Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from January 17, 2020, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
“Technical challenges” prevented the Washington Department of Health (DOH) from updating coronavirus case counts on Saturday, leaving the latest numbers on the state of the pandemic in Washington stagnant since 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
Meanwhile, scientists have confirmed that three COVID-19 infections diagnosed in Washington in October were caused by virus with a mutation that might boost the respiratory bug’s ability to dodge immune defenses.
Report: Vaccine hesitancy, resumption of evictions concerning to Native American organizations
A new report from the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) offers a window into the challenges that social services and public health institutions face in serving the American Indian and Alaska Native Communities during COVID-19.
The assessment, released Friday, included information from interviews with the Seattle Indian Health Board, Chief Seattle Club, United Indians of All Tribes, American Indian Community Center and the NATIVE Project.
It found that these organizations all faced shortages of personal protective equipment, had seen increased need for services and joined in concern about vaccine hesitancy among those they serve.
They also share a looming worry over what will happen when the eviction ban implemented by Gov. Jay Inslee expires. The moratorium has been extended through March, but it will lift at some point.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are seven times more likely to experience homelessness than their white counterparts, said Abigail Echo-Hawk, a Pawnee tribal member and director of UIHI.
Echo-Hawk said she expects a sharp rise in homelessness when the eviction moratorium lifts. Echo-Hawk said a wave of evictions threatens to overwhelm the “already overwhelmed homeless services.”
“We can’t wait until it lifts to address it,” Echo-Hawk said, calling for planning now.
Native communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with case rates 3.5 times higher nationally than white Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All of the organizations surveyed report that some community members they serve have expressed concerns about vaccine safety and do not trust pharmaceutical companies over vaccine safety.
Echo-Hawk argues the organizations are best positioned to answer those questions.
“Getting the vaccine to those most likely to experience the highest complications [from COVID-19] and experience death is absolutely essential,” Echo-Hawk said. “The best way to undo hesitancy is trusted messengers within the communities and that is these urban Indian organizations.”
Stafford Creek inmate dies after COVID-19 infection
An inmate at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen died of COVID-19 Saturday, according to a news release from the state Department of Corrections.
The individual died at a community health facility.
The department said 661 COVID-19 cases had been reported at the facility over a period of 30 days ending Jan. 15. This was the facility's third death related to COVID-19.
Seattle Police Department reaffirms mask guidelines
The Seattle Police Department reaffirmed its mask guidelines after someone who identified herself as an "ER Nurse in Seattle" complained on Twitter about an officer's behavior.
The Twitter user wrote that an officer visited her hospital workplace and refused to put a mask on despite being in a high-use hallway with patients in rooms nearby who had tested positive for COVID-19. Several nurses handed the officer masks, which the officer discarded, according to the account on Twitter.
The department's Office of Police Accountability is investigating the complaint.
The police department wrote in a blotter post on Sunday:
"All our officers and civilian employees have previously been directed to follow CDC and City of Seattle mask guidelines for their safety and the safety of our community. The behavior outlined in last night’s post is unacceptable and not what we expect of our Department members,” the post said.
“We know the profound impacts that COVID has created for our community. We will hold our personnel accountable for actions that violate policy and the trust of the community we serve."
1,817 new coronavirus cases reported in Washington state
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,817 new coronavirus cases on Sunday.
The update brings the state's totals to 289,939 cases and 3,903 deaths, meaning that 1.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday. The state does not report new death data on weekends.
The Department of Health experienced technical challenges processing COVID-19 data Saturday and was unable to provide updated tallies until Sunday. It will not provide updates Monday as state employees observe the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
The new cases may include up to 950 duplicates, according to the health department.
In addition, 16,558 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 188 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 4,603 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,152 deaths.
On Dec. 16, DOH’s case, hospitalization and death counts started including both confirmed cases and probable cases in its total count. According to DOH, probable cases refer to people who received a positive antigen test result but not a positive molecular test result, while confirmed cases refer to those who have received a positive molecular test result.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases.
Fauci says federal approval of Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca vaccines is ‘weeks away’
President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans during his first 100 days in office got a seal of approval from the country’s top infectious disease expert on Sunday.
“The feasibility of his goal is absolutely clear, there’s no doubt about it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
He also voiced approval for steps Biden has outlined. Since last month, the U.S. has been using vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. Fauci said he expects drugs made by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca to get federal approval soon.
“We’re weeks away, not months away,” he said.
Read the full story here.
Seattle Public Library has reading suggestions before this year's indoor MLK day
Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — and with COVID-19 cases still high across Washington state, many will likely spend it indoors.
The Seattle Public Library has some ideas for how you and the teens in your life can spend that time: You can read books on social justice and activism to honor the life of the legend.
SPL recommends some titles across different grade levels, including. Here are a few that stand out to us: "Muslim Girl," by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, chronicles the author's experience of growing up Muslim-American in a post-Sept. 11 world.
Carol Anderon's "We Are Not Yet Equal" explores social justice movements across history, "each met with a corresponding backlash from white society."
"Black Enough" is a collection of stories from youth on the experience of being young and Black in America.
Check out the full list here.
Rodin Museum sculpture garden in Paris reopens to public
PARIS (AP) — There is a ray of light for Parisians who, like the rest of the French nation this weekend, begin to observe a tightened coronavirus curfew: The famous Rodin Museum sculpture gardens is reopening to visitors.
Though the rococo museum, showcasing the world’s largest collection of Rodin sculptures, remains closed, visitors are now able to enter the sculpture-filled surrounding gardens that overlooked the gold dome of Les Invalides monument. They had been shuttered since November and reopened Saturday.
Now, the pink viburnum is in bloom, and forsythia buds poke out between the bronze forms.
Read more about it here.
How much learning have Washington students missed? The state doesn’t know
Halfway into this unprecedented school year, it’s clear that many children are struggling. But in Washington, there’s little information on how students are faring academically, or how this grand experiment in online learning disrupted the instruction that, until this point, tests had tracked. It matters to public schools because, after enrollment declines this year, districts could lose millions in funding. And more parents are evaluating whether to return.
To get a sense of how students are doing academically, The Seattle Times requested recent academic screeners and diagnostic tests from 18 districts, representing about one third of the state’s K-12 public school enrollment.
While the evidence is sparse, subtle signs suggest that kids from low-income backgrounds — who are less likely to have sufficient space, devices or connectivity — are losing out. Some districts are issuing more F’s, often to students who spend less time engaged online. And in Tacoma, students who performed the worst academically before the pandemic might have been the least connected to school this fall.
Read the start of our "Losing Ground?" series here.
A worrying coronavirus mutation is discovered in Washington state — but hasn’t spread
Three COVID-19 infections diagnosed in Washington in October were caused by virus with a mutation that might boost the respiratory bug’s ability to dodge immune defenses.
The mutation, called E484K, is also present in two of the worrisome new viral variants spreading around the globe — those that originated in South Africa and Brazil. But the virus detected in Washington did not have any of the other mutations that characterize those variants, said researchers at the UW Medicine Virology Lab.
No other infections with the mutation have been detected since October, though surveillance is limited in the state.
Read the full story here.
Even at health care facilities, employers and workers are at odds about coronavirus vaccines
Anxious about taking a new vaccine and scarred by a history of being mistreated, many front-line workers at hospitals and nursing homes are balking at getting inoculated against the coronavirus.
Anxious about their patients’ health and scarred by many thousands of deaths in the past year, hospitals and nursing homes are desperate to have their employees vaccinated.
Those opposing forces have spawned an unusual situation: In addition to educating their workers about the benefits of the coronavirus vaccines, a growing number of employers are dangling incentives like cash, extra time off and even Waffle House gift cards for those who get inoculated, while in at least a few cases saying they will fire those who refuse.
Read more here.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
A new mutation is here, writes Sandi Doughton. Three COVID-19 infections in Washington, she said, were caused by a virus with a mutation that is present in variants that originated in South Africa and Brazil. But the virus detected here did not have any of the other mutations that characterize those variants. It hasn't spread.
Even at healthcare facilities, some staffers are anxious about taking a new vaccine and "scarred by a history of being mistreated," The New York Times reports.
The pandemic means you can't go to museums the way you used to, but thanks to this weekend's Pacific NW Magazine, the museum comes to you. Kind of. The University of Washington's Burke Museum has artifacts that represent the start of things on this planet, and you can read about them here.
How is school going this year? The coronavirus upended the state's K-12 public education system, and the state hasn't collected much information on academics so far. The Seattle Times requested academic results from diagnostic tests and academic screeners from 18 school districts representing one third of state enrollment. Parents had a lot to say, too.
On factory floors, a chime and flashing light to maintain distance
BERLIN — The 2019-20 National Basketball Association season was suspended for more than 140 days after a player tested positive for the coronavirus. But once play resumed in late July, no other players tested positive.
The league was able to evade the virus by requiring teams to live and play their games in an isolated area known as the Bubble, at the closed Disney World resort in Florida.
But a small piece of technology also played a role: a wristband that players, coaches and trainers could wear off the court, and that was required for reporters covering the teams. A tiny digital chip in the band enforces social distancing by issuing a warning — by light and sound — when wearers get too close to one another for too long. The bands have been picked up by the National Football League, the Pacific-12 college conference and other sports leagues around the world.
The Munich startup behind the NBA’s wristbands, Kinexon, is happy with the publicity of helping prevent top athletes from catching the virus, even as such devices raise privacy concerns. Now it is looking toward broader arenas: factory production lines, warehouses and logistics centers where millions of people continue to work despite the pandemic.
Read the full story here.
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