Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Aug. 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Virus testing in the U.S. is dropping, even as infections and deaths mount. That’s fueling health experts’ “sense of desperation that we need to do something else.” In some places, with long wait times and long turnarounds for results, people are “test shopping” for a negative result.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared Wednesday, with the state’s top health and education officials, that it’s unsafe for most of Washington’s K-12 students to return to classrooms this fall because of how widespread the virus still is in much of our state.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
State confirms 833 new COVID-19 cases and 29 new deaths
State health officials reported 833 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and 29 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 60,917 cases and 1,653 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. Wednesday.
The number of total tests and the percentage of positive tests was not available.
“DOH is continuing to experience issues with its reporting system today,” read a statement on its website. “We are able to report cases, deaths and hospitalizations but have not reported new negative test results since Aug. 1. Our team is working hard to address the issue and we will post new information as soon as it is available.”
At last report, 1,010,191 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.7% have come back positive.
In King County, the state most populous, state health officials have confirmed 16,078 diagnoses and 664 deaths.
Georgia teens shared photos of maskless students in crowded hallways. Now they’re suspended.
At least two North Paulding High School students who shared images of their jam-packed hallway full of their mostly maskless peers have been suspended, and the principal has warned other students about what could happen if they do the same.
North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga., about an hour’s drive from Atlanta, was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this week when pictures and videos surfaced of its crowded interior on day one and two of its first week back. The images, which showed a sea of teens clustered close together with no face coverings, raised concerns over how the district is handling reopening schools during a global pandemic.
Facing a fierce online backlash, Paulding County Schools Superintendent Brian Otott told parents and guardian in a letter that the images “didn’t look good.” But he argued that they lacked context about the 2,000-plus student school, where masks are a “personal choice.”
Hannah Watters, 15, wore a mask as she captured the inside of her school. On Wednesday, she ended up with a five-day suspension for violating the district’s student code of conduct, BuzzFeed News reported. The rules bar students from using social media during the day or using recording devices without permission from an administrator.
“Not only did they open, but they have not been safe,” Watters told BuzzFeed News. “Many people are not following CDC guidelines because the county did not make these precautions mandatory.”
Inslee announces phased plan to allow visits at Washington long-term care facilities amid COVID-19
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday announced a four-step plan to begin allowing long-term care facilities like nursing homes to accept visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Such facilities were some of the earliest to see restrictions as the pandemic, as Washington’s outbreak initially centered around a Kirkland nursing home. In response, Inslee in March ordered limitations on people entering care facilities as the state began to confront the COVID-19 outbreak.
Now, Inslee is announcing a phased plan that will allow facilities to gradually open back up.
Facilities will be allowed to move forward with phases that correspond to the state’s broader four-part statewide reopening plan. That plan has allowed counties with better public-health data to advance to phases allowing more businesses to reopen and looser restrictions on social activities.
Among other requirements, facilities have to go 28 days without a confirmed COVID-19 case among residents or staff. Facilities must also keep a minimum two-week supply of personal protective gear, like masks, gloves and gowns.
UW will move most classes to remote learning
It’s official: The University of Washington is the latest state university to announce it will teach nearly all of its courses remotely this fall.
And while the residence halls will be open to students who believe they need to live on campus, most other university operations will be run virtually.
In a message to students Thursday, UW President Ana Mari Cauce said more than 90% of classes will be taught online for students enrolled in the Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses.
Only a small number of graduate classes that can’t be taught remotely — including classes for the medical school, and other graduate health sciences programs — will be held in-person.
Anyone who lives on campus or comes there for in-person coursework must wear a face covering.
Most other Washington public and private colleges have already announced plans to move all instruction online, including Washington State University, Western Washington University and Seattle University.
The UW was one of the first major universities in the country to move to remote learning in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading around the country.
As with most other colleges in the state, UW is not offering a discount on tuition.
As cases rise, Public Health visits bars and restaurants to revisit the rules
In response to the “unsettling trend” of rising COVID-19 cases, Public Health - Seattle & King County has launched a new educational outreach and enforcement program around Safe Start requirements for restaurants, bars and taverns.
The Safe Start for Taverns and Restaurants (SSTAR) program will conduct site visits at restaurants, bars, and taverns throughout King County.
Environmental Health Investigators will help food establishment owners to understand Safe Start requirements during Phase 2 operations and identify where corrections may be needed. SSTAR will work with restaurants and taverns “to ensure they have accurate and timely information and be responsive to their questions.”
A post on Public Health’s blog outlined the measures that SSTAR is assessing: Employee health screening, face-covering usage and social-distancing practices; proper sanitation procedures; collection of customer contact information; compliance with seating capacity; prohibiting seating at bar service counters, and customer face-covering usage and social-distancing practices.
Since July 3, SSTAR has completed 423 inspections of taverns, bars, grocery stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Inspectors returned to food businesses that had failed to establish preventative measures, and “we are happy to report that all of them had made significant efforts to implement these measures.”
SSTAR will work closely with food establishments to bring them into compliance as soon as possible. Establishments will have 72 hours to make corrections and, if they don’t, the permit will be suspended until they take steps to comply with COVID-19 safeguards.
The names of those establishments with suspended permits will be posted on Public Health’s website. And if an immediate health hazard occurs -- such as workplace transmission of COVID-19 -- the establishments’ permit will be suspended immediately, in order to halt transmission.
Public Health will also highlight businesses where these prevention measures are being met or exceeded, and highlight those efforts weekly on its Twitter account.
How did it happen? America’s unique failure to control the virus
Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way.
China committed the first major failure, silencing doctors who tried to raise alarms about the virus and allowing it to escape from Wuhan. Much of Europe went next, failing to avoid enormous outbreaks. Today, many countries — Japan, Canada, France, Australia and more — are coping with new increases in cases after reopening parts of society.
Yet even with all of these problems, one country stands alone as the only affluent nation to have suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.
When it comes to the virus, the United States has come to resemble not the wealthy and powerful countries to which it is often compared but instead to far poorer countries, like Brazil, Peru and South Africa, or those with large migrant populations, like Bahrain and Oman.
As in several of those other countries, the toll of the virus in the United States has fallen disproportionately on poorer people and groups that have long suffered discrimination. Black and Latino residents of the United States have contracted the virus at roughly three times as high of a rate as white residents.
U.S. rescinds global ‘do not travel’ coronavirus warning
NEW YORK — The Trump administration on Thursday rescinded its warnings to Americans against all international travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying conditions no longer warrant a blanket worldwide alert.
The State Department lifted its level-four health advisory for the entire world in order to return to country-specific warnings. That move came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its COVID-19 travel advisory information. The CDC lifted “do not travel” warnings for about 20 locations but advised staying away from the vast majority of the world.
“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” the State Department said in a statement.
“This will also provide U.S. citizens more detailed information about the current status in each country,” it said. “We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”
NYC begins registering travelers at COVID-19 checkpoints
New York City opened new traveler checkpoints Thursday to register visitors and residents returning from nearly three dozen states who are required to quarantine for 14 days — an initiative that drew swift criticism from privacy advocates.
The checkpoints, targeting busy entry points like Penn Station, are more of an awareness campaign than a blockade, intended to preserve the city’s progress reducing its COVID-19 infection rate and forestall a second wave as the coronavirus ravages other states.
Authorities said this week a fifth of all new coronavirus cases in New York City have been from travelers entering the city from other states.
Former Puyallup High School student-athlete dies of COVID-19
Former Puyallup High School student-athlete and 2019 PHS graduate Eli Sevener died on Wednesday afternoon, The News Tribune reported.
“It breaks my heart to inform everyone that Eli has been taken off of life support and has passed on to heaven this afternoon,” Sevener's brother said on Twitter.
Sevener was remembered by his former baseball coach, Marc Weiss, as a catalyst for the Puyallup Vikings' turnaround during last year's season when they were 5-5 and in danger of missing the postseason.
“Our backs were up against the wall,” Wiese told The News Tribune. “He said, ‘Give me the ball, Coach’ and pitched his rear end off.”
The team then went on to win eight games in a row and a share of the Class 4A South Puget Sound League title.
‘Worst nightmare’: Laid-off workers endure loss of $600 weekly aid
An unemployed makeup artist with two toddlers and a disabled husband needs help with food and rent. A hotel manager says his unemployment has deepened his anxiety and kept him awake at night. A dental hygienist, pregnant with her third child, is struggling to afford diapers and formula.
Around the country, across industries and occupations, millions of Americans thrown out of work because of the coronavirus are straining to afford the basics now that an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits has expired.
“My worst nightmare is coming true,” said Liz Ness, a laid-off recruiter at a New Orleans staffing agency who fears she will be evicted next month.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are struggling to work out an agreement that would restore some federal jobless aid, but even if they do, it could be too late for many Americans who are already in dire straits.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive for coronavirus ahead of Trump visit
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tested positive Thursday for the coronavirus just ahead a planned meeting with President Donald Trump.
The Republican governor’s office said the 73-year-old took the test as part of standard protocol before meeting Trump at an airport in Cleveland.
He had planned to join the president on a visit to a Whirlpool plant in northwest Ohio.
What is 'essential' travel when a trip might be the last goodbye?
Valerie Hirschberg had her plane ticket booked. Her mother was dying in Arizona and she needed to be there to say goodbye to her best friend.
But this was late March, and coronavirus rates in Washington were skyrocketing. Flying presented a huge risk for the Sequim resident, 68 and with an autoimmune illness.
Her siblings begged her not to come: They told her it was too dangerous, too risky, that it was better to wait than risk her life. So Hirschberg did what she always does in times of uncertainty: She called her mom.
“And she said, ‘Wait.’ And I told her I would,” said Hirschberg. “She died on April 2 and I wasn’t there with her.”
Months later, Hirschberg has found it nearly impossible to grieve. She hadn’t seen her mother in months, though they talked regularly over the phone. Sure, she has that piece of paper, the death certificate that states the time and place of her mother’s death, but she still “can’t fully accept it.”
‘Now you’ve got coronavirus,’ Florida man tells boy to his face as the spit flies
A boy was sitting inside a Gulf Coast restaurant when a man walked up to him and asked if he was wearing a face mask. The boy said yes.
The man then told the boy to take it off and shake his hand. The boy refused. So the man grabbed his hand, held it tightly, closed in on his face and said, “You now have the coronavirus.”
Facebook deletes Trump post on coronavirus citing misinformation
Facebook has deleted a post by President Donald Trump for violating its policy against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
The post in question featured a link to a Fox News video in which Trump says children are “virtually immune” to the virus.
Facebook said Wednesday that the “video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation.” A few hours later, Twitter temporarily blocked the Trump campaign from tweeting until it removed a post with the same video.
Party houses defying COVID-19 orders may have utilities shut off, L.A. mayor says
Following reports of large parties that violate health orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he will authorize the city to shut off water and power services to residents who hold such gatherings.
Beginning Friday night, if Los Angeles Police Department officers respond to and verify that a large party is occurring at a property, and there’s evidence that the venue has repeatedly engaged in such behavior, the department will request that the city shut off water and power services within 48 hours.
The issue of large, private gatherings received heightened scrutiny this week following a boisterous party Monday at a mansion on Mulholland Drive that ended in a fatal shooting.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Virus testing in the U.S. is dropping, even as infections and deaths mount. That's fueling health experts' "sense of desperation that we need to do something else." In some places, with long wait times and long turnarounds for results, people are "test shopping" for a negative result.
It’s unsafe for most of Washington's 1.1 million students to return to school buildings this fall, top state officials said. They laid out advice and defined high-risk areas, but didn't mandate closures. Officials around the country are closely watching a Tennessee school district that reopened this week amid pressure and fear.
Facebook has deleted a post by President Donald Trump for violating its policy against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. And Twitter blocked the Trump campaign from tweeting until it removed a post with the same video. Amid the flood of falsehoods out there, digital-literacy experts share key ways to sort out what's real and what isn't.
Australia’s toughest-ever lockdown has turned a major city into a ghost town with a tight curfew, where workers can't travel the streets without government permits. And France is finding out what happens when coronavirus-testing workers go on summer vacation.
Starting tomorrow, all Alaska Airlines passengers age 2 and older will be required to wear a face covering — no exceptions. Alaska yesterday laid out what will happen to rule-breakers.
What makes travel "essential"? That can be an impossibly tough question as you weigh the pros and cons of attending funerals, seeing close family and more. One writer carefully mapped out a trip and, along the way, found a jarring look at why our country is nowhere close to kicking the coronavirus. If you need to go somewhere, check restrictions first, consider ways to get around safely, and follow tips from public health experts.
"This whole time he was worried about me catching COVID … We got blindsided." Nurse Dolores Diaz was in the middle of testing hundreds of nursing home residents for the virus when she got a text from home, and the battle suddenly became painfully personal.
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