Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, August 30, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The nation’s leading public health officials are raising new concerns about coronavirus testing: Standard tests are positively identifying many people who likely aren’t contagious. New data suggests the solution isn’t less testing, but widespread use of rapid tests, even if they’re less sensitive.
In Washington, new data from state health officials suggests people infected with the virus are spreading it to fewer people, and in some corners of the states, case counts are leveling off or on the decline. But it’s not all good news: infectious people have seeded outbreaks in prisons, college towns and hospitals, and case counts are still rising in some counties.
Throughout Sunday, on this page, we’ll be posting 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.
State confirms 441 new COVID-19 cases
State Department of Health officials reported 441 new COVID-19 cases as of Saturday night, bringing Washington's total number of cases to 74,320. The state is no longer reporting new deaths on the weekend.
In all, 1,905 Washingtonians have died from the virus, or about 2.6% of confirmed cases. About 6,740 have been hospitalized and 1,461,354 people have been tested.
In King County, the state’s most populous county, state health officials have confirmed 19,553 diagnoses and 723 deaths.
What happens when pandemic locks down a globe-trotting pope?
ROME — On the March day that Italy recorded its single biggest jump in coronavirus fatalities, Pope Francis emerged from lockdown to offer an extraordinary prayer and plea to his flock to reassess their priorities, arguing the virus had proved they needed one another.
Francis’ words from the rain-slicked promenade of St. Peter’s Basilica encapsulated the core messages he has emphasized during his seven-year pontificate: solidarity, social justice and care for the most vulnerable.
But the dramatic moment also underscored how isolated the pope had become during the COVID-19 emergency and a sustained season of opposition from his conservative critics: He was utterly alone before an invisible enemy, preaching to a hauntingly empty piazza.
After weeks during which Italy brought the virus under control, the country’s caseload is rebounding — now adding more than 1,000 new infections a day — so there’s no telling when or how more ambitious public gatherings and travel might return.
What does all this mean for a 83-year-old globe-trotting pope and his ministry to the 1.2-billion-member Catholic Church? Read more here.
Fad or future? Telehealth expansion eyed beyond pandemic
Telehealth is a bit of American ingenuity that seems to have paid off in the coronavirus pandemic. Medicare temporarily waived restrictions predating the smartphone era and now there’s a push to make telemedicine widely available in the future.
Consultations via tablets, laptops and phones linked patients and doctors when society shut down in early spring. In the depths of the coronavirus shutdown, telehealth accounted for more than 40% of primary care visits for patients with traditional Medicare, up from a tiny 0.1% sliver before the public health emergency. As the government’s flagship health care program, Medicare covers more than 60 million people, including those age 65 and older, and younger disabled people.
Telehealth visits dropped with the reopening, but they’re still far more common than before.
“I don’t think it is ever going to replace in-person visits, because sometimes a doctor needs to put hands on a patient,” said Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the Trump administration’s leading advocate for telehealth. Caveats aside, “it’s almost a modern-day house call,” she added.
Read more about telehealth, including privacy and quality concerns, here.
India records world’s biggest single-day jump in virus cases
NEW DELHI — India registered 78,761 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the biggest single-day spike in the world since the pandemic began, just as the government began easing restrictions to help the battered economy.
The surge raised India’s tally to over 3.5 million, and came as the government announced the reopening of the subway in New Delhi, the capital. It also will move ahead with limited sports and religious events next month.
A country of 1.4 billion people, India now has the fastest-growing daily coronavirus caseload of any country in the world, reporting more than 75,000 new cases for four straight days.
One of the reasons is testing: India now conducts nearly 1 million tests every day, compared with just 200,000 two months ago. Read the full story here.
Mexican beach resort tries to lure tourists back in the midst of the pandemic
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico – This city was literally built for tourists: A blank expanse at the edge of the desert converted into a haven for gringos looking to get away.
Now, Cabo is trying to lure them back – in the middle of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks.
Last month, Cabo San Lucas and neighboring San José del Cabo began to reopen to tourists with an advertising campaign that blended the area’s natural beauty with coronavirus recommendations. “Wear a mask,” one ad says, flashing to video of a woman snorkeling. “Practice social distancing,” it says before displaying an image of a lone surfer.
Cabo Wabo, the bar founded by former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar, hung a reopening banner next to its “Mas Tequila” mural. Shops sold My First Vacation After Covid shirts. The frog outside of Señor Frogs was newly cleaned.
But just as tourists began to trickle back, the cases in Los Cabos began to rise. It felt like an inevitability – as workers returned and international flights resumed, cases increased from around 50 per day in the state of Baja California Sur to around 150. Some of the city’s hotels hired doctors as consultants to improve their precautions.
But the welcome sign is still out. Read the full story here.
Your coronavirus test is positive; maybe it shouldn’t be
Some of the nation’s leading public health experts are raising a new concern in the endless debate over coronavirus testing in the United States: The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus.
Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time. But researchers say the solution is not to test less, or to skip testing people without symptoms, as recently suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Instead, new data underscore the need for more widespread use of rapid tests, even if they are less sensitive.
“The decision not to test asymptomatic people is just really backward,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, referring to the CDC recommendation.
“In fact, we should be ramping up testing of all different people,” he said.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Coronavirus cases have plateaued in some parts of the state, including King County, according to new Department of Health data. Elsewhere, in Benton, Franklin, Pierce and Yakima counties, cases are declining.
But it's not all good news. Counts are rising in Grant, Lewis and Walla Walla counties and officials are reporting local outbreaks at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla County, among off-campus college students in Whitman County and at a hospital in Kitsap County.
In Arizona, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reporting 233 more confirmed cases of coronavirus at the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, which has so far seen a total of 356 cases. The outbreak is the largest by far at any ICE facility.
In South Korea, officials placed limits on dining at restaurants and closed fitness centers and after-school academies following the 17th consecutive day of triple-digit increases in coronavirus cases. Officials reported 299 new cases, bringing the national total to 19,699, including 323 deaths.
But in Anchorage, bars and restaurants will resume in-person dining beginning Monday. Businesses will be allowed to resume dine-in service at no more than 50% of each building’s capacity, and they must also keep visitor logs for 30 days to help with contact tracing.
The pandemic has provided some small businesses in Washington an opportunity: in Mount Vernon, two new breweries have opened their doors, a media company has expanded into a downtown storefront, and a new flooring and cabinetry showroom is getting ready to open.
Meanwhile, the Boston Marathon is set to go virtual this year: rather than lining up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and making the long trek to Boston, athletes will run this year’s marathon solo. Registered runners are being encouraged to complete the 26.2-mile distance by themselves and share their accounts of their preparation, motivation and execution via a mobile app.
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