Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Dec. 1, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 Americans return from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, many are faced with strict new coronavirus measures supported by health officials who are bracing for a worsening of the nationwide surge. Although health experts had urged everyone not to attend social gatherings, almost 1.2 million people passed through U.S. airports Sunday.

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday introduced a “free, private, easy to use” phone app — called Washington Exposure Notifications, or WA Notify — that aims to alert people who might have been exposed to COVID-19. Here’s how to sign up.

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices held a public, virtual meeting to vote on who should be the first in line when the first coronavirus vaccines become available.


Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

More

Pasadena bucks LA County order, keeps outdoor dining going

Pasadena has become an island in the center of the nation’s most populous county, where a surge of COVID-19 cases last week led to a three-week end to outdoor dining and then a broader stay-home order that took effect Monday.

The decision by Pasadena health authorities to buck Los Angeles County has been a relief to restaurateurs who have struggled to stay afloat amid closures, ever-changing rules and attempts to keep workers on the job and money in the till. Even Pasadena has made changes since last week, issuing an order taking effect Wednesday that only people in the same household can gather, which applies to outdoor seating.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but every day that goes by is a blessing that we can keep the outdoor dining open,” Osborn said.

Infections and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have been rising sharply in the past few weeks, hitting an all-time high Tuesday of more than 7,500 new cases andthe positivity rate going up to 12% from 7% a week ago.

The county’s health order, which only allows restaurants to prepare food to go, applies to 10 million residents in the region except those in Pasadena or Long Beach — cities that have their own public health departments and can set their own rules.

—Associated Press
Advertising

India’s cases continue to decline with 36,600

NEW DELHI — India has maintained a declining trend in coronavirus infections with 36,604 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.

The cases declined by 32% in November as compared to October, according to the Health Ministry. For more than three weeks, India’s single-day cases have remained below 50,000.

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said new cases were declining consistently after peaking in mid-September at nearly 100,000 per day. .

The capital New Delhi has also seen a dip in daily infections. It reported 4,006 new cases in the past 24 hours.

India reported 501 additional deaths, raising total fatalities to 138,122.

In an effort to stop the virus from spreading, the Home Ministry has allowed states to impose local restrictions.

—Associated Press

Biden adviser says race central to virus fight

Addressing racial disparities in the U.S. coronavirus crisis cannot be an afterthought, a top adviser to President-elect Joe Biden on the COVID-19 pandemic response said Tuesday.

That means when testing and vaccination programs are designed and implemented, for example, they must consider fairness and equity along with efficiency in order to be truly effective, said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an expert on health care inequality at Yale University, in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We cannot get this pandemic under control if we do not address head-on the issues of inequity in our country,” she said. “There is no other way.”

Nunez-Smith, associate dean for health equity research at Yale’s medical school, co-chairs Biden’s advisory board on the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden’s choice of Nunez-Smith to help lead his pandemic task force signaled his intention to address the pandemic’s unequal toll on minorities, who disproportionally have jobs on the front lines, medical conditions associated with severe disease, higher rates of poverty and poor access to health care.

—Associated Press

Reinventing workers for the post-coronavirus economy

The nation’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will hinge to some extent on how quickly show managers can become electricians, whether taxi drivers can become plumbers, and how many cooks can manage software for a bank.

The U.S. labor market has recovered 12 million of the 22 million jobs lost from February to April. But many positions may not return any time soon, even when a vaccine is deployed.

This is likely to prove especially problematic for millions of low-paid workers in service industries like retailing, hospitality, building maintenance and transportation, which may be permanently impaired or fundamentally transformed. What will janitors do if fewer people work in offices? What will waiters do if the urban restaurant ecosystem never recovers its density?

The coronavirus is abruptly taking out a swath of jobs that were thought to be comparatively resilient, in services that require personal contact with customers. And the jolt has landed squarely on workers with little or no education beyond high school, toiling in the low-wage service economy.

—The New York Times
Advertising

Pop-up school for US asylum seekers thrives despite pandemic

MATAMOROS, Mexico — It started out simply: A pop-up school on a sidewalk to teach reading, writing, math and art to Central American children living in a camp of asylum seekers stuck at America’s doorstep.

Like countless schools, the sidewalk school, as it became known, had to go to virtual learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of being hampered by the change, though, it has blossomed, hiring about 20 teachers — all asylum seekers themselves — to give classes via Zoom to Central American children in not only the camp, but at various shelters and apartments in other parts of Mexico.

To be able to switch to distance learning, the teachers and students were outfitted with more than 200 Amazon tablets by The Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers. The organization was founded by Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, who lives across the border in Brownsville, Texas, and has been crossing to help the asylum seekers by providing them food and books.

A Trump administration policy forced asylum seekers to wait south of the border as their cases proceed through U.S. courts, leaving thousands of Central American families living in tents or at Mexican shelters. Previously, asylum seekers were allowed to remain in the United States with relatives or other sponsors while their cases proceeded.

Many have spent more than a year with their lives in limbo, and the wait has only grown longer with the Trump administration suspending immigration court hearings for asylum-seekers during the pandemic.

—Associated Press

CDC to shorten COVID-19 quarantine to 10 days, 7 with test

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to shorten the recommended length of quarantine after exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19, as the virus rages across the nation.

According to a senior administration official, the new guidelines, which are set to be released as soon as Tuesday evening, will allow people who have come in contact to someone infected with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days, or 7 days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the onset of the pandemic.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement, said the policy change has been discussed for some time, as scientists have studied the incubation period for the virus. The policy would hasten the return to normal activities by those deemed to be “close contacts” of those infected with the virus, which has infected more than 13.5 million Americans and killed at least 270,000.

While the CDC had said the incubation period for the virus was thought to extend to 14 days, most individuals became infectious and developed symptoms between 4 and 5 days after exposure.

—Associated Press

Nevada doctor’s selfie used to claim COVID-19 is a hoax

A photo of a hospital’s alternative care site in Reno, Nevada, is being misrepresented on social media to fuel the false narrative that the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax, even as cases surge in the state.

Renown Regional Medical Center has been the primary target of renewed conspiracy theories online suggesting that hospitals are empty and the virus is not as dangerous as top medical officials say it is. The hospital opened an alternative care site with two floors of supplemental hospital beds inside a parking structure on Nov. 12 to accommodate an overflow in COVID-19 cases if needed.

Here’s a look a closer look at the situation.

—Associated Press
Advertising

Hong Kong limits gatherings to 2, orders testing

HONG KONG — Hong Kong is limiting most gatherings to just two people and ordering compulsory testing of workers at retirement homes and facilities for people with disabilities, among tightening measures to contain a new wave of the coronavirus.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city reported 82 news cases on Wednesday, all but 10 of them listed as having been transmitted among residents. Since Nov. 17, it has reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases, only a few of which were brought from outside the city.

That is prompting the government to raise penalties for failing to follow orders on mask-wearing in public and for compulsory tests.

Exceptions were made for some group gatherings, including a limit of 20 people for weddings and shareholder meetings, but religious activities and group travel would no longer be exempt.

Hong Kong and Singapore, meanwhile, have called off a planned travel bubble until next year in response to the surge in Hong Kong cases.

—Associated Press

Black Friday, Cyber Monday sales disappoint, another sign the economic recovery is stumbling

Fewer Americans shopped during Black Friday weekend, and those who did spent less than they did a year ago. It’s the latest example of how the pandemic has upended consumer habits and created new challenges for retailers.

Roughly 186 million shoppers purchased something online or in-store from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, down from 190 million a year ago, the National Retail Federation said Tuesday. Shoppers spent an average of $312, a 14% drop from $362 in 2019.

The industry group attributed those declines in Black Friday sales to a flurry of early holiday deals that retailers began rolling out in October. But analysts said a number of economic uncertainties, combined with high unemployment and rising covid-19 rates, have put a damper on consumer spending during the all-important shopping period.

“It’s going to be a tough holiday season for most retailers,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR Research. “Target, Walmart, grocers and sporting goods stores are cleaning up, but hundreds of thousands of independent retailers have already gone out of business. Things are going to get worse before they get better.”

Nine months into a global pandemic, retailers have already made sweeping changes to their supply chains, store layouts and online capabilities to adapt to changing consumer demands. Many have introduced curbside pick-up options and beefed up their websites and mobile apps.

—The Washington Post

Health workers, long-term care residents will get first doses of coronavirus vaccine in Washington

Health care workers on the frontlines against the coronavirus and residents of long-term care facilities should get the first doses of vaccines, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee decided Tuesday.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) decision — which received 13 votes of approval and one against — will help guide Washington state forward with its plan to distribute doses to its residents, once one or more vaccines have been approved as safe and effective against the novel coronavirus.

“It’s possible doses might be available later this month,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health – Seattle & King County, saying the committees’ vote allows state and local health agencies “move forward with planning on how to allocate the first doses.”

The state Department of Health is working to refine its interim plan to distribute vaccines, which was first published in October, and additional details are due to the CDC Friday. The pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer this month will seek emergency use authorization for their vaccines from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

About 21 million people in the United States are health care workers and about 3 million people live in skilled nursing, assisted living or other residential care facilities, according to documents presented in the committee meeting.

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush
Advertising

Mayor Jenny Durkan signs 2021 budget, hopes Seattle has “turned a corner”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan hopes she and the City Council have “turned a corner” on the crises and the political clashes that have characterized this year, Durkan said Tuesday as she signed the city’s 2021 budget into law.

Adopted by the council last week, the budget had to respond to COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter uprising and the West Seattle Bridge closure — all unexpected. It also had to address a persistent homelessness crisis, with tent encampments growing during the pandemic.

“This year’s budget process was unprecedented,” partly because COVID-19 economic disruptions have constricted tax revenues, Durkan said in a news conference, touting “historic investments” despite the city’s challenges.

The mayor sparred with the council over the summer as they reworked the city’s 2020 budget, objecting to plans to spend reserves on COVID-19 relief and to lay off police officers.

Tensions eased as they hammered out the 2021 budget this fall. They reached a compromise on COVID-19 relief and agreed to reduce police spending somewhat (15% to 20%, depending on hiring and layoff results), mostly by transferring civilian 911 call-center and parking-enforcement employees to another department and by eliminating vacant officer positions.

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman

Is train travel a safer option this holiday? This is what experts say.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Transportation Security Administration reported a record number of travelers passing through airports, and AAA predicted that nearly 50 million people would be traveling by car. Those numbers suggest that there could be another travel bump in the next few weeks, around Christmas.

Driving and flying are the most popular travel options, but where does taking a train fit into pandemic travel? During the 2019 fiscal year, Amtrak carried a record 32.5 million passengers; however, an Amtrak internal analysis in April showed a 95% drop in ridership because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Air travel was also down by 96%).

Gina Suh, head of the Mayo Clinic’s travel clinic, says train travel is not too dissimilar from air travel. There’s not enough data on either to say which is safer, but the same risk factors are at play. It’s all about how many people you come in contact with during your journey.

“That could mean if you are in a crowded train station, if the train itself has it has a density of people around you – whether that’s passengers or crew members – that could still pose a risk,” Suh says. “That [risk] could be mitigated and reduced with mask use, but it’s still possible [to become infected].”

—The Washington Post

State confirms 2,197 new COVID-19 cases -- 779 in King County -- and 31 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,197 new COVID-19 cases as of Monday, and 31 new deaths.

In King County, the state’s most populous, 779 new cases were reported, along with six new deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 167,216 cases and 2,805 deaths, meaning that 1.7% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday. 

The DOH also reported that 10,920 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 25 new hospitalizations as of Monday.

In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 45,127 COVID-19 diagnoses and 887 deaths. 

—Nicole Brodeur
Advertising

‘Very dark couple of weeks’: Morgues and hospitals overflow

Nearly 37,000 Americans died of COVID-19 in November, the most in any month since the dark early days of the pandemic, engulfing families in grief, filling obituary pages of small-town newspapers and testing the capacity of morgues, funeral homes and hospitals.

Amid the resurgence, states have begun reopening field hospitals to handle an influx of patients that is pushing health care systems — and their workers — to the breaking point. Hospitals are bringing in mobile morgues. And funerals are being livestreamed or performed as drive-by affairs.

Health officials fear the crisis will be even worse in coming weeks, after many Americans ignored pleas to stay home over Thanksgiving and avoid people who don’t live with them.

FILE – In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, EMT Giselle Dorgalli, second from right, looks at a monitor while performing chest compression on a patient who tested positive for coronavirus in the emergency room at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. Amid the coronavirus resurgence, states have begun reopening field hospitals to handle an influx of sick patients that is pushing health care systems — and their workers — to the breaking point. Hospitals are bringing in mobile morgues. And funerals are once again being livestreamed or performed as drive-by affairs. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

“I have no doubt that we’re going to see a climbing death toll … and that’s a horrific and tragic place to be,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It’s going to be a very dark couple of weeks.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

U.S. COVID cases found as early as December 2019, says study

A pathologist holds a vial from a COVID-19 test kit at the Core Lab in Northwell Health’s Center for Advanced Medicine in Lake Success, New York, U.S., on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. On Monday, Northwell Health Labs announced it expects to begin testing for the coronavirus within a week, now that the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has given the green light for outside labs to conduct the COVID-19 tests once appropriately validated. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Testing has found Covid-19 infections in the U.S. in December 2019, according to a study, providing further evidence indicating the coronavirus was spreading globally weeks before the first cases were reported in China.

The study published Monday identified 106 infections from 7,389 blood samples collected from donors in nine U.S. states between Dec. 13 and Jan. 17. The samples, collected by the American Red Cross, were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing to detect if there were antibodies against the virus.

“The findings of this report suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the paper said.

Reports of a mysterious pneumonia spreading in Wuhan, China, first emerged in late December 2019. After multiplying rapidly throughout the city in the following weeks, the disease spread across the globe, with the first U.S. case emerging on Jan. 19.

The revelations in the paper by researchers from the CDC reinforce the growing understanding that the coronavirus was silently circulating worldwide earlier than known, and could re-ignite debate over the origins of the pandemic.

It’s not the first evidence showing the virus could have existed or infected people outside China before 2020. A patient in France was found to have contracted the virus after being hospitalized with flu-like symptoms at the end of December, contradicting official statistics showing Covid-19 reached the country from people returning from Wuhan at the end of January.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg

German unemployment dips despite 2nd partial shutdown

Christmas lights hang in the trees as the streets are almost empty in the old town of Marburg, Germany, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Germany’s unemployment rate dipped in November despite a partial shutdown introduced to halt a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, official data showed Tuesday. However, estimates suggest that the number of companies using a short-term salary support program has risen.

The unadjusted jobless rate, the headline figure in Germany, declined to 5.9% last month from 6% in October, the Federal Labor Agency said. The number of people registered as unemployed was just below 2.7 million, 61,000 fewer than the previous month but 519,000 more than a year earlier.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the jobless rate slipped to 6.1% from 6.2%.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

US panel to decide who should get the first COVID-19 shots

NEW YORK — An influential government advisory panel convened on Tuesday to answer one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak: Who should be at the front of the line when the first vaccine shots become available?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was scheduled to vote on a proposal that would give priority to health care workers and nursing home patients.

The two groups encompass around 23 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.

As the virtual meeting got underway, panel member Dr. Beth Bell of the University of Washington noted that on average, one person is dying of COVID-19 per minute in the U.S. right now, “so I guess we are acting none too soon.”

Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. Current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of 2020. And each product requires two doses.

As a result, the shots will be rationed in the early stages.

Read the full story here.

Students falling behind in math during pandemic, study finds

A disproportionately large number of poor and minority students were not in schools for assessments this fall, complicating efforts to measure the pandemic’s effects on some of the most vulnerable students, a not-for-profit company that administers standardized testing said Tuesday.

Overall, NWEA’s fall assessments showed elementary and middle school students have fallen measurably behind in math, while most appear to be progressing at a normal pace in reading since schools were forced to abruptly close in March and pickup online.

FILE  –  In this Nov. 14, 2020 file photo, students demonstrate during a rally to call on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to keep schools open. A company that administers standardized testing said Tuesday elementary and middle school students have fallen measurably behind in math, since schools were forced to abruptly close in March and pickup online due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The analysis of data from nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in grades 3-8 represents one of the first significant measures of the pandemic’s impacts on learning.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Insurers win most COVID business-loss lawsuits

Since COVID-19 sparked government-ordered shutdowns in March, judges have dismissed more than four times as many business-interruption lawsuits as they have allowed to proceed although some plaintiffs are finding weak spots in the industry’s legal defenses.

Most of the cases tossed out so far had virus-exclusion clauses. When policies don’t have the exclusion, insurers are arguing COVID-19 can’t cause the physical damage or loss required for a business-interruption payout, like from a tornado or flood. And the industry is winning dismissals with that argument, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The stakes are high for thousands of businesses. The outbreak has led to a surge in U.S. bankruptcies, including rental-car company Hertz Global Holdings. Century 21 Stores said it couldn’t survive after its insurer denied its business-interruption claim. Some Seattle-area businesses were quick to file such claims last spring, early in the pandemic.

Read the story here.

Rental vehicles are parked outside a closed Hertz car rental office in south Denver. Hertz was one of the businesses that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the pandemic. Some businesses have said they couldn’t survive after insurers denied business-interruption claims. (David Zalubowski / The Associated Press, file)

—Bloomberg
Advertising

UK leader touts local virus rules but pubs are in distress

British lawmakers voted Tuesday to approve new coronavirus restrictions in England to take effect within hours, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced substantial opposition from within his Conservative Party over the measures’ economic impact.

England’s current four-week national lockdown ends at midnight, and Parliament needed to sign off on the replacement, a three-tier regional system based on the severity of the outbreak in different parts of the country. Critics say the measures will devastate businesses, especially pubs, which face some of the tightest restrictions.

Johnson urged legislators to back the measures, saying the country must “hold our nerve” until vaccines are approved and distributed but dozens of Conservatives abstained or voted against him.

Read the story here.

—Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Official calls outdoor dining ‘dangerous’ in new California ban — then goes out to eat

A Los Angeles County supervisor backed a ban on outdoor dining as coronavirus cases soar. Hours later, she went out to eat at her favorite restaurant.

At a contentious Board of Supervisors hearing Nov. 24, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl called outdoor dining “most dangerous” before joining a 3-2 majority for a temporary ban to take effect the next day, KCBS reported.

A Kuehl spokesman confirmed that she later had dinner on the patio at Il Forno, an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica, before the ban took effect, KTTV reported.

Read the story here.

—Don Sweeney, The Sacramento Bee

Canada: US border measures to last until virus under control

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday the ban on nonessential travel with the United States will not be lifted until COVID-19 is significantly more under control around the world.

Canada and the U.S. have limited border crossings since March, extending the restrictions each month.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

CDC advisors to vote on who should get the first COVID-19 shots

Who should be the first in line when the first coronavirus vaccines become available?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is holding a public, virtual meeting to vote on a proposal that would give priority to health care workers and nursing home patients.

The two groups together represent around 23 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.

Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider approval of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. Current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of 2020. And each product requires two doses.

As a result, the shots will be rationed in the early stages.

Watch the hearing here.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Airlines face ‘mission of the century’ in shipping virus vaccines

In cooled warehouses on the fringes of Frankfurt airport, Deutsche Lufthansa is preparing its depleted fleet for the gargantuan task of airlifting millions of doses of the vaccines meant to end the global pandemic.

Lufthansa, one of the world’s biggest cargo carriers, began planning in April in anticipation of the shots that Pfizer to Moderna and AstraZeneca are developing in record time. A 20-member task force is at work devising how to fit more of the crucial payload onto the airline’s 15 Boeing 777 and MD-11 freighters, along with hold space in a vast passenger fleet now flying at just 25% of capacity.

Laid low by a COVID-19 outbreak that’s decimated passenger demand, airlines will be the workhorses of the attempt to eradicate it, hauling billions of vials to every corner of the globe. It’s an unprecedented task, made more difficult by the carriers’ diminished state after culling jobs, routes and aircraft to survive a crisis that’s reduced air traffic globally by an estimated 61% this year.

“This will be the largest and most complex logistical exercise ever,” said Alexandre de Juniac, chief executive officer of the International Air Transport Association, the industry’s chief lobby. “The world is counting on us.”

Read the story here.

—Christopher Jasper and William Wilkes, Bloomberg

Non-essential shops reopen in Belgium as virus numbers drop

Non-essential shops in Belgium were reopening Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining daily coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions.

The government is fearful, however, that the change might lead to massive gatherings in the nation’s most popular shopping centers and streets. Over the weekend, pre-Christmas light festivals already led to crowded scenes in several cities, prompting warnings from virologists about the dangers of reopening too soon.

Owner of Kinkajou toy shop Sarah De Kinkajou, left, wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, talks to a customer after opening her business in Brussels, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Non-essential shops in Belgium are reopening on Tuesday in the wake of encouraging figures about declining infection rates and hospital admissions because of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Belgium, host to the headquarters of the 27-nation European Union, has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic. Belgium has reported more than 16,500 deaths linked to the virus during two surges in the spring and the fall.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

76 Franciscan nuns test positive at monastery in Germany

Exterior view of the monastery of the Franciscan Order in Thuine, Germany, Tuesday, Dec.1, 2020. Church authorities say 76 Catholic nuns have tested positive for COVID-19 after an outbreak of coronavirus at a Franciscan convent in northwestern Germany. Another 85 nuns received negative test results at the monastery in Thuine, not far from the Dutch border, the convent’s Mother Superior told The Associated Press on Tuesday. (Friso Gentsch/dpa via AP)

Seventy-six Catholic nuns have tested positive for COVID-19 after an outbreak at a Franciscan convent in northwestern Germany, church authorities said Tuesday.

Another 85 nuns received negative test results at the monastery in Thuine, not far from the Dutch border, the convent’s Mother Superior told The Associated Press.

Local health authorities put the the entire monastery under quarantine late last week after the first cases of coronavirus were discovered there. Most Catholic nuns in Germany are elderly women because convents have had difficulties for decades recruiting young women for their cause.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Why health officials are terrified of a pandemic Christmas

Americans heard the pleas to stay home. They were told what would happen if they didn’t. Still, millions traveled and gathered during last week’s Thanksgiving holiday, either doubting the warnings or deciding they would take their chances.

Now, like any partygoer waking from a raucous weekend — feeling a bit hung over and perhaps a tinge of regret — the nation is about to face the consequences of its behavior and will need to quickly apply the lessons before heading into the doubleheader of Christmas and New Year’s.

Holiday travelers crowd a terminal at MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul) Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, as millions of Americans traveled for the holiday despite warnings about the health risks. Now experts are wondering how to plead the case as Christmas looms. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

Health experts point to several key take-aways: Many states were overwhelmed by unexpected surges in testing — with many families hoping a negative result might make their planned gatherings a little safer.

Some airports were not prepared for the huge crowds that had not been seen since the beginning of the pandemic, making it difficult for travelers to maintain social distancing.

But perhaps the most obvious lesson: Public health messaging needs to be retooled, as whole swaths of the country are simply tuning out the warnings from officials and experts.

Read the story here.

—William Wan and Brittany Shammas, The Washington Post

Hong Kong targets yacht parties in latest virus crackdown

An attendant prepares a table setting ahead of a dinner event aboard the Numarine 78 Hardtop (HT) Hip Nautist yacht, operated by Asia Marine Yacht Services Ltd., at night in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Asia Marine sells new and preowned yachts, in addition to providing yacht management service in Hong Kong, according to the company’s website. Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

Hong Kong has set up a hotline for residents to report parties aboard yachts and rented party boats, as the financial hub tightens social-distancing rules to contain a surge of virus cases.

With nightclubs and karaoke parlors closing as a result of a new round of restrictions, some people were hosting rule-breaking gatherings at sea, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a weekly news briefing Tuesday ahead of a meeting of her advisory Executive Council. Holding parties aboard rented “junks” in Hong Kong’s iconic harbor and off outlying islands is a favorite weekend pastime.

“The reporting hotline newly set up is there because we see that, after party rooms and karaoke parlors have been made to close, there are a number of people who organize events at sea,” Lam said. “We want to target such a breach.”

Read the story here.

—Iain Marlow Bloomberg
Advertising

LA calls off film shoot that would have shut virus testing site for a day

The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, said early Tuesday that the city would reopen a coronavirus testing site at Union Station, a major transit hub, after residents criticized a decision to temporarily close the site during a film shoot.

The movie, “He’s All That,” which features the TikTok star Addison Rae and is a reboot of the 1999 romantic comedy “She’s All That,” had received approval to film inside and outside the station on Tuesday, the city and county’s film office said. About 170 cast and crew members were expected to take part in the movie scenes, the film office said.

The reversal came after a homeless outreach and advocacy group called Ktown for All criticized the decision to close the site and shared a copy of an email that it said a resident received on Monday afternoon from the company that operates the testing site. It said that all testing appointments for Tuesday at the station had been canceled because of an event there.

The group said that the move showed that the city had misplaced its priorities.

“It’s truly one of the only COVID testing centers within the city of Los Angeles that is really accessible by public transit,” Devon Manney, a spokesman for the group, said in an interview on Monday night. “This is the LA that we are constantly fighting against.”

Read the story here.

—The New York Times

As the virus resurges, mental health woes batter France

 The panicked 22-year-old is led to Consultation Room No. 2, with its easy-mop floor and honeycombed meshing over the window. Behind her, the psychiatric emergency ward’s heavy double doors — openable only with a staff member’s key — thud shut.

With anxious taps of her white sneakers, she confides to an on-duty psychiatrist how the solitude of the coronavirus lockdown and the angst of not finding work in the pandemic-battered job market are contributing to her maelstrom of anxieties. She is unnerved that she is starting to obsess about knives, fearful that her mental health might be collapsing.

A patient walks on a corridor of the Rouvray psychiatric hospital, in Rouen, western France, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Lockdowns that France has used to fight the coronavirus have come at considerable cost to mental health. Surveying points to a surge of depression most acute among people without work, in financial hardship and young adults. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Forcing millions of people to once again stay home — cutting them off from families and friends, shuttering businesses they invested in, university classes that fed their minds and nightspots where they socialized — has, for now, begun to turn back the renewed coronavirus surge in France that pushed it in November past the bleak milestone of 52,000 dead.

But the costs to mental health have been considerable. With numbers now falling for French COVID-19 patients in intensive care, psychiatrists are facing a follow-up wave of psychological distress. Health authorities’ surveying points to a surge of depression most acute among people without work, those in financial hardship and young adults.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

European regulator could OK 1st COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 29

European regulators may approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech within four weeks, the EU’s drug agency said Tuesday, a time frame that could mean the shot is rolled out first in the United States and Britain.

The European Medicines Agency plans to convene a meeting by Dec. 29 to decide if there is enough safety and efficacy data about the vaccine for it to be approved, the regulator said. The agency also said it could decide as early as Jan. 12 whether to approve a rival vaccine shot by Moderna Inc.

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer said earlier Tuesday that they had asked the European regulator for expedited approval of their vaccine. The companies have said that clinical trials showed the vaccine is 95% effective.

Multiple successful vaccines will be needed to end the pandemic, which has been on the upswing in Europe and the U.S. and so far left more than 1.4 million people worldwide dead.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Without patients or staff, Madrid opens new $119M hospital

Authorities in Spain’s capital on Tuesday held a ceremony to open part of a 1,000-bed emergency hospital for COVID-19 patients that critics say is no more than a vanity project, a building with beds not ready to receive patients and unnecessary now that the virus resurgence and hospitalizations are waning.

A security guard walks in the empty Isabel Zendal new hospital during the official opening in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Authorities in Madrid are holding a ceremony to open part of a 1,000-bed hospital for emergencies that critics say is no more than a vanity project, a building with beds not ready to receive patients and unnecessary now that contagion and hospitalizations are waning. Spain has officially logged 1.6 million infections and over 45,000 deaths confirmed for COVID-19 since the beginning of the year. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Around 200 health professionals gathered Tuesday at the entrance of the Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital in Madrid as officials entered the state-of-the-art facility, built in 100 days at a cost of $119 million, twice the original budget.

Health workers’ unions criticized the project, saying the investment should have gone instead to shoring up an existing public health system run down by years of spending cuts.

Only one of four wings of the 80,000-square-meter (nearly 20-acre) hospital — equivalent to around 10 soccer fields — is set to open initially with 240 beds, although the regional government so far has only enlisted as volunteers about one-sixth of the workers needed.

Madrid’s regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said the hospital is the first of its kind in Europe and that it will help alleviate pressure in other public hospitals by focusing on COVID-19 patients.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Quarantine Corner: Things to do while cooped up

Alice in Chains’ Mike Inez, left, Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney wait for William DuVall before entering the Museum of Pop Culture. Alice in Chains is receiving MoPOP’s Founders Award this year. The event will be online at 6 p.m. Dec. 1. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

• Tonight, MoPOP and many of rock's greats will salute Alice in Chains at a star-studded virtual concert.

• Sweet treats: Cake need not be reserved for dessert. There’s much to be said for “snacking cakes” like this little smackerel of goodness. For actual dessert, try teen chef Sadie's molten chocolate lava cake or these homemade apple cider doughnuts.

• How real is "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix? Seattle's Karen Schmidt, a longtime chess enthusiast who's accustomed to being the lone woman, writes about why the series stunned her.

​​​​​​​• All of that cooking might have dulled your knives. Learn how to sharpen them at home.
​​​​​​

—Kris Higginson

Catching up on the past 24 hours

• Washington’s free COVID-19 notification phone app is out, and more than 200,000 people have already signed up to get alerts if someone who's come near them tests positive. Here's how it works, and how to enable it.

• Who should get vaccines first? CDC advisers are meeting today to discuss this as several vaccine candidates race toward approval. One population that may be prioritized: obese Americans.

The fallout from Thanksgiving is emerging as families fall ill and leaders lock down U.S. cities and counties. One example: L.A. County, where 10 million people are now under a stay-home order. If you need a COVID-19 test, here are your options in the Seattle area.

Is it safe to eat outdoors at a restaurant? How about inside a tent or bubble? A COVID-19 expert from UW and a public health specialist are talking about best practices and worrisome trends.

What about shopping in stores? The CDC has stern advice on the risks, despite retailers' precautions.

—Kris Higginson
Advertising

Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.