Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, Dec. 5 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 It is no longer being updated.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 the country continues to see record coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and death, states on Friday submitted their vaccine orders and distribution plans to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in preparation for a possible approved vaccine by the end of the year.
In Seattle, the city will open its first two self-administered, oral testing sites — one in Northgate and one in the Central District — on Saturday afternoon. Here’s how to schedule an appointment.
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.
Avocados are the ‘pandemic-proof’ crop in lockdown health craze
Health-conscious consumers are eating avocados like never before during the pandemic.
After a brief drop in demand at the start of the covid crisis, European and U.S. consumption are hitting record highs, according to Xavier Equihua, chief executive officer of the World Avocado Organization, a trade group.
“Consumption is off the charts,” Equihua said in an interview from California. “People want to eat healthy. The new luxury post-pandemic is going to be eating healthy, and wellness. Even the fashion industry is saying that.”
Demand for the fruit has accelerated as more consumers eat at home. No longer just a component of guacamole for parties, its use has broadened to salads, burritos and, of course, the hipster cliche of avocado toast. Europe’s consumption will jump 12% this year to a record 1.48 billion pounds, according to import data, while U.S. demand will increase 7%, Equihua said, citing industry projections.
CIA psychological profiler who labeled Trump ‘dangerous’ dies of COVID-19
As a pioneering psychological profiler for the Central Intelligence Agency and later as a consultant, Dr. Jerrold Post plumbed the lives, leadership styles and, at times, the mental illness of foreign heads around the globe. Over decades, his expertise and instincts were greatly in demand, especially at the White House.
The Harvard-trained psychiatrist advised former President Jimmy Carter about how best to negotiate with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat before the Camp David Peace Accords. He explained Sadat’s “Nobel Prize Complex” — his desire to be remembered as a great leader — and Begin’s biblical preoccupation and obsession with detail.
Post warned about labeling Saddam Hussein simply as “the mad man of the Middle East,” lest it mislead political leaders into thinking Hussein was unpredictable, when in fact he was not. As an expert in the psychology of terrorism, Post produced psychological profiles of suicide bombers in Israel and opined on the corporate leadership style of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
And yet in late 2019 — a year before his death Nov. 22 of COVID-19 at 86 — Post found himself doing what at one point would have been unthinkable: publishing a book about the alarming psychological makeup of an American president.
In writing “Dangerous Charisma: The Political Psychology of Donald Trump and His Followers,” Post risked violating the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” which forbids the diagnosis of public figures without full evaluation and consent.
“He was a Life Fellow of the APA, but he said if they kicked him out, he didn’t care,” said his wife, Carolyn Post. “He felt it was that important and that psychiatrists have a duty to warn.”
Seattle superintendent wants pre-K through second graders back in-person; School Board to decide soon
By spring, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau wants students enrolled in preschool through second grade back in school buildings daily, and broader in-person services for students with disabilities. The Seattle School Board, which has yet to approve the recommendation, appears amenable, although with some reservations.
It’s the first time the district has put out a major plan for in-person learning this school year. Officials had remained mostly silent on the issue, even as surrounding districts such as Bellevue have been drawing up plans publicly for months. No districts in King County have implemented in-person learning on a wide scale.
Under the proposal, parents could choose to keep their kids at home and continue with remote learning.
But the path to a Seattle reopening, as presented by the district during an online School Board retreatSaturday, is lengthy — about two and a half months between approval and implementation, with a target date of March 1, possibly earlier for special education students. Disease metrics would play a role in kick-starting or scaling back in-person instruction, but all the details are not yet clear. Most critically, a broad return to the physical classroom would need buy-in from teachers, whose union to date has been deeply skeptical of district proposals.
State reports 1,503 new COVID-19 cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,503 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.
The update brings the state’s totals to 175,793 cases and 2,925 deaths, meaning 1.7% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Friday but the state does not report new death data on weekends.
The DOH also reported that 202 more people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, since Friday's update. In total, 11,475 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
In King County, the state’s most populous, 542 new cases were reported, bringing the county's totals to 47,032 infections and 914 deaths.
‘Our kids are the sacrifices’: Parents push schools to open
The activism of Jennifer Dale began when she watched her third grade daughter struggle with distance learning, kicking and screaming through her online classes.
The mother of three initially sent emails to her local school officials with videos of the disastrous school days for her middle daughter, Lizzie, who has Down syndrome. Over time, she connected with other parents and joined several protests calling for school buildings to reopen.
Now she helps organize events and has become a voice for what has become a statewide movement of parents calling for children to return to school in Oregon, one of only a handful of states that has required at least a partial closure of schools as long as local coronavirus infections remain above certain levels.
“This just isn’t plausible anymore. It’s not fair to the kids, who I am afraid aren’t getting an adequate education,” Dale said during an interview at her home in Lake Oswego as she juggled her work and helping her children who are distance learning. “Something needs to change. It is not working, and our kids are the sacrifices.”
In debates nationwide about opening schools, parents unhappy with distance learning are taking increasingly vocal roles in calling for more in-person instruction through grassroots organizing and legal challenges.
As the surge in coronavirus cases brings a new round of school closings, lawsuits by parents have followed in states including New York, California and Pennsylvania, arguing that remote learning is falling short of state education standards and causing harm to students.
A bleak outlook for millions facing cutoff of US jobless aid
Tina Morton recently faced a choice: Pay bills — or buy a birthday gift for a child? Derrisa Green is falling further behind on rent. Sylvia Soliz has had her electricity cut off.
Unemployment has forced aching decisions on millions of Americans and their families in the face of a rampaging viral pandemic that has closed shops and restaurants, paralyzed travel and left millions jobless for months. Now, their predicaments stand to grow bleaker yet if Congress fails to extend two unemployment programs that are set to expire the day after Christmas.
If no agreement is reached in negotiations taking place on Capitol Hill, more than 9 million people will lose federal jobless aid that averages about $320 a week and that typically serves as their only source of income.
Green, 39, and her husband are among them. An end to their unemployment benefits would force them to keep missing rent payments on their home in Dyer, Indiana, near Chicago. The couple have eight children. Green’s husband is a self-employed truck driver whose business disappeared when the pandemic erupted in the spring. Only in October did he start to pick up occasional work.
He now receives about $235 a week in unemployment aid. Even so, “all of our bills are late,” Green said. They’ve received several shutoff notices from utilities before managing to pay just before service was to be cut off.
“That’s really scary,” Green said, “because what are we going to do when we lose the unemployment money?”
The end of jobless aid is approaching at an especially perilous time. Job growth slowed sharply in November, and the resurgence of viral cases appears to be out of control across the country.
NBA: Teams that break virus protocols may lose games, picks
NBA teams that do not comply with league rules designed to minimize the spread of the coronavirus this season could face major penalties such as forfeiting games or draft picks, the league told its franchises Saturday.
The league also said that it and the National Basketball Players Association will discuss players, coaches and other staff “being required to receive a coronavirus vaccine” when it becomes available, strongly urged teams to encourage players and personnel to get flu shots, and said that effective immediately Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel — which basically means players, coaches and some essential staff — must avoid bars, lounges, clubs even if food is served, most live entertainment or gaming venues, public gyms, spas and pool areas.
Also off-limits: indoor gatherings of 15 or more people. Those rules apply both when teams are at home and when they are on the road, the NBA said. Preseason games start Friday and the regular season begins Dec. 22.
The protocols document, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, has much more detail than the draft version that was distributed to teams last weekend. The rules and protocols in the updated document — which even includes examples of how seating charts on planes and buses could be set up — have been agreed upon by the NBA and the NBPA.
Seahawks place DT Bryan Mone on COVID-19 reserve list
The Seahawks’ standing as the only NFL team to not have a player on the NFL’s Reserve/COVID-19 list came to an end Saturday when they placed defensive tackle Bryan Mone on the list.
Mone is also on Injured Reserve with a high ankle sprain suffered in a loss at Buffalo. Going on the Reserve/COVID-19 list means Mone either tested positive or was deemed to have potentially had close contact with someone who has. Teams do not have to specify the reason.
Every other NFL team has already placed at least one player on the list, with most teams having had multiple players go on it. Seahawks receiver John Ursua briefly went on the list during training camp but was deemed to have had a false positive test.
Under rules that were enhanced earlier this season, a player can return to the active roster after five days if they’re asymptomatic and have two negative tests in a row. Players must spend 10 days on the list if they show symptoms.
As hospitals cope with a COVID-19 surge, cyber threats loom
By late morning on Oct. 28, staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center noticed the hospital’s phone system wasn’t working.
Then the internet went down, and the Burlington-based center’s technical infrastructure with it. Employees lost access to databases, digital health records, scheduling systems and other online tools they rely on for patient care.
Administrators scrambled to keep the hospital operational — cancelling non-urgent appointments, reverting to pen-and-paper record keeping and rerouting some critical care patients to nearby hospitals.
In its main laboratory, which runs about 8,000 tests a day, employees printed or hand-wrote results and carried them across facilities to specialists. Outdated, internet-free technologies experienced a revival.
“We went around and got every fax machine that we could,” said UVM Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Al Gobeille.
The Vermont hospital had fallen prey to a cyberattack, becoming one of the most recent and visible examples of a wave of digital assaults taking U.S. health care providers hostage as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide.
Virus cases continue climbing in US during holiday season
Coronavirus infections across the U.S. continue to rise as the country moves deeper into a holiday season when eagerly anticipated gatherings of family and friends could push the numbers even higher.
A new daily high of nearly 228,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases was reported nationwide Friday, eclipsing the previous high mark of 217,000 cases set the day before, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 attributable deaths in the U.S. passed 2,000 for the first time since spring, rising to 2,011. Two weeks ago, the seven-day average was 1,448. There were 2,607 deaths reported in the U.S. on Friday.
Several states saw surging numbers in the week after Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans disregarded warnings to stay home and celebrate only with members of their household.
New Mexico hospitals approach "crisis standard" of care rationing
A month's worth of exhortations and coronavirus restrictions issued by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham haven't succeeded in avoiding what she now calls "most serious emergency that New Mexico has ever faced."
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, is on the verge of acknowledging just how grim conditions have become: She will, she said in an interview, soon allow hospitals to move to “crisis standards,” a move that frees them to ration care depending on a patient’s likelihood of surviving.
It is a step that she and other governors have avoided through nine months of battling the pandemic, and one that doctors dread.
“That’s a physician’s nightmare,” said Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, one of the state’s largest providers. “We want to save every life we can.”
But given the severe strain on medical systems statewide and the lack of available ICU beds as COVID hospitalizations near 1,000 statewide, Mitchell said there was likely no other choice.
“We’re headed there very quickly,” he said. “There’s no more room at the inn.”
New Mexico has one of the lowest numbers of per capita hospital beds of any state in the nation. The crisis order on hospital care is expected as soon as Monday, the governor said.
Oregon suspends license of doctor who refuses to wear mask
The Oregon Medical Board has indefinitely suspended the medical license of a doctor who said at a pro-Trump rally that he doesn’t wear a mask at his Dallas, Oregon clinic and doesn’t require his staff to wear face-coverings either.
Dr. Steven LaTulippe also said at the Nov. 7 rally in Salem that he encourages others not to wear masks, according to KGW-TV.
A state order requires health care workers to wear a mask in health care settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say multiple studies have shown that cloth masks are effective in slowing the transmission of the coronavirus.
Oregon regulators voted late Thursday to suspend LaTulippe’s license immediately due to concerns about patient safety.
Gene-editing treatment shows promise for sickle cell disease
Scientists are seeing promising early results from the first studies testing gene editing for painful, inherited blood disorders that plague millions worldwide.
Doctors hope the one-time treatment, which involves permanently altering DNA in blood cells with a tool called CRISPR, may treat and possibly cure sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia.
Partial results were presented Saturday at an American Society of Hematology conference and some were published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors described 10 patients who are at least several months removed from their treatment. All no longer need regular blood transfusions and are free from pain crises that plagued their lives before.
California braces for more closures
Much of California is on the brink of sweeping new restrictions on businesses and activities, a desperate attempt to slow the frighteningly rapid escalation of coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
Five San Francisco Bay Area counties imposed a new stay-at-home order for their residents that will take effect Sunday. Southern California and a large swath of the central portion of the state could join this weekend.
Those two regions have seen their intensive care unit capacity fall below the 15% threshold that under a new state stay-at-home order will trigger new restrictions barring all on-site restaurant dining and close hair and nail salons, movie theaters and many other businesses, as well as museums and playgrounds.
If their capacity remains below that level when the data is updated Saturday, the closures will take effect Sunday and stay in effect at least three weeks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new plan Thursday. It is the most restrictive order since he imposed the country’s first statewide stay-at-home rule in March.
Gonzaga/Baylor NCAA hoops contest canceled
Today's major early-season NCAA men's basketball contest between top-rated Gonzaga and second-ranked Baylor has been canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests of Gonzaga players.
The game, set for 10 a.m. PST, was called off when one athlete and one "non-student athlete" of the Gonzaga travel party tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a joint statement from the two universities, posted on Twitter. The athlete in question did not play in Wednesday's game against West Virginia, Gonzaga officials said.
"After thoughtful consultation with the Marion County Public Health Director, the Indiana State Health Commissioner, and both team physicians, Gonzaga and Baylor have mutually agreed today's game will not be played," the statement said. "Both teams have agreed to attempt to reschedule the game at a later date."
Gonzaga held two players out of its game against Auburn last weekend after one tested positive and a teammate was considered a close contact, ESPN reported.
ER visits, long waits climb for kids in mental health crisis
When children and teens are overwhelmed with anxiety, depression or thoughts of self-harm, they often wait days in emergency rooms because there aren’t enough psychiatric beds.
The problem has only grown worse during the pandemic, reports from parents and professionals suggest.
With schools closed, routines disrupted and parents anxious over lost income or uncertain futures, children are shouldering new burdens many are unequipped to bear.
And with surging numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, bed space is even scarcer.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
A possible showdown loomed in Vancouver, Washington, after a federal judge on Friday refused to issue an emergency order sought by Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson that would prevent him from being arrested or prosecuted for a prayer rally he has planned for this afternoon in a local park. Gibson had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Nov. 30 challenging some of Gov. Jay Inslee’s most recent COVID-19 restrictions, claiming they violate Constitutionally guaranteed religious liberties.
Warnings went unheeded. The apparent Thanksgiving holiday travel blitz proved to be exactly that, according to new data showing high numbers of air passengers, and only a slight dip in holiday driving even as the nation saw record coronavirus death rates.
A "painless" test: Months after it first was envisioned, a less-invasive coronavirus testing system, using oral samples rather than nasal swipes, was poised to become reality at two Seattle testing stations beginning Saturday. Registration for the "painless, self-collected test" began Friday evening.
Momentum continued to build in Congress for a compromise COVID-19 aid bill that would offer relief for businesses, the unemployed, schools, and health care providers, among others struggling as caseloads are spiking. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were negotiating fine points of a package considered likely to be less than $1 trillion. Sticking points continued to be aid to state and local governments and liability protections for businesses and universities open during the pandemic.
College sports continued to struggle with pandemic-era scheduling, as the Washington State women's basketball team saw the first two games of its season postponed Friday. The Cougars were to play at Cal on Sunday and Stanford on Tuesday.
Sound Transit announced a temporary train service reduction because of a COVID-related lack of workers. Beginning Monday, Link light-rail trains between the city of SeaTac and the University of Washington will arrive 12 minutes apart, instead of the normal 7-to-8-minute frequency, at peak times.
In a first, federal health officials recommended Americans should be wearing a mask indoors whenever they’re outside their own home. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the recommendation in the midst of surging COVID-19 cases, anticipating continued high levels of transmission through the holiday season.
In Wyoming, a Department of Health official involved in the state's response to the coronavirus questioned the legitimacy of the pandemic, and described a forthcoming vaccine as a biological weapon. The official's baseless claims were cited by health authorities as an example of the challenges of achieving public participation in protective measures and, in the near future, vaccine distribution.
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