Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, August 6, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 a huge potential shift in the fight against the coronavirus, 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.
Meanwhile, Novavax 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.
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.
Swedish, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health announce new COVID vaccination requirements for health care workers
Two major Seattle-area hospitals this week announced a new COVID-19 policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated, joining a growing group of health care centers making the shift.
Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, based in Seattle with locations throughout Western Washington, said in a statement Friday that the decision came after “careful consideration” of patients’ and employees’ safety.
“We believe this is a necessary step in order to keep patients and team members safe, and to ensure our communities have full confidence in the safety of their care environments,” Dr. Michael Anderson, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said in the statement.
Swedish Health Services, which operates five hospital campuses in the Seattle area, announced a similar policy earlier this week.
Swedish’s 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.
Paramount, Moore, Neptune theaters and Seattle Arts & Lectures to require proof of vaccination for entry
As COVID-19 cases increase once again due to the delta variant, some Seattle-area arts organizations, like restaurants before them, are starting to announce vaccine requirements for entry.
On Friday, nonprofit theater operator Seattle Theatre Group said that, starting Aug. 12, it will be requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all performances and events at the Paramount, Moore and Neptune theaters. STG will maintain its current policy of requiring attendees to wear masks, except when eating or drinking. In order to attend performances, guests to the theaters must show proof of full vaccination, along with a valid ticket and ID.
STG is making exceptions to the vaccination rule for children under 12 and people with a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination. Those guests must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 24 hours of the performance start time.
The decision on the new policies was made based on information about the delta variant and feedback from patrons and artists, said STG Executive Director Josh LaBelle.
Is your doctor, dentist or hair stylist vaccinated? Here are tips for how to ask — and avoid awkwardness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising even vaccinated people to return to mask-wearing in indoor public spaces located in areas with higher rates of coronavirus infections. This guidance — prompted by concerns about the rapidly spreading delta variant — may cause many people to worry about going to indoor places where social distancing is not possible, such as a doctor’s office or a spa, especially if they might have to take off their masks.
In these situations, they might be wondering, can they ask the potentially loaded question, “Are you vaccinated?”
“Not only do they have the legal right, but I think they have an obligation to their own health and safety to ask the question,” said Lawrence Gostin, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “It’s an entirely appropriate and logical question to ask if someone is going to be in very close, personal contact with you: whether they’ve been vaccinated.”
It is not a violation of the oft-cited HIPAA federal privacy law to ask your doctor or dentist or other health-care workers, as well as people who provide close-contact services, including hair stylists, aestheticians, massage therapists and physical trainers, if they are vaccinated. In many situations, at least from a legal standpoint, “you can ask anything you want,” Gostin said. But, he added, it’s important to remember that “you can’t force somebody to answer.”
Amazon lottery offers vaccinated workers cars, vacations, $500,000 in cash
Unwilling so far to mandate vaccinations for its 1.3-million-strong workforce, the world’s largest online retailer is hoping a corporate lottery — called Max Your Vax — will persuade holdouts to get the jab. The announcement, a copy of which was seen Friday by Bloomberg, came the same day that Amazon said that starting Oct. 9 workers would have to wear masks in its logistics facilities, regardless of vaccination status — a reflection of the severity of the spreading delta variant of the coronavirus. Vaccinated workers had been able to work at Amazon mask-free since late May.
Amazon had previously offered front-line workers as much as $80 if they were inoculated against the virus. The company is desperate for workers to keep up with elevated demand from online shoppers and staff dozens of new facilities coming online. Some front-line Amazonians and their managers said the company is concerned mandates would send vaccine skeptics in their ranks in search of other jobs.
Amazon’s contest will offer a total of 18 prizes, which the company values at almost $2 million: two $500,000 cash awards, six $100,000 awards, five new vehicles and five vacation packages.
National Guard reservist and elementary school teacher wins Washington’s final $250,000 COVID vaccine lottery
An elementary school teacher serving in the Army National Guard has won the final $250,000 prize in Washington’s vaccine lottery. She said she didn’t know about the lottery when she got her shots.
Meredith V. didn’t need an incentive, she said, because she believes it’s the right thing to do, and because she’s a teacher who can’t wait to see her students in person again.
“There’s nothing that I want more than to just be back in a normal classroom, and that’s likely not going to happen until we beat this thing,” she said.
The single mother of two teenage daughters spoke at a Friday morning news conference, and is the final of three winners in the “A Heroes Thanks” vaccine lottery. Two previous winners received $100,000 each.
The Heroes lottery was created for members of the military who were not included in the state’s original “Shot of a Lifetime” lottery due to records-sharing issues with the federal government.
Meredith, who called the win “life-changing,” said she was going to pay off some debts, establish accounts for her daughters’ educations and set some aside for charitible donations.
Amazon to mandate masks for all its workers in warehouses
NEW YORK — Starting Monday, Amazon will be requiring all of its 900,000 U.S. warehouse workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.
The move follows steps by a slew of other retailers, including Walmart and Target, to mandate masks for their workers. In many of those cases the mandates apply to workers in locations of substantial COVID-19 transmission.
Amazon said Friday that its call for a nationwide mask mandate for its warehouse workers was in response to the spread of COVID-19 variants in the U.S., and guidance from public health authorities and its own medical experts. Amazon has been requiring only warehouse workers not vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks.
Amazon’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said last week that rising coronavirus infections linked to the delta variant are pushing the company to get more workers vaccinated. It’s also working with local authorities on safety measures.
Kansas Rep. Davids contracts COVID-19 despite vaccination
Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids tested positive Friday for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated against it and is in isolation.
Davids said in a statement that she has had only mild symptoms from her breakthrough case. She said she was tested after undergoing outpatient surgery involving the parathyroid glands in the neck that regulate calcium levels in the blood.
The two-term Democratic congresswoman for the state’s portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area said she’s been following precautions recommended by health officials, including wearing masks indoors.
State health officials confirm 2,341 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,341 new coronavirus cases and 13 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 488,640 cases and 6,168 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. Thursday.
The new cases may include up to 150 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 27,461 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 121 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 120,484 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,685 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 2,919,883 doses and 75.2% 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 9,827 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.
Russia sees mortality hike in July amid surge in infections
Russia saw mortality rise at a faster pace last month amid a surge in coronavirus infections, a senior official said Friday.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who leads the government’s coronavirus task force, told the Tass news agency that Russia saw a 17.9% increase in mortality in July, year-on-year. She attributed the rise to swelling COVID-19 infections blamed on the more contagious delta variant.
In June, 27,118 people who had coronavirus died, about 43% more than the previous month. It marked the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths since January, when the agency reported about 37,900 deaths of people with COVID-19.
Russia has been struggling with a surge of infections since early June, with daily new cases rising from about 9,000 at the beginning of the summer to over 23,000 in early July.
Ohio judge orders man to get vaccinated as part of probation
A Common Pleas Judge in Cincinnati has ordered a man being sentenced on a felony drug charge to get vaccinated against COVID-19 within two months as a condition of his probation.
Judge Christopher Wagner’s office emailed a statement on Friday along with a transcript of Wednesday’s hearing involving Brandon Rutherford, 21. Rutherford pleaded guilty in June to possessing the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
“This defendant was in possession of fentanyl, which is deadlier than the vaccine and COVID 19,” Wagner’s statement said. “The defendant expressed no objection during the proceedings and stated no medical concerns, and his attorney did not object. We will have to see what happens now that the defendant is expressing opposition.”
Students ask Supreme Court to block college vaccine mandate
The Supreme Court is being asked to block a plan by Indiana University to require students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the first time the high court has been asked to weigh in on a vaccine mandate and comes as some corporations, states and cities are also contemplating or have adopted vaccine requirements for workers or even to dine indoors.
The case is not the first time a coronavirus-related issue has been before the court. In rulings over the past year the conservative-dominated high court has largely backed religious groups who have challenged restrictions on indoor services during the cononavirus pandemic.
In the current case, however, a three-judge federal appeals court panel, including two judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, was one of two lower courts to side with Indiana University and allow it to require the vaccinations.
Students who don’t comply will have their registration canceled and workers who don’t will lose their jobs. The policy does have religious and medical exemptions, but exempt students must be tested twice a week for the disease.
Shots give COVID-19 survivors big immune boost, studies show
Even people who have recovered from COVID-19 are urged to get vaccinated, especially as the extra-contagious delta variant surges — and a new study shows survivors who ignored that advice were more than twice as likely to get reinfected.
Friday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds to growing laboratory evidence that people who had one bout of COVID-19 get a dramatic boost in virus-fighting immune cells — and a bonus of broader protection against new mutants — when they’re vaccinated.
“If you have had COVID-19 before, please still get vaccinated,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others around you, especially as the more contagious delta variant spreads around the country.”
According to a new Gallup survey, one of the main reasons Americans cite for not planning to get vaccinated is the belief that they’re protected since they already had COVID-19. From the beginning health authorities have urged survivors to get the broader protection vaccination promises. While the shots aren’t perfect, they are providing strong protection against hospitalization and death even from the delta mutant.
South Dakota’s Sturgis rally roars back as delta rising
The Black Hills of South Dakota roared with motorcycles and crowds Friday as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally started amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in the state.
Organizers expect at least 700,000 people during the 10-day event. On Thursday, the eve of the official opening, downtown Sturgis was clogged with Harleys, rallygoers packed shoulder-to-shoulder at bars and rock shows, and masks were nowhere in sight.
The rally is a rendezvous for bikers, who connect over their love for motorcycles. For some, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime goal to make it to Sturgis; others faithfully make the pilgrimage year after year.
At last year’s rally scores were infected, and a team of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control concluded the event ended up looking like a “superspreader event.”
This year, the rally is expected to be even bigger.
Coronavirus booster shots for the immunocompromised expected to be authorized soon
Federal health officials are racing to ensure that millions of Americans with weakened immune systems can get additional shots of coronavirus vaccines to protect them against the highly contagious delta variant.
The actions could mean the extra shots would be authorized in days or weeks, according to federal officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not been announced.
The stepped-up activity reflects increased urgency by the Biden administration to shield some of the nation’s most vulnerable adults as coronavirus cases rise sharply. That has increased as some other countries take steps to provide shots to people who are immunocompromised or older, and as some Americans pursue the shots on their own.
Arkansas judge blocks state from enforcing mask mandate ban
An Arkansas judge on Friday temporarily blocked the state from enforcing its ban on mask mandates after lawmakers left the prohibition in place despite a rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction against the law that Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed in April banning mask requirements by governmental entities. The ban was being challenged by two lawsuits, including one from an east Arkansas school district where more than 900 staff and students are quarantining because of a coronavirus outbreak.
Fox issued the ruling hours after lawmakers adjourned a special session that Hutchinson had called to consider rolling back the ban for some schools.
A House panel on Thursday rejected two measures that would have allowed some school districts to issue mask requirements and left the state’s mask mandate ban in place, ending a session called to revisit the prohibition for schools because of the state’s COVID-19 surge.
The law “cannot be enforced in any shape, fashion or form” pending further court action, Fox said.
Florida considers private school vouchers if masks required
Florida’s Board of Education was holding an emergency meeting Friday to discuss awarding private school vouchers for children whose parents don’t want them to follow mask requirements in public schools.
The meeting was scheduled a week after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the department to come up with ways of punishing school districts that mandate mask-wearing in classrooms. DeSantis sees that as a violation of parental rights. DeSantis also cited Florida’s new Parents Bill of Rights law that says parents have the freedom to make decisions about their children’s health and education.
DeSantis said in his order that the rules could include withholding money from school districts or other actions allowed under Florida law.
United Airlines will require US employees to be vaccinated
United Airlines will require employees in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by late October, perhaps sooner, joining a growing number of big corporations that are responding to a surge in virus cases.
Company leaders called it a matter of safety and cited “incredibly compelling” evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart told employees Friday. But, they added, “the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
United, which has 67,000 employees in the United States, is the first major U.S. airline to announce it will require vaccination for workers.
Expedia stock falls amid renewed concern about spread of virus
Shares of the Seattle-based Expedia Group 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.
The spread of the delta variant reduced travel in July compared with June, spurred a rise in cancellation rates and “there remains a bunch of unknowns across the globe,” Kern said in a conference call after the results were released.
In New York City, impending vaccination rules prompt concern
Michael Musto can’t bring himself to ask his regulars at his Staten Island restaurant, Cargo Cafe, to prove they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
So if New York City presses on with its plans to require eateries and many other public gathering places to require proof of vaccination to be inside, he will again shutter his dining room and move operations outside.
“I just don’t see myself doing that, asking for proof,” Musto said. Barely half of his neighborhood’s residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to city statistics. Some remain defiant about getting vaccinated, even amid a new surge in infections in the city.
“But now do I have to turn my customers away? Do I have to turn business away?” Musto asked.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that later this month the city will begin requiring anyone dining indoors at a restaurant, working out a gym or grabbing cocktails at a bar to show proof they’ve been inoculated. Workers at such establishments would also have to prove that they’ve had at least one shot of an approved vaccine.
The move is being closely watched by other U.S. communities — perhaps as a model but also as a possible example of governmental overreach.
CNN fires three employees for coming to the office unvaccinated
CNN fired 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.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
What's going on with breakthrough infections in Washington: Our FAQ takes a close look (they're still rare) and also explains how to navigate changing guidance on masks as COVID-19 surges.
So which masks work best against the delta variant? The ones that got many people through the past 16 months may not do the job now. Experts are explaining how to pick ones that will. And here's their latest thinking on whether, and how, people should dine indoors at a restaurant.
Will delta send our local economy back to 2020's dark hole? Probably not, columnist Jon Talton writes, outlining the variables to watch in the months ahead. But Amazon's fresh delay in reopening its offices, announced yesterday, is raising anxieties about how Seattle and Bellevue will recover.
A Texas GOP leader who railed against vaccines and masks has died of COVID-19. A congressional Republican who's suing speaker Nancy Pelosi over masks has also fallen ill with the virus. And Florida's governor and President Joe Biden had a stinging exchange about vaccination, just as the White House looks at dramatically more aggressive ways to get shots in arms.
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