing for outbreak source, may expand lockdown

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Health authorities said Friday they were investigating whether shipping workers were a source of New Zealand’s first domestic coronavirus outbreak in more than three months.

The outbreak has grown to 30 people and extended beyond Auckland, the country’s largest city, for the first time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to announce later whether a three-day lockdown in Auckland would be extended past Friday, which seemed likely given the increase in cases.

Until the cluster was discovered Tuesday, New Zealand had gone 102 days without community-spread infections, with the only known cases all travelers quarantined after arriving from abroad.

—Associated Press
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Africa begins continent-wide study of COVID-19 antibodies

JOHANNESBURG — An Africa-wide study of antibodies to the coronavirus has begun, while evidence from a smaller study indicates that many more people have been infected than official numbers show, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

Experts are eager to know the real number of COVID-19 cases in Africa, as confirmed cases and deaths have been relatively low on the continent of 1.3 billion people. Poor data collection, however, has complicated efforts.

But recent surveys in Mozambique found antibodies — proteins the body makes when an infection occurs — to the virus in 5% of households in the city of Nampula and 2.5% in the city of Pemba. That’s while Mozambique has just 2,481 confirmed virus cases. Further studies are underway in the capital, Maputo, and the city of Quelimane.

“What is important is far fewer people are coming down with the disease,” Africa CDC director John Nkengasong told reporters. “How many people are infected and asymptomatic on our continent? We don’t know that.”

—Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee worries President Trump’s moves with the U.S. Postal Service will jeopardize mail-ballot voting

Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson have discussed what might be done to protect Washington state’s vote-by-mail system if the Trump administration degrades the U.S. Postal Service before the November election.

During a press briefing about the state’s response to COVID-19 Thursday, Inslee said that recent comments and potential actions by President Trump could undermine vote-by-mail here and across the nation.

“I did talk with Attorney General Bob Ferguson today, who shares my view that the president’s actions are harmful and undemocratic,” Inslee said. “He is now considering our rights in Washington state.”

Earlier Thursday during an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump said he is against providing election aid to states and is also opposed to a bailout for the Postal Service, which needs assistance to meet the large volume of ballots predicted to be cast by mail this year because of the pandemic.

In a call to Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show, Trump said if there is no deal, there is no money for the Postal Service.

Read the full story here.

—Ryan Blethen

Texas hospitalizations below 7,000 for first time in weeks

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas reported fewer than 7,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time in six weeks Thursday, but that encouraging sign was clouded by questions over testing as schools reopen and college football teams push ahead with playing this fall.

Testing has dropped off in Texas, a trend seen across the U.S. as health experts worry that people who are not symptomatic are not bothering to seek tests because of long lines and the prospect of waiting days to get results. Demand has curtailed to the point that in Austin and Dallas, health officials have expanded eligibility for testing, including those who are asymptomatic.

But there remain grim reminders of the toll the virus took on Texas this summer: COVID-19 deaths have risen by more than 30% in August, including 255 new reported deaths Thursday. And hospitals on the hard-hit Texas border remain busy with coronavirus patients, even as doctors statewide are handling thousands of fewer COVID-19 cases than a month ago.

—Associated Press
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Fauci: Schools should be outdoors as much as possible

School districts developing their plans for reopening for the new academic year should find ways to offer as many outdoor activities as possible, from classes to recess and lunchtime, the nation’s top infectious disease expert recommended in an online discussion Thursday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also suggested in his Facebook Live chat with Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo that, on school buses, windows should remain open and students wear their masks as much as possible.

When asked by Raimondo what his recommendation would be for reopening schools, Fauci said states shouldn’t take an all-or-nothing approach.

Communities with low virus levels should be allowed to open for in-person classes, while those with higher case counts should focus on remote learning until the rate declines, he said.

“If you want to open schools, do what you need to do,” Fauci said. “Close the bars. Wear your masks. Because when you do that, you will bring the infections down.”

—Associated Press

Experts warn Spain is losing the 2nd round in virus fight

BARCELONA, Spain — Not two months after battling back the coronavirus, Spain’s hospitals have started seeing patients who are struggling to breathe returning to their wards.

The deployment of a military emergency brigade to set up a field hospital in the northeastern city of Zaragoza this week is a grim reminder that Spain is far from claiming victory over the virus that overwhelmed the European country in March and April.

Authorities described the field hospital as a precaution, but no one has forgotten the earlier scenes of Spanish hospitals filled to capacity and the devastating period when the country’s COVID-19 death toll grew by over 900 a day.

While an enhanced testing program is revealing that a majority of the newly infected are asymptomatic and younger, making them less likely to need medical treatment, concern is increasing as hospitals admit more patients again.

—Associated Press

‘This is potentially huge’: Judge in Missouri says firms can sue insurer for COVID-19 loss

KANSAS CITY — A ruling from a federal judge in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday could open the window for thousands of businesses whose insurers turned down their COVID-19 claims.

“This is potentially huge,” said Tom Baker, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, who has been following the myriad cases against the insurance industry amid COVID-19.

“My prediction is that this is not going to be the only case that is going to survive. This is a big deal.”

When the pandemic shut down their businesses for 11 weeks, three Kansas City area restaurants — Grand Street, V’s Italiano Ristorante and Trezo Mare Restaurant & Lounge — were hit as hard as others.

Having lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales, the restaurants did what countless others did. They pulled out their “all risk” insurance policies, thinking that their insurer — in this case, the Cincinnati Insurance Co. — would help cover their losses.

—Kansas City Star
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Seahawks cut rookie cornerback for breaking COVID protocol by trying to sneak a woman into team hotel

It barely caused a ripple when the Seahawks waived undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Kemah Siverand on Tuesday, a transaction that seemed like one of a hundred run-of-the-mill moves NFL teams make every season.

But Siverand now figures to go down in Seahawks lore for the reason he was cut: He was tried to sneak a woman into the team hotel, a “crime” caught by a surveillance video.

Teams, of course, always have strict rules on curfew and visitors during training camp, but those are even stricter this year due to coronavirus protocols and the team sent a quick message to the rest of its players by cutting Siverand immediately.

And it’s worth remembering what’s atop coach Pete Carroll’s list of rules: “Protect the team.”

Read the full story here.

—Bob Condotta

The true coronavirus toll in the U.S. has already surpassed 200,000

Across the United States, at least 200,000 more people have died than usual since March, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is about 60,000 higher than the number of deaths that have been directly linked to the coronavirus.

As the pandemic has moved south and west from its epicenter in New York City, so have the unusual patterns in deaths from all causes. That suggests that the official death counts may be substantially underestimating the overall effects of the virus, as people die from the virus as well as by other causes linked to the pandemic.

The Northeast still makes up nearly half of all excess deaths in the country, although numbers in the region have drastically declined since the peak in April.

But as the number of hot spots expanded, so has the number of excess deaths across other parts of the country. Many of the recent coronavirus cases and deaths in the South and the West may have been driven largely by reopenings and relaxed social distancing restrictions.

—The New York Times

Seattle-area parents form ‘learning pods’ to keep kids from falling behind, but coronavirus-driven trend raises equity concerns

School districts across the state have promised that fall classes taught remotely will be better than they were this spring. But Susi Musi isn’t taking any chances.

As the numbers of COVID-19 infections grew this summer and remote learning started to look inevitable, parents like Musi have begun scrambling to put together supplemental learning and social groups for their children.

Musi, who is worried her daughter will miss out on academics and socializing at her West Seattle elementary school this fall, has met with like-minded parents, cleaned out her garage to serve as a classroom and searched for the ideal tutor.

She’s inspired by an idea that’s gaining traction here and nationwide: The formation of “pandemic pods” or “micro-schools” — small groups of children who can take classes and study together. These public-school families plan to hire a private tutor or teacher to give academic help on the side, or offer something extra like a foreign language or art instruction. They’re writing social contracts for how they will manage COVID-19 risk.

But no matter the specifics, supplementing public-school education with private instruction could dramatically worsen the equity gap and widen segregation.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine Long
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Most Americans won’t be able to get a coronavirus vaccine until well into 2021

WASHINGTON — Even if the most optimistic projections hold true and a COVID-19 vaccine is cleared for U.S. use in November, the vast majority of Americans won’t be able to get the shots until spring or summer next year at the earliest.

That likely timeline, based on interviews and remarks from top specialists including Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, means businesses, schoolchildren and families will continue to wait.

In an interview, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has also been involved with White House’s “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine program, said it may take until well into 2021 for vaccines to reach the much of the general public.

“I would hope that by the time we get well into the second half of 2021 that the companies will have delivered the hundreds of millions of doses they have promised,” said Fauci.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg News

State confirms 637 new COVID-19 cases and 12 new deaths

State health officials reported 637 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and 12 new deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 65,339 cases and 1,736 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. Wednesday.

The DOH is in the process of changing its methodology for reporting testing numbers and isn't currently reporting the percent of tests in the state that have been positive.

In King County, the state most populous, state health officials have confirmed 17,118 diagnoses and 686 deaths. The rate of deaths is 4%.

—Nicole Brodeur

Inslee visits Okanogan County hot spot, says 'we have more work to do'

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday visited Okanogan County, in north-central Washington, which has been a hot spot in the state’s COVID-19 outbreak. He met in Brewster with agricultural industry officials, farmworker advocates as well as county and tribal representatives.

In an afternoon media briefing, Inslee said more tests need to be conducted in Okanogan County and that a mobile unit brought in by the National Guard will help with that effort. He also said he hopes an initiative to get more people to wear masks will help slow the spread of the coronavirus, and pointed to successful efforts in Yakima County that have helped curb COVID-19 cases.

“We … know that we have more work to do because we don’t have a high enough percentage of the community masking up to get on top of the pandemic,” Inslee said.

Brewster has been a hub of the Okanogan County outbreak. There, Gebbers Farms is a major employer. Inslee said he met Thursday with the company's chief executive, Cass Gebbers, and talked about efforts to test employees more and improve farmworkers' access to medical care.

“There has been some recent improvements," Inslee said. "But there is still work that needs to be done.”

—Hal Bernton
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King County Executive seeks $87 million in supplemental COVID-19 relief

King County Executive Dow Constantine has submitted an $87 million proposal to the King County Council that would fund new COVID-19 test sites, housing, courthouse operations and arts organizations impacted by the  pandemic.

It is the fourth time Constantine has submitted a supplemental budget since the outbreak began.

The proposal includes $11 million for at least two drive-through/walk-up testing sites in South and East King County that would provide 500-1,000 tests per day.

Public Health - Seattle & King County will partner with Community Health Centers to add testing sites capable of 200-500 tests per day for underserved communities.

The proposal includes continued funding of isolation/quarantine and recovery centers through the end of the year ($12.6 million); funding of the public health response through the end of the year ($29 million); the continued funding of hotel vouchers for the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness through the end of the year ($2.5 million), and funding for an outreach and compliance initiative to help restaurants, bars and taverns increase compliance with Gov. Inslee's safe start orders ($2.7 million).

The proposal also includes funds to use the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue for civil trials ($1.8 million); $2 million to arts organizations and $3 million for emergency childcare.

The money with come from the state and the federal CARES Act.

“Our COVID-19 response and recovery efforts continue and, as always, we place special emphasis on helping the most vulnerable stay safe,” Constantine said in a statement.

“This supplemental budget illustrates the breadth of our responsibilities, from new walk-up testing sites, to adding plexiglas and other safety protections to courtrooms, to ensuring arts organizations can continue to enrich our community once the danger has passed.”

—Nicole Brodeur

UK begins testing a new app to fight COVID-19 spread

LONDON — Britain started testing a new smartphone app Thursday to help people find out whether they’ve been close to someone infected with COVID-19 after security concerns torpedoed an earlier effort to use technology to track the disease.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that trials of the app began on the Isle of Wight, with testing in the London borough of Newham scheduled to begin soon. The app, which was developed in conjunction with privacy experts and companies such as Google and Apple, is similar to technology being used in Germany and Ireland.

“It uses the latest security technology and is designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus, not people,″ the Health Department said in a statement.

The app uses bluetooth technology to determine when a user’s phone has been in close proximity to the phone of someone who has tested positive for the disease. It does not store personal information such as the name, address or birth date of users.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Face masks with valves or vents do not prevent spread of coronavirus, CDC says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn against wearing masks with exhalation valves or vents, a type of face covering made for hot and dusty construction work that has become a popular pandemic accessory. (Justin Chin / Bloomberg, file)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn against wearing masks with exhalation valves or vents, a type of face covering made for hot and dusty construction work that has become a popular pandemic accessory. (Justin Chin / Bloomberg, file)

Of all the three-word phrases that this pandemic has popularized – “flatten the curve,” “six feet apart” – perhaps none has resonated as deeply as “wear a mask.” (Or, as Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, put it back in late June: “Everyone should just wear a damn mask.”)

It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.

But, as a burgeoning number of advisories makes clear, not every mask is helpful.

In guidance updated late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against wearing masks with exhalation valves or vents, a type of face covering made for hot and dusty construction work that has become a popular pandemic accessory because of its seemingly high-tech design.

“The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control,” the agency’s guidance reads. “However, masks with one-way valves or vents allow air to be exhaled through a hole in the material, which can result in expelled respiratory droplets that can reach others. This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others. Therefore, CDC does not recommend using masks for source control if they have an exhalation valve or vent.”

Read the full story here.

Masks

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—The Washington Post
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Distrust of authority fuels virus misinformation for Latinos

When Claudia Guzman suspected she had caught the coronavirus, her friends and family were full of advice: Don’t quarantine. Don’t get tested. A homemade tea will help cure you.

“They were saying, ‘Don’t go to the hospital,’ because supposedly, if you are admitted into the hospital, they administer the virus into your body,” said Guzman, who was born in Chicago to parents from Mexico and now lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

Claudia Guzman inside the medical clinic where she works in Memphis, Tenn. When Guzman suspected she had caught the coronavirus, her friends and family were full of advice. Among Latinos in the U.S., misinformation around the coronavirus has found fertile ground because many in their communities have higher levels of distrust in government, less access to medical care and may need to be reached by Spanish-language public health resources. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)
Claudia Guzman inside the medical clinic where she works in Memphis, Tenn. When Guzman suspected she had caught the coronavirus, her friends and family were full of advice. Among Latinos in the U.S., misinformation around the coronavirus has found fertile ground because many in their communities have higher levels of distrust in government, less access to medical care and may need to be reached by Spanish-language public health resources. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

False claims and conspiracy theories, ranging from bogus cures to the idea that the virus is a hoax, have dogged efforts to control the pandemic from the beginning. While bad information about the virus is a problem for everyone, it can pose a particular threat to communities of people of color who already face worse outcomes from the virus.

Among Latinos in the U.S., misinformation around the coronavirus has found fertile ground because many in their communities have higher levels of distrust in government, less access to medical care and may need to be reached by Spanish-language public health resources. It’s a dangerous mix that could discourage people from taking precautions, participating in contact-tracing efforts, or getting treatment.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Grocery workers say morale is at an all-time low

Grocery workers do an often dangerous and thankless job in the COVID-19 era.

At least 100 have died nationwide, hazard pay is a thing of the past and employees who took sick leave at the beginning of the pandemic say they cannot afford to take unpaid time off now, even if they feel unwell. Some overwhelmed employees are quitting mid-shift.

"They don’t even treat us like humans anymore," one said.

But the struggling economy leaves them with few alternatives.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washington state is making an important change that officials say will make our coronavirus data more accurate.

Some schools in Georgia have faced COVID-19 outbreaks and shut down almost immediately after opening for in-person learning, showing the perils of reopening classrooms and further dividing communities.

The sheriff in Marion County, Florida, has banned his deputies from wearing masks on the job.

Lacey Kowalski wipes down a table at Pinewood Social, the restaurant where she works in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Socially distanced tables are equipped with sneeze guards separating booths at the restaurant. (William DeShazer / The New York Times)
Lacey Kowalski wipes down a table at Pinewood Social, the restaurant where she works in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Socially distanced tables are equipped with sneeze guards separating booths at the restaurant. (William DeShazer / The New York Times)

As communities across the U.S. reopen and coronavirus hot spots emerge, one culprit is something many of us missed the most: eating at restaurants.

Is it safe to drink from a drinking fountain? Experts agree that it’s not ideal.

Wellington, N.Z. was slammed back into lockdown as officials scrambled to find the source of new COVID-19 cases, just days after the whole nation was celebrating being virus-free.

—Seattle Times staff
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