Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, Aug. 7, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 many parts of the United States, so much viral material is circulating that infections cannot be easily traced and contained. Nearly every country has struggled against the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way, but how did the U.S. end up as the only affluent nation that’s been severely affected for so long? In many ways, “We know what to do, and we’re not doing it.”
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
State DOH confirms 670 new COVID-19 cases and 19 more deaths in Washington
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) confirmed 670 new COVID-19 cases in the state on Friday evening, bringing Washington's case tally to 61,587 as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday instead of 11:59 p.m. due to problems with the department's reporting system.
The state also confirmed 19 new deaths, which pushes the human toll to 1,672 deaths in Washington. Per the Department of Health (DOH) coronavirus dashboard, 2.7% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington have died.
The DOH reported its millionth test for the novel coronavirus in Washington on Aug. 1. Since then, DOH has experienced ongoing problems with its reporting system and has been unable to report new negative test results or say what percentage of tests have come back positive.
Due to additional problems that cropped up Friday, a higher number of cases and hospitalizations are expected to be reported Saturday, according to the DOH website.
In King County, the state's most populous, the DOH dashboard lists 16,222 positive diagnoses and 670 deaths.
Good and bad news in state's efforts to slow coronavirus
State health officials say there are very early signs that growth in the number of overall new cases of coronavirus may be starting to slow but warned that increases in new cases among older adults, based on data through July 22, remain troubling, according to the latest statewide COVID-19 situation report released Friday.
In both Western and Eastern Washington, the number of new cases among people 39 or younger are flat or decreasing, but are increasing in the 40 to 69 age group, and in people age 70 and older, the report says.
"The slight deceleration in the growth of new cases is an improvement over the rate of increase noted in our last few reports. However, it is too early to know with certainty whether this represents a real turnaround," the report's authors wrote. "Further, the observation at the state level that cases continue to increase in the older age groups, particularly in those 70 and older is concerning. We expect if the increase in cases in these older age groups continues unabated this will result in an increase in hospitalization and deaths."
The report notes that the timing of slowing transmission rates, relative to mid-June transmission levels, is consistent with Gov. Jay Inslee's statewide order for people to wear masks in public that went into effect June 23, and the July 7 No Mask, No Service policy allowing business to turn away unmasked patrons.
Overall rises in the Puget Sound region, particularly in Pierce County, point to increasing transmission levels, according to the report. In Eastern Washington, the report says encouraging declines in Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties are offset by increases in Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties.
How accurate are virus tests? What’s behind Ohio governor’s yes/no results
Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio received a negative coronavirus test result Thursday, hours after a positive test result had stopped him from meeting with President Donald Trump in Cleveland. The contradictory results during a high-profile moment underscored the challenges of testing, an issue that has repeatedly stymied the virus response in the United States.
“I’m sure the internet is lighting up with, ‘Well, you can’t believe any test,’” DeWine, a Republican, said during an interview with 92.3 WCOL, a Columbus radio station, on Friday.
“No one should take the results of this test and say, ‘Oh, none of these numbers are right,’” he added. “There is always a possibility for error.”
At issue are two types of coronavirus tests that are increasingly taking center stage as part of the virus response in the United States. As part of a screening by the White House, DeWine first received an antigen test, a newer type of test that provides faster results but is less accurate than traditional laboratory testing. He was later tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, an accurate but time-intensive method that requires samples to be processed at a laboratory.
Widespread, fast testing is the cornerstone of any virus response and an area where the United States has consistently fallen short. In order to ramp up testing to a level needed to stop the spread of the virus, experts are increasingly recommending a strategy that casts a wide net with widespread adoption of faster, less accurate tests. But that comes with drawbacks.
4 U.S. deaths tied to drinking methanol-based hand sanitizers
NEW YORK — Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help stop the coronavirus from spreading when rubbed on palms and fingers. But drinking the products turned out to be deadly for four people in two states.
Health officials reported this week that 15 adults were poisoned in Arizona and New Mexico in May and June after drinking hand sanitizer. Besides the four who died, three had ongoing vision problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
All had consumed sanitizers containing methanol, or wood alcohol. The active ingredient that kills germs in legitimate sanitizers is ethyl alcohol, which is consumable. But some companies have been replacing it with poisonous methanol, which is used in antifreeze.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in June about Mexican-made hand sanitizer gel that it said contained large amounts of methanol. Since then, the FDA has expanded the list. The agency has identified dozens of hand sanitizers that contain methanol and have been recalled in the U.S. by manufacturers and distributors.
Harleys everywhere, masks nowhere: Sturgis draws thousands
STURGIS, S.D. — Thousands of bikers poured into the small South Dakota city of Sturgis on Friday as the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally rumbled to life despite fears it could lead to a massive coronavirus outbreak.
The rally could become one of the largest public gatherings since the pandemic began, with organizers expecting 250,000 people from all over the country to make their way through Sturgis during the 10-day event. That would be roughly half the number of previous years, but local residents — and a few bikers — worry that the crowds could create a “super-spreader” event.
Many who rode their bikes into Sturgis on Friday expressed defiance at the rules and restrictions that have marked life in many locales during the pandemic. People rode from across the country to a state that offered a reprieve from coronavirus restrictions, as South Dakota has no special limits on indoor crowds, no mask mandates and a governor who is eager to welcome visitors and the money they bring.
“Screw COVID,” read the design on one T-shirt being hawked. “I went to Sturgis.”
11 Washington children have been diagnosed with a serious syndrome linked to coronavirus
A total of 11 children in Washington have been diagnosed with a rare, but serious, syndrome caused by the novel coronavirus since the start of the epidemic, state health officials said Friday.
Called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C, the condition triggers symptoms including fever, inflammation and severe illness and requires hospitalization, says a press release from the Washington Department of Health.
The children are from across the state, including three in King County and three in Yakima County. Franklin and Snohomish counties have two cases each, and Skagit County has one.
“While MIS-C is very rare, parents should be aware it can happen and contact their health provider if their children develop new or unusual symptoms,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer for the DOH. “We are tracking this issue closely and continue to ask health care providers to be on the lookout and report possible cases to local health.”
Cuomo clears New York schools statewide to open, carefully
New York schools can bring children back to classrooms for the start of the school year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday, citing success in battling the coronavirus in the state that once was the U.S. heart of the pandemic.
The Democratic governor’s decision clears the way for schools to offer at least some days of in-person classes, alongside remote learning. Students will be required to wear masks throughout school day.
“Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established,” Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters. “If there’s a spike in the infection rate, if there’s a matter of concern in the infection rate, then we can revisit.”
Unclear virus data causes some U.S. states to undercount cases
After a spiraling coronavirus outbreak that pushed California to the most infections in the U.S., the trends appear to be brightening: Daily reported cases have plunged, as has the rate of tests that come back positive.
The trouble is, it’s unclear if those figures are accurate.
California officials have uncovered a bug in their virus reporting effort — the nation’s largest, with more than 120,000 people tested each day. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom touted a 21% drop in the average daily rate of new cases from the prior week as a sign of stabilization.
The next day, his top public-health official warned that the numbers were likely too low — by how much he couldn’t say — and the state didn’t know when the problem would be fixed.
Yakima County cases slow to under 100 for 12th straight day
The Yakima Health District reported 55 new cases of COVID-19 in Yakima County on Thursday, making it 12 consecutive days that new cases were below 100.
That followed just 29 new cases on Wednesday. The last time cases were that low was early May.
Triple-digit daily case reports were routine through May and June and into July. But an increase in the number of people wearing face masks has been credited with slowing the spread of the disease.
COVID-19 forces changes at Recompose, the human-composting firm
Like nearly everything else in the state, Recompose — Washington’s new human-composting option to traditional burial and cremation — had to do some fancy footwork when the pandemic hit.
The company had some dire weeks in March, and had to quit its mammoth Sodo warehouse where it had hoped to open its first, flagship space — but has since found a new, smaller location in Kent. Recompose hopes to open its doors and begin converting human bodies into clean, nutrient-rich soil (the legal name for the process is “natural organic reduction”) this November.
But for a while, Recompose founder Katrina Spade said it looked like the whole operation would have to close.
“I’m normally an optimistic person,” Spade said. “But I had a couple of weeks where I thought: ‘This just might be over.’ It felt awful. So many people have worked so hard for so many years to bring this to life.”
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while keeping your distance
What can you do this weekend? Peruse these takeout options, join our book club, chill out with cool chalk art … we're here with ideas to save you from boredom.
“Break out the good stuff, y’all.” Seattle chefs and bartenders are sharing at-home recipes for the summery cocktails they’re drinking.
Trying to understand these bizarre times? Two new books frame a year defined by the twin pandemics of coronavirus and racism.
Do young, healthy people need to worry about the virus? Yes. Here's what public health experts say about why, and which social activities are riskiest.
Each week, we're answering your most common questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. ICYMI, here's last week's FAQ about testing.
What's up with schools
Seattle Public Schools' plan for this fall has so many gaps that “I don’t even know where to begin,” one School Board member said as the board pushed for a new outdoor option, with just a week left to decide how to tackle remote learning.
Worried Georgia teens shared photos of their jam-packed school hallway, full of mostly maskless students. Now they’ve been suspended.
King County’s major high-school sports leagues are pushing fall sports back to spring. Here's how this is expected to work.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Residents of some long-term care facilities like nursing homes will be able to have visitors and do certain social activities, starting next week, under a gradual plan described by Gov. Jay Inslee.
"We cannot stop people." Amid virus warnings, about 250,000 people today will start roaring into small Sturgis, S.D., for one of the world's biggest motorcycle rallies. In many parts of the nation, so much viral material is circulating that infections cannot be easily traced and contained. Nearly every country has struggled against the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way, but how did the U.S. end up as the only affluent nation that's been severely affected for so long? In many ways, "We know what to do, and we’re not doing it."
In Congress, talks on COVID-19 rescue money are on the brink of collapse. At stake: more than $100 billion to help reopen schools, a fresh round of $1,200 payments to most people, and hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments.
Scientists worldwide are freaked about Russia's boast that it’s about to become the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Trump Administration has rescinded the country's global "do not travel" ban, saying pandemic conditions elsewhere in the world don't warrant the restrictions.
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