Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, Aug. 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

State health officials say there are very early signs that growth in the number of 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, 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 modest decline, relative to levels seen in mid-June, coincided with the June 23 state-wide order for people to wear masks in public and the July 7 No Mask, No Service policy that allows businesses to turn away unmasked patrons.

Throughout Saturday 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 Friday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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NYT: U.S. surpasses 5 million COVID-19 cases — most in the world

The United States reached another COVID-19 milestone on Saturday, shooting past 5 million cases, according to The New York Times.

The Times' national database of cases, based on federal, state and local reports, shows 5,003,600 people in the U.S. have been infected with the coronavirus, and at least 161,900 people have died.

Brazil ranks second in the number of cases at 3 million. On a per capita basis the U.S. ranks eighth in the world, between Oman and Peru, according to the NYT report.

—Jim Brunner
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Washington health department confirms 936 new COVID-19 cases and 16 new deaths

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) confirmed 936 new cases of COVID-19 in the state Saturday, pushing the state's total infections to 62,523. Sixteen new deaths were reported, raising the toll to 1,688.

According to the DOH coronavirus data dashboard, 2.7% of persons with confirmed infections have died in the state. There have been 5,896 hospitalizations.

The latest death and infection numbers include cases reported as of Friday at 11:59 p.m.

The DOH continues to have difficulties with some of its data reporting. The department said on its website Saturday it has been unable to confirm the percentage of tests that have come back positive since Aug. 1.

In King County, 200 new COVID-19 cases were reported, for a total of 16,742, along with five new deaths, for a total of 675, according to Public Health - Seattle & King County. The agency said 5.1% of the more than 322,000 tests in the county have come back positive.

—Jim Brunner

100 guests at Cle Elum wedding advised to get tested after five test positive

Health officials are advising about 100 people who recently attended a wedding in Cle Elum to get tested for COVID-19, after five guests tested positive.

Those five people had been in contact prior to the wedding, so it's not yet clear whether the disease spread at the event, said Kittitas County Health Officer Mark Larson.

The wedding was held Sunday at Cattle Barn Ranch, and one of the guests developed symptoms the day after, according to the county health department. Officials are concerned guests may have spread the disease in the period before they noticed symptoms.

County officials said they may not be able to contact every person who was potentially exposed because of the size of the event.

Larson said he's concerned that continued gatherings are contributing to the disease's spread. All 19 deaths in Kittitas County from COVID-19 have come from long-term care facilities in the past three weeks, he said.

"We had not had the disease in nursing homes. We have two that now have positives, and those were related to people gathering on the outside and letting their guards down and bringing it in," Larson said.

Kittitas County is in the third phase of the state's reopening plan. The county has had a 10-person limit on gatherings since early July, but events such as weddings had much higher limits under state guidance for religious and faith-based organizations until recently.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced stricter regulations for weddings and funerals last month, banning receptions and limiting ceremonies to 30 people or to 20% capacity if held indoors, whichever is less. Six feet of distance between households is required.

The new rules were put in place July 30 but did not immediately apply to already planned events. The regulations go into effect for all weddings and funerals Monday.

—Asia Fields

As Washingtonians flock to the mountains, officials remind hikers to take precautions

Wildflowers bloom at Mount Rainier National Park in 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
Wildflowers bloom at Mount Rainier National Park in 2018. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

The pandemic hasn't stopped Washingtonians from venturing outside this summer, with popular destinations like Mount Rainier National Park reporting "extremely high visitation."

Search and rescue incidents are also up in some parts of the state. King County Search and Rescue reported double its average for July, according to KNKX. Olympic National Park has also seen a small spike, with 22 incidents last month compared to 17 in July last year.

Officials are urging hikers to remember the "Ten Essentials," along with a mask, and to consider less crowded hikes. The Washington Trails Association has a guide for hiking during the pandemic.

—Asia Fields
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Schools in other states report infections as Washington state districts still finalize plans

As educators in other states prepare to welcome students back to class for the first time in months, schools’ ability to quickly identify and contain coronavirus outbreaks before they get out of hand will be put to the test.

Newly reopened schools in Mississippi, Indiana and Georgia have already reported infections just days into the academic year, triggering virus protocols that include swiftly isolating infected students, tracing their contacts and quarantining people they exposed.

Schools are trying to mitigate the risk of transmission by spreading desks apart, serving meals in the classroom and keeping groups of students together throughout the day. Many schools — but not all — will require students and staff to wear masks, which health experts say is critical to cutting down on spread.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday that it's unsafe for most students to return to school in the fall. State guidance offers advice to districts but doesn’t mandate school closures or other measures.

School Board members in the state's largest district will vote on a plan for the upcoming year next week. Some Seattle School Board members have criticized the district's plan as being sparse on details.

—The Associated Press and Seattle Times staff

Seafarers trapped aboard ships amid COVID-19 restrictions

Crew members from the Bellatrix container ship, registered in Liberia, as it sat docked outside a grain facility in Tacoma last week. Severe coronavirus restrictions imposed by global governments have kept some crew members trapped aboard the ship for nearly a year. (Jeff Engels)
Crew members from the Bellatrix container ship, registered in Liberia, as it sat docked outside a grain facility in Tacoma last week. Severe coronavirus restrictions imposed by global governments have kept some crew members trapped aboard the ship for nearly a year. (Jeff Engels)

Seafarers around the country are stranded aboard ships, wondering whether they'll ever get home.

One of the crewmen on the Liberian-flagged MV Bellatrix container vessel, which was in Tacoma last week, hadn't touched dry land in 13 months. The ship is now on its way to South Korea, where crewmen have been told they can disembark and fly home.

“You could tell they’d just given up,’’ said Jeff Engels, who is helping repatriate some of the estimated 300,000 workers trapped aboard container ships and other sea vessels amid global pandemic restrictions. “They were very quiet and not saying much. There was no fight in them. Usually, they’re fighting to get off the boat and angry about it.”

Roughly 90% of global trade takes place because of maritime transport involving 1.65 million seafarers, their work especially critical during a COVID-19 pandemic threatening supply lines.

But governments have been slow in reacting to the plight of workers trapped on ships months longer than agreed-to contracts, as have some ship owners unwilling to foot the considerable cost of repatriating them until their vessels are much closer to their home countries.

Read the full story here.

—Geoff Baker

Catch up on the past 24 hours

The number of Washingtonians facing food insecurity has nearly doubled during the pandemic, while food banks have struggled. The state's solution? A new food stockpile, with enough Jif peanut butter to make nearly 3 million sandwiches, 100,000 pasta boxes and pallets full of canned green beans.

Derek Sandison, director of the Washington state Department of Agriculture, tours a Fife warehouse Friday that’s packed with nonperishable food the state can tap if demand at food banks and other distribution centers soars amid the pandemic and resulting economic collapse. 
(Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Derek Sandison, director of the Washington state Department of Agriculture, tours a Fife warehouse Friday that’s packed with nonperishable food the state can tap if demand at food banks and other distribution centers soars amid the pandemic and resulting economic collapse. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

Coronavirus relief talks appear to have collapsed in Congress. The political standstill between Democrats and the White House occurs as millions of Americans remain unemployed. President Donald Trump said he would take executive action but did not provide clear details.

A farm worker in Okanogan County spent his final days on the phone with his wife in Jamaica, before dying of COVID-19. He was the second worker to die at the farm, where more than 100 workers have tested positive. The disease has killed 1,672 people in the state. Here are some of their stories.

Eleven children in the state have been hospitalized with a rare coronavirus syndrome. Most required intensive care, but all have responded well to treatment. It's not clear why a small percentage of children who have COVID-19 develop the syndrome.

—Asia Fields
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