Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, July 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Throughout Monday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world.
The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Monday evening.
Washington state confirms 1,101 new coronavirus cases; state's official death toll decreases
Washington health officials released two unusual numbers related to the coronavirus pandemic on Monday evening, confirming 1,101 additional COVID-19 cases and 39 fewer deaths than the day before.
That amounts to a record-high one-day count of diagnoses, bringing the total in the state to 41,757. The previous one-day high was 1,087, reported July 6, the Monday after the holiday weekend. Tallies are often slightly higher on Mondays as the state catches up with data from diagnoses over the weekend.
It's also a rare and significant drop in the death tally, bringing the state's total deaths to 1,399. The state Department of Health (DOH) did not immediately respond to requests for an explanation of the anomaly.
The updated numbers mean about 3.5% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to DOH.
So far, 708,274 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.9% have come back positive since testing began — slightly higher than the rate of positive tests in the past week, which the state reports is at 5.5%.
About 44.6% of the state's deaths have occurred in King County, Washington's most populous, where DOH on Monday confirmed 12,077 diagnoses and 624 deaths (13 fewer deaths than the state reported for King County on Sunday).
White House turns on Fauci as Trump minimizes virus spike
WASHINGTON — With U.S. virus cases spiking and the death toll mounting, the White House is working to undercut its most trusted coronavirus expert, playing down the danger as President Donald Trump pushes to get the economy moving before he faces voters in November.
The U.S. has become a cautionary tale across the globe, with once-falling cases now spiraling. However, Trump suggests the severity of the pandemic that has killed more than 135,000 Americans is being overstated by critics to damage his reelection chances.
Trump on Monday retweeted a post by Chuck Woolery, once the host of TV’s “Love Connection,” claiming that “Everyone is lying” about COVID-19. Woolery’s tweet attacked not just the media and Democrats but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most doctors “that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election.”
At the same time, the president and top White House aides are ramping up attacks against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert. Fauci has been increasingly sidelined by the White House as he sounds alarms about the virus, a most unwelcome message at a time when Trump is focused on pushing an economic rebound.
Race is on to make enough small glass vials to deliver coronavirus vaccine around the world
As scientists race to test coronavirus vaccines in humans, a parallel scramble is underway to produce billions of medical-grade vials and syringes that will be needed to inoculate the world’s population.
The job of delivering vaccine to a majority of humans within two years is so vast that global production of pharmaceutical vials needs to be ramped up by 5 to 10% within two years, a job the industry says requires immediate preparation and increases in production but is not an insurmountable challenge.
Governments and drug companies around the world are placing huge orders worth hundreds of millions of dollars and pushing the makers of vials and syringes to add manufacturing capacity.
Compared with the rush of laboratory studies and clinical trials needed to produce vaccines that can safely and effectively block the virus, the work of producing vials is prosaic stuff — but just as important.
Trump and DeVos can’t force schools to reopen by withholding funds
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have told public school districts they must open fully for the 2020-2021 school year during the coronavirus pandemic, and they threatened to withhold federal funding from school districts that don’t comply.
The threats, however, are largely just that: threats without real teeth behind them.
While presidents can in some cases legally withhold funding appropriated by Congress, they can’t do it without notifying Congress and in some cases getting approval. (Some have tried and been struck down by courts, and DeVos has been held in contempt of court as education secretary for refusing to stop collecting loans from former students of a chain of for-profit colleges that closed.)
Trump and DeVos — who often talk about the importance of local control of education — also have no authority to force schools to open at a particular time or in a specific way.
Those are state and local decisions, regardless of how much Trump and DeVos shout about it.
California institutes statewide crackdown as virus skyrockets
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday extended the closure of bars and indoor dining statewide and ordered gyms, churches and hair salons closed in most places as coronavirus cases keep rising in the nation’s most populated state.
On July 1, Newsom ordered 19 counties with a surging number of confirmed infections to close bars and indoor operations at restaurants, wineries, zoos and family entertainment centers like bowling alleys and miniature golf.
The Democratic governor extended that order statewide Monday. He also imposed additional restrictions on the 30 counties now with rising numbers, including the most populated of Los Angeles and San Diego, by ordering worship services to stop and gyms, hair salons, indoor malls and offices for noncritical industries to shut down.
“The data suggests not everybody is practicing common sense,” said Newsom, whose order takes effect immediately.
He didn’t include schools, which are scheduled to resume in a few weeks in much of the state. But Monday, the state’s two largest school districts, San Diego and Los Angeles, announced their students would start the school year with online learning only. LA Unified is the second-largest public school district in the country.
Subways sparkle, but does cleaning decrease COVID-19 risk?
Mass transit systems around the world have taken unprecedented — and expensive — steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including New York shutting down its subways overnight and testing powerful ultraviolet lamps to disinfect seats, poles and floors.
The cleaning measures produced something commuters have not seen in a while, or possibly ever: thousands of freshly scrubbed cars that look, feel and even smell clean. But experts say those steps solve only part of the problem, and transit officials are studying more advanced methods that might someday automatically disinfect transit systems around the clock.
All that cleaning does cut the threat of catching the virus, experts say, but the benefits are limited.
The virus transmits predominantly through droplets in the air — it’s “everywhere and could be nowhere,” said Robyn Gershon, a clinical professor of epidemiology at New York University.
Cleaning a train car at a maintenance yard overnight — or even several times during the day, as New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority does — might not help the transit employee or passenger stuck in close quarters with a coughing person.
Wearing a face mask “will protect us the most, having that control among ourselves,” Gershon said. “I think the rest of it is really more the illusion, and that’s not a small thing because it plays with our psyches.”
"But to what extent are we now overspending, or veering too far into security theater?” asked Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the New York-based advocacy group Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which found that cleaning topped a list of actions people wanted before they would feel comfortable riding mass transit again.
Antibody testing of UW Medicine health care workers shows low COVID-19 prevalence
Approximately 3 percent of front-line UW Medicine health care workers have COVID-19 antibodies, below the rate found in the general population, the UW Medicine Virology Lab announced Monday
These early results show that steps taken to protect health care workers are effective and that front-line workers at UW Medicine are at no greater risk than the the population at large, UW Medicine said in a statement.
UW Medicine’s goal in offering antibody testing to all employees has been to determine the prevalence of previous COVID-19 infection within the population of health care workers compared to the prevalence in the general public.
The initial phase of testing focused on staff at Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, Airlift Northwest and UW Neighborhood Clinics with direct exposure to COVID-19 patients, including those working in the Emergency Department and dedicated COVID-19 intensive and acute care units.
A second phase of testing included health care workers from regular inpatient units. UW Medicine employees who fall outside of these two groups are also being offered the test in a third phase, UW Medicine said.
"Coronavirus transmission risk can be successfully mitigated if early and frequent testing and safety measures are implemented," the statement said. "This allows for the rapid isolation of known coronavirus cases, which creates a safer environment for hospital workers and patients while lowering risk to the general public they interact with outside of work."
Wisconsin congressman's coughing fit goes viral; he blames 'dry throat'
A Wisconsin congressman whose coughing fit at the state Republican Party convention drew widespread attention because masks were not required at the event was suffering from nothing more than a dry throat, his campaign said Monday.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, 65, began coughing Saturday when he started his speech at the convention before about 300 attendees at a Green Bay conference center. The event proceeded even as Wisconsin saw a spike in coronavirus cases, breaking a daily record for newly confirmed cases for a third straight day.
“It’s time to talk about Donald John Trump,” said an unmasked Grothman, before coughing and loosening his tie. Grothman regained his composure and proceeded to give a defense of Trump’s first term in office on a variety of issues.
One clip of him coughing that circulated on Twitter had been viewed more than 4.3 million times as of Monday morning. Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who represents the Madison area in Congress, commented on Grothman’s coughing with, “Wow.”
“Congressman Grothman’s cough was due to a dry throat and a need for a drink of water,” Grothman’s campaign manager, Alec Hanna, said in an email Monday. “It has not persisted and he is exhibiting no other symptoms associated with COVID-19. He previously took a COVID-19 test, with a negative result.”
Time to make masks mandatory? It’s not just a U.S. debate
Amid pervasive backsliding on social distancing, Britain and France are weighing whether to require people to wear masks in public places.
Scientists say the two countries’ governments should have done so ever since they started easing lockdowns — like many other European nations did — instead of exposing their populations to the risk of infections from mass dance parties and summer vacationers who think there’s no longer anything to worry about.
Whether to make masks mandatory isn’t just a matter of debate in the United States, where infection rates are still climbing fast.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged U.K. residents Monday to wear face coverings in shops and other tight indoor spaces — but stopped short of making it compulsory.
Critics have accused Johnson’s government of failing to provide clarity on mask-wearing in the days since he began backtracking on previous advice that suggested face covers were not necessary. After the prime minister then was photographed wearing one in a shop, government ministers appeared on TV urging personal choice in the mask issue.
Meanwhile, France’s government said Monday it’s considering requiring masks in all indoor public places amid signs of a small rise in confirmed virus cases — and a big drop in public vigilance.
Pandemic could push millions more into hunger, says UN
The United Nations says the ranks of the world’s hungry grew by 10 million last year, and warns that the coronavirus pandemic could push as many as 130 million more people into chronic hunger this year.
The grim assessment was contained in the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, an annual report released Monday by the five U.N. agencies that produced it.
Preliminary projections based on available global economic outlooks suggest the pandemic “may add an additional 83 (million) to 132 million people to the ranks of the undernourished in 2020,” the report said.
Compounding the situation is what the report’s authors described as “unprecedented Desert Locust outbreaks” in Eastern Africa.
The U.N. agencies estimated that nearly 690 million people, or nearly 9% of the world’s population, went hungry last year, an increase of 10 million since 2018 and of nearly 60 million since 2014.
As a result of the pandemic, food supply disruptions, lost livelihoods and the inability of people working abroad to send remittances home to their families mean it’s “even more difficult for the poorer and vulnerable populations to have access to healthy diets,” the U.N. agencies concluded.
The report noted that after steadily declining for decades, chronic hunger “slowly began to rise in 2014 and continues to do so.”
COVID-19 reinvades states that already fought it back
The first states to endure the coronavirus this spring hoped the worst would be behind them.
Instead, the virus is coming back.
Many places that suffered most in the first wave of infections, including California, Louisiana, Michigan and Washington state, are seeing case counts climb again after months of declines. It’s not just a matter of more testing. Hospitalizations and, in some places, deaths are rising, too.
The disease is raging — Florida reported 15,300 cases Sunday, the biggest single-day increase of the U.S. pandemic — and experts say the resurgence in the original battlegrounds has common causes. They include a population no longer willing to stay inside, Republicans who refuse face masks as a political statement, street protests over police violence and young people convinced the virus won’t seriously hurt them.
And even though some of the states led by Democratic governors delayed restarting their economies until weeks after more eager peers like Georgia, they still jumped too soon, critics say.
“I don’t think there’s any question about that anymore. Even in California, we opened up too fast,” said John Swartzberg, a doctor who is a clinical professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley.
So far, the rebound hasn’t reached the states hardest hit by the first wave: New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that it’s on its way.
“We’re going to go through an increase, and I can feel it coming,” he told WAMC radio. “The only question is how far up our rate goes. But you can’t have it all across the country and then have it not come back.”
‘We’re just overwhelmed’: Inside California hospitals as COVID-19 surges
Until now, California hospitals avoided the dreaded surge in coronavirus patients that threatened to overwhelm wards and stretch thin staff and supplies. But now, with coronavirus hospitalizations in the state at an all-time high, doctors and nurses at some hospitals say the nightmare has arrived.
Hospitals up and down the state report that their beds are filling up fast, staffers are tiring and medications used to treat coronavirus patients are running low. The surge has hit California unevenly, with some facilities reporting their numbers staying flat in recent weeks, while others have risen sharply.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re just overwhelmed — emotionally, physically exhausted. We don’t have enough workers for all these patients; we’re working extra shifts,” said Mary Lynn Briggs, an intensive care unit nurse at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield. “I’m expecting things to go from bad to worse over at least the next couple of weeks.”
Sylvain Trepanier, chief clinical executive for Providence Southern California whose 13 hospitals in Orange, L.A. and San Bernardino counties had as of Friday experienced a 40% increase in COVID-19 patients over the last 10 days, said, “Thank God we didn’t see that wave [then] as big as we anticipated, but that allowed us to be ready.”
The months since March allowed hospitals time to prepare for such a surge. Doctors learned more about how to treat COVID-19 patients, hospital administrators obtained more protective gear, and staffers know more about how the coronavirus is transmitted and how to protect themselves.
Recent projections suggest that the hospital system in California will be able to handle the demand, in part because busier hospitals can transfer patients to facilities with more space. But even still, the strain on some hospitals is unprecedented.
Statewide, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased nearly 50% over the last two weeks and now sits at a record high. The earlier peak of 3,497 hospitalized patients in California on April 29 was surpassed June 20, and the number has continued to climb every day since then. On Saturday, 6,322 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in California.
Health officials have linked the surge to an increase in transmission of the coronavirus that began in late May, as some counties began reopening businesses, thousands gathered in large protests and some people, tired of staying home, met up with family and friends.
Court won't force Houston to host GOP event
The Texas Supreme Court on Monday upheld Houston’s refusal to allow the state Republican convention to hold in-person events in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The state GOP convention had been scheduled to begin Thursday at Houston’s downtown convention center and was expected to draw thousands of participants.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said last week that he had directed city lawyers to terminate the contract because he believed the event could not be held safely. He denied that the convention was cancelled due to political differences and cited the potential risk to service workers and first responders if the virus spread through the convention.
The state party sued a day later, alleging the city illegally breached the contract and accusing Turner of shedding “crocodile tears.”
State District Judge Larry Weiman sided with Turner, citing Houston statistics that show major hospitals exceeding their base intensive-care capacity due to an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
You're in the cramped apartment of an EMT in a coronavirus hot spot. Later, you're huddling with a first-year doctor in an intensive care unit. A free and vivid play called "The Line," streaming now, takes you deep into the harrowing world of New York City's front-line responders in the pandemic.
Go to the moon — no, not that one. Did you know American astronauts trained in Idaho for their 1969 moon missions? A free online tour of the weird attraction is among our Weekly Wonder suggestions for kids and families.
Challenging times inspire many artists — including kids — to create their best work. The free, Seattle-based Corona Multimedia Showcase wants to encourage them by displaying their creative projects online. Here's how to submit kids' creations.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state health officials confirmed 1,438 new cases for Friday and Saturday. One local city will be mailing masks to every household as cases surge. Here’s a look at how to interpret the data.
The virus is raging as the U.S. sees a long-expected rise in deaths. Florida broke a national record with 15,300 cases reported in a single day, even as Disney World celebrated a surreal reopening. And in Houston, leaders want to lock the staggered city back down.
How safe is a return to school for America's children? The Trump administration's assurances are misguided about this and other realities of the pandemic, fact-checkers say. Public health leaders are warning that reopening the wrong way could drive infection and death rates up.
A 30-year-old man went to a "COVID party," thinking the virus was a hoax. Now he's dead, a Texas hospital says.
Inmates are being treated like "less than a dog" amid 229 COVID-19 cases at Washington's Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, families say. They're describing "disgusting" conditions, hours spent waiting for the bathroom, food problems and guards without masks.
Are you required to wear a mask on a plane? Are your fellow passengers? It depends. Travel Troubleshooter cuts through the complications. Oh, and business is booming wildly for the corner of the industry that lets rich travelers avoid this issue entirely.
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