Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, July 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 It is no longer being updated.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 coronavirus cases continue to surge, some health officials, including the government’s top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, agree that the United States is “going in the wrong direction.” Fauci told senators Tuesday some regions are putting the entire country at risk.
King County has also seen a sharp increase in cases recently, and health experts have confirmed people between the ages of 20 and 39 account for more than half of new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. In Snohomish County, officials are not only hesitant about continuing to reopen, they’re worried about having to take a step back in the process.
Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Tuesday can be found here, and all our COVID-19 coverage can be found here.
As cases rise, Inslee adds requirements for businesses and prepares changes to Washington’s coronavirus reopening plan
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee is preparing to announce changes to Washington’s coronavirus reopening plan early next week, as cases rise around the state and across the nation.
In the meantime, Inslee’s office announced a short-term extension through July 9 of the statewide emergency coronavirus restrictions, which were to expire Wednesday. The restrictions, known as the “Safe Start” plan, adds requirements for employers to follow the directives of public-health authorities battling the pandemic, according to a statement.
That short-term extension comes “in anticipation of additional modifications that will be made early next week,” according to the statement by Inslee’s office. The Safe Start plan was to expire Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the governor’s office intends to issue updated guidance on Thursday for the Safe Start plan, according to the statement.
Coronavirus cases rose by nearly 50% in June, led by states that reopened first
Coronavirus infections in the United States surged nearly 50% in June as states relaxed quarantine rules and tried to reopen their economies, data compiled Wednesday showed, and several states moved to reimpose restrictions on bars and recreation.
More than 800,000 new cases were reported across the country last month, led by Florida, Arizona, Texas and California — bringing the nation’s officially reported total to just over 2.6 million, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.
States that took an aggressive approach to reopening led the country in infection spikes — along with California, the nation’s most populous state, where leaders have been more cautious. California on Wednesday reported 110 new deaths, more than any other state.
Dozens more UW students test positive in Greek Row outbreak
At least 80 University of Washington students living in fraternity houses have tested positive for COVID-19, with hundreds of test results pending.
Experts say the outbreak, along with cases among student athletes, is a troubling sign of what may be in store if colleges reopen in the fall.
University leadership said this week they hope to reopen in-person, with larger classes held virtually, but that plans could change based on the virus’ spread.
Daniel Leifer, a pediatrician studying dermatology at UW, estimates he saw about a dozen parties when walking by Greek Row in recent months. Students stood close together, and masks were nowhere to be seen, he said.
“I don’t hold it against college students that they’re partying with each other and getting to know each other, because that’s everyone’s college experience. It just doesn’t make for a safe campus,” Leifer said. “A lot of college reopening plans are premised on students wearing masks and social distancing. This crystallized for me that that doesn’t seem very realistic.”
Coronavirus testing supplies from the Trump administration are arriving unlabeled or poorly packaged, state health secretary says
In the most recent obstacle Washington has run into with federal coronavirus testing supplies, hundreds of thousands of items are arriving unlabeled or poorly packaged, leading to major delays and costs, according to state Secretary of Health John Wiesman.
Wiesman described the problems in a letter sent Tuesday to Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department’s assistant secretary for health, who has been leading the federal government’s testing response.
Among the worst-affected testing supplies: transport media, the chemicals used to preserve specimens during shipment to labs. Washington state has been receiving unlabeled molecular transport media, which could produce cyanide gas if used with incompatible testing platforms, Wiesman wrote.
Other federal supplies Wiesman said “have failed our quality-control checks or presented other major barriers to usage” include: vials without clear expiration dates or identification labels; about 250,000 bulk-packaged polyester spun swabs, which require resterilizing and repackaging; and “a wide variety of other poorly packaged and unlabeled goods.”
Lines for coronavirus tests sometimes stretch miles
Surging cases of the coronavirus across the Sun Belt are sparking unprecedented demand for testing, with lines stretching miles in the summer heat, supplies running out and medical workers left exhausted.
Supply-chain issues that hampered testing from the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic have improved but not ended, even as many states opened sites that require no appointment or referral.
Reagents — substances used to carry out tests — and pipettes remain in short supply in many places, and the machines that run the tests are expensive and time-consuming to build.
There are also limits on collection sites, exacerbated by rising summer temperatures. Staff at testing sites, standing outside in full-body protective gear, must rotate more often to avoid heat-related health problems. Some testing sites have been temporarily or permanently closed because of extreme heat.
On a call with reporters Wednesday, Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing czar, said the Department of Health and Human Services would help at least three states — Florida, Louisiana and Texas — with surge testing to identify people under the age of 35 who are spreading the virus and might not be having symptoms.
Fred Hutch shrinks staff by 5%, citing coronavirus ‘volatility’
Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced Tuesday it had laid off employees and eliminated open positions totaling about 5% of its 3,000-person workforce to cut costs in preparation for “increased volatility” in funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nonprofit research institute laid off 76 employees at its South Lake Union campus and eliminated 81 open positions. All the affected personnel and positions were administrative and not funded directly by grants, said spokesperson Shelby Barnes.
Fred Hutch scientists have been at the forefront of tracking the spread of the coronavirus through the United States and monitoring how the disease develops in front-line responders like hospital and homelessness services workers.
But the disease has dealt a sucker punch to the center’s finances: Fred Hutch expects a $50 million budget shortfall in the next year, the result of economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to control its spread.
Washington state hits highest 14-day average of new daily cases since pandemic began
State health officials confirmed 611 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Wednesday, and seven additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 33,435 cases and 1,339 deaths, meaning about 4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
The latest count also puts Washington at an average of 475 cases per day for the past 14 days, the state's highest 14-day average since the pandemic began.
So far, 571,964 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.8% have come back positive since testing began. In the past week, 4.8% of tests in Washington have come back positive, according to the state's risk assessment dashboard.
In King County, Washington's most populous, DOH has confirmed 10,304 diagnoses and 612 deaths, accounting for nearly 46% of the state's death toll.
At 6.1%, King County's all-time positive test rate is higher than the statewide average, but the county's positive test rate for the past week is 3.3%, which is lower than the state's rate for the same period.
Reports: NFL preseason expected to be cut from four games to two
In one of its most significant alterations because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the NFL is expected to cut its preseason from four games to two, according to multiple reports Wednesday.
Pro Football Talk reported that the NFL will make an official announcement of the move, which will scrap weeks one and four, Thursday.
PFT reported that the move is being made to give players more time to get in game shape since teams were not allowed to have on-field workouts during the spring and to cut down on the amount of travel.
The Seahawks were scheduled to open the preseason Aug. 13 against the Raiders in Seattle. They were scheduled to play at Houston on Aug. 22, host the Chargers on Aug. 27 and play at Minnesota on Sept. 3.
That means Seattle could still have preseason games against Houston and the Chargers.
Washington state prison reports 220 confirmed COVID-19 cases
About 220 officers and inmates at a Washington state prison have tested positive for COVID-19, nearly doubling cases since restricting movement in its medium-security unit last month.
The state Department of Corrections brought in the Washington National Guard last week to administer coronavirus testing at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Franklin County.
The results showed 171 inmates and 47 staff members tested positive Tuesday, the Tri-City Herald reported. Two inmates died.
California officials blasted for prison coronavirus outbreak
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers harshly criticized state corrections officials’ “failure of leadership” Wednesday, saying they botched their handling of the coronavirus pandemic by inadvertently transferring infected inmates to a virus-free prison, triggering the state’s worst prison outbreak.
A third of the 3,500 inmates at San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco have tested positive since officials transferred 121 inmates from the heavily impacted California Institution for Men in Chino on May 30 without properly testing them for infections.
“I don’t say this lightly, but this is a failure of leadership. This crisis is completely avoidable,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents the San Quentin area.
The transfer from the stricken prison in Southern California “should have never happened,” McGuire said at a Senate oversight hearing. “And then the virus spread like wildfire.”
Trump at Rushmore: Jets and fireworks, but masks optional
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — When President Donald Trump speaks at the Mount Rushmore national memorial before the first fireworks show there in years, he’ll stand before a crowd of thousands of people who won’t be required to socially distance or wear masks despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Friday night’s event, with 7,500 tickets issued, will feature a patriotic display at a monument known as “the Shrine of Democracy” in a swath of the country largely loyal to Trump.
Many without tickets are expected to crowd into other areas around the monument where they can get a glimpse of the president and the fireworks.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump ally who has largely avoided ordering restrictions during the pandemic, said this week that the event wouldn’t require social distancing or masks, though masks will be available to anyone who wants one.
Public health experts say the lack of social distancing, and mask wearing being optional, could lead to a surge in the disease.
Officials: Oregon could reach 900 new COVID-19 cases a day
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon had a record 281 new confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday, but officials predict that the increase may become much steeper during the next month — potentially reaching 900 new cases per day.
In addition, health officials said daily admissions to hospitals could increase from about eight people per day to 27.
“Our latest projections showed that we are on track to hit a worst-case scenario model that we had just two weeks ago,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s epidemiologist, said at a news conference.
Austin City Limits music festival canceled as virus surges
AUSTIN, Texas — Austin City Limits has joined the ranks of major music festivals to be canceled because of the coronavirus.
Festival organizers said in a statement Wednesday that scrapping the three-day October event was “the only responsible solution.” COVID-19 cases are surging in Texas, with the state reporting another daily high Tuesday of 7,000 new confirmed cases and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott urging people to stay home.
The announcement comes a day after Bumbershoot organizers announced that that staple of Seattle entertainment won't take place this year.
NYC officials halt indoor dining, alarmed by virus rise in other states
NEW YORK — With the coronavirus spreading rapidly in other large states like California, Florida and Texas, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that New York City would not resume indoor dining at restaurants next week as anticipated.
The decision to indefinitely delay indoor dining, which was made in conjunction with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, comes as New York officials are increasingly concerned that the increase in virus cases in more than 30 states could trickle back to New York, which has managed to rein in the outbreak.
“Indoors is the problem more and more,” said de Blasio, adding that “the news we have gotten from around the country gets worse and worse.”
“It is not the time to forge ahead with indoor dining,” he said.
Cases spike in Sunbelt, other states back off on reopening
PHOENIX — Arizona recorded more coronavirus deaths, infections, hospitalizations and emergency-room visits in a single day than ever before in a crisis Wednesday across the Sunbelt that sent a shudder through other parts of the country and led distant states to put their own reopening plans on hold.
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence planned to visit Arizona, where cases have spiked since stay-at-home orders expired in mid-May. Arizona reported record single-day highs of almost 4,900 new COVID-19 cases, 88 new deaths, close to 1,300 ER visits and a running total of nearly 2,900 people in the hospital.
In Florida, hospitals braced for an influx of patients, with the biggest medical center in Florida’s hardest-hit county, Miami’s Jackson Health System, scaling back elective surgeries and other procedures to make room for victims of the resurgence underway across the South and West.
Florida recorded more than 6,500 new cases — down from around 9,000 on some days last week, but still alarming — and a running total of over 3,500 deaths. Ahead of the Fourth of July, counties in South Florida are closing beaches to fend off large crowds that could spread the virus.
Health experts say the virus in Florida and other Southern states risks becoming uncontrollable, with case numbers too large to trace.
The soaring numbers have raised fears that many other states could see the same phenomenon if they reopen too, or that people from the South and West could spread the virus to other regions.
Pfizer reports encouraging, very early vaccine test results
The first of four experimental COVID-19 vaccines being tested by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech showed encouraging results in very early testing of 45 people, the companies said Wednesday.
Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose, in two shots about a month apart, had immune responses in the range expected to be protective, when compared to some COVID-19 survivors, according to the preliminary results.
Side effects were typical for vaccines, mostly pain at the injection site and fever.
The report has been submitted for publication in a scientific journal but not yet reviewed. With its other potential candidates still in the earliest stage of testing, Pfizer aims to open a large-scale study this summer but can’t yet say which shot is best to include.
Amsterdam’s red-light district emerges from lockdown
AMSTERDAM — It wasn’t quite business as usual Wednesday as Amsterdam’s red-light district emerged from coronavirus lockdown, but it was close.
“We are, of course, used to taking care of hygiene,” said Janet van der Berg of the Prostitution Information Center in the heart of the network of cobbled streets and canals where sex workers pose in windows bathed in red light to attract customers.
Sex work was among the professions allowed back in business as of July 1 in the latest relaxation of virus-prevention measures in the Netherlands. Gyms also reopened their doors Wednesday.
The red-light district remains one of Amsterdam’s major tourism magnets with its often seedy mix of bars, brothels, sex shows and coffee shops selling marijuana.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected dating in Seattle?
We recently launched a weekly feature called Seattle Dating Scene, featuring readers’ thoughts and stories about what it’s like to date in Seattle.
Last week, we asked: "How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your romantic relationships?"
Herd immunity and COVID-19: What you need to know
Curious as to whether herd immunity against COVID-19 might slow the spread of the disease?
Understand how herd immunity works and what experts are saying about its potential impact on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coronavirus caught us off guard. Here’s what disaster preppers say we needed to do all along.
For three months, Jonathan and Kylene Jones didn’t step foot inside a grocery store. They relied on their Utah home’s built-in storage room supply: flour, rice, beans, a freezer full of food.
That was last summer.
The couple, founders of the “The Provident Prepper” website and YouTube channel, were doing a 90-day trial of surviving solely on their food storage and garden.
So when the coronavirus erupted in March, emptying grocery stores and turning others into hoarders overnight, they relaxed. Their experiment had shown them they could get through it.
The Joneses acknowledge that very few people have the patience or time to do an experiment like theirs.
But a variety of people who prioritize preparedness say that most people can and should have supplies and plans to get them through several days. It’s doable without entertaining conspiracy theories or spending a fortune on special tools and supplies.
Coronavirus autopsies: A story of 38 brains, 87 lungs and 42 hearts
Autopsies have long been a source of breakthroughs in understanding new diseases, from HIV/AIDS and Ebola, to Lassa fever — and the medical community is counting on them to do the same for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. With a vaccine likely many months away, autopsies are becoming a critical source of information for research into possible treatments.
When the pandemic hit the United States in late March, many hospital systems were too overwhelmed trying to save lives to spend too much time delving into the secrets of the dead. But by late May and June, the first large batch of reports — from patients who died at a half-dozen different institutions — were published in quick succession. The investigations have confirmed some of our early hunches of the disease, refuted others — and opened up new mysteries about the novel pathogen that has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide.
Among the most important findings, consistent across several studies, is confirmation the virus appears to attack the lungs the most ferociously. They also found the pathogen in parts of the brain, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, spleen and in the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, as some had previously suspected. Researchers also found widespread clotting in many organs.
But the brain and heart yielded surprises.
Yakima-area fitness center fined nearly $10,000 for violating Inslee's order
A fitness center near Yakima is the first employer to be cited for ignoring Gov. Jay Inslee's Safe Start order, according to the state Department of Labor & Industries (L & I).
Anytime Fitness Selah was open for business on June 15 when, under the governor's order, it was supposed to be closed.
L&I cited company owner Bradshaw Development and issued a fine of $9,639 after the agency received multiple complaints about the gym and L & I inspectors saw several employees working and customers using the facility.
"Before L & I conducted the inspection, state workers contacted the business multiple times," according to a Wednesday news release from L & I. "They informed the business about the order and directed it to close."
Inslee's Safe Start proclamation prohibits businesses from operating if their county isn't far enough along in the state's four-phase reopening plan. Counties' status under the plan is determined by COVID-19 activity there.
Yakima County, where Anytime Fitness Selah is located, remains in the first and most restrictive phase of the plan because it's a major hot spot for the virus in the state. Operating in Yakima County created an "unacceptable risk of coronavirus exposure," according to the citation from L & I's Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
“Our primary focus is making sure employers do everything possible to prevent their workers from being exposed to the coronavirus,” said L & I Director Joel Sacks. “In this case, Anytime Fitness Selah was clearly aware it was operating in defiance of the governor’s order and putting employees at risk. They chose to stay open even after multiple contacts with L & I. And it’s just not fair to businesses that are following the rules when others don’t.”
The business has until July 5 to close or 15 working days to appeal, according to L & I.
Health experts slam U.S. hoarding of only licensed virus drug
LONDON — Health experts on Wednesday slammed the U.S. decision to hog nearly the entire global supply of remdesivir, the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19, warning that type of selfish behavior sets a dangerous precedent for attempts to share scarce treatments amid the pandemic.
The U.S. government announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump had struck “an amazing deal” to buy the drug for Americans, made by Gilead Sciences. The Department of Health and Human Services said Trump has secured 500,000 treatments of the drug through September, representing 100% of Gilead’s July production capacity and 90% of its capacity in August and September.
Early trials testing remdesivir in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 found that those who received the drug recovered quicker than those who didn’t. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for those with severe illness from the coronavirus.
On the bright side...
It’s July! And it’s a day of fresh beginnings, halfway through 2020.
At the aquarium, there's an odd beauty to the new coronavirus restrictions: If you go, you’ll practically have the place to yourself. Here’s what a trip there is like these days.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
As COVID-19 cases climb, Snohomish County might move back to the first phase of reopening. And in King County, where young people account for more than half of new cases, the sustained increases threaten to prevent advancement to Phase 3. Even in a fabled town at the ends of the Earth, cases are mounting.
"You’re taking away our freedoms": Loud protesters heckled Gov Jay Inslee over coronavirus restrictions, forcing him to move indoors to finish yesterday's news conference in Pasco.
The virus is spreading quickly into Republican territory after hitting heavily Democratic areas, and we may see broad ripple effects. These charts tell the story as Republicans, with the exception of the president, increasingly push mask-wearing.
This is not the time for a big July 4 gathering, the southwest Washington city of Longview says. But organizers are pushing forward, with one saying he's "ready to die for this."
How the school day may look: Seattle has laid out more details of a plan that starts with a new daily routine, involves 50 square feet per person, and could end with a chilly bus ride home. Meanwhile, when Washington schools went remote, some English language learners were “totally lost.” Teachers are planning how to change that this fall.
Inside the body, the coronavirus is even more sinister than scientists had realized. They've discovered how the virus sets off a ghoulish transformation involving zombie cells.
Flying without a mask? If you're on Alaska Airlines, expect a yellow penalty card and possibly a ban on flying again.
Sorry, but cross more fun things off the calendar. Bumbershoot is canceled (which could be a blessing in disguise for the music fest), Leavenworth's Oktoberfest isn't happening, and Minor League Baseball is benched for the season.
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