Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, Aug. 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that he’s “cautiously pleased” with the state’s coronavirus situation, which shows tallies for new daily confirmed cases have trended down — although not long after his remarks, state health officials announced 700 new confirmed cases, as well as 15 deaths.
Meanwhile, unemployment claims in Washington state dropped for the fifth consecutive week — but the number of people filing remains at historic levels and nearly 60,000 workers who have filed for jobless benefits are waiting for the state to resolve those claims.
Throughout Friday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Europe’s economic recovery stumbles after initial bounceback
The euro-area economy unexpectedly lost momentum this month after a resurgence of coronavirus cases forced new restrictions, highlighting the challenge of rekindling growth while the pandemic remains untamed.
The sharp slowdown — driven by services — shows that the escape from recession won’t be plain sailing, and undermines lingering hopes for a V-shaped recovery. While infections are approaching levels recorded during strict lockdowns earlier this year, governments are so far reluctant to re-impose those measures.
In a report published Friday, IHS Markit said its composite measure of private-sector activity dropped to 51.6 in August from 54.9 in July. The manufacturing gauge remained virtually unchanged, but services plunged to 50.1, a level that practically signals stagnation.
The economy had initially bounced back strongly after restrictions were eased, though concerns lingered that the pace could fade. At their last meeting in July, European Central Bank policy makers were reluctant to draw firm conclusions about the health of the economy, a stance that looks justified by Friday’s numbers.
The fallout on jobs in both sectors continued, with employment declining for a sixth straight month.
COVID-19 outbreak reported in Bremerton hospital
More than 30 employees and patients of St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in an outbreak that has affected multiple units of the hospital, health officials said Friday.
The first case of COVID-19 at the Kitsap County hospital — formerly known as Harrison Medical Center — was reported last week, according to a joint statement from the Kitsap Public Health District and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Neither the health departments nor CHI Franciscan, the hospital’s parent company, specified which units of the 260-bed hospital had reported cases, but said patients who were discharged from those areas had been notified of the outbreak.
St. Michael workers had previously criticized CHI Franciscan for not providing adequate personal protective equipment, the Kitsap Sun reported in July. Hospital staff said they had to reuse N95 face masks and patch face shields with tape. A CHI Franciscan spokesperson told the newspaper that the network has provided its hospitals necessary supplies.
Federal judge in Seattle blocks Department of Education rule that could have funneled more coronavirus relief aid to private schools
A federal judge in Seattle granted state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s request to block a U.S. Department of Education rule that would have forced school districts to either share a higher portion of federal coronavirus emergency relief funds with private schools or limit spending the aid only to a particular subset of public schools in their boundaries.
The ruling, issued Friday, blocks the Education Department’s requirement nationwide, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The rule, a departure from how districts are normally allowed to spend funds through the federal Title I formula, was issued last month as a stipulation for how districts could spend their share of the $13.5 billion in relief allocated to schools through the federal CARES Act coronavirus relief package.
Earlier this summer, Washington and five other states sued the Education Department on the grounds that it diverted emergency funds away from low-income students toward private schools, whose students’ needs are not as great. On July 20, Ferguson filed suit against the department challenging the rule’s legality. Three days later, he filed a request to stop the rule from being implemented while his original suit progressed. The Friday ruling applies to the latter action.
California’s jobless rate improves; economy still struggling
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California added more than 140,000 jobs in July, lowering its historic high unemployment rate to 13.3% amid a coronavirus pandemic marked by stops and starts of the workplace that have plunged the world’s fifth largest economy into chaos.
Normally, adding more than 140,000 jobs would be cause for celebration by the standards of the past few decades. But the coronavirus has upended what’s normal, with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration ordering most of the state’s businesses to close in the spring, reopening them a few months later only to close them again when cases spiked.
California lost 2.4 million payroll jobs in April, more than all the jobs lost during the Great Recession a decade ago. The state added back 558,000 jobs in June, a record for one month. With July’s gains, the California Employment Development Department says the state has regained nearly a third of the jobs lost at the start of the pandemic.
But the state’s unemployment rate, while falling 1.6 percentage points since June, is still higher than it ever got during the Great Recession. Compared to the same period last year, the state has shredded more than 1.6 million jobs, the most of any state in the country.
Hit by virus surge, Hong Kong offers free tests to everyone
HONG KONG — Hong Kong will offer free coronavirus tests to its residents starting Sept. 1 as it grapples with its worst outbreak since the pandemic began, leader Carrie Lam said Friday.
The testing program, which will last up to two weeks, will allow every Hong Kong resident to be tested on a voluntary basis, she said.
“For the good of yourself and others, and for safeguarding public health, please take part in the scheme,” Lam said. “What we’re doing today is so that we can come off the epidemic as soon as possible, so that we can resume our economic activities.”
The testing is aimed at identifying people who are infected with the coronavirus but have exhibited no symptoms, officials said. The city, which has 7.5 million people, has conducted over 1.2 million coronavirus tests so far.
A new surge in infections which started in July has more than tripled the number of cases in the city to 4,632.
I downloaded America’s first coronavirus exposure app. You should too.
I often use this column to warn about the dangers of apps that track you. This time, I’m going to recommend you actually install one.
There’s a new kind of app that uses your smartphone’s Bluetooth wireless signals to figure out when you’ve been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with covid-19. It pops up the world’s most stressful-yet-helpful notification: “You have likely been exposed.”
For about a week and a half, 35 Washington Post staff members have been helping me test America’s first exposure-notification app using technology from Apple and Google. It’s called Covidwise, and works in the state of Virginia. Made by state health departments, similar apps are also now available in North Dakota (Care19 Alert), Wyoming (also called Care19 Alert), and Alabama (Guidesafe). In total, 20 states and territories are developing apps that will cover nearly half the U.S. population.
My takeaway: Despite its eerie power, this type of app isn’t a privacy invasion. It never records your location or shares who you come in contact with. But it’s also possible apps like Covidwise aren’t very effective – in our team’s first 10 days of testing, we didn’t get a single exposure alert.
The Trump administration declared teachers ‘essential workers.’ Here’s what that means.
The Trump administration is now labeling teachers “essential” workers, a move aimed at pushing school districts to open for in-person instruction for the fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The declaration of teachers as “critical infrastructure workers,” which came in an Aug. 18 guidance published by the Department of Homeland Security, means that teachers exposed to coronavirus but who show no symptoms can return to classrooms and not quarantine for 14 days as public health agencies recommend.
DHS said the label is only advisory and not meant to be a federal directive. Still, school districts that want teachers to return to classrooms — even when teachers don’t think it is safe enough — could use the federal designation to bolster their own mandates.
Essential workers are those deemed by the DHS to work areas typically essential to continue critical infrastructure operations and who are expected to show up for their jobs on site because there is no other way to do them.
Schools closed last spring when the pandemic began in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease, and teachers have done their jobs remotely.
As the restaurant industry suffers, the James Beard Foundation scraps its prestigious awards until 2022
With the coronavirus wreaking devastation in the restaurant industry — many establishments are closed or operating at low capacity, thousands of workers have been laid off, and many sickened — the organization that has bestowed the culinary and food-media world equivalent of the Oscars has decided not to declare winners in its 2020 ceremony.
The James Beard Foundation on Thursday announced that “substantial and sustained upheaval” in the industry prompted its decision. “The Foundation believes the assignment of Awards will do little to further the industry in its current uphill battle,” the organization said in a news release.
In May, Seattle’s Canlis was named a finalist in the outstanding service and hospitality category of the James Beard Awards, while Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Joule were named finalists for “Best Chefs in the Northwest and Pacific” and Heliotrope Architects in Ballard was a finalist in the “Outstanding Restaurant Design” category for their work on Rupee Bar. Winners were supposed to be announced in a virtual ceremony Sept. 25.
Washington state DOH confirms 390 new COVID-19 cases, 13 new deaths
State health officials confirmed 390 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Friday, bringing the state case count to 69,779.
There have been 1,850 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Washington, according to the state Department of Health (DOH) coronavirus dashboard, meaning 2.7% of people diagnosed here have died. Thirteen of those deaths were confirmed Friday. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
At least 6,469 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the novel coronavirus. The DOH is changing its methodology for reporting testing numbers and isn't currently reporting the percent of positive tests in the state.
State health officials have confirmed 18,334 diagnoses and 710 deaths in King County, the state's most populous; this figure comprises 38.4% of statewide deaths. In the earlier stages of the pandemic, King represented more than half of all COVID-19 deaths in Washington.
More than 5.5 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States since the stateside coronavirus outbreak, per the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
15 Minnesotans catch coronavirus at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Fifteen Minnesota residents have contracted the coronavirus after being exposed during the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, Minnesota health officials said Friday, warning that they expect the number to grow.
One patient was hospitalized as of Friday, said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. The first Sturgis-linked case was reported Thursday, she said, while the 14 others were added Friday.
“We’re expecting that we’re going to see many more cases associated with Sturgis,” Ehresmann said during a briefing for reporters. “Thousands of people attended that event, and so it’s very likely that we’ll see more transmission. Obviously it takes a while for people to develop symptoms and get tested and for us to get those results.”
The Sturgis rally, which ended Sunday, brought hundreds of thousands of people to western South Dakota. The Minnesota announcement followed a warning Thursday from South Dakota Department of Health officials that a number of people who attended the rally had come down with the COVID-19 virus, including some from out of state. They did not give an exact number of attendees who tested positive, but said it was less than 25.
Judge denies motion by Oregon schools to reopen in-person
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge denied a proposal by three Christian schools in Oregon that wanted to reopen for in-person learning this fall, finding Gov. Kate Brown’s regulations on schools during the coronavirus constitutional.
The attorney for the three schools urged U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman to grant a temporary restraining order that would have halted the governor’s order.
“We want to be treated the same as universities and daycare centers,” said John Kaempf, representing Horizon Christian School, Life Christian School and McMinnville Christian Academy.
The state argued that health concerns take precedent and that the temporary limitations on in-person instruction is necessary because of the risk to public health.
Gov. Brown issued an executive order on June 24 that allowed in-person learning at public and private K-12 schools only if it they met guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education.
That order was extended by a subsequent one that allowed public and private schools from 4th grade to 12th grade to open for in-person instruction once the state experienced 5% or fewer cases statewide for three consecutive weeks. The school’s county has 5% or fewer cases; and there are 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 people in the county.
Quarantines, closures: Confusion reigns as schools reopen
Frightening calls from the school nurse. Waiting in vain for word from school officials. Canceled sports practices. Marching bands in quarantine.
For countless families across the country, the school year is opening in disarray and confusion, with coronavirus outbreaks triggering sudden closings, mass quarantines and deep anxiety among parents.
Schools in at least 10 states have had students and staff test positive for the virus since they began opening. The outbreaks have occurred in a variety of school settings: marching bands, high school football teams, elementary classrooms, high schools.
A Colorado high school shut down for two weeks after two students tested positive. Football teams in Utah canceled practices and games after several players came down with the virus. The entire football team and marching band in a small Alabama town were placed under quarantine because of exposure to the virus, the second time the team had to be quarantined this summer.
Michigan is reporting 14 outbreaks at schools. Mississippi started the week with about 2,000 students and 600 teachers in quarantine; the state has had 245 cases of coronavirus in teachers and about 200 in students since districts began returning to school in late July.
Can you get coronavirus via secondhand smoke? The smell is a warning sign
What if you’re close enough to smell someone’s secondhand smoke, or pass through a cloud of smoke on your way into a store? Does that expose you to the coronavirus, if the smoker happens to be infected?
There is little evidence to suggest the smoke itself could be carrying the coronavirus, but researchers and physicians say that merely being able to smell someone’s cigarette is a warning sign you’re breathing air that was just in someone else’s lungs.
William Ristenpart, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California at Davis who researches how pathogens are transported, told The Washington Post that the smoke particles themselves are unlikely to be carrying a virus that could infect other people. This is partly because the heat from the cigarette would probably kill the virus, but also because “a large fraction of the smoke particulates go into your lungs, never hit anything, and then are exhaled,” Ristenpart said.
But there is reason to be concerned about transmission if you get a whiff of someone’s smoke — the respiratory particles that come along with it.
Syracuse students suspended in latest crackdown by colleges
Syracuse University has suspended 23 students following a large on-campus gathering, the latest example of a college cracking down on the kind of socializing that can spread the coronavirus and sink plans for in-person learning this semester.
Syracuse officials announced the disciplinary action late Thursday and said they were reviewing security camera footage to identify additional students seen on video crowding into the campus quad Wednesday night in violation of rules limiting crowds and requiring masks.
“We have one shot to make this happen,” Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie wrote in a letter to students. “The world is watching, and they expect you to fail. Prove them wrong.”
Social media has been filled with images of such gatherings in recent weeks as college students make their way back to campuses nationwide.
Purdue University suspended 36 students for going to a party. Other suspensions have been reported at Virginia Tech, St. Olaf College in Minnesota and Radford University in Virginia.
WWII veterans to gather in Hawaii amid pandemic to mark Japan's surrender
Several dozen aging U.S. veterans, including some who were in Tokyo Bay as swarms of warplanes buzzed overhead and nations converged to end World War II, will gather on a battleship in Pearl Harbor next month to mark the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, even if it means the vulnerable group may be risking their lives again amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 75th anniversary was meant to be a blockbuster event, and the veterans have been looking forward to it for years. There were to be thousands of people watching in Hawaii as parades marched through Waikiki, vintage warbirds flying overhead, and gala dinners to honor the veterans.
Now, most in-person celebrations have been canceled over fears the virus could infect the veterans, who range from 90 to 101. But about 200 people, mostly veterans, their families and government officials, will still commemorate the milestone on the USS Missouri, which hosted the surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay.
It comes as Oahu — Hawaii’s most populated island and the home of Pearl Harbor — has seen an alarming spike in coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, forcing many restrictions to be reinstated, including a ban on gatherings of more than five people and the closure of all beaches.
Michigan appeals court upholds governor’s emergency powers
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency declarations and orders to curb the coronavirus clearly fall within the scope of her legal powers, the Michigan appeals court ruled Friday, rejecting a lawsuit filed by the Republican-led Legislature.
The 2-1 ruling upheld a lower judge’s decision but is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court. The appellate panel denied GOP lawmakers’ contention that a 1945 law only lets a governor indefinitely extend emergencies that are local, not statewide, in nature. A separate 1976 law requires the Legislature’s blessing to extend an emergency.
The Democratic governor’s ongoing state of emergency is the underpinning of her measures to close businesses, limit gathering sizes and restrict other activities to limit COVID-19.
As U.S. deaths mount, virus takes outsize toll on minorities
As many as 215,000 more people than usual died in the U.S. during the first seven months of 2020, suggesting that the number of lives lost to the coronavirus is significantly higher than the official toll. And half the dead were people of color — Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and, to a marked degree unrecognized until now, Asian Americans.
The new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight a stark disparity: Deaths among minorities during the crisis have risen far more than they have among whites.
A count of deaths from all causes during the seven-month period — because some early coronavirus deaths were incorrectly attributed to other causes — yields what experts believe is a fuller picture of the disaster and its racial dimensions.
Among the reasons communities of color may be disproportionally affected are lower incomes and the need to share living space, higher rates of health problems, and having essential jobs that keep them working during the pandemic.
Some Sturgis motorcycle rally attendees now testing positive for COVID-19
South Dakota health officials warned Thursday that a number of people who attended the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally this month, including some who came from out of state, have come down with COVID-19.
Department of Health officials did not give an exact number of rallygoers who tested positive, but they said it was under 25.
The rally, which ended Sunday, is one of the biggest motorcycle events in the country. It brought hundreds of thousands of people from far and wide to the city in the western part of the state.
Even before it kicked off, some locals and officials expressed concern that COVID-19 could spread rapidly at the rally and that it would be hard to track rallygoers who got infected before heading home.
The state’s health department has received reports from other states that people who traveled from the rally have tested positive, state epidemiologist Josh Clayton said.
Contact tracers have been able to work with most people to determine who they were around and may have infected. But the health department has issued public warnings for two bars — one in Sturgis and the other at a popular stop for riders along U.S. Highway 385 near Mount Rushmore. Clayton said they did not know how many people were exposed at the bars.
Sturgis is planning to conduct mass testing of its residents next week in an attempt to stem a possible outbreak of infections from the rally.
Spanish region orders brothels to close to avoid contagion
A Spanish region on Friday ordered all brothels to close after recent coronavirus clusters highlighted how hard it is to track down people who've visited them.
That came after seven women and five men tested positive for the virus at a brothel in the central Ciudad Real province.
With no official registry of clients, authorities haven’t been able to trace other people who may have been exposed.
The Castilla La Mancha region, where many of the country’s brothels are concentrated, ordered them to close by Sunday.
Seoul's virus surge spreads around South Korea
South Korea added its most new virus cases in months on Friday, driven by a surge around the capital that appears to be spreading nationwide.
The 324 new infections represent its highest single-day total since early March and the eighth consecutive triple-digit daily increase.
Most of the new cases are in the densely populated Seoul region, where health workers are scrambling to track transmissions from sources such as restaurants, schools, workers and churches — including the Sarang Jeil Church, whose leader, Rev. Jun Kwang-hun, tested positive for coronavirus this week.
But the new infections reported Friday were from practically all major cities, including Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Sejong and Daegu, the southeastern city that was the epicenter of a massive outbreak in late February and March.
Virus cases reported at 41 schools in Germany’s capital
At least 41 schools in Berlin have reported that students or teachers have become infected with the coronavirus not even two weeks after schools reopened in the German capital.
Daily Berliner Zeitung published the numbers Friday and city education authorities confirmed the figures to The Associated Press.
Hundreds of students and teachers are in quarantine, the newspaper reported. Elementary schools, high schools and trade schools are all affected, the paper wrote. There are 825 schools in Berlin.
The reopening of schools and the possible risks of virus clusters building up in educational institutions and then spreading beyond to families and further into society have been a hotly debated concern in Germany.
Catching up on the past 24 hours
Gov. Jay Inslee is "cautiously pleased" as confirmed COVID-19 cases trend lower, but that doesn't mean most restrictions on businesses and social life will end soon. He's allowing museums and bowling alleys in King and other counties to reopen, though. Here's a county-by-county look at what you can do these days.
Why don’t we know how many people have been tested in Washington, and how many have recovered? Our Friday FAQ tackles those questions, and interactive maps show what we do know about the spread of the pandemic.
Evidence is growing that children may play a larger role in coronavirus transmission than previously believed, with three recent studies painting a worrisome new picture.
What will it take to reopen schools in Washington? In short, it's up to everybody. Numbers are part of the answer, but education and health leaders face big-picture questions that are tougher to tackle. If you're worried about your child falling behind on benchmark skills in the meantime, here's what to do.
Nearly 60,000 workers in our state are still waiting for unemployment benefits, weeks and even months after losing their jobs.
A mother traveling with her six children was forced off a JetBlue flight when her 2-year-old wouldn’t keep a mask on. The "nasty" scene, with passengers yelling at a flight attendant, is just one example of how kids are posing big dilemmas for airlines with mask rules
A former Navy SEAL who says he killed Osama bin Laden wouldn't keep his mask on in flight, either. Delta has banned him. And after a teenage worker at a Sesame Street theme park told guests to wear a mask, his jaw was shattered in response.
Months into the pandemic, some folks still think 5G mobile networks spread COVID-19. (Uh, no.) Here are eight common and whopping myths, debunked.
The stock market is soaring, so why are we hearing so much talk of a pandemic depression? Columnist Jon Talton explains the supercharged economic risks right now, and what might help.
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