Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday August 14, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 fall and the return to schools looming, Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal said he is “confident” Gov. Jay Inslee will soon expand the requirement that state workers be vaccinated to public school employees.
Reykdal said he is strongly “encouraging” the governor 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.
School districts across the country are also grappling with masks and consequent lawsuits as educators, parents, public health authorities and politicians battle over whether schools ought to require masks or if they even have the power to do so.
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.
Mental health help needed for kids hurt by pandemic, but hard to find
From June of last year to late this past spring, an average of five children a week were being admitted to the medical school’s teaching hospital at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., after overdosing on medications such as acetaminophen, opiates, antidepressants and even Ritalin.
John Diamond and his colleagues had never seen anything like it. “Normally,” he says, “we see five kids a month.”
Diamond, director of the school’s division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is on the front lines of a coronavirus-aggravated crisis. There simply aren’t enough psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental pediatricians or school psychologists to care for the mental health needs of the country’s children, say parents, doctors, and professional associations.
Diamond was as frustrated as he was stunned. The 50-bed hospital didn’t have a single bed for children in emotional crises. Kids would have to wait for days in the emergency department and then travel with a sheriff’s deputy for up to two hours to another hospital. He also worried about how they would fare once released, since eastern North Carolina’s few mental health therapists all have long waiting lists.
Read the full story here.
Challenges to Govs. in Florida, Texas for mask mandate bans
Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas are encountering mounting challenges in their quest to ban mandates requiring masks in schools, as lawsuits advance through the courts and the Biden administration steps in to back districts requiring face coverings.
In a pair of letters sent Friday, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote both governors and their education chiefs to express concern about recent executive actions prohibiting school districts from “voluntarily adopting science-based strategies for preventing the spread of Covid-19 that are aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
He also noted that federal pandemic relief funds could be used to make up for state-imposed penalties on local school districts.
“The Department stands with these dedicated educators who are working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction,” Cardona wrote.
President Joe Biden extended support by phone Friday evening, calling one of the superintendents in Florida challenging DeSantis and his “bad public health measures,” saying he “commended their leadership and courage to do the right thing for the health and well-being of their students, teachers, and schools,” per a pool report.
Read the full story here.
Booster shots coming in the fall
With a stockpile of at least 100 million doses at the ready, Biden administration officials are developing a plan to start offering coronavirus booster shots to some Americans as early as this fall, even as researchers continue to hotly debate whether extra shots are needed, according to people familiar with the effort.
The first boosters are likely to go to nursing home residents and health care workers, followed by other elderly people who were near the front of the line when vaccinations began late last year. Officials envision giving people the same vaccine they originally received. They have discussed starting the effort in October but have not settled on a timetable.
While many outside experts argue there is no proof yet that the vaccines’ protection against severe disease and hospitalization is waning in the United States, administration officials say they cannot afford to put off figuring out the logistics of providing boosters to millions of people until that tipping point is reached. The spotty nature of the nation’s disease-reporting network makes the question of timing even trickier.
The effort comes as yet another wave of the coronavirus grips the nation, reversing much of the progress the administration had made. Read the full story here.
UW Medicine scheduling third vaccine shots, postponing some surgeries
As the delta variant erodes progress fighting COVID-19, UW Medicine is rescheduling some surgeries and, beginning Sunday, offering third vaccine shots for vulnerable populations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a third vaccine shot for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. UW Medicine will begin scheduling third doses on Sunday for this population.
While the delta variant is occurring primarily among people who are unvaccinated, these cases are straining hospital capacity across the state, UW Medicine stated in a news release.
In response to the current surge, UW Medicine is reviewing all nonurgent inpatient surgeries scheduled in the next month, and contacting patients whose surgeries can be safely rescheduled later.
Read the full story here.
Biden calls school chiefs, lauds defiance of anti-mask rules
President Joe Biden called school district superintendents in Florida and Arizona to praise them for doing “the right thing” after their respective boards implemented mask requirements in defiance of their Republican governors amid growing COVID-19 infections.
The White House said in a Saturday statement that the Democratic president had spoken with interim Broward Superintendent Vickie Cartwright in Florida and Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson in Arizona “to thank them for their leadership and discuss their shared commitment to getting all students back in safe, full-time in-person learning this school year.”
“The President commended their leadership and courage to do the right thing for the health and well-being of their students, teachers, and schools,” the statement said.
Protesters in France denounce COVID-19 health pass
Thousands of people, from families to far-right sympathizers, marched in cities across France for a fifth straight Saturday to denounce a COVID-19 health pass that is now needed to enter French restaurants, bars and sports arenas or use long-distance trains, planes or buses.
Some 1,600 police were deployed for three separate marches in Paris, a week after the health pass went into effect.
Virus claims more young victims as deaths climb yet again
A young mother had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary and was one of six members of a Jacksonville church to die over a 10-day span.
Another Florida woman had just given birth to her first child, but was only able to hold the newborn girl for a few moments before dying.
A California man died a few weeks shy of his 53rd birthday while his wife was on a ventilator at the same hospital in Oakland, unaware of his passing on Aug. 4.
The COVID-19 death toll has started soaring again as the delta variant tears through the nation’s unvaccinated population and fills up hospitals with patients, many of whom are younger than during earlier phases of the pandemic.
‘They don’t feel any consequences’: Why Rand Paul isn’t likely to face a penalty for delayed stock disclosure
WASHINGTON — The odds of Rand Paul facing a penalty for his severely delayed disclosure of a stock purchase are slim, based on recent history of similar cases in the U.S. Senate.
The Senate Select Committee on Ethics, which oversees such lapses, hasn’t issued a disciplinary sanction in more than a decade, even after a flurry of questionable stock trades by members came to light last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post revealed that in late February 2020 Paul’s wife bought stock valued between $1,000 and $15,000 in Gilead Sciences, which produces remdesivir — an antiviral used to treat COVID-19.
‘Our main defense’: Vaccination push ongoing as Idaho sees COVID-19 caseload skyrocket
State leaders continue to implore more Idahoans to get vaccinated amid a precipitous rise in COVID-19 cases across the state.
On Thursday, Gov. Brad Little held a news conference to ask Idahoans to get vaccinated to keep residents safe, keep the economy running and prepare for the coming school year.
“Our main defense in ensuring the new school year is entirely in person, free from outbreaks and quarantines, is the COVID-19 vaccine,” Little said.
Seven out of 10 people in this Zip code are unvaccinated. Local leaders are trying to change that.
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – Lewis N. Watson, a mortician and pastor on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has seen his share of covid-19 losses here over the past year and a half.
At the height of the pandemic, about 7 out of every 10 deaths handled by the Lewis N. Watson Funeral Home in Wicomico County were from the virus.
Then, the numbers began to drop. By late winter, he said, he barely saw any covid-related deaths at his funeral home.
That began to change around June, he said, when cases started again to creep up.
“It’s back,” he said in a somber, gravelly voice, a lingering effect from his own covid-19 diagnosis in December. “It’s back.”
Cowlitz County health officials raising alarm as cases, hospitalizations hit all-time high
Cowlitz County health officials Friday urged people to take precautions and get the COVID-19 vaccine as cases and hospitalizations continue to exceed records.
The county’s weekly case count has seen an almost eight-fold increase since early July, according to the health department. Cowlitz County’s seven-day average jumped from eight cases as of July 5 to 66 cases as of Aug. 5.
Washington state promotes 3rd vaccine dose for ‘vulnerable’
The Washington Department of Health recommended on Saturday that people with weakened immune systems get a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines as the delta variant surges in the U.S.
The state’s recommendation comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that immunocompromised Americans can get an extra dose of the vaccine for better protection.
Canceled again. COVID forces Sausage Fest change for 2nd year
Just weeks after announcing the return of the annual Christ the King Sausage Fest, organizers decided to cancel traditional activities and switch to a drive-thru event.
“The Fest committee remains committed to holding an event that keeps public health as a priority while continuing with the festival tradition that so many in the Tri Cities have come to anticipate and enjoy for the last 40 years,” the announcement said.
COVID outbreak at Port Orchard veterans home kills 1; 32 test positive
In Port Orchard, one resident has died and 32 residents and workers at the Washington Veterans Home at Retsil have been diagnosed with COVID-19, state officials said this week.
The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs announced the death in a letter to residents and their families, The Kitsap Sun reported.
No other information about the death was made available. But it comes as 24 residents and eight staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since July 30.
Iran will impose 6-day ‘general lockdown’ over coronavirus
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran says it will impose a six-day-long “general lockdown” in cities across the country after being hit by what it describes as its fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, state media reported Saturday.
The lockdown includes all bazaars, markets and public offices, as well as movie theaters, gyms and restaurants in all Iranian cities.
Seattle music venues’ new standard: Get vaxxed (or tested) if you want to get in
The next time you attend a concert in Seattle, the door guy is probably going to ask for more than just your ID.
Six weeks into Seattle’s live music comeback, local music venues are tightening up coronavirus safety measures as infection rates rise due to the delta variant. Over the past two weeks, a wave of Seattle music halls have announced vaccination requirements for music lovers looking to catch their favorite bands.
As a tourist, Maui reflects the tension of what it means to travel responsibly
"From the plane, the island of Maui looks improbably small — you can spot the entire coastline through a single window. The tallest point of the island, Haleakala, reaches 10,000 feet into the air, and yet seemed, to this hiker cozy in her wing seat, walkable — like a moderate day hike rather than a high-altitude ascent.
In mid-July, my husband and I spent two weeks in Maui. The trip, which I’d booked at the end of March after receiving my second vaccine shot, was our first to Hawaii. My thinking had been this: I wanted to go somewhere that felt very different from home — skip the evergreens and chilly lakes for the kind of humidity that never leaves your skin — but I also wanted to go somewhere with the same vaccine opportunities. After a year of being grounded due to the pandemic, I wanted my travel to be as ethical as possible," writes Seattle Times guest author Colleen Stinchcombe.
Column: What happened this week is that patience from the vaccinated finally ran out
"One thing has become clear in our on-again pandemic nightmare: We’re definitely not all in this together anymore.
The latest surge in coronavirus hospitalizations among the unvaccinated — so maddening because it was so preventable — was sure to touch off a backlash of sorts, once it dawned on people that a new round of society-wide restrictions, mask-wearing and closures for everyone would be the result," writes columnist Danny Westneat.
‘This is real’: Fear and hope in a pediatric ICU
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It had started on July 1 when she could no longer smell her uncle’s cologne.
Caia Alexx Morris, 13, had been sitting on the couch texting friends, and as other family members joked about the overpowering scent, it hit her that she had no idea what they were talking about. She had no other symptoms at the time. But two days later, she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and on a ventilator, and has been in intensive care ever since.
The hypercontagious delta variant has changed much of what we thought we knew about the coronavirus and children — that kids might get infected, but they were extremely unlikely to become seriously ill.
Today, as delta infections mount, some front line doctors suggest children are being hospitalized at higher rates and with more serious illnesses because of the new variant — a still-unproven hypothesis. What is indisputable is that in a swath of low-vaccination states stretching from Florida, South Carolina and Texas, up to Indiana and Missouri, the first large wave of pediatric cases is hitting hard — overwhelming hospitals, dominating political debates over mask and vaccine mandates and throwing school reopening plans into disarray.
Masks in schools: Explaining the debate over face coverings in classrooms
Every day, it seems, brings a new threat, lawsuit court order or protest as educators, parents, public health authorities and politicians battle over whether students should be required to wear masks in school and whether school districts should be allowed to impose such requirements.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all students, staff and visitors inside school buildings wear masks at all times. Some states have rules that echo the CDC, requiring masks in schools statewide and prompting local protests across the country.
Other states have gone the opposite direction, barring their school districts from imposing mask mandates. The result has been an escalating war that generally pits Republican state officials — who argue that parents should have the right to decide about masks for their children — against school districts — who cite the rising virus caseloads, contagious delta variant and proven efficacy of masks in requiring them.
This battle is playing out in courtrooms and in muscle-flexing in state capitols, in school boards and in the White House, where President Joe Biden says he is investigating what power he may have to support mask requirements.
For answers to frequently asked questions about school masks, read the story here.
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