Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, Aug. 24, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, people are settling into new routines — or a lack of routine all together. And that can be a problem, especially as the days grow shorter and coronavirus fatigue settles in. Experts say getting therapy, establishing routines and going outside for a few minutes can help.
Though people seem to be mostly familiar now with what’s allowed under their county’s coronavirus restrictions, the desire to travel and take a break from the same four walls has people wondering again what they can do and where. Here’s an updated look at what’s allowed county-by-county.
Throughout Monday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Saturday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Biden, Harris to get routine virus testing, a notable change
WASHINGTON — In a notable change, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, will now be regularly tested for the coronavirus as the race heats up, a campaign aide confirmed Monday.
“This announcement is another step demonstrating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ commitment to turn the page on Trump’s catastrophic mismanagement during the worst public health crisis in 100 years,” said Biden spokesperson Andrew Bates.
Bates declined to comment Monday when asked if Biden had been tested yet, though deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said Sunday that he hadn’t been.
A campaign aide said the decision to move forward with regular testing was based on the recommendations of the campaign’s medical advisers. It comes as the candidate and his running mate are expected to ramp up in-person campaigning in the final 10 weeks of the election. The news was first reported by Bloomberg.
Staffers who interact with the candidates will also be tested regularly.
Europe tried to limit mass layoffs, but the cuts are coming anyway
PARIS — At BP, 10,000 jobs. At Lufthansa, 22,000. At Renault, 14,600.
When European countries ordered businesses to shutter and employees to stay home as the coronavirus spread, governments took radical steps to shield workers from the prospect of mass joblessness, extending billions to businesses to keep people employed.
The layoffs are coming anyway.
A tsunami of job cuts is about to hit Europe as companies prepare to carry out sweeping downsizing plans to offset a collapse in business from the outbreak. Government-backed furlough schemes that have helped keep around one-third of Europe’s workforce financially secure are set to unwind in the coming months.
As many as 59 million jobs are at risk of cuts in hours or pay, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs, especially in industries like transportation and retail, according to a study by McKinsey & Co.
Governments are warning that millions will soon lose paychecks, and the European Central Bank last week said unemployment was likely to surge and stay high even when a recovery from the pandemic unfolds.
As world grapples with pandemic, schools are the epicenter
JACKSON, Miss. — The world is settling into a new normal for everyday life amid the coronavirus pandemic: online school classes, intermittent Zoom outages, museums that will only allow about a quarter of their usual visitors.
More than 800,000 people worldwide have perished from the virus and more than 23.5 million have contracted it, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University — figures experts say understate the true toll due to limited testing, missed mild cases and other factors.
Older people and those with underlying health conditions appear to be the most vulnerable. However, there’s uncertainty about long-term effects and what impact millions of school children around the globe returning to classrooms might have on the virus’ spread.
Just in time for back-to-school, the World Health Organization has updated its guidance for mask-wearing by children, notably saying those 6 to 11 years old should wear them to fight the coronavirus, but that it depends on local factors and other criteria.
Kids under 6 years old should not wear masks, WHO says, while those over 12 should wear them just like adults should, notably in cases where physical distancing cannot be ensured and in areas of high transmission rates.
Seattle Art Museum, Frye Art Museum prepare for a tentative reopening under Phase 2 guidelines
Seattle Art Museum (SAM) announced Monday that it will reopen its downtown museum, as well as its gift shop, to the general public on Sept. 11, in accordance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s recommendations.
Inslee announced that Thursday that museums will be allowed to open under Phase 2 of the state’s coronavirus reopening plan, as long as they follow guidelines including mandatory face masks for patrons over age age 2 and keeping attendance at 25% capacity or lower.
To control capacity at the museum, SAM will sell timed tickets exclusively online beginning Sept. 4. Find more details at visitsam.org/comeback.
The Frye Art Museum on First Hill says it will recall all furloughed employees in early September to begin implementing its reopening plans, and hopes to open the museum’s doors in mid-October. Admission to the Frye has been and will continue to be free, but the museum will also require patrons to reserve timed tickets online to help stick to the state’s 25% capacity rule.
Previously, museums wouldn’t have been allowed to open until Phase 3.
Maskless crowd shatters glass to get to Idaho House session on virus
BOISE, Idaho — Angry, maskless spectators forced themselves into the Idaho House special session on the coronavirus pandemic Monday, shattering a glass door, rushing into the gallery that had limited seating because of the virus and forcing lawmakers to ask for calm in a crowd that included a man carrying an assault-style weapon.
After some people shoved their way past Idaho State Police, Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke allowed the gallery to fully open as long as the crowd stopped chanting and was respectful.
“I want to always try to avoid violence,” he told The Associated Press later. “My initial reaction of course was to clear the fourth floor. But we had room for at least some more.”
Several conservative lawmakers asked for calm and decorum from the gallery crowd. The session started with a full gallery and few masks.
That carried over into packed committee rooms, where maskless spectators ignored social distancing. One Democratic representative walked out of a committee meeting, citing unsafe conditions.
Coos Bay Speedway liquor license suspended over virus rules
COOS BAY, Ore. — The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has suspended the alcohol licensee of Coos Bay Speedway Enterprises, saying they violated public health social distancing and face covering requirements.
The business, which holds a Limited On-Premises sales license is not allowed to sell any alcoholic beverages, the commission said.
On Aug. 14, the operators of the Coos Bay Speedway staged an event with a crowd estimated by commission staff to be 1,000 or more people. Under Oregon’s phase two reopening guidance, which is in effect for Coos County, venue and event operators are required to limit outdoor gatherings to 250 people.
Inspectors also reportedly saw an absence of social distancing between spectators, and that few of the race track staff or patrons were wearing face coverings, including people serving alcohol.
Bremerton hospital says 45 have tested positive for COVID-19, and number likely to grow
A COVID-19 outbreak at a Bremerton hospital that started in early August, possibly with a staff member, has grown to 45 cases.
Of the 45 cases, 30 are employees of St. Michael Medical Center and 15 are patients. The number is likely to go higher, said Dr. Gib Morrow, health officer for the Kitsap Public Health District.
“We expect this count to grow as the hospital continues comprehensive testing of staff and patients,” he said during a Monday news conference.
The state Department of Health (DOH) and Kitsap Public Health announced the outbreak at St. Michael’s Bremerton facility Friday evening. At the time, the two departments said there were “more than 30 cases” at St. Michael, which was formerly known as Harrison Medical Center and is part of the Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan system.
The three units where staff and patients tested positive for COVID-19 are still housing patients already admitted, but new patients aren’t being taken in, said Dr. Michael Anderson, chief medical officer for CHI Franciscan.
Anderson said he doesn’t know which three of the hospital’s units had the positive results.
Life Care resident shares special moment with daughter, son-in-law amid COVID-19 pandemic
Revved by Sturgis Rally, COVID-19 infections move fast, far
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The hundreds of thousands of bikers who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have departed western South Dakota, but public health departments in multiple states are trying to measure how much and how quickly the coronavirus spread in bars, tattoo shops and gatherings before people traveled home to nearly every state in the country.
From the city of Sturgis, which is conducting mass testing for its roughly 7,000 residents, to health departments in at least six states, health officials are trying to track outbreaks from the 10-day rally which ended on Aug. 16. They face the task of tracking an invisible virus that spread among bar-hoppers and rallygoers, who then traveled to over half of the counties in the United States.
An analysis of anonymous cell phone data from Camber Systems, a firm that aggregates cell phone activity for health researchers, found that 61% of all the counties in the U.S. have been visited by someone who attended Sturgis, creating a travel hub that was comparable to a major U.S. city.
“Imagine trying to do contact tracing for the entire city of (Washington), D.C., but you also know that you don’t have any distancing, or the distancing is very, very limited, the masking is limited,” said Navin Vembar, who co-founded Camber Systems. “It all adds up to a very dangerous situation for people all over the place. Contact tracing becomes dramatically difficult.”
Health departments in four states, including South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming, have reported a total of 81 cases among people who attended the rally. South Dakota health officials said Monday they had received reports of infections from residents of two other states — North Dakota and Washington. The Department of Health also issued public warnings of possible COVID-19 exposure at five businesses popular with bikers, saying it didn’t know how many people could have been exposed.
CDC drops 14-day self-quarantine recommendation for international, out-of-state travelers
Since March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days after all international travel, and after domestic travel to states seeing a high rate of coronavirus cases. But the CDC has changed that stance, removing the directions for two-week quarantines from the “After You Travel” section of its coronavirus travel guidance.
Instead, it shares “after-travel” recommendations based on individual countries. A map of country-specific health information can be found on the CDC website, and includes a map of reported cases in the United States.
In an email, CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told The Washington Post, “This updated guidance is based on risk of exposure during travel, asking travelers to think about what they did, where they were, and who they came into contact with to evaluate their risk of exposure to covid-19.”
The CDC’s updated travel guidance states that all returning travelers should social distance, wear a cloth face covering, wash their hands often and watch for symptoms. Notably, those are all basic measures the CDC has urged Americans to follow since the beginning of the pandemic, regardless of whether traveling is involved.
Doctors say that quarantines can still be a good idea after traveling to a coronavirus-impacted area, and that quarantines are especially useful in the absence of testing. Plus, if you’re from a state that requires a two-week quarantine, you’ll likely still need to complete one.
State DOH confirms 359 new COVID-19 cases in Washington, plus 4 more deaths
State health officials confirmed 359 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Monday afternoon, bringing the state's total case count to 71,371.
There have been 1,867 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Washington, according to the state Department of Health (DOH) coronavirus dashboard, meaning 2.6% of people diagnosed here have died. Four of those deaths were confirmed Monday. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
At least 6,542 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.
State health officials have confirmed 18,797 diagnoses and 716 deaths in King County, the state's most populous; this figure constitutes 38.35% of statewide deaths.
Judge pauses Florida's mandate to reopen schools
A county judge has temporarily scuttled Florida's plans to reopen schools by the end of this month, arguing districts should be able to decide for themselves how to respond to continuing health concerns over the novel coronavirus.
As coronavirus case counts in Florida fell over the summer, Gov. Ron DeSantis and top education officials had told the state's public schools to reopen brick-and-mortar classrooms in the fall — or risk lose funding.
Teachers' unions, concerned about the ability of schools to keep children and teachers healthy, sued the state.
Monday, Leon County Judge Charles Dodson said that forcing schools to reopen usurps local control from school districts in deciding for themselves whether it is safe for students, teachers and staffers to return.
"If an individual school district chooses safety, that is, delaying the start of schools until it individually determines it is safe to do so for its county, it risks losing state funding, even though every student is being taught," Dodson wrote. "The districts have no meaningful alternative."
How our brains numb us to COVID-19’s risks
Back in March, going just about anywhere felt like entering a combat zone. As COVID-19 case counts rose across the country, I quaked at the prospect of going to the grocery store. I donned my mask and tried not to inhale as I threaded through the aisles, dousing myself with sanitizer as soon as I got out.
But as the pandemic stretched into summer, my vigilance began to flag.
I often suspect I’m getting too blasé about the ongoing threat from COVID-19 and I know I’m not alone.
We’re swarming the beaches and boardwalks, often without masks. We’re crowding into restaurants we haven’t visited for months. And some of us are gathering in large groups for raucous parties — even in COVID-19 hot spots such as Miami, Houston and northern Georgia.
As the pandemic drags on, people are unknowingly performing a kind of exposure therapy on themselves, said University of Oregon psychologist Paul Slovic, author of “The Perception of Risk” — and the results can be deadly.
Splash! Virus spawns portable pool fad in Spain
As pretty much everywhere else, the coronavirus pandemic has meant more time at home for Spaniards. For many of those furloughed or out of business it has also meant less income and no way to afford a vacation to escape the sweltering temperatures of the Spanish summer.
Searching for a solution to keep cool, portable pools have become the newest fad, taking over backyards, terraces, communal patios and even the streets of Seville in the country’s south.
Sales of all portable pools, including the cheapest inflatable models, started this year as early as May, when Spain was still in the middle of a strict lockdown and few feared that their summer would mean they would be confined at home. By June, most models had sold out from shopping malls and online websites.
U.N. cautions that virus plasma treatment still experimental
The World Health Organization on Monday cautioned that using blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors to treat other patients is still considered an experimental therapy, voicing the concern as a U.S. boost for the treatment has many scientists afraid formal studies will be derailed.
On Sunday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized what’s called “emergency use” of the treatment under its special powers to speed the availability of promising experimental drugs during a public health crisis. The action isn’t the same as approving plasma as safe and effective, and numerous rigorous studies are underway to find out if it really works.
So far, “The results are not conclusive,” WHO’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, said during a press briefing. “At the moment, it’s still very low-quality evidence.”
Thousands allowed to bypass environmental rules in pandemic
Thousands of oil and gas operations, government facilities and other sites won permission to stop monitoring for hazardous emissions or otherwise bypass rules intended to protect health and the environment because of the coronavirus outbreak, The Associated Press has found.
The result: approval for less environmental monitoring at some Texas refineries and at an Army depot dismantling warheads armed with nerve gas in Kentucky, manure piling up and the mass disposal of livestock carcasses at farms in Iowa and Minnesota, and other risks to communities as governments eased enforcement over smokestacks, medical-waste shipments, sewage plants, oilfields and chemical plants.
The Trump administration paved the way for the reduced monitoring on March 26 after being pressured by the oil and gas industry, which said lockdowns and social distancing during the pandemic made it difficult to comply with anti-pollution rules. States are responsible for much of the oversight of federal environmental laws, and many followed with leniency policies of their own.
Children ages 6 to 11 should wear masks at times, WHO recommends
Just as millions of children are heading back to school, the World Health Organization says those aged 6 to 11 should wear masks in some cases to help fight the spread of coronavirus.
The recommendations presented Monday follow the widespread belief that children under 12 are not considered as likely to propagate the virus as much as adults. Children in general face less severe virus symptoms than do adults, with older people the most vulnerable to severe infection and death.
Now WHO says decisions about whether children aged 6 to 11 should wear masks should consider factors like whether COVID-19 transmission is widespread in the area where the child lives; the child’s ability to safely use a mask, and adult supervision when taking the masks on or off.
South Korea sees 11th day of triple-digit case increases
South Korea counted its 11th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in coronavirus cases Monday and health officials pleaded for people to follow guidelines or risk further restrictions or strains on hospitals.
Most of the 266 new cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, but new infections were also reported in other major cities, including Busan, Daejeon and Sejong.
KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it’s likely the country will continue to report huge infection numbers in coming days as health workers scramble to trace and test contacts of virus carriers.
China says it began public use of COVID-19 vaccine a month ago, bypassing clinical trials
China is claiming the dubious honor of the first nation to roll out an experimental coronavirus vaccine for public use, saying it began inoculating high-risk groups in late July.
For those keeping score, that would put Beijing’s civilian rollout three weeks earlier than Russia’s, with neither vaccine having yet passed standard clinical trials. Beijing health officials said Saturday they began dosing some medical workers and state-owned enterprise employees with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine in late July under “urgent use” protocols.
Officials around the world have been debating how far they should suspend ordinary drug-development protocols to get COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to market. Many governments declared early on that they would not cut corners in developing a vaccine, but they are proving amenable in practice to corner-cutting as the pandemic’s human and economic tolls mount.
The Beijing announcement followed a diplomatic controversy last week, in which Papua New Guinea said it had turned back a group of Chinese miners who had received an experimental coronavirus vaccine.
California’s crises converge: fleeing wildfires in a pandemic
In California, more than 14,000 firefighters are scrambling to protect the state's communities from two dozen major blazes, which have left at least seven people dead and dozens injured, and have forced more than 100,000 people from their homes under evacuation orders.
Roughly 1.1 million acres have burned — an area larger than Rhode Island — since Aug. 15, according to Cal Fire. More than 600,000 acres of that has been in the groups of fires known as the LNU Lightning Complex and the SC Lightning Complex, which have become the second- and third-largest fires in state history.
And the weather is only making matters worse: Dry thunderstorms are expected to bring more lightning without rain, with a red flag warning in place for much of Northern California and down to the Central Coast.
But while the fires have burned near communities where residents are learning to live with a predictable annual threat and terrible air quality, Californians have been faced with dueling, interlocked catastrophes: the wildfires and the pandemic.
Now families who might ordinarily flee to the homes of relatives or close friends face worries about the virus and a dilemma.
NFL says contamination caused 77 'most likely false positive' virus tests
The lab used by the NFL for COVID-19 tests said Monday that an isolated contamination caused 77 “most likely false positive results.”
In a statement, BioReference Laboratories said the test results on Saturday were contaminated during preparation at its lab in New Jersey. Eleven clubs were affected, and the tests were reexamined and found to be false positives.
“The NFL immediately took necessary actions to ensure the safety of the players and personnel,” said Dr. Jon R. Cohen, executive chairman of BioReference, which does all COVID-19 testing for the 32 NFL teams in five labs across the country. “Re-agents, analyzers and staff were all ruled out as possible causes and subsequent testing has indicated that the issue has been resolved. All individuals impacted have been confirmed negative and informed.”
Researchers document first case of virus reinfection
Researchers in Hong Kong are reporting the first confirmed case of reinfection with the coronavirus.
“An apparently young and healthy patient had a second case of COVID-19 infection which was diagnosed 4.5 months after the first episode,” University of Hong Kong researchers said Monday in a statement.
The report is of concern because it suggests that immunity to the coronavirus may last only a few months in some people. And it has implications for vaccines being developed for the virus.
The 33-year-old man had only mild symptoms the first time and no symptoms this time around. The reinfection was discovered when he returned from a trip to Spain, the researchers said, and the virus they sequenced closely matched the strain circulating in Europe in July and August.
“Our results prove that his second infection is caused by a new virus that he acquired recently rather than prolonged viral shedding,” said Dr. Kelvin Kai-Wang To, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong.
Given that there are millions of cases worldwide, it is not unexpected that a few, or even a few dozen, people might be reinfected with the virus after only a few months, experts have said.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Trump touted a "very historic breakthrough" in treating coronavirus as he announced that the U.S. has authorized the emergency use of blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients. Scientists and some public health experts are skeptical. And fact-checkers are digging into Trump's accusation that the FDA is slowing down vaccines to hurt his re-election bid.
Washington's remote school year is beginning, but some families still can't connect. Many schools have solved a big barrier to remote learning by hustling up thousands of laptops and tablets. But access to fast, reliable internet? That’s a much more challenging problem, especially in rural areas.
Parties around WSU’s Greek Row have been linked to a "substantial increase" in COVID-19 cases.
The extra $300 unemployment payment from the U.S. government is hung up in bureaucracy in most states. Here's who may get it, and when.
In China, where the pandemic began, life is starting to look … normal.
Hotels and vacation rentals have changed since the pandemic started. Travel Troubleshooter walks through what to expect, including new approaches to cancellations. People miss travel so much that it's taking a clear emotional toll, a new study found.
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