Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Aug. 25, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 scientists continue to race toward a coronavirus vaccine, researchers in Hong Kong reported Monday the first confirmed case of reinfection — news that concerned experts because of its implications for immunity and vaccines.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its coronavirus guidance for international and out-of-state travelers, eliminating the 14-day self-quarantine recommendation it imposed in March. The World Health Organization has also updated its guidance for mask-wearing for children, and now recommends kids ages 6 to 11 should wear face coverings.
Throughout Tuesday, 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 Monday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
South Korea orders doctors to stop strike amid crisis
SEOUL, South Korea — Health officials in South Korea ordered thousands of striking doctors to return to work as the country counted its 13th straight day of triple-digit jumps in coronavirus cases.
Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said those who refuse could have their licenses suspended or revoked, or even face a prison term of less than three years.
Doctors in the greater Seoul area joined physicians in other parts of the country in a three-day strike starting Wednesday against government plans to boost the number of medical students.
The walkouts have forced major hospitals in Seoul to reduce working hours or delay some surgeries, according to Yonhap news agency.
“The government will sternly respond to any collective action that hold people’s lives and safety hostage amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Park said.
Gene sleuths suggests wide virus spread from Boston meeting
NEW YORK — A meeting at a hotel in Boston last February may have ignited the spread of the pandemic virus to some 19,000 people in the area, a new study suggests.
Health authorities had previously linked the meeting to more than 90 cases among people at the meeting and their contacts. But researchers found that a specific mutation in the virus from people associated with the meeting also showed up in hundreds of other cases, which allowed them to estimate the broader extent of the spread.
It’s “a pretty unsophisticated, back-of-the envelope calculation that we think gives us a sense of the scale,” Bronwyn MacInnis of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, senior author of the paper, said Tuesday.
The research paper has been posted online but has not yet undergone peer review. The 19,000 figure does not appear in the paper because it was an
COVID-19 spike in Seattle shelter amplifies the many uncertainties facing King County’s homeless in the fall
After few reports of COVID-19 in Seattle’s homeless shelters earlier this summer, August has seen a spike focused mainly at Harborview Hall, a shelter on First Hill.
On Aug. 11 alone, 15 cases were reported in King County, the third-highest number counted among the homeless population in one day since the onset of COVID-19. The two highest daily spikes were both reported in April.
It’s potentially a bad omen for the fall, when cold weather will encourage more people to stay at shelters rather than outside, and make leaving windows open to ventilate a room less of an option.
The Harborview Hall shelter, which is run by the Salvation Army and is across the street from Harborview Medical Center, has seen 27 cases since the beginning of August.
Seattle’s MoPOP lays off 32 part-time workers as museums prepare to reopen with limited capacity
Washington state museums received some positive news last week, as Gov. Jay Inslee cleared a path for many to reopen. However, it’s likely little consolation for a number of MoPOP employees who are out of jobs nonetheless.
The Seattle pop culture museum has laid off 32 “contingent and temporary” employees, a MoPOP spokesperson said Tuesday.
“We have had to make the difficult decision to eliminate contingent and temporary positions at the museum,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “These roles are meant to help us ramp up staffing when we are at capacity in normal operations and, unfortunately, we won’t be at ‘normal’ for some time.”
All of the employees affected were part time.
New COVID-19 mandates on health care facilities get pushback
WASHINGTON — Threatening fines and funding cut-offs, the Trump administration on Tuesday issued new COVID-19 requirements for nursing homes and hospitals, prompting immediate pushback from beleaguered industries.
To check the spread of the coronavirus in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it will require facilities to test staff regularly or face fines.
The move comes months after the White House first urged governors to test all nursing home residents and staff. With residents, nursing homes are being required to offer them coronavirus tests if there is an outbreak or if any show symptoms.
Officials also reinforced a reporting mandate for hospitals. It included a thinly veiled threat to cut off Medicare and Medicaid funds to facilities that fail to report certain COVID-19 data daily to the federal Health and Human Services department. Hospitals responded with a sharp rebuke, calling the move “heavy-handed” and raising the specter of loss of vital services for local communities in a pandemic, less than three months before Election Day.
DeVos softens position on schools reopening in Georgia visit
CUMMING, Ga. — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has softened earlier comments that called for schools to reopen for in-person instruction for all, saying during a visit to a Georgia high school Tuesday that what she really wants to see is “100% learning.”
“I think perhaps there’s been a little bit of a misunderstanding that going back to school meant 100% of the students had to be in-person 100% of the time,” DeVos said at Forsyth Central High School in suburban Atlanta. “No, the expectation is that there’s 100% learning in a way that’s going to work for each family and each student, and importantly, in each community and each school.”
DeVos and President Donald Trump have been pressuring school systems to open in person, a position that has prompted demonstrations and shouting matches at school board meetings in some places as school leaders have wrestled with their options. Trump at one point threatened to withhold federal funding for schools that do not bring their students back in the fall.
CDC now says people without COVID-19 symptoms do not need testing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly modified its coronavirus testing guidelines this week to exclude people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 — even if they have been recently exposed to the virus.
Experts questioned the revision, pointing to the importance of identifying infections in the small window immediately before the onset of symptoms, when many individuals appear to be most contagious.
Models suggest that about half of transmission events can be traced back to individuals still in this pre-symptomatic stage, before they start to feel ill — if they ever feel sick at all.
“This is potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician in Palo Alto, California. Restricting testing to only people with obvious symptoms of COVID-19 means “you’re not looking for a lot of people who are potential spreaders of disease,” she added. “I feel like this is going to make things worse.”
State confirms 334 new COVID-19 cases and nine new deaths
State health officials reported 334 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Monday night, and nine new deaths.
It also announced changes in the way it reporting daily numbers related to the virus' progress in Washington state.
The update brings the state’s totals to 71,705 cases and 1,876 deaths, meaning that 2.6% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
Nearly 6,600 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. 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.
But in Washington state, 1,380,104 COVID-19 tests had been administered.
In King County, the state most populous, state health officials have confirmed 18,837 diagnoses and 715 deaths.
On Tuesday, the DOH announced that it was making changes to the way it processed and reported testing data. It is aimed at accounting the “true volume” of tests being done, the agency said in a statement, “and the benchmark of our progress.”
The DOH data dashboard, and the risk assessment dashboard will now report on the total number of tests instead of the total individuals who were tested. The former methodology counted just one test per person, even if someone was tested more than once.
This way, “Every test is counted, and the new data will improve our understanding of the testing situation as it now fully reflects the actual testing volume,” the statement read. The change will also allow the DOH to be more in line with the methodologies of other states’ and the Centers for Disease Control.
The percent of total positive tests reported each day will shift, from being based on the percentage of unique individuals who test positive, to the percentage of tests that are positive.
The DOH will add the daily testing rate to the Risk Assessment dashboard. This will help the DOH officials understand the per capita testing levels in the state and by county.
This new measure “allows easy comparisons of counties and other locations, allowing us to better benchmark our progress,” the statement read.
The daily testing rate is calculated by dividing the average number of molecular tests performed over the last week by the population in the county or or state and then multiplying by 100,000. This metric will replace the current “individuals tested per new case” on the risk assessment dashboard.
Facing 2nd virus wave, Spain tracks infections with soldiers
MADRID — Under strain from Europe’s fastest-growing wave of coronavirus infections, the Spanish government cleared the way for more localized lockdowns Tuesday and deployed the military to bolster the country’s faltering attempts to trace infections.
With more than 400,000 confirmed cases since the onset of the epidemic and dozens of fresh daily clusters only days before the school year begins, Spain is grappling to slow the uncontrolled transmission of the virus. At least 28,872 people in the country have died with COVID-19 since February, although the figure doesn’t include many who died without being tested for the virus.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Tuesday following the first Cabinet meeting after the summer recess that Spain’s current infection rate is “preoccupying” but “far from the situation in mid-March,” when his government imposed a state of emergency and a nationwide lockdown.
More than 500 COVID-19 cases reported on Alabama campus
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The University of Alabama has recorded 531 cases of COVID-19 on campus since the fall semester began last week, according to numbers the university system released Tuesday, as officials try to clamp down on student parties, bars and other gatherings that could spread the coronavirus.
The university, which issued a 14-day moratorium on student gatherings last week, released the number of students, faculty and staff testing positive a day after Tuscaloosa’s mayor ordered bars closed.
The university had earlier announced that initial results from a testing program found few students returning to campus on Aug. 19 were positive for COVID-19 but said subsequent testing last week found more cases. Nearly 30,00 students took the entry tests.
“However, over the past week, due to student behavior, we have seen a spike in the number of students who have sought re-testing because they became symptomatic or were exposed to a COVID-positive individual. That trend prompted the decision to take further steps to reduce the chance that the COVID- 19 virus will escalate dramatically,” Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine and co-chair of the university system’s Health and Safety Task Force, said in a statement.
KFC suspends 'Finger Lickin' Good,' saying it's 'the most inappropriate slogan for 2020'
Don’t lick those finger-licking good fingers. For now, anyway.
That’s what Kentucky Fried Chicken signaled to customers Monday as the company suspended the “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” tagline after 64 years, deeming it “the most inappropriate slogan for 2020″ amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The suspension will affect the slogan’s use in global advertising “for a little while,” the company said in a statement.
“We find ourselves in a unique situation — having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment,” said Catherine Tan-Gillespie, the company’s global chief marketing officer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus safety measures call for people to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands to reduce exposure to the virus.
New virus cases decline in the U.S., and experts credit masks
The number of Americans newly diagnosed with the coronavirus is falling — a development experts credit at least partly to increased wearing of masks — even as the outbreak continues to claim nearly 1,000 lives in the U.S. each day.
About 43,000 new cases have been reported daily over the past two weeks across the country, down 21 percent since early August, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While the U.S., India and Brazil still have the highest numbers of new cases in the world, the downward trend is encouraging.
“It’s profoundly hopeful news,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who credits the American public’s growing understanding of how the virus spreads, more mask-wearing and, possibly, an increasing level of immunity.
“Hopefully all those factors are coming into play to get this virus under control in this country that’s really been battered by the pandemic,” she said.
Olympic athlete Usain 'Lightning' Bolt tests positive for COVID
Jamaica’s Minister of Health says legendary sprinter Usain Bolt has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Minister Christopher Tufton said Bolt was aware of the results and his recent contacts were being traced.
Bolt posted a video on social media saying that he didn't have symptoms but would quarantine.
“Good morning everybody. Just waking up. Like everybody, checked social media and saw that social media says I’m confirmed of COVID-19,” he said. “I did a test Saturday, because I work. I’m trying to be responsible, so I’m going to stay in and stay here for my friends.”
The 34-year-old retired sprinter, who won gold in the 100 and 200 meters at the last three Olympics, is known for his poses — his “Lighting Bolt” became iconic — and of course his post-race celebrations. His speed and charisma made his sport can’t-miss viewing whenever he lined up in the blocks.
Bars near U. of Alabama closed after rise in virus cases
The mayor of Tuscaloosa announced Monday that the city is closing bars for the next two weeks after University of Alabama officials described an “unacceptable” rise in COVID-19 cases that could derail plans to continue the semester on campus.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox announced the closures along with the end of bar service at restaurants during a news conference with campus officials.
Maddox said university officials requested the action after unchecked spread of the virus threatens both the health care system and the local economy if students are sent home for the semester to do remote learning.
“The truth is that fall in Tuscaloosa is in serious jeopardy,” Maddox said.
The university did not immediately release case numbers, but school officials said there has been a rapid rise in cases, particularly among fraternities and sororities. The university on Friday had announced a moratorium on student gatherings both on and off campus.
Revved by Sturgis Rally, COVID-19 infections move fast, far
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 that 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 cellphone data from Camber Systems, a firm that aggregates cellphone 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.
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. Residents of North Dakota and Washington also reported infections tied to the rally.
Prime minister says UK might require face masks in schools
The British government came under renewed pressure Tuesday to recommend high school students in England wear face masks, at least in communal areas such as hallways, after the advice in Scotland was changed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government is ready to follow suit and advise a change in certain situations if the medical evidence deems face masks to be necessary in containing the spread of the coronavirus.
“On the issue of whether or not to wear masks in some contexts, you know, we’ll look at the the changing medical evidence as we go on,” he told reporters while on a visit to a shipyard in Devon in southwest England. “If we need to change the advice, then of course we will.”
For now, the advice of the British government, which oversees schools in England, is that face masks aren’t necessary. It points to a recent report from Public Health England that showed very few virus infections during the partial reopening of schools for younger students in June.
FDA commissioner overstated effects of virus therapy
Responding to an outcry from medical experts, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Tuesday apologized for overstating the life-saving benefits of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma.
Scientists and medical experts have been pushing back against the claims about the treatment since President Donald Trump’s announcement on Sunday that the FDA had decided to issue emergency authorization for convalescent plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies.
Trump hailed the decision as a historic breakthrough even though the treatment’s value has not been established. The announcement on the eve of Trump’s Republican National Convention raised suspicions that it was politically motivated to offset critics of the president’s handling of the pandemic.
Hahn had echoed Trump in saying that 35 more people out of 100 would survive the coronavirus if they were treated with the plasma. That claim vastly overstated preliminary findings of Mayo Clinic observation.
“I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction,” Hahn tweeted.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
A handful of Washington schools opening their doors this fall in defiance of health officials' advice. The schools, both private and public, are testing strategies for how in-person schooling eventually could look for everyone else. And just in time for back-to-school, the World Health Organization has updated its guidance on masks for kids.
What will happen when Washington state's flu season collides with the pandemic? Health experts, worried both viruses will flourish, are pushing for unprecedented levels of flu vaccination this fall. Know what to expect.
A COVID-19 outbreak at a Bremerton hospital has grown to 45 cases and is expected to keep widening.
The virus hit so hard that grave diggers couldn't keep up in one Brazilian city — and then, unexpectedly, deaths and hospitalizations plummeted. The reversal has stunned doctors and upended their thinking on herd immunity. Also raising big questions about immunity: the first confirmed case of someone who was infected twice with COVID-19.
The southwestern Washington bar checked temperatures at the door and spaced its tables apart, but close to 20 customers and employees still caught the virus. Health experts say it's one example of how bars are fueling COVID-19 outbreaks.
The CDC has dropped its 14-day quarantine recommendation for international and out-of-state travelers. Its new guidelines are narrower and rely more on travelers assessing their own chances of exposure.
American Airlines has a new weapon against the virus. It's gained federal approval to use a surface coating that kills coronaviruses for up to seven days.
Americans weren’t paying much attention to COVID-19, but everything changed when an exhausted couple and their toddler landed in L.A. on the way home from a Mexican vacation. This is the tale of how their frightening journey, not widely known until now, helped launch a frantic race to understand the deadly new virus.
Angry, maskless people shattered a glass door to force their way into an Idaho special legislative session on the pandemic yesterday. "This is our house," one man with an assault-style gun pronounced.
As the pandemic drags on, our brains are numbing us to the dangers, psychologists and risk analysts say — and the results can be deadly. It's worth understanding this phenomenon and how to push back.
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