Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, August 28, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 research the novel coronavirus, they’re finding growing evidence that the virus can travel farther than six feet under some conditions — prompting public health experts to reevaluate guidelines for safe social distancing.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to clarify a recent change in testing recommendations, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that “testing may be considered for all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Hayrides and farm visits can open this fall, Inslee says
With harvest festivals right around the corner, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday announced that outdoor "agritourism" activities are okay with precautions, in areas that have reached a Phase 2 or 3 stage of coronavirus control.
Examples include u-pick berry farms, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches, said the new guidance from state agencies, including the Department of Health.
Requirements include cloth face coverings, a six-foot social distance between families, and hand washing or sanitizing station. Whenever possible, events should be outdoors or in two-walled shelters, to provide ventilation, authorities said. Customers may have to sign up for reservations.
You can find the full guidance statement here.
While most of the state's 39 counties have reduced infection rates enough to attain at least Phase 2, five counties are still in modified Phase 1 -- Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Chelan and Douglas, which include many of the state's premier fruit and grain-growing lands.
Another 481 COVID-19 cases found at University of Alabama
The University of Alabama reported Friday that an additional 481 students have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to more than 1,000 infections since students returned to campus for the fall.
The University of Alabama System released new numbers on its dashboard of cases for all three campuses. The additional 481 cases on the Tuscaloosa campus were reported between Aug. 25 and Aug. 27. The university system said no students are hospitalized.
“We are closely monitoring our data daily, and we will continue to adjust operations as the situation warrants,” said UA System Chancellor Finis St. John in a statement accompanying the release of the numbers. He said testing for the virus was a “key pillar” of the university’s health and safety plan.
As Trump travels, Secret Service copes with COVID-19 infections
When President Donald Trump gave a speech to a group of sheriffs in Tampa late last month, his decision to travel forced a large contingent of Secret Service agents to head to a state that was then battling one of the worst coronavirus surges in the nation.
Even before Air Force One touched down on July 31, the fallout was apparent: Five Secret Service agents already on the ground had to be replaced after one tested positive for the coronavirus and the others working in proximity were presumed to be infected, according to people familiar with the situation.
The previously unreported episode is one of a series of examples of how Trump’s insistence on traveling and holding campaign-style events amid the pandemic has heightened the risks for the people who safeguard his life, intensifying the strain on the Secret Service.
Trump’s actions rebuff the scientific consensus that the best way tamp down the spread of the virus is to avoid large gatherings and close quarters. Critics say his refusal to abide by those guidelines is imposing unnecessary risk on the Secret Service staff, who have no choice in whether to accompany the president.
State confirms 598 new COVID-19 cases and 15 new deaths
State health officials reported 598 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Thursday night, and 15 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 73,301 cases and 1,905 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. Thursday.
Statewide, 1,423,771 COVID-19 tests had been administered. The state will no longer report deaths on the weekend.
In King County, the state’s most populous county, state health officials have confirmed 19,322 diagnoses and 723 deaths.
TikTok celebrities criminally charged after LA house parties
TikTok celebrities Bryce Hall and Blake Gray are facing criminal charges after they hosted recent parties in the Hollywood Hills despite the city’s ban on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said Friday.
The Los Angeles city attorney’s office filed misdemeanor charges Thursday against Hall and Gray. The internet celebrities with millions of followers on TikTok share a home and allegedly held two parties less than a week apart.
College towns growing alarmed over outbreaks among students
As more and more schools and businesses around the country get the OK to reopen, some college towns are moving in the opposite direction because of too much partying and too many COVID-19 infections among students.
Iowa’s governor ordered all bars closed this week in the counties that are home to Iowa University and Iowa State, while the mayor of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, did the same in the town where the state’s flagship university is situated.
Three of North Carolina’s largest public universities abruptly halted in-person undergraduate instruction and directed students to move out of the dorms after nearly 800 tested positive following their return to campus.
The outbreaks since students began returning to campus in the past few weeks have heightened town-gown tensions and led to recriminations between local politicians and university officials.
4 people tied to RNC in Charlotte have coronavirus
Four people who were at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials in North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County said.
WBTV reported Friday that those who tested positive at the event were immediately isolated.
Nearly 800 people were tested who attended the event or who helped support it, the county said in a news release. Two attendees and two people supporting the convention tested positive.
Harris: No punishment if Biden imposes national mask mandate
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris said Friday “nobody’s going to be punished” if she and running mate Joe Biden implement the nationwide mask mandate they have called for during the coronavirus pandemic.
Harris suggested that, instead, the rule would be about “what we — as responsible people who love our neighbor — we have to just do that right now.”
“God willing, it won’t be forever,” she added.
Biden and Harris have worn protective face masks in public and stayed socially distanced from each other when appearing together at campaign events.
Both have said for weeks that a rule requiring all Americans to wear masks could save 40,000 lives in just a three-month period. While such an order may be difficult to impose at the federal level, Biden has called on every governor in the country to order mask-wearing in their states, which would likely achieve the same goal.
Berlin police brace for virus protest as court overturns ban on demonstrations
Police in Berlin on Friday requested thousands of reinforcements from other parts of Germany to cope with planned protests over the weekend by people opposed to the country’s coronavirus restrictions.
Authorities in the German capital had banned the protests earlier this week, citing demonstrations a few weeks ago during which participants flouted rules on social distancing and mask-wearing.
Protest organizers had appealed the ban and a regional administrative court ruled Friday that the rallies could go ahead, saying there was no immediate threat to public safety.
The presence of far-right groups among the protesters, who had threatened to travel to Berlin regardless of the ban, has raised police concerns about the possibility of unrest.
Man charged with plot to sell fake coronavirus disinfectant
A Maryland man has been charged after he sold unregistered and misbranded pesticides falsely advertised as a government-approved disinfectant for the coronavirus, investigators said.
Marek Majtan, 35, was charged Tuesday in a criminal complaint that accuses him of repackaging pesticides with his own handmade labels and marketing it on the internet as a product that “Kills 99.9% Bacterias & Viruses” and “Kills Covid 19 & Seasonal Flu.”
Majtan, who was not authorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to manufacture or distribute any pesticides, used a false EPA registration number on his products, according to a special agent with the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division.
UK to allow emergency use of any effective COVID-19 vaccine
Britain is preparing to revise its laws to allow the emergency use of any effective coronavirus vaccine before it is fully licensed — but only if the shots meet required safety and quality standards.
In a statement Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government said it was adopting “reinforced safeguards” to allow the country’s medicines regulatory agency to grant temporary authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, provided it meets safety and quality standards.
The proposed regulations would allow coronavirus vaccines to receive an emergency approval allowing people to be immunized while the full licensing process is being finished. Typically, vaccines are only used after the licensing review has been completed, a process which can take several months.
How will you spend the last weekend of August? Our picks for making the most of it include family-friendly takeout, great Seattle walking routes and more.
If you’ve been binge-watching reruns of old TV shows, join the crowd: It’s normal and soothing in these bizarre times. Here are some of our favorite TV and cinema productions of the ‘90s, plus where to see virtual cast reunions.
A fresher show to watch tonight: At 19, magician Matthew Laslo has abracadabra-ed his way from Orcas Island to The CW’s "Masters of Illusion."
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Six feet may not be enough to protect you against the virus. Researchers, taking a harder look at social distancing guidelines, are warning that the much-mentioned measurement should be seen as just a start. Where did that number come from in the first place? The late 1800s, it turns out.
Businesses around UW are struggling to survive now that classes have moved almost entirely online, and a fall football season won’t arrive to help them keep going. Among them: restaurants, boat charters and Seattle's oldest active brewpub.
The pandemic has complicated two pillars of Pacific Northwest summers: out-of-town guests and road trips. How can you safely host loved ones and do some traveling yourself? Our Friday FAQ has answers from local public health experts.
Again, who should be tested for COVID-19? The CDC's director tried to clarify recommendations that incited an uproar, but his latest statement has left many doctors scratching their heads. (Here's where to get a test in the Seattle area.)
Coronavirus infections have hit 31 inmates and six staff at the federal detention center in SeaTac. This likely will keep local federal courts closed for another month.
One university says it caught a dorm’s outbreak before it started. The potent weapon: poop.
A man hit a Disney World security guard in the head and threatened to kill him when his family was asked to follow mask rules, sheriff’s officials said. Meanwhile, in Germany, people who break mask rules will have to pay a fine.
Keep an eye on California, which will start cracking doors back open today amid confusion and anxiety.
The local economic recovery may be pausing as the pandemic drags on. This shows up in several trends in our Coronavirus Economy charts.
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