Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, August 5, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 world on Wednesday surpassed 200 million coronavirus infections — more than the populations of Germany, France and Spain combined — as the virus continues to find new hosts across the globe at a rapid rate.
Data is also showing that after sharp drops in infections over the past several months, the number of COVID cases among U.S. nursing-home residents and staff roughly tripled in July, adding urgency to continued calls for vaccine mandates among health care workers.
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 and the world.
Russian disinformation targets vaccines and the Biden administration
The cartoon posted on the far-right discussion forum showed police officers wearing Biden-Harris campaign logos on bulletproof vests and battering down a door with a large syringe. A caption read in part, “In Biden’s America.”
The cartoon appears to be an example of the latest effort in Russian-aligned disinformation: a campaign that taps into skepticism and fears of coronavirus vaccination to not just undermine the effort to immunize people but also try to falsely link the Biden-Harris administration to the idea of forced inoculations. The image was one of several spotted by Graphika, a company tracking disinformation campaigns.
Both Russia and China have worked to promote their own vaccines through messaging that undermines American and European vaccination programs, according to the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. But in addition to overt messaging promoting their own vaccines, Moscow has also spread conspiracy theories. Last year, the department began warning about how Russia was using fringe websites to promote doubts around vaccinations.
It is difficult to quantify the amount of disinformation being produced at any time by the Russians or other adversarial powers, government officials and outside experts said. But the rise of the delta variant of the coronavirus — and shifting scientific advice on how to defend against a more infectious strain and the need for booster shots or masks — has created an atmosphere for misinformation to more easily spread, experts said.
Novavax says U.S. will pause funding for production of its vaccine
WASHINGTON — Novavax, the Maryland firm that won a $1.75 billion federal contract to develop and produce a coronavirus vaccine, said Thursday that the federal government would not fund further production of its vaccine until the company resolves concerns of federal regulators about its work.
The firm’s disclosure came in a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Trump administration agreed to buy 110 million doses of vaccine from Novavax as part of its crash vaccine development program.
Although the company reported in June that its vaccine had an efficacy of 90% against symptomatic COVID-19 cases, and 100% against severe disease, Novavax has struggled for months to mass manufacture its product. Its vaccine has not been authorized for distribution in the United States, and federal officials said it is unclear when or if it will be.
Four people familiar with Novavax’s operation said the company had been unable to demonstrate that its production process met Food and Drug Administration standards.
Biden administration considers withholding funds and other moves to spur vaccinations
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering using federal regulatory powers and the threat of withholding federal funds from institutions to push more Americans to get vaccinated — a huge potential shift in the fight against the virus and a far more muscular approach to getting shots into arms, according to four people familiar with the deliberations.
The effort could apply to institutions as varied as long-term care facilities, cruise ships and universities, potentially affecting millions of Americans, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations.
The conversations are in the early phases and no firm decisions have been made, the people said. One outside lawyer in touch with the Biden administration on the issue is recommending that the president use federal powers sparingly.
There is a particular focus in the discussions on whether restrictions on Medicare dollars or other federal funds could be used to persuade nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to require employees to be vaccinated, according to one of the people familiar with the talks.
Expedia stock falls amid renewed concern about spread of virus
Shares of Expedia Group Inc. fell in extended trading after executives suggested a “bumpy” future ahead, a sign that rising COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant have damped confidence in the travel industry.
While the company saw “continued improvement in many global travel segments,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern offered a cautionary note for the near future.
“Unfortunately, the road to full travel recovery remains bumpy until more of the world is vaccinated.” Kern said in a statement Thursday with the company’s quarterly results. Shares declined about 6% after closing at $161.69 in New York. The stock has gained 22% this year.
Expedia said second-quarter sales more than tripled to $2.11 billion and gross bookings increased to $20.8 billion. Both topped analysts’ estimates. The company reported an adjusted loss of $169 million, or $1.13 a share, in the period ended June 30, from $577 million, or $4.09 a share, a year earlier. Analysts, on average, estimated a loss of 65 cents a share.
NJ schools K-12 to wear masks, governor to announce
TRENTON, N.J. — Students at New Jersey schools from kindergarten to 12th grade and staff members will be required to wear masks when the new year begins in a few weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy is set to announce Friday as COVID-19 cases rise in the state.
The decision to require masks is an about-face from just a few weeks ago when Murphy said it would take a “deterioration” of COVID-19 data to require masks.
The state’s figures, like many across the country, have been trending up in recent weeks. The seven-day rolling average of new cases climbed over the past two weeks from 512 on July 20 to 1,104 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The surging figures are part of a nationwide struggle with the contagious delta variant, which has been leading — along with vaccination holdouts — to higher hospitalization rates across the country.
DeSantis feuds with Biden White House as COVID cases rise
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It didn’t take much for the White House to set Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis off. As coronavirus cases rise across the Sun Belt, President Joe Biden asked GOP governors to “get out of the way” of efforts to contain the virus.
DeSantis fired back that he did not want to “hear a blip about COVID from you, thank you,” adding, “Why don’t you do your job?”
The exchange was unusually direct and bitter, particularly for politicians dealing with a crisis that is killing Americans in rising numbers. But it was a sign that the now-familiar cudgels of virus politics — debates pitting “freedoms” against masks and restrictions — remain potent weapons. And DeSantis, in particular, appears eager to carry that fight into next year’s midterms election, and beyond.
“He has become, I would argue, the leading voice of opposition to the Biden administration,” said Rob Bradley, a Republican who recently left the Florida Senate because of term limits. “It’s not a surprise to see Biden and DeSantis going at it.”
California to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for health workers
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will require all of its roughly 2.2 million health care workers and long term care workers to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30 as the nation’s most populous state is losing ground in the battle against new infections of a more dangerous coronavirus variant.
The order, issued Thursday by the California Department of Public Health, is different than what Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said last month when he announced health care workers would have the choice of either getting vaccinated or submitting to weekly testing.
Now, the order does not give health care workers a choice. It says all must be fully vaccinated by the end of September, with exceptions for people who decline the vaccine because of a religious belief or workers who cannot be inoculated because of a qualifying medical reason backed up by a note signed by a licensed medical professional.
The change comes as California is seeing the fastest increase in new virus cases since the start of the pandemic, averaging 18.3 new cases per 100,000 people a day.
CNN fires three employees for coming to the office unvaccinated
The cable news channel has mandated that all employees working in its offices or in the field be fully vaccinated. In a memo to staff Thursday, President Jeff Zucker said the network has “a zero-tolerance policy on this” and fired the three after learning this past week that they were coming to the office unvaccinated.
“You need to be vaccinated to come to the office,” he said. “And you need to be vaccinated to work in the field, with other employees, regardless of whether you enter an office or not. Period.”
CNN had thus far relied on an “honor system” and hasn’t required employees to show proof they’ve been inoculated. In the weeks ahead, providing evidence of vaccination may become a formal process across CNN’s parent company, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, Zucker said.
Swedish implements new policy requiring all health workers to get vaccinated
Swedish Health Services this week announced a new COVID-19 policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated, or sign a declination citing either medical or religious reasons.
The new policy supports infection-prevention planning and allows hospital management to "rapidly determine and respond to risk" in case of an exposure within Swedish facilities, according to a statement from hospital spokesperson Tiffany Moss. It will also help Swedish determine appropriate staffing for high-risk care areas, like immunocompromised patient-care settings, and plan for necessary supplies and equipment.
"We know that vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and associated severe illness, hospitalization and death," the statement said. "As a health care provider, Swedish wants to help protect our patients and each other, and the vaccine is our path forward."
As of July 21, about 85% of Swedish caregivers were partially or fully vaccinated.
The news comes about a week after King County health officials announced their recommendation for hospitals and long-term care facilities to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
State health officials confirm 2,955 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,955 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 486,303 cases and 6,155 deaths, meaning that 1.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
In addition, 27,340 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 162 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 119,960 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,683 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,196,908 doses and 52.9% 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 9,694 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.
Novavax seeks OK for COVID vaccine in needy countries first
Vaccine maker Novavax announced Thursday it has asked regulators in India, Indonesia and the Philippines to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine — offering its shot to some low-income countries before rich ones with ample supplies.
U.S.-based Novavax partnered with the Serum Institute of India to apply in the three countries, and plans later this month to also seek the World Health Organization review needed to be part of the COVAX global vaccine program.
Novavax CEO Stanley Erck called the submissions an “important step toward access to millions of doses of a safe and effective vaccine for countries with an urgent need to control the pandemic.”
The company announced it also plans to submit applications in Britain soon, followed by Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but not in the U.S. until later in the year.
The Novavax two-dose shot is made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. That’s very different than other widely used vaccines that deliver genetic instructions for the body to make its own spike protein.
What you should know about indoor dining amid the delta variant
You might be thinking about making reservations at a restaurant this weekend, but before you smash the “confirm” button on your favorite app, you could be having second — or eighth — thoughts. News about the delta variant of the coronavirus, “breakthrough infections” among vaccinated people and changing guidelines on masking are adding levels of uncertainty that we once assumed were behind us.
As Americans again grapple with the question of whether they should dine out, public-health experts and epidemiologists agree on one thing: There is no such thing as zero risk. There are only degrees of risk, no matter your vaccination status or the damage the delta variant has done to your community.
To learn what scientists and industry experts say diners should know about this new phase, read the story here.
A Texas GOP leader railed against vaccines and masks; he just died of COVID-19
A leader of the Texas Republican Party hopped on Facebook in May to post about a “mask burning” party 900 miles away in Cincinnati.
The month before, H Scott Apley responded to news that clinical trials showed the Pfizer vaccine was effective at fighting the coronavirus for at least six months, including one of the recent variants.
“You are an absolute enemy of a free people,” he wrote in a Twitter reply.
And on Friday, the 45-year-old Dickinson City Council member republished a Facebook post implying that vaccines don’t work.
Two days later, Apley was admitted to a Galveston hospital with “pneumonialike symptoms” and tested positive for COVID. On Wednesday, he died.
Alarmed Louisiana residents turn to vaccines as pandemic reaches ‘darkest days’
Officials in Louisiana have been willing to try just about anything to jolt the state’s lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates, but when many relent now and get their first vaccine dose tthey are motivated not by incentives but by fear as cases explode.
Demand for the shots has nearly quadrupled in recent weeks in Louisiana, a promising glimmer that the deadly reality of the virus might be breaking through a logjam of misunderstanding and misinformation.
Hospitals are overflowing with more COVID-19 patients than ever before, including patients in their 20s and 30s who are rapidly declining and dying.
“These are the darkest days of our pandemic,” said Catherine O’Neal, the chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge.
Australia’s 2nd largest city, Melbourne, enters 6th lockdown
Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, went into a sixth lockdown on Thursday, with a state government leader blaming the nation’s slow COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
Melbourne joins Sydney and Brisbane, Australia’s most populous and third-most populous cities respectively, in locking down due to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
The government reported 262 locally acquired infections in the latest 24-hour period.
Melbourne has accused neighboring New South Wales state of taking too long to lock down Sydney after a limousine driver who became infected while transporting a U.S. aircrew from Sydney Airport tested positive to the delta variant on June 16.
New South Wales on Thursday reported its worst day since the Sydney lockdown began on June 26 with a record 262 new local infections and five deaths.
Special French court OKs most of new law on health pass
A French constitutional court on Thursday validated most aspects of a new law that, starting next week, requires people to carry a special COVID-19 health pass to access cafes, restaurants, long-distance travel and, in some cases, hospitals. But it struck down several measures for not meeting constitutional muster.
The Constitutional Council ruled that the automatic 10-day isolation of people infected with the virus goes against French freedoms. It was unclear what immediate effect that would have.
Vaccine passport plan in NYC renews online privacy debate
When New York City announced Tuesday that it would soon require people to show proof of at least one coronavirus vaccine shot to enter businesses, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the system was “simple — just show it, and you’re in.”
Less simple was the privacy debate that the city reignited.
Vaccine passports, which show proof of vaccination, often in electronic form such as an app, are the bedrock of de Blasio’s plan. For months, these records — also known as health passes or digital health certificates — have been under discussion around the world as a tool to allow vaccinated people, who are less at risk from the virus, to gather safely. New York will be the first U.S. city to include these passes in a vaccine mandate, potentially setting off similar actions elsewhere.
But the mainstreaming of these credentials could also usher in an era of increased digital surveillance, privacy researchers said. That’s because vaccine passes may enable location tracking, even as there are few rules about how people’s digital vaccine data should be stored and how it can be shared. While existing privacy laws limit the sharing of information among medical providers, there is no such rule for when people upload their own data onto an app.
The moment is reminiscent of the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, privacy advocates said. That was when changes made in the name of national security led to lasting effects, including taking off shoes in airports and data collection enabled by the Patriot Act.
Without safeguards now, presenting a digital vaccination passport every time people enter a public place could lead to a “global map of where people are going,” said Allie Bohm, a policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. The information could be used by third parties for profit or be handed over to law enforcement or immigration authorities, she said.
Delta variant challenges China’s costly lockdown strategy
The delta variant is challenging China’s costly strategy of isolating cities, prompting warnings that Chinese leaders who were confident they could keep the coronavirus out of the country need a less disruptive approach.
As the highly contagious variant pushes leaders in the United States, Australia and elsewhere to renew restrictions, President Xi Jinping’s government is fighting the most serious outbreak since last year’s peak in Wuhan. The ruling Communist Party is reviving tactics that shut down China: Access to a city of 1.5 million people has been cut off, flights canceled and mass testing ordered in some areas.
The 1,142 infections reported since mid-July, many linked to Nanjing, are modest compared with tens of thousands of new daily infections in India or the United States. But they jolted leaders in China, which hasn’t recorded a fatality since early February.
China’s controls will be tested when thousands of athletes, reporters and others arrive for the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February.
Amazon pushes back return to office until 2022, says company will ‘closely watch’ COVID-19 conditions
Amazon has pushed back its return-to-office date for tech and corporate workers until January 2022, according to an internal email seen by The Seattle Times.
“As we continue to closely watch conditions related to COVID-19, we are adjusting our guidance for corporate employees in the U.S. and other countries where we had previously anticipated our employees would begin coming in regularly the week of Sept. 7,” wrote Amazon human resources chief Beth Galetti in the email. “We are now extending this date to Jan. 3, 2022.”
Amazon’s move comes on the heels of a similar announcement from crosstown tech rival Microsoft.
COVID: In Florida hospitals, ‘there are only so many beds’
A South Florida hospital chain is suspending elective surgeries and putting beds in conference rooms, an auditorium and even a cafeteria as many more patients seek treatment for COVID-19.
“We are seeing a surge like we’ve not seen before in terms of the patients coming,” Memorial Healthcare System’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marc Napp said Wednesday during a news conference in Hollywood.
On Wednesday, there were more than 1,600 inpatients admitted for overnight stays across the system’s facilities. Typically, the health system doesn’t have more than about 1,400 inpatients under its care at a time.
Britain eases quarantine rules, opening up travel with France
Fully vaccinated visitors arriving in England from France will no longer have to isolate for 10 days, a loosening of restrictions that puts them in the same category as travelers from most other European countries.
The U.K. also eased rules for arrivals from India, Bahrain, and travel hubs the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Those countries will move from the U.K.’s highest-risk “red” list to its medium-risk “amber” list, meaning arrivals will no longer need to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
Six other European nations, including Germany, were added to the lowest-risk “green” list, meaning all visitors can avoid quarantine whether or not they are fully vaccinated. All changes will come into effect from 4 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8.
Moderna says its COVID vaccine is strongly effective 6 months after full vaccination
Vaccine maker Moderna said Thursday that protection from its coronavirus shots remained strong — 93 percent effective — six months after full vaccination.
The company also announced that it had tested three potential booster shots, which had demonstrated “robust antibody responses” and topped off immunity, bringing antibodies back to the protective levels triggered by full vaccination.
Pfizer-BioNTech made a similar announcement last week, stating that its vaccine remained 91 percent protective six months after the second dose. Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
Tokyo logs record 5,042 cases as infections surge amid Games
Tokyo reported 5,042 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its most since the pandemic began as infections surge in the Japanese capital hosting the Olympics.
Tokyo has been under a state of emergency since mid-July, and four other areas of the country have since been added. But the measures, basically shorter opening hours and a ban on alcohol for restaurants and bars, are increasingly ignored by the public, which has become tired of restrictions.
Prime Minister Yosihide Suga, who has been criticized for insisting on hosting the Olympics despite the coronavirus’s surge, says there is no evidence linking the increase in cases to the July 23-Aug. 8 Games. He urged people to firmly stick to the emergency requests and stay at home during summer vacation.
The new cases brought Tokyo’s reported total to 236,138. The entire country registered more than 14,000 new cases on Wednesday, for a 970,460 total.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Should you travel? Or eat at a restaurant? What about hugs? The delta variant is changing advice for vaccinated people. Here's a breakdown of risk levels and how to re-evaluate your choices. When it comes to travel, eight key questions are worth asking. Meanwhile, it's looking like most foreign travelers entering the U.S. will need vaccines.
When Amazon’s workers return to offices soon, will they have to be vaccinated or tested for COVID? The company's fear of losing them is apparently preventing a mandate.
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