Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, August 31, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Washington’s COVID hospitalization cases continue to climb to alarming levels, just as many schools statewide are set to reopen and with a holiday weekend approaching.
As of Monday morning, the state’s hospitals and health care centers were treating 1,570 COVID-19 patients throughout Washington, according to the Washington Hospital Association. Of those, 188 are on ventilators. Eleven days ago, the hospital association had counted 1,240 patients with 152 on ventilators.
“It’s an enormous stress on a health care system to have this many patients with a single diagnosis,” association CEO Cassie Sauer said. “This doesn’t happen. … It’s very, very alarming.”
We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.
Judge orders hospital that refused to give ivermectin to a COVID patient to administer it
When her husband had gotten so sick from the coronavirus that he was forced into a medically induced coma this month, Julie Smith turned to ivermectin — a deworming drug that some people are using to treat or prevent COVID-19.
“My husband is on death’s doorstep,” she wrote, according to an affidavit, “he has no other options.”
Yet when Julie Smith got a prescription from an Ohio doctor, a hospital in West Chester Township, Ohio, allegedly refused to administer the drug to Jeffrey Smith while he was seriously ill and on a ventilator, according to a lawsuit she filed on behalf of her husband this month.
Now, the hospital is being forced to administer the unproven treatment to Jeffrey Smith, 51, after a judge ruled in Julie Smith’s favor.
Texas school system closes after 2 teachers die of COVID-19
WACO, Texas (AP) — A Central Texas school district closed its schools until after the Labor Day holiday Tuesday after two teachers died last week of COVID-19.
Connally Independent School District officials closed its five suburban Waco schools for the rest of the week after the Saturday COVID-19 death of Natalia Chansler, 41, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High School, said Assistant Superintendent Jill Bottelberghe.
Chansler’s death came days after David McCormick, 59, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Connally Junior High, died of COVID-19, Bottelberghe said.
It was not immediately known if either teacher was vaccinated.
Western Balkan nations postpone school openings due to virus
Kosovo on Tuesday postponed the beginning of the school year for students up through high school by two weeks following a surge of coronavirus infections due to the delta variant, and new precautions were taken in other Western Balkan countries like Albania and Serbia.
Perparim Kryeziu, the spokesman for the Kosovo government, told the Associated Press that “we have put up some new restrictive measures,” which include postponing classes until Sept. 13, imposing a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. nightly curfew, having restaurants and bars only operate outside and mandatory mask-wearing both indoors and outside.
The preventative moves have been welcomed by teachers and parents who fear that the delta variant has created a more dangerous situation for students and families.
Judge rescinds order that man get COVID-19 vaccination
A Common Pleas judge in Cincinnati has rescinded his order that a man sentenced for a felony drug charge get vaccinated against COVID-19 within two months as a condition of his probation.
Speaking at a hearing Tuesday, Judge Christopher Wagner told Brandon Rutherford that it’s not a judge’s role to make decisions for him or “teach you to be a better person,” The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Oxygen supplies grow precarious amid COVID surge
The COVID-19 surge is stretching oxygen supplies and sending hospitals scrambling for more ventilators, even as there are signs of hope that the spread of the virus is slowing down in pockets of the U.S.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a hospital recently called 911 after coming within just a few hours of running out of oxygen because they needed an emergency transfer for a patient on high-flow oxygen. The hospital got a shipment later that day, but the experience was a warning to other hospitals, said Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe, the chief medical officer for the EMS system that serves Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
“If it can happen to one hospital, it can happen to any hospital,” Goodloe said. “There is no, ‘that is happening over there.’ There is here in a heartbeat.”
The oxygen shortages are yet another sign of the toll that the summer COVID-19 resurgence has taken on the nation’s hospital system. A handful of states including Florida, Oregon, Hawaii, Mississippi and Louisiana have set pandemic records for the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and many hospitals are dangerously short of staff and intensive care unit beds.
‘AntiVaxMomma’ accused of selling bogus vaccination cards
A New Jersey woman calling herself the AntiVaxMomma on Instagram sold several hundred fake COVID-19 vaccination cards at $200 a pop to New York City-area jab dodgers, including people working in hospitals and nursing homes, prosecutors said Tuesday.
For an extra $250, a second scammer would then enter a bogus card buyer’s name into a New York state vaccination database, which feeds systems used to verify vaccine status at places they’re required, such as concerts and sporting events, prosecutors said.
Jasmine Clifford, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was charged Tuesday with offering a false instrument, criminal possession of a forged instrument and conspiracy. Authorities say she sold about 250 fake vaccine cards in recent months.
Clifford’s alleged co-conspirator, Nadayza Barkley, of Bellport, Long Island, did not enter a plea an an arraignment Tuesday morning in Manhattan criminal court on charges of offering a false instrument and conspiracy.
State health officials confirm 3,326 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,326 new coronavirus cases and 40 new deaths on Tuesday .
The update brings the state's totals to 563,041 cases and 6,574 deaths, meaning that 1.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 30,931 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 32 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 135,541 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,743 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,558,699 doses and 54.8% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 14,680 vaccine shots per day.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
Mormon vaccine push ratchets up, dividing faith’s members
After more than a year of attending church virtually, Monique Allen has struggled to explain to her asthmatic daughter why people from their congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don’t wear masks. Allen said she’s taught her daughter that wearing a mask is Christlike, but now she worries her child feels like an outcast.
Church leaders recently issued their strongest statement yet urging people to “limit the spread” by getting COVID-19 vaccines and wearing masks, but Allen said she fears it’s still not enough to convince the many families in her congregation who refuse to wear masks and have succumbed to anti-vaccine misinformation.
Members of the faith widely known as the Mormon church remain deeply divided on vaccines and mask-wearing despite consistent guidance from church leaders as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads.
About 65% of Latter-day Saints who responded to a recent survey said they were vaccine acceptors, meaning they’ve gotten at least one dose or plan to soon. Another 15% identified as hesitant, and 19% said they would not get the vaccine, according to the survey this summer from the Public Religion Research Institute, a polling organization based in Washington, and Interfaith Youth Core.
Idaho governor calls in help amid surge in COVID patients
Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Tuesday called in 220 medical workers available through federal programs and mobilized 150 Idaho National Guard soldiers to deal with a surge in unvaccinated COVID-19 patients that is overwhelming the state’s hospitals.
The Republican governor during a remotely held announcement said the moves are a last-ditch effort to avoid activating for the first time statewide crisis standards of care that could force medical professionals to decide who lives and who dies.
The last week has seen about 1,000 newly confirmed coronavirus cases per day, most of them unvaccinated. The number of intensive care unit beds has been well under 100 during that time, and Little said only four were available on Tuesday in the entire state.
“We are dangerously close to activating statewide crisis standards of care — a historic step that means Idahoans in need of healthcare could receive a lesser standard of care or may be turned away altogether,” Little said.
Sen. Rand Paul says ‘hatred of Trump’ blocks research into ivermectin to treat COVID-19
Sen. Rand Paul is blaming “hatred of Trump” for a lack of research into ivermectin, a deworming medication for livestock that some vaccine skeptics are touting as the miracle cure for humans with COVID-19.
The staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump said he’s “in the middle” of the debate over ivermectin, the veterinary drug which has become the latest unlikely source of right-wing hype amid the pandemic, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
“The hatred for Trump deranged these people so much, that they’re unwilling to objectively study it,” Paul said last week at a town hall meeting in a Cold Spring, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati.
Without offering any evidence, Paul claimed medical researchers are refusing to look into whether ivermectin might cure COVID-19.
New Data Confirm COVID-19 Vaccines Still Provide Strong Protection
New data presented to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee provided more evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines provided robust protection against severe disease through July, after the delta variant of the coronavirus had spread widely through the United States.
Scientists also confirmed that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots confer a small risk of heart problems in younger men, but that the benefits still outweighed the risks.
At the committee’s meeting Monday, Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC scientist, presented unpublished data from COVID-Net, a hospital surveillance system. All three vaccines used in the United States remained highly effective at preventing hospitalizations from April through July, when delta became dominant, the data suggested.
For adults under the age of 75, the shots were at least 94% effective at preventing hospitalizations, a rate that has remained steady for months, Oliver said. Protection against hospitalization did decline in July for adults 75 or older, but still remained above 80%.
Virus variant batters airline bookings for Labor Day weekend
After a surge in bookings early this summer, U.S. airline passengers are planning fewer trips as the spread of the coronavirus delta variant continues to discourage travel.
Spending for the Labor Day holiday was down 16% from 2019 as of Aug. 21, while bookings were off 15%, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. The weekend typically marks the end of stepped-up summer travel for U.S. carriers and demand often rises as families seek to squeeze in a last trip before school resumes.
Adobe’s findings line up with recent warnings from airlines saying that increased illnesses tied to the variant are slowing sales and prompting customers to cancel reservations, threatening to derail a recovery from last year’s collapse in demand. Southwest Airlines has said the weakness may make it difficult to turn a third-quarter profit. American Airlines Group Inc. said August revenue is coming in below its expectations.
Jesse Jackson’s wife out of ICU, still on oxygen for COVID
CHICAGO (AP) — The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s wife has been moved from intensive care back into a regular room at the Chicago hospital where she’s being treated for COVID-19, her family said in a statement Monday.
Jonathan Jackson, one of the couple’s five children, said in the statement that their 77-year-old mother, Jacqueline, remains at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she “continues to receive oxygen.”
Rev. Jackson, a famed civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, was transferred last week to a hospital focused on physical rehabilitation after receiving treatment for a breakthrough COVID-19 infection.
He has been vaccinated against the virus. But he told The Associated Press last week that Jacqueline, also a civil rights activist, had not been vaccinated because she has a “preexisting condition” that worried them.
Scientists push back on call to endorse COVID booster shots for all
ATLANTA — Responding to the resurging pandemic and breakthrough infections, President Joe Biden and some top health officials are pushing for the U.S. to begin vaccine booster shots by Sept. 20. But the committee of scientists who officially recommend whether to take such steps met Monday and pushed back.
The scientists said they still had fundamental questions to answer, such as whether the increase in COVID-19 infections after vaccination, so-called breakthrough cases, was related at all to waning effectiveness of the vaccines.
When the Sept. 20 date was announced “it led everyone — it led physicians, it led the public — to believe that they had access to information about these vaccines and the need for boosters that had not yet been publicly released,” said Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of Atlanta, a nonvoting member of the committee. “And to me, that kind of opened the door to a lot of confusion.”
Alpha, delta and more: Why COVID virus variants are causing alarm
Viruses mutate all the time, including the one, SARS-CoV-2, that’s caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although most genetic changes are innocuous, some can make the mutant more adept at infecting cells, for example, or evading antibodies. Such “fitter” variants can outcompete other strains, so that they become the predominant source of infections.
A succession of more-transmissible variants has emerged over the past year, each harboring a constellation of mutations. The most worrisome so far is the so-called delta variant. It’s become dominant in much of the world since its discovery in India in October, leading to surges in cases and hospitalizations, especially in places where less than half the adult population has been fully immunized.
Lunchtime at King County schools: ‘Our greatest logistical challenge’
Staggered times, outdoor dining tents, off-campus options and eating in gymnasiums — these are some of the ways Washington school districts will accommodate lunch for thousands of students while following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
As arguably one of the riskiest parts of the school day when students will be maskless and will want to socialize, lunchtime logistics have become a vital coordination to keep students and staff safe.
“There are so many variables,” said Jennifer Jandayan, director of food and nutrition services and district warehousing at Shoreline School District. Among the biggest challenges, she said, is “just trying to figure out how to space students and to get consensus.”
Shoreline starts school Wednesday like many school districts in the Puget Sound area, including Seattle. And for many districts, it will be the first return to full-time in-person instructions since schools were forced to shut down in March 2020.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
"The public perception of where we are does not match what’s happening" in Washington's hospitals. Rising COVID-19 cases are putting the health care system under enormous stress, and doctors are particularly worried about a spike in patients who are pregnant. (The CDC has urged all pregnant women to get vaccinated, a message driven home for some by the recent COVID-19 deaths of two unborn babies in Texas.)
One of the riskiest parts of the school day: lunchtime. Seattle-area schools are working on the logistical challenges of reducing the risks, but there are "no easy answers," one principal explains. Here's how lunchtimes will look across the region, from tents to menu changes and more.
A new coronavirus variant shows signs of "increased transmissibility" and a stronger ability to evade antibodies, according to scientists tracing it in six countries.
COVID-19 vaccines provided robust protection against severe disease through July, after the delta variant had spread widely, new data confirms. Scientists also told the CDC yesterday that the benefits of the Pfizer and Moderna shots still outweighed a risk of heart problems in younger men.
Going to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup? Here’s where you will and won’t need a mask.
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