Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Aug. 4 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced another statewide coronavirus restriction Monday that triples the minimum distance required for people exercising at gyms and fitness facilities.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., lawmakers continue to negotiate on a huge coronavirus relief bill, and multiple obstacles remain.
Throughout Tuesday, on this page, we’ll post Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Monday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
‘We are no less American’: Deaths pile up on Texas border
On America’s southern doorstep, the Rio Grande Valley, the U.S. failure to contain the pandemic has been laid bare.
For nearly a month, this borderland of 2 million people in South Texas pleaded for a field hospital, but not until Tuesday was one ready and accepting patients. In July alone, Hidalgo County reported more than 600 deaths — more than the Houston area, which is five times larger.
At DHR Health, one of the largest hospitals on the border, nearly 200 of the 500 beds belong to coronavirus patients isolated in two units. A third unit is in the works. That doesn’t even include the COVID-19 maternity ward, where mothers and newborns are separated immediately.
Texas reopened quicker than most of the U.S., only to backtrack in the face of massive outbreaks. Health officials say the worst of a summer resurgence appears to be behind the state as a whole, but the border is a bleak exception. Doctors fear another punishing wave is around the corner.
Reports: Chicago schools to announce all-remote learning
CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools is expected to announce Wednesday that it will start the school year with all-remote learning in response to coronavirus concerns, according to published reports.
The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, citing unnamed sources, said the announcement will be made ahead of a deadline Friday when parents were to decide on whether they wanted to start the year learning from home or a hybrid plan of remote and classroom learning.
The newspapers earlier Tuesday reported that the Chicago Teachers Union may convene its House of Delegates next week to consider a plan of action that could lead to a strike if the public schools do not institute an all-remote learning plan for the start of the school year.
Messages left by The Associated Press with Chicago school officials were not immediately returned.
Technical issue has California under-reporting virus cases
LOS ANGELES — A technical problem has caused a lag in California’s tally of coronavirus test results, casting doubt on the accuracy of recent data showing improvements in the infection rate and number of positive cases, and hindering efforts to track the spread, the state’s top health official said Tuesday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in recent days that California has not been receiving a full count of tests conducted, or positive results, through electronic lab reports because of the unresolved issue, which he did not describe in detail. The state’s data page now carries a disclaimer saying the numbers “represent an underreporting of actual positive cases” per day.
Wendy Hetherington, Riverside County’s chief of epidemiology and program evaluation, said she believes hundreds of cases a day haven’t been reported in her county since late last week.
Space Needle reopens to visitors after host of coronavirus-related upgrades
The Space Needle is open again — and if you’ve typically kept away because of tourists and crowds, this might be a good time to visit.
Seattle’s skyline-defining tourist attraction recently completed $1 million in coronavirus-oriented upgrades and is beginning to allow visitors on a limited, socially distant basis this week after a soft friends-and-family opening that began last month. There’s been no advertising yet, but nonetheless people have made their way to the Seattle Center destination.
New hours, ticket information and details about safety upgrades are available on the Needle’s website, and there is a discount for Washington state residents.
The Space Needle closed to the public in mid-March, as the coronavirus was spreading throughout Washington.
State health officials write up reminders on how to stay safe
Nearly half of people who have gotten COVID-19 got it from someone with no symptoms — someone who looked, felt and acted normal.
So the Washington State Department of Health recommends that we limit how many people we get together with in person — even when we all feel normal.
In its latest Public Health Connection posted on Medium, the DOH is reminding people of the rules around Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan, which restricts social gatherings.
“Larger social gatherings are one big reason we’re seeing high rates of COVID-19 activity throughout the state,” the piece read. “Every time we’re around others talking, laughing, or singing, we risk catching the virus from someone’s breath.”
The state DOH urged “fewer, shorter and safer” interactions to keep one another safe. In Phase 2 counties, only five or fewer people may gather together. In Phase 3 counties, groups of 10 or fewer are permitted to gather.
And in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties, no gatherings are allowed.
Residents can see which phase their county is in on the Safe Start page of the state’s COVID-19 website.
Among the DOH’s other recommendations:
- Only participate in one or two social gatherings a week, making sure each gathering is with just five or 10 people (depending on your county) from outside your household.
- Make sure everyone stays six feet apart and wears face coverings.
- Staying outdoors is much safer than gathering indoors because “the wind can disperse everyone’s breath more quickly outdoors.”
- Shorter in-person time is safer than longer in-person time.
- Stay home if you’re sick. “This may be your first chance to hang out with friend in a while, but it isn’t your last,” the piece read.
- And when you get together with your small group of friends, “tell them you love them with words, not a hug.
The DOH also urged people to “practice compassion.”
“Even when we feel great, we never know when we might be carrying a virus that could endanger others,” the post read. “Stay six feet away and wear a cloth face covering in public. Keep your community safe.”
State confirms 664 new COVID-19 cases and 19 new deaths; positive test rate at 5.9%
State health officials reported 664 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Monday night, and 19 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 59,379 cases and 1,619 deaths, meaning that 2.7% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
So far, 1,009,486 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.9% have come back positive.
In King County, the state most populous, state health officials have confirmed 15,726 diagnoses and 659 deaths in King County, accounting for 40.7% of the state’s COVID-19 death toll.
SCAN data shows COVID patients unaware of contact
A large portion of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Seattle and King County were unaware that they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
And those who reported having an acute loss of sense of smell or taste were more likely to test positive.
This according to new data from the Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN), a public health surveillance program for infection from SARS-CoV-2 -- the virus that causes COVID-19.
SCAN offers free testing of home-collected samples in greater Seattle and King County, and “is designed to understand the COVID-19 outbreak more completely to inform public health decisions.”
The use of SCAN codes, which allow people who meet certain criteria to bypass the normal screening process automatically receive a SCAN test kit, has helped gain greater participation of children and high-risk cases.
Since the program started on March 23, it has tested 17,957 people, resulting in 180 positive cases.
Between June 10 and July 28, the program tested 5,610 people, returning 79 positive results.
While mask usage has increased over time, rates appear to be stalling below universal compliance, SCAN found, noting that “trading social distancing for mask use is counterproductive for COVID-19 prevention.
“The best way to protect each other when we must go out is to maintain at least six feet of distance from others,” SCAN stated, “and always wear a mask.”
For information on enrolling in SCAN, go to: https://scanpublichealth.org/
Chasm grows between Trump and government coronavirus experts
WASHINGTON — In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, President Donald Trump was flanked in the White House briefing room by a team of public health experts in a seeming portrait of unity to confront the disease that was ravaging the globe.
But as the crisis has spread to all reaches of the country, with escalating deaths and little sense of endgame, a chasm has widened between the president and the experts. The result: daily delivery of a mixed message to the public at a moment when coherence is most needed.
Trump and his political advisers insist that the United States has no rival in its response to the pandemic. They point to the fact that the U.S. has administered more virus tests than any other nation and that the percentage of deaths among those infected is among the lowest.
“Right now, I think it’s under control,” Trump said during an interview with Axios. He added, “We have done a great job.”
But the surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths tells a different story. And it suggests that the president is increasingly out of step with the federal government’s own medical and public health experts.
FDA warns of 4 hand sanitizers that are too weak to work
The Food and Drug Administration has expanded its list of hand sanitizers that consumers should avoid to include products with inadequate levels of alcohol in addition to those containing methanol.
The agency issued an advisory last week announcing that its tests had found four hand sanitizers with “concerningly low levels of ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol” — active ingredients in hand sanitizers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that consumers use alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% ethanol, if soap and water are not available.
The four hand sanitizers the FDA found to have inadequate concentrations of ethanol are NeoNatural, Medicare Alcohol Antiseptic Topical Solution, Datsen Hand Sanitizer and Alcohol Antiseptic 62 Percent Hand Sanitizer.
Three of the four products, all of which are manufactured in Mexico, were added to an import alert to stop them from entering the United States.
No masks, no distance: Pandemic wedding horrors for vendors
NEW YORK — Wedding planners, photographers and other bridal vendors who make the magic happen have a heap of new worries in the middle of the pandemic: no-mask weddings, rising guest counts and venues not following the rules.
Now that weddings have slowly cranked up under a patchwork of ever-shifting state and local restrictions, horror stories from vendors are rolling in. Many are desperate to work after the coronavirus put an abrupt end to their incomes and feel compelled to put on their masks, grab their cameras and hope for the best.
No-mask weddings, no social distancing and dance floors prohibited in many states have been the talk of online groups for vendors around the country.
“People have worked in venues outright looking the other way on masks and size,” said photographer Susan Stripling in New York.
Reports of COVID-19 outbreaks traced to weddings remain rare. One wedding was shut down by local officials at a San Francisco church; the nearly 100 guests had been instructed by the bridal couple to avoid the public entrance and go in through an underground parking garage instead.
Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew, former WSU Cougar, returns from brief but 'brutal' quarantine
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Quarterback Gardner Minshew was ready for Jacksonville’s “first day of school.”
“Had my outfit picked out and everything,” he quipped.
Then Minshew got a call saying he had been in close contact with a teammate who tested positive for the coronavirus and would be forced to quarantine for two days.
“It was brutal, dude,” the former WSU Cougar said during a Microsoft Teams call with reporters Tuesday. “Had to stay at home. That sucks. Missed out on playing with all my friends. But, yeah, did not contract the virus.”
Minshew was placed on the COVID-19 list Sunday along with three teammates, including close friends and former roommates Michael Walker and Andrew Wingard. Minshew and Wingard were cleared Tuesday morning after they received the second of two negative tests. Walker remains on the list.
Minshew and Walker lived together in Naples while working out in the offseason. Minshew believes they contracted the coronavirus during that time because both tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies as they reported for training camp.
“We probably got it at the same time, had no symptoms or whatever,” Minshew said. “I think he failed a test, but I don’t think he has it again. But just since he failed (a test) and I was around him then I had to sit out, too. It just shows kind of the fragility of this whole thing and how fickle this thing can be. Just being around somebody, if they touch enough people, you can shut down the whole team really quick.”
Washington state fines nursery that prevented workers from wearing masks
MALTBY, Snohomish County — The owner of a plant nursery has been fined $4,200 by Washington state for failing to ensure a safe workplace and potentially exposing employees to the coronavirus by preventing them from wearing masks.
The state Department of Labor and Industries cited Flower World last week for violating state guidelines intended to limit the spread of COVID-19, including not requiring masks or face coverings, not practicing social distancing and not conducting employee temperature checks, The Daily Herald reported.
Employees had received a letter with their paychecks in early June saying they were not allowed to wear masks because owner John Postema believed masks would be a hazard for long hours in hot weather.
Closing schools could cause ‘generational catastrophe,’ U.N. secretary general warns
The world is facing a “generational catastrophe” due to ongoing school closures, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres warned Tuesday, calling the coronavirus pandemic “the largest disruption of education ever.”
Allowing students to safely return to classrooms must be a “top priority” as countries get local transmission under control, Guterres said in a video message released early Tuesday morning.
A policy brief published alongside Guterres’ message emphasized that suppressing transmission of the virus is “the single most significant step” leaders can take toward reopening schools.
‘Too many are selfish’: U.S. nears 5 million virus cases
Big house parties and weddings, summer camps, concerts, crowded bars and restaurants, shopping trips without masks — Americans’ resistance to curbs on everyday life is seen as a key reason the U.S. has racked up more confirmed coronavirus deaths and infections by far than any other country.
The nation has recorded more than 155,000 dead in a little more than six months and is fast approaching an almost off-the-charts 5 million COVID-19 infections.
Some Americans have resisted wearing masks and social distancing, calling such precautions an over-the-top response or an infringement on their liberty. Public health experts say such behavior has been compounded by confusing and inconsistent guidance from politicians.
“The thing that’s maddening is country after country and state after state have shown us how we can contain the virus,” said Dr. Jonathan Quick, who is leading a pandemic initiative for the Rockefeller Foundation. “It’s not like we don’t know what works. We do.”
In Virginia, cases have surged so much in cities like Norfolk and Virginia Beach that Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a physician, placed limits last week on the region’s alcohol sales and gatherings of more than 50 people. He cited rising infections among young people and said the problem is that “too many people are selfish.”
The number of confirmed infections in the U.S. has topped 4.7 million, with new cases running at over 60,000 a day.
Unlikely reunion: COVID-19 patient and medical aide are long-lost sisters
It was a regular day at the Nebraska rehabilitation center last month when Bev Boro, a medication aide, looked over her patient list. A name on the list stopped her cold: Doris Crippen.
“I kept saying, ‘Oh my God,'” said Boro, 53. “That must be her.”
She had not seen her older sister in more than 50 years, though the two had long been searching for each other.
The unlikely reunion was set in motion in May when Crippen, 73, was diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalized for more than a month at Nebraska Medicine, where she said she was not sure if she would survive.
She did, and once she had recovered from the virus and tested negative, Crippen was sent to Dunklau Gardens – a rehabilitation center and nursing home in Fremont, Neb. Boro has worked there for more than two decades.
Neither sister imagined they would find each other, let alone like this.
Boro and Crippen share the same father but were born to different mothers. Their father had been married three times and had 10 children. Crippen is the oldest and Boro is the youngest.
Both women grew up in Nebraska and knew each other’s names. They spent years searching for each other, but never had any luck until now.
Can you get the coronavirus from secondhand smoke?
Can you get the coronavirus from secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke isn’t believed to directly spread the virus, experts say, but infected smokers may blow droplets carrying the virus when they exhale.
Being able to smell the smoke might be a red flag that you’re standing too close to the smoker. The respiratory droplets people spray when they talk, cough or sneeze are believed to be the main way the virus spreads. And people also exhale those droplets when smoking, as well as when they’re vaping.
“Not only are they potentially spreading virus by not wearing a mask, they are blowing those droplets to the people around them to potentially get infected,” says Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association.
You should steer clear of secondhand smoke regardless. Breathing in secondhand smoke from cigarettes can cause various health problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Manila back under lockdown as virus cases surge
Commuter trains, buses and other public vehicles stayed off the main roads of the Philippine capital Tuesday and police were again staffing checkpoints to restrict public travel as surging virus cases forced another lockdown.
Officials deployed dozens of shuttle buses, along with army trucks, to ferry stranded medical personnel and workers of authorized businesses. Most domestic flights to and from the capital were canceled, and night curfews will return in places.
The lockdown is milder than was first one imposed, which largely confined most people to their homes for months, but is more severe than the quarantine restrictions the capital had been under recently. It is being imposed in metropolitan Manila and outlying provinces for two weeks.
COVID-19 reshapes back-to-school spending
For Michelle Lynn England, back-to-school shopping always meant heading to Target and the local mall with her two girls and dropping about $500 on each of them for trendy outfits.
Not this year.
The Charlotte, North Carolina, resident has slashed her spending on clothing in half for her 10-year-old and 14-year-old and instead upped spending on masks and supplies as a surge in coronavirus cases has forced her local school district to extend online learning through the fall.
“The kids always looked forward to getting something new,” said England, who spent $500 in total this time around. “It didn’t make any sense to buy any extra clothes that won’t be worn.”
At one point inconceivable, the pandemic has now dragged into the new school year, wreaking havoc on reopening plans. That has extended to the back-to-school shopping season, the second most important period for retailers behind the holidays.
Parents are buying less dressy clothes and more basics for their kids, while stepping up purchases of masks and other protective equipment as well as electronics. They’re also holding back on spending amid uncertainty over what the school year will look like. The back-to-school season typically kicks off in mid-July and peaks in mid-August; this year, the peak should hit in late August and spill into most of September, experts say.
“We are definitely seeing a delay,” said Jill Renslow, senior vice president of Bloomington, Minnesota-based Mall of America, which reopened in mid-June with social distancing protocols. “People just don’t know what they need.”
What Lockdown 2.0 looks like: harsher rules, deeper confusion
Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, grappling with a spiraling coronavirus outbreak in a country that once thought it had the pandemic beat, has now imposed some of the toughest restrictions in the world.
But as officials cast about for ways to break the chain of infections, the city has become a confounding matrix of hefty fines for disobedience, minor exceptions for everything from romantic partners to home building, and endless versions of the question: So, wait, can I ____?
Restaurant owners are wondering about food delivery after an 8 p.m. curfew began Sunday. Teenagers are asking if their boyfriends and girlfriends count as essential partners. Can animal shelter volunteers walk dogs at night? Are house cleaners essential for those struggling with their mental health? Can the COVID-tested exercise outside?
Pandemic lockdowns, never easy, are getting ever more confusing and contentious as they evolve in the face of second and third rounds of outbreaks that have exhausted both officials and residents.
For some places, risk calculations can change overnight. In Hong Kong, officials banned daytime dining in restaurants last month, only to reverse themselves a day later after an outcry. Schools in some cities are opening and closing like screen doors in summer.
But in many areas where the virus has retreated and then resurged, the future looks like a long, complicated haul.
‘A line in the sand’: Both sides in Congress dig in on virus relief bill
Negotiators on a huge coronavirus relief bill reported slight progress after talks resumed in the Capitol, with issues like food for the poor and aid to schools struggling to reopen safely assuming a higher profile in the talks.
Multiple obstacles remain, including an impasse on extending a $600-per-week pandemic jobless benefit, funding for the U.S. Postal Service and aid to renters facing eviction. Democratic negotiators spoke of progress Monday, but Republicans remain privately pessimistic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues on a call that she’s hopeful a deal could be reached this week but doesn’t know if it’s possible, according to a Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Neither side has budged from their positions, with Democrats demanding an extension of the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit that’s credited with propping up the economy. Republicans have yet to offer any aid to states to prevent furloughs, layoffs and cuts to services. Both will have to compromise before a deal can be agreed to.
“The $600 unemployment insurance benefit is essential because there are no jobs to go back to,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York said on MSNBC on Tuesday morning. “We’ve got to help out everyday Americans. That’s a line in the sand.”
Parents unhappy with school options assemble learning ‘pods’
On the 4-acre farm at the edge of the Everglades where Timea Hunter runs a horse academy, she has hosted plenty of parties, picnics and workshops. So with her children’s school building closed, she figured why not use it as a classroom?
While her son and daughter will participate in distance learning at their school, she plans to hire a teacher together with the families of four to six other children who could provide supplemental, in-person instruction on the farm shaded by royal poinciana trees.
“We have a very nice picnic area, a mini playground and big tables where the kids can seat under the shade and they can study there,” Hunter said. “We are not educated to do this, so everybody is freaking out and saying, ‘What are we gonna do, how we are going to do it?’”
As the coronavirus pandemic has clouded hopes of reopening schools nationwide, parents who want more than remote instruction have been scrambling to hire tutors and private teachers for small groups of children. The race to set up “learning pods” threatens to vastly deepen inequities in access to education.
In some cases, parents are paying thousands of dollars each to include their children in pods, promising teachers $40 to $100 an hour or more. A Facebook group on learning pods attracted more than 30,000 members within three weeks of being formed and launched numerous offshoots in states and cities. New sites like pod-up.com and partnerpods.org have emerged offering to connect families and instructors.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has called learning pods “luxuries” that are not an option for low-income parents.
Bad news for bubbly
The market for Champagne is losing its fizz during the pandemic.
For months, lockdown put the cork on weddings, dining out, parties and international travel — all key sales components for the French luxury wine marketed for decades as a sparkling must at any celebration.
Producers in France’s eastern Champagne region, headquarters of the global industry, say they’ve lost an estimated 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion) in sales for this year, as turnover fell by a third — a hammering unmatched in living memory, and worse than the Great Depression.
They expect about 100 million bottles to be languishing unsold in their cellars by the end of the year.
Need socially distant summer activity ideas? Wander flower fields or pick berries at these Seattle-area ‘U-Pick’ farms
Summer was slow off the blocks due to COVID-19 restrictions, but there’s still plenty to savor.
We've compiled some outdoor outings — each within about an hour’s drive of Seattle — great for some fresh air, perspective and that feeling of summer.
Just remember to practice social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
In King County, positive test rates are trending downward overall. But does that tell the whole story? FYI Guy Gene Balk took another look at the data. Find the local hot spots and check how your neighborhood is doing.
State officials put a dollar figure on the massive fraud committed against the unemployment system during the pandemic, and it's staggering.
If you work out at a gym, read the new state rules for distancing and mask-wearing.
Will we get another round of stimulus payments? Lawmakers reported "some progress" toward a deal.
While the virus ravages the sports world, the Seahawks have not yet had a positive case. Coach Pete Carroll attributes that to a special kind of "bubble."
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