Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, Aug. 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
In King County, COVID-19 has likely surpassed Alzheimer’s disease as the third leading cause of death, according to a county-by-county analysis of the virus’s toll.
The newest global hot spot is India, population 1.4 billion, which has the fastest-growing daily caseload of any country in the world. A surge of more than 75,000 new cases each day for four straight days has raised the country’s tally to more than 3.5 million. It comes as the government plans to reopen the subway in New Delhi, the capital, and to move ahead with limited sports and religious events next month.
Throughout Monday, 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 Sunday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
CDC has not reduced the death count related to COVID-19
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not “backpedal” on the number of deaths caused by COVID-19, reducing the figure from nearly 154,000 to just over 9,000, as social media posts claimed.
The term “Only 6%” trended widely on Twitter over the weekend as supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory promoted tweets that falsely suggested the CDC had updated its records to show that only 6% of U.S. deaths tied to COVID-19 were legitimate. President Donald Trump was among those who tweeted the information, which was later taken down by Twitter for violating platform rules.
The posts, which received hundreds of thousands of shares online, were based on a regularly updated CDC data table showing underlying conditions for those who died of COVID-19. The conditions included high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, as well as problems that are caused by COVID-19 itself, such as respiratory failure and pneumonia.
The CDC data table is based on an analysis of death certificates that mention COVID-19 as a cause. For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned, the CDC notes.
The other 94% list COVID-19 and other conditions together. Among those deaths, there were, on average, 2.6 additional conditions or causes per death, the public health agency said.
Hong Kong begins mass-testing for virus amid public doubts
HONG KONG — Hong Kong began a voluntary mass-testing program for coronavirus Tuesday as part of a strategy to break the chain of transmission in the city’s third outbreak of the disease.
The virus-testing program has become a flash point of political debate in Hong Kong, with many distrustful over resources and staff being provided by the China’s central government and fears that the residents’ DNA could be collected during the exercise.
The Hong Kong government has dismissed such concerns, saying that no personal data will be attached to the specimen bottles and that samples will be destroyed in Hong Kong after the exercise.
The testing program began at 8 a.m. with residents heading to more than 100 testing centers staffed by over 5,000 volunteers.
Gov. Brown extends foreclosure moratorium amid pandemic
SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown has issued an executive order extending Oregon’s foreclosure moratorium through December, citing the continuing COVID-19-related recession.
“Extending the moratorium on foreclosures will ensure that more Oregonians do not lose their homes this year, and that businesses can continue to provide vital goods and services to our communities,” Brown said in a Monday announcement of the order.
The prior eviction moratorium was scheduled to expire at the end of September.
The governor acted under authority the Legislature granted in June when it passed House Bill 4204, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The Oregon Bankers Association have sued, arguing that provisions in the bill that protect homeowners from fees and penalties associated with missed mortgage payments are unconstitutional.
The governor’s office said Monday’s order includes those additional provisions. The Oregon Bankers Association did not immediately respond to a request from the newspaper for comment.
After backlash, USDA agrees to extend free-meal program for children
WASHINGTON – After an outcry from educators, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending a school meal program that has provided free meals to millions of children since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered schools in the spring.
The program allows families to pick up free food from any convenient school campus, regardless of whether their child is enrolled there and even if they do not qualify for free and reduced-price meals. It’s a form of meal delivery typically offered only during the summer months. But due to the pandemic, the Agriculture Department – which oversees the nation’s school lunch program – launched the program ahead of schedule in March and has kept it running ever since.
Until this week, however, federal officials were planning to let certain key components of the meal program expire at the end of September. Most notably, starting in August, families would have had to pay for their food and to pick it up from the school their child attends.
“Today, we are … extending summer meal program flexibilities for as long as we can, legally and financially,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement Monday. This will “ensure meals are reaching all children – whether they are learning in the classroom or virtually.”
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas back at work after battling COVID-19
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer, is back at his Churchill Downs barn after recovering from COVID-19.
Lukas, who turns 85 on Wednesday, said he got “really sick.”
“I couldn’t get any air and I felt like I was drifting away,” he said. “You just wish you could get one breath.”
Lukas isn’t sure how he contracted the coronavirus; he said he took such precautions as wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing and avoided dining out. He said his wife was caring for him and she tested negative twice.
“You would’ve thought for sure she’d get it,” he said. “We rode it out and I feel better now than I did a month ago.”
Lukas urged others to take the pandemic seriously and to protect themselves.
“I see people taking it lightly and I think it’s a mistake, whether they’re my age or 20,” he said. “I’d wear my mask. I wouldn’t tempt fate.”
Pandemic tests shopper loyalty for clothing brands
NEW YORK — When Archie Jafree heard that Lord & Taylor filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early August, he was sad about the fate of the storied retailer with roots dating back to 1824.
Still, the 36-year-old northern Virginia resident acknowledged he hadn’t shopped there in months, preferring instead to go to Nordstrom and Zara, where he feels the customer service is better.
Many shoppers like Jafree are seeing iconic labels vanish or become mere shadows of themselves, driven in part by a pandemic that has shoved them into bankruptcy but also by changing consumer habits that put less emphasis on brand names and more emphasis on experience.
So far, more than 40 retailers have filed for Chapter 11 this year, including roughly two dozen since the pandemic. That’s more than double what was seen for all of 2019.
Now, the pandemic is testing brand loyalty even more as shoppers, worried about going to physical stores, want quicker deliveries and curbside pickup, says Robert Passikoff, president of brand research firm Brand Keys.
Goodbye, nasal swabs? Saliva tests can detect coronavirus infection, studies show
If there’s one thing we can safely predict about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that plenty of coronavirus tests lie in our future. Luckily, researchers have some good news on that score.
Two new studies have found that tests that look for the virus in samples of saliva are about as reliable as tests that require a sample from the back of the nose.
That’s sure to be a welcome development to anyone who would rather avoid the discomfort of having a long, stiff swab inserted so far back into their nasal cavity that it feels like it’s tickling their brain.
But it’s not the only benefit. Pretty much anyone can administer a saliva-based test, so there’s no need for a trip to a testing center. It also frees up the time of medical personnel and spares them potential exposure to the virus.
In one of the new studies, a team from Yale identified 70 hospital patients with COVID-19 whose infections had been confirmed with the traditional nasopharyngeal swabs. Each time a health care worker carried out additional nasal swab tests, the researchers asked the patients to give themselves a saliva test as well.
The saliva tests did a better job of detecting the virus formally known as SARS-CoV-2, the researchers found. In the first five days after diagnosis, 81% of the saliva tests came back positive, compared with 71% of the nasopharyngeal tests. A similar gap remained through the 10th day after diagnosis.
Two new COVID-19 testing sites to open in South King County
Today, Public Health — Seattle & King County announced the addition of two new COVID-19 testing sites in South King County. According to a news release sent Monday afternoon, the testing sites, located in Auburn and Renton, will open this week and next. Testing will be free.
Public Health recommends immediate testing for anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who has had close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
Tests from the new sites will be processed by UW Medicine and Atlas Genomics, with contact tracers following up on positive cases. The south King County sites are projected to expand testing capacity by over 1,500 tests a day.
“Closing the gaps in testing access has been a top priority for Public Health as we continue to see the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on communities of color and those living in south King County,” Patty Hayes, director of Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in the release.
Preregistration for testing is available online for both testing locations. Though clients are encouraged to bring a driver’s license and insurance card, testing is free and no one will be turned away. Language interpretation will also be available on-site.
The Auburn site, on the east side of the General Services Administration property, will open Tuesday, Sept. 1. Testing will be available 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. The Renton location will open Tuesday, Sept. 8, with testing available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Registration for testing in Renton will begin Sept. 5.
Registration is available online or by calling the King County COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977, which accepts calls daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
State confirms 315 new COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths
State health officials reported 315 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Sunday night, and 10 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 74,635 cases and 1,915 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher early in the week, as the Department of Health is no longer reporting COVID-19-related deaths on weekends.
Statewide, 6,763 have been hospitalized and 1,473,245 COVID-19 tests have been administered.
In King County, the state’s most populous county, state health officials have confirmed 19,643 diagnoses and 723 deaths.
From schools to Tour de France, images show a world inching back open with coronavirus precautions
First two games of Mariners’ homestand postponed after A’s report positive COVID-19 test
There will be no baseball played at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The first two games of the Mariners’ three-game series vs. the Oakland A’s have been postponed because a member of the A’s traveling party tested positive for COVID-19 while the team was in Houston.
The A’s sent out a tweet announcing that the first two games of the series have been postponed.
A Zoom Thanksgiving? Better plan for it
As the Summer of COVID draws to a close, many experts fear an even bleaker fall and suggest that American families should start planning for Thanksgiving by Zoom.
Because of the many uncertainties, public health scientists say it’s easier to forecast the weather on Thanksgiving Day than to predict how the U.S. coronavirus crisis will play out this autumn. But school reopenings, holiday travel and more indoor activity because of colder weather could all separately increase transmission of the virus and combine in ways that could multiply the threat, they say.
As many people start to decide whether to book holiday flights, some have already decided.
Cassie Docking, 44, an urgent care nurse in Seattle, is telling her parents — both cancer survivors — that Thanksgiving will be by FaceTime only.
“We all want to get to 2021,” she said, “and if that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do.”
Caitlin Joyce’s family is forging ahead with a holiday feast. They plan to set up plywood tables on sawhorses in a large garage so they can sit 6 feet apart.
“We’ll be in our coats and our sweaters,” said Joyce, 30, of Edmonds, who plans to travel to her grandparents’ home in Virginia. “It will be almost like camping.”
What is herd immunity and why are Trump officials pursuing an idea WHO calls ‘dangerous’?
Trump administration officials are starting to implement policies that suggest a “herd immunity” strategy — a controversial approach that involves deliberately allowing the coronavirus to spread to build up population resistance more quickly, while protecting the most vulnerable.
In theory, as the number of survivors with immunity increases to a certain level, the virus’s spread would slow and eventually stop. The only problem: A whole lot of people would die before that point.
At a news briefing last week, World Health Organization officials called pursuing such a herd immunity strategy “very dangerous.”
“If we think about herd immunity in a natural sense of just letting a virus run, it’s very dangerous,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic. “A lot of people would die.”
Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said “there really hasn’t been any infectious disease that has been controlled just by allowing natural immunity to happen.”
Detroit honors COVID-19 victims with extraordinary park memorial
An island park in Detroit has become an extraordinary memorial garden, with cars packed with families slowly passing hundreds of photos of city residents who have died from COVID-19.
Mayor Mike Duggan declared Monday Detroit Memorial Day to honor the 1,500-plus city victims of the pandemic. Hearses escorted by police led solemn all-day processions around Belle Isle Park in the Detroit River after bells rang across the region at 8:45 a.m.
Radio station WRCJ, which plays classical music and jazz, added gospel to its playlist and read the names of the deceased.
“It is our hope that seeing these beautiful faces on the island today … will wake people up to the devastating effect of the pandemic,” said Rochelle Riley, Detroit’s director of arts and culture.
In China’s Xinjiang, forced medication, draconian measures accompany lockdown
When police arrested the middle-aged Uighur woman at the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak, she was crammed into a cell with dozens of other women in a detention center.
There, she said, she was forced to drink a medicine that made her feel weak and nauseous and strip naked while being hosed with scalding disinfectant “like firemen,” she said.
The government in China’s far northwest Xinjiang region is resorting to draconian measures to combat the coronavirus, including physically locking residents in homes, imposing quarantines of more than 40 days and arresting those who do not comply. Furthermore, in what experts call a breach of medical ethics, some residents are being coerced into swallowing traditional Chinese medicine, according to government notices, social media posts and interviews with three people in quarantine in Xinjiang.
The latest grueling lockdown, now in its 45th day, comes in response to 826 cases reported in Xinjiang since mid-July, China’s largest caseload since the initial outbreak.
New understanding of how virus disarms body's 'foot soldiers' creates race to boost them
An improved understanding how the coronavirus disarms some of a body’s immune fighters, called interferons, is creating excitement among scientists who theorize they might be able to counter that process and prevent infections from developing into severe disease.
Interferons are immune proteins that normally interfere with a virus’ life cycle – hence the name, interferon. In addition to their antiviral properties, they summon natural killer cells, “the best soldiers, as it were, of the innate immune system,” Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview.
That system is both the body’s whooping air-raid siren and its emergency responders rushing to the scene. The virus’s ability to hamstring this system may be one of the keys to its success.
Now, several trials are underway in the United States and elsewhere to see whether giving interferon to coronavirus patients early on might prevent severe disease, or hasten recovery, if administered later.
Australia records its deadliest day of pandemic
Australia recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic Monday as the government contemplates lifting the lockdown on the country’s second-largest city.
Victoria’s health department reported 41 deaths from COVID-19 and 73 new infections in the latest 24-hour period, a state and national high.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said, though, that only eight of the 41 fatalities occurred in the latest 24-hour period. The other 33 fatalities occurred in aged care since late July and were reported on Sunday following a tightening of reporting obligations and a review of previous reporting.
A six-week lockdown in the city is due to be relaxed on Sept. 13, but the state government has not said how it will be relaxed or given any assurances that it won’t be extended.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 has likely become the third leading cause of death in King County, surpassing Alzheimer's disease. FYI Guy takes a county-by-county look at the virus' toll and the factors behind the numbers.
Coronavirus cases are plateauing or even falling in some parts of Washington state, health officials say. But it's not all good news: New outbreaks have cropped up, particularly around prisons, college towns and hospitals. In Pullman, cases are spiking as students return to WSU, even though it's closed to in-person instruction.
Airlines' new measures to fight the virus may be doing just the opposite.
A Mexican resort town is trying to lure tourists back in the middle of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks. "It's life or death for us," says a tourism official in Cabo San Lucas. "There's nothing else here."
When the virus recedes, will telehealth stay? The pandemic has more Americans making phone and video visits to health care providers, but there are concerns about privacy and the quality of care.
The strangest Tour de France has set off in an anti-coronavirus bubble, although no one is sure that riders can negotiate their way through France’s worsening infections to the finish. Meanwhile, runners are preparing for the storied — and virtual — Boston Marathon.
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