Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Aug. 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its COVID-19 testing guidelines this week to exclude people without symptoms — even if they’ve had close contact with someone with the virus — Washington health officials said Wednesday the state will not be following the recommendations.
Meanwhile, a rural Oregon clinic recently joined the worldwide race to develop a new coronavirus vaccine. Earlier this month, Russia approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine to receive a government go-ahead, though it caused unease among international medical experts.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
South Korea mulls shorter hours for diners
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials are considering reducing working hours of restaurants and cafes as the country counted its 15th straight day of triple-digit jumps in coronavirus infections.
The 371 new cases reported by the South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday brought the national caseload to 19,077, including 316 deaths. The country has added more than 4,300 to its caseload over the past 15 days, prompting concerns about overwhelming hospitals.
KCDC said 286 of the new cases came from the Seoul metropolitan area, bumping the region’s caseload to 7,200 and overtaking the southeastern city of Daegu, the epicenter of a massive outbreak in late February and March that was stabilized by April.
Health workers have found it more difficult to contain the recent transmissions centered around the more populated capital area, where clusters have been tied to churches, restaurants and schools.
While government has recently banned large gatherings and shut down nightspots and churches nationwide, there are calls for elevating social distancing measures to the highest level. It would prohibit gatherings of more than 10 and advise private companies to have employees work from home.
CDC ‘clarification’ on coronavirus testing offers more confusion
WASHINGTON — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seeking to clarify recommendations on coronavirus testing that incited an uproar, said that “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”
But his clarification may have further confused the issue.
The statement by the director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, was issued to some news outlets late Wednesday, and more broadly Thursday morning, after a storm of criticism over new CDC guidelines. Those guidelines asserted that people who had been in close contact with an infected individual — typically defined as being within 6 feet of a person with the coronavirus for at least 15 minutes — “do not necessarily need a test” if they do not have symptoms.
Administration officials said that “not necessarily” needing a test was consistent with “may be considered” for one. But experts said the shift in language was leaving patients, doctors and state and local public health officials — who rely on the CDC for guidance — perplexed.
“‘May be?’” asked Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University. “I want a little more than that in a recommendation. ‘May be’ doesn’t help.”
Pike Place Market introduces new outdoor dining options for its many restaurants
The usual summer crowds have thinned at Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, and as the restaurant industry continues to suffer amid the coronavirus pandemic, the 113-year-old Market is trying something new to lure locals to its famed cobblestone streets: pop-up patios.
“The market was built for our locals, it’s here to serve our locals. … We might not have the typical summer, but we’re going to invite our locals to come down to this once in a lifetime experience and enjoy it,” says Amy Wallsmith, a representative for Pike Place Market.
Nearly two dozen of the market’s restaurants are now serving guests at pop-up patio locations throughout, including the cobblestones on Pike Place beneath the iconic neon sign. Additional patio locations include Post Alley, First Avenue, Western Avenue, and in the Secret Garden located just past Pike Place Fish Market.
Additionally, many restaurants with existing patios and/or balconies like Copacabana, Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar, Maximilien, Cafe Campagne and The Pink Door have worked to expand outdoor seating.
6 feet may not be enough to protect against coronavirus, experts warn
A team of infectious-disease experts argues in a new analysis, published this week in the journal BMJ, that six-feet protocols are too rigid and are based on outmoded science and observations of different viruses. Other researchers say six feet is a start — but only a start — warning that more space is almost always better, especially in poorly ventilated areas indoors.
Factors such air circulation, ventilation, exposure time, crowd density, whether people are wearing face masks, and whether they are silent, speaking, shouting or singing should be part of assessing whether six feet is sufficient, experts say.
“I think six feet is a fine number, but we need to convey that this is a starting point,” said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech civil and environmental engineering professor who has studied airborne viruses and was not involved with the BMJ report. “Beyond six feet doesn’t mean there’s zero risk.”
More than 1 million Americans file for unemployment, again
WASHINGTON — Just over 1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the coronavirus outbreak continues to threaten jobs even as the housing market, auto sales and other segments of the economy rebound from a springtime collapse.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of people seeking jobless aid last week dropped by 98,000 from 1.1 million the week before.
The number of initial claims has exceeded 1 million every week but one since late March, an unprecedented streak. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they had never topped 700,000 in a week.
“Layoffs are ongoing reflecting interruptions to activity from virus containment that are likely resulting in permanent closures and job losses,’’ Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research report.
Pelosi, Meadows talk $2.2T virus aid, but no deal in sight
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows resumed talks Thursday over a stalled COVID-19 aid package, but the outlook for any swift resolution appeared bleak as President Donald Trump’s team and congressional Democrats have been unable to agree on a compromise.
Pelosi said she told Meadows the Democrats would be willing to meet halfway — at $2.2 trillion — a slight reduction from her last proposal before talks collapsed earlier this month. The White House, which has stuck with its initial $1 trillion offer, had no immediate response.
“We have said again and again that we’re willing to meet them in the middle — $2.2 trillion. When they’re willing to do that, we’ll be willing to discuss the particulars,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.
Their 25-minute afternoon call was the first attempt to kick-start negotiations since talks fell apart. The stalemate comes as jobless claims hit 1 million Thursday and households are struggling, with the mounting virus toll now above 180,000 deaths, higher than any other country.
State confirms 542 new COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths
State health officials reported 542 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and 10 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 72,703 cases and 1,890 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. Wednesday.
The DOH also reported that 6,640 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
Statewide, 1,408,164 COVID-19 tests had been administered.
In King County, the state most populous, state health officials have confirmed 19,155 diagnoses and 722 deaths.
Photos from Thursday, August 27, as world masks up
Photos from around the world as the world masks up and carries on. It's been 169 days since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11.
Most of Germany imposes $59 fine for mask-wearing breaches
Most of Germany will impose a minimum fine of 50 euros ($59) for breaching mask-wearing rules as coronavirus infections rise again, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday after a virtual meeting with the country’s state governors.
Officials also agreed to extend a ban on big events where social distancing and contact tracing can’t be ensured until the end of December.
In decentralized Germany, imposing and loosening virus-related restrictions is a matter for the 16 state governments, so a patchwork of rules has emerged in recent months. Some areas have imposed no punishment for people who don’t wear masks as required in public transport, shops and elsewhere while others have imposed high fines.
Disney World guard attacked over masks, police say
A man hit a security guard in the head and threatened to kill him at Epcot theme park when he was asked to follow Disney World’s mask rules, sheriff’s officials said.
Enrico Toro, 35, was arrested Aug. 14 and charged with misdemeanor battery, an Orange County Sheriff’s Office arrest report said.
“We expect guests to treat our cast members with courtesy and respect, and while the vast majority of guests have adapted to our new measures, this unfortunate case required law enforcement,” Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said in a statement.
According to deputies, Toro, his wife and three children arrived at Epcot’s security area wearing “improper masks” about 4:40 p.m. on Aug. 14, an arrest report said. They returned to the car and came back to security again. One child still wore a mask that didn’t fit Disney’s rules.
Toro “began cussing” and said, “Call the police. They will have to shoot me to leave” and then struck the guard, the arrest report said.
Latin America’s evangelical churches hard hit by pandemic
Some 400 men and women spaced themselves across a sprawling worship hall, praying through face masks with arms raised for the health of friends and family suffering from the coronavirus.
The congregation of Managua’s Bethel Restoration church knew the pandemic’s wrath: Two of its pastors were among the more than 40 evangelical leaders who have died in Nicaragua since March.
Throughout Latin America, a traditionally Catholic region with a surging evangelical presence in nearly every country, evangelical churches have kept spreading the Gospel despite government measures meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In many countries, evangelical churches have flouted public health guidelines by holding in-person services, or have personally ministered to church members in homes and other settings.
In at least two countries, evangelical pastors have died in alarming numbers during the pandemic.
Putin touts Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine as effective and safe
The Russian president on Thursday praised a coronavirus vaccine that Russia approved for use earlier this month as effective and safe, a clear bid to address international skepticism about the shots that have only been studied for two months in a few dozen people.
In an interview with a state TV channel, released Thursday, President Vladimir Putin insisted that the world’s first vaccine against coronavirus to receive a government go-ahead was approved “in strict accordance with Russian laws” that are in line with “international practice and regulations.”
The claim comes after scientists around the world sounded the alarm about the fast-tracked approval and Russia’s failure to share any data supporting claims of the vaccine’s efficacy, saying it was a major breach of scientific protocol.
“It is completely obvious for our specialists today that this vaccine forms lasting immunity … and it is safe,” Putin said.
'Tornado with a long tail' and multi-organ impact, says WHO about coronavirus
The World Health Organization’s top official in Europe warned Thursday that the coronavirus is a “tornado with a long tail” and said rising case counts among young people could ultimately spread to more vulnerable older people — and cause an uptick in deaths.
Dr. Hans Kluge said younger people are likely to come into closer contact with the elderly as the weather cools in Europe, raising the prospect of spread to the most vulnerable.
“We don’t want to do unnecessary predictions, but this is definitely one of the options — that at one point there would be more hospitalizations and an uptick in mortality,” he said from Copenhagen, the WHO Europe headquarters.
He insisted “no one is invincible” but alluded to the fact that most coronavirus deaths are among the elderly.
“It may be that younger people indeed are not necessarily going to die from it, but it’s a tornado with a long tail and it’s a multi-organ disease,” he said.
Teens step up in pandemic, buying masks, delivering food
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, communities across the country have discovered a powerful resource that has stepped forward to make a difference: America’s teenagers.
They have delivered groceries to older adults, offered online tutoring, emailed sick children, helped feed the hungry. And then there are those like 15-year-old Valerie Xu, who raised money to buy masks to donate to a Dallas hospital and homeless shelter.
“People have a good heart and are willing to help, and are willing to contribute to our society,” Xu said.
Xu began raising funds in March. She was alarmed that some health care workers were having trouble getting masks, and disheartened to hear about unfounded animosity directed at Asian Americans over the virus that was first detected in China.
The response, she said, helped restore her optimism and left her “very inspired.”
Virus hits tribe in remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Four members of a small tribe in the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands have tested positive for the coronavirus, an Indian health official said Thursday.
Dr. Avijit Ray said the four are among the 37 members of the Great Andamanese tribe who live on Strait Island. Health workers went to the island last week to test the tribe members, he said.
Ray said the four apparently caught the virus during a recent visit to Port Blair.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a chain of islands with a population of about 400,000, have reported 2,944 coronavirus cases, including 41 deaths, mostly among nontribal groups.
Vulnerable tribes on the islands include the Jarawa, Great Andamanese, Shompen, Onge and the isolated Sentinelese who in 2018 killed an American Christian missionary, John Allen Chau, with bows and arrows when he traveled illegally to North Sentinelese Island, where they live, and tried to proselytize them.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
There's a growing uproar over who should get tested for COVID-19. According to new federal guidelines, people without symptoms don't need a test, even if they were in close contact with infected people. But that runs counter to what scientists say is necessary to control the pandemic, and Washington state won't be following the feds. Here's where to get a test in the Seattle area.
A 15-minute COVID-19 test that will be priced at $5 has been granted emergency authorization for use in the U.S., a breakthrough that could ease the nation's testing bottleneck.
Back to school ... kind of: In Seattle, the school district and teachers have reached a tentative deal on expectations for the school year. In Yakima, some teachers still had that first-day "feeling of excitement" yesterday as they welcomed students back virtually. But it's far different overseas: Much of Europe is going back to school in person as the virus surges. That's after last spring's remote learning shut out at least a third of the world's children, according to a U.N. report on the "global education emergency."
Why does the virus hit men harder? A new clue has emerged, and it could influence vaccine decisions.
COVID-19 is damaging kidneys in "unexpected and dramatic" ways. Doctors are worrying that some survivors may need dialysis forever.
Will the virus cancel Halloween? Haunted houses, costume shops and entire towns are getting chills and looking for safer alternatives.
Don't want to cook? Scores of restaurants are offering affordable family meals to go, including these five favorite deals in the Seattle area.
Some movies are worth falling in love with again. "Love & Basketball" is one of those, even if you don't, er, love basketball.
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