Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, Aug. 9, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

As Washington schools finalize plans for the fall, school systems in Mississippi, Indiana and Georgia have seen infection clusters arise just days into the academic year, testing their protocols for swiftly isolating infected students and tracing their contacts.

The United States surpassed another COVID-19 milestone on Saturday, shooting past 5 million infections – the most in the world, according to The New York Times. On a per-capita basis, the U.S. ranks 8th in the world, between Peru and Oman.

The pandemic has left some 300,000 crew members on container vessels and other sea ships stranded on ships, at times for months. Jeff Engels, a Seattle-based coordinator for the International Transport Workers Federation has been working to repatriate some of the trapped seafarers.

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

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Washington State Department of Health confirms 549 new COVID-19 cases and no net new deaths

There were 549 new cases of COVID-19 in Washington state according to Sunday’s update from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Infections now total 63,072.

The state did not report any net new deaths. Instead, two deaths previously attributed to COVID-19 were reclassified and two new COVID deaths were added to the count. The disease has claimed 1,688 lives in Washington.

Hospitalizations increased by 105 to 6,001.

The latest numbers include cases reported as of Saturday 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. It did not update the positivity rate Sunday.

In King County, cases increased by 131, to 16,570, according to the DOH. Public Health - Seattle & King County had slightly different numbers from the state, as data is revised to correct data entry errors or the jurisdiction to which a case is assigned, among other reasons. The agency said in its Sunday update that 5% of the 332,460 tests performed in the county through Saturday were positive.

This post was updated to clarify the death count.

—Benjamin Romano
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Nine people test positive for COVID-19 at Georgia school

In this photo posted on Twitter, students crowd a hallway, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. The 30,000-student suburban Paulding County school district in suburban Atlanta resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person classes five days a week, days after the principal at North Paulding announced some members of the football team had tested positive for COVID-19. The district says it is encouraging mask use, but isn’t requiring it. (Twitter via AP)
In this photo posted on Twitter, students crowd a hallway, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Ga. The 30,000-student suburban Paulding County school district in suburban Atlanta resumed classes Monday with 70% of students returning for in-person classes five days a week, days after the principal at North Paulding announced some members of the football team had tested positive for COVID-19. The district says it is encouraging mask use, but isn’t requiring it. (Twitter via AP)

A week ago, a Georgia high school drew national attention for photos that showed students walking without masks in tightly packed hallways. Now, six students and three staff members from that school have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The cluster of cases may validate concerns in Georgia and around the country that crowded conditions in schools could worsen transmission of the virus.

In Washington, most K-12 public schools start the year in early September, and on Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said it is unsafe for most Washington students to return to school buildings this fall. While Washington is recommending distance learning in most counties, it is not mandating school closures or other measures.

Read more about the Georgia coronavirus outbreak here.

—Katherine Long

Airlines tighten rules to reassure passengers about virus transmission

PPE’s are available in a vending machine near the Alaska Airlines ticket counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
PPE’s are available in a vending machine near the Alaska Airlines ticket counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

The nation's largest airline carriers all require that passengers wear masks or other face coverings during flights and while boarding and exiting the plane. But some airlines are imposing tougher rules, hoping to put passengers at ease about flying during a global pandemic.

Alaska, American, Delta, Spirit and United Airlines now say passengers who remove their masks or refuse to wear one in the first place will be banned from future flights.

Read more about the types of policies airlines are implementing to try to reassure their passengers about the safety of flying, and find out which carriers are committed to keeping middle seats empty.

—Katherine Long

Democrats say Trump's executive actions unworkable; administration defends them

The four documents President Donald Trump signed Saturday that aim to provide economic assistance to millions of Americans are weak and unworkable, top congressional Democrats said Sunday. But Trump administration officials called them necessary because Democrats had failed to compromise on a coronavirus relief package.

One of the measures would provide $300 a week in jobless benefits to the unemployed, but it was unclear when those benefits would start, or if states would be able to chip in an additional $100, as the executive action calls for. Another measure, which aims to defer payroll taxes for four months starting in September, would require participation from millions of employers, which Democrats described as unlikely to happen.

Read more here about Trump's executive actions, what congressional Democrats are saying about them and how the administration is pushing back.

—Katherine Long
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Scammers are using the pandemic to fleece consumers. Here's how to avoid being taken

Con artists have been busy using the coronavirus pandemic to make money off consumers. Protect yourself from being duped, by learning more about what thieves are doing to try to part you from your money or your identification.

In one common scam, an automated phone call that sounds like it's coming from a state health department official is used to persuade victims to give up their Social Security number or health insurance ID. In another scam, a caller claims a company has developed a product that will detect, prevent or cure the coronavirus, and tries to convince investors to buy stock in the company, then dump it once enough people pump up the price.

Read more about a few of the most common scams, and learn how to protect yourself from being conned.

—Katherine Long

Child care providers will have to become de facto teachers this fall

Assistant teacher Mataniufeagaimaleata Savelio helps sweep or wash down nearly every surface every hour of the day at the Tiny Tots development Center in Seattle. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)
Assistant teacher Mataniufeagaimaleata Savelio helps sweep or wash down nearly every surface every hour of the day at the Tiny Tots development Center in Seattle. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

With many school districts moving to remote learning this fall, child care operators say they are going to be forced into the role of de facto teachers.

When school resumes, child care workers -- who earn close to the minimum wage -- will have a whole new set of responsibilities, including making sure children "get" to class, helping them connect by video chat, and answering questions about schoolwork.

It's the latest challenge for an industry that's not only charged with keeping children safe, but is also considered vital to the front-line response and the eventual economic recovery. Statewide, more than 1,000 child-care centers were closed, at least temporarily, at the end of July, and some fear that far fewer centers and home-based operations will remain in business when the crisis passes.

Read more here about the unique challenges COVID-19 poses to the child care industry.

—Katherine Long

Evidence is building that masks slow the spread of COVID-19

Researchers say it would be difficult, not to mention unethical, to create a study that would definitively answer the question of whether face masks protect against the novel coronavirus.

Florida Atlantic University, College of Engineering and Computer Science (Florida Atlantic University)
Florida Atlantic University, College of Engineering and Computer Science (Florida Atlantic University)

But a body of evidence is building that masks are a low-tech way to help rein in the spread of the virus, and perhaps avoid the need for more painful restrictions.

Laboratory tests, observational reports and deep dives into data are all pointing to the importance of masks at slowing the virus's spread. Read more about why researchers think lives would be saved if most people wore masks.

And here's more on what the experts say about masks and coronavirus safety.

—Katherine Long
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Latino community calls for action amid high COVID-19 rates

Rose Cano serves as a cultural mediator at the Community House Calls program at Harborview Medical Center. She has acted as an interpreter, social worker, advocator and liaison between the health care system and her patients for nearly a decade.  (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
Rose Cano serves as a cultural mediator at the Community House Calls program at Harborview Medical Center. She has acted as an interpreter, social worker, advocator and liaison between the health care system and her patients for nearly a decade. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

In recent months, politicians, county and public health officials have tried to understand why cases of COVID-19 are so high among the Latino population, and worked to figure out how the positive rate of infection can be reduced. Latinos make up 13% of Washington's population, but they comprise 44% of the state's positive COVID-19 cases.

Many believe that factors such as poverty, housing discrimination, system inequities within public health care, and proximity to food deserts underlie the high rate of COVID-19 cases within King County's Latino population.

The inequity has forced people like waiter Tino López to make difficult choices about whether to continue to work and collect a paycheck, or stay home and avoid exposure to the virus. López, an uninsured immigrant who worked in Pike Place Market and took the bus to work, quit his job after he decided the risk outweighed the payoff.

Read more here about the effects of the novel coronavirus on Washington's Latino population and how leaders are working to address them.

—Katherine Long

Catching up on the past 24 hours: Coronavirus around the world

Passengers board a Casco Bay Lines ferry bound for Peaks Island in Portland, Maine. America’s failure so far to contain the spread of the coronavirus as it moves across the country has been met with astonishment and alarm on both sides of the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
Passengers board a Casco Bay Lines ferry bound for Peaks Island in Portland, Maine. America’s failure so far to contain the spread of the coronavirus as it moves across the country has been met with astonishment and alarm on both sides of the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

U.S. coronavirus cases hit 5 million and Europeans are reacting with astonishment and alarm that the country has been unable to contain the outbreak.

Could people who are infected with the coronavirus but have no symptoms be the key to ending the pandemic?

Colleges and universities say they're not kidding -- students coming back to campus this fall must take steps to avoid spreading the virus or they could get booted out of school.

New Zealand has now been coronavirus-free for 100 days, and life there has returned to normal.

—Katherine Long

For pandemic jobless, the only real certainty is uncertainty

James Jackson is among the tens of thousands hospitality workers fighting for survival in the age of the pandemic. Jackson’s employer, the Diplomat Beach Resort, in Hollywood, Fla., was forced to close in March because of the outbreak. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
James Jackson is among the tens of thousands hospitality workers fighting for survival in the age of the pandemic. Jackson’s employer, the Diplomat Beach Resort, in Hollywood, Fla., was forced to close in March because of the outbreak. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Across America are legions of women and men who don’t know when they’ll receive another federal unemployment payment — or if.

The COVID-19 outbreak and resulting economic upheaval have thrown millions of lives into disarray. Industries have collapsed, businesses closed, jobs disappeared. Compounding the misery is a question no one can answer: When will this all be over?

Read more about the economic toll of the virus -- and the wave of uncertainty washing over the U.S

—Associated Press