Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, July 14, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 spike in the United States, President Donald Trump is pushing to reopen the economy and the White House is working to undercut its most trusted coronavirus expert.
In Washington state on Monday, health officials released two unusual numbers related to the pandemic, reporting 39 fewer deaths and a record-high 1,101 additional cases.
Throughout Tuesday, 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. Updates from Monday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Inslee pauses reopening of Washington’s counties through July 28 as COVID-19 cases spike
OLYMPIA — Counties in Washington state won’t be able to relax restrictions further for at least two weeks as confirmed cases of the new coronavirus climb around the state, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday.
And with a “steady increase” in cases across Washington, the governor, in a news conference, warned he may have to roll back parts of the gradual reopening made in recent months since the pandemic peaked here.
As the virus roars back across chunks of America, Washington, so far, has avoided the steep rise in confirmed cases and hospitalizations seen in Arizona, Florida and elsewhere.
But Inslee said the current rise of confirmed cases here — along with an estimated transmission rate indicating infected people are spreading the virus to others — leaves Washington in “a dangerous position” if left unchecked.
Baby was infected with coronavirus in womb, study reports
Researchers on Tuesday reported strong evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to a fetus.
A baby born in a Paris hospital in March to a mother with COVID-19 tested positive for the virus and developed symptoms of inflammation in his brain, said Dr. Daniele De Luca, who led the research team and is chief of the division of pediatrics and neonatal critical care at Paris-Saclay University Hospitals. The baby, now more than 3 months old, recovered without treatment and is “very much improved, almost clinically normal,” De Luca said, adding that the mother, who needed oxygen during the delivery, is healthy.
De Luca said the virus appeared to have been transmitted through the placenta of the 23-year-old mother.
Washington state is adjusting how it counts COVID-19 deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) is refining how it records deaths as it works to better track the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, anytime someone with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis dies, DOH has been attributing those deaths to the virus, said Katie Hutchinson, heath statistics manager for DOH.
In the vast majority of those cases, COVID-19 was the cause of the person’s death. But sometimes, people with COVID-19 happen to die of something else. Or, they have incomplete death certificates and the state isn’t immediately sure whether COVID-19 played a role.
To differentiate among these, DOH on Monday began classifying deaths of people with COVID-19 into four categories: Confirmed, pending, suspect and non-COVID-19-related.
DOH has removed deaths from the official tally when it determined COVID-19 was not the primary cause. Hutchinson said the agency plans to continue doing so.
Amazon job openings have fallen 19% companywide in five months — dropping even more in Seattle — but the tally is still more than 30,000
In the last five months, Amazon job listings decreased about 19% globally, but still number more than 30,000. In the company’s headquarters city of Seattle, listings are off 36%.
Amazon has more openings in Seattle — about 7,300 — than any other single location, down from about 11,500 in early February.
That was before the coronavirus pandemic upended all aspects of life, driving a wave of business to Amazon — which made 175,000 temporary hires in its warehouses and transportation network this spring — while much of the rest of the economy shut down, causing widespread unemployment.
The Seattle-area’s role as a technology hub has insulated it to a certain extent. King County’s unemployment rate was 14.3% in May. (The June update is due next week.) But employment in the information industry, which includes many technology jobs, was up 2.8% in 12 months ended in May.
As cities nationwide reconsider back-to-school plans, Seattle teachers union pushes back, School Board members eye an alternative
It’s been two weeks since Seattle Public Schools released preliminary details about its plan to reopen buildings in the fall. Now, amid heightened debate across the region and the country about the health risks of resuming instruction in person, the teachers union and some School Board members are searching for alternatives.
This week, the Seattle Education Association issued a statement opposing in-person teaching in the fall, calling it “reckless” under current conditions and advocating 100% remote learning. The union is currently bargaining with the school district over work conditions for this fall.
At the same time, a few School Board members are drafting an ambitious alternative to the complex reopening plan the district had previously proposed: two hours of instruction outdoors on most days, and remote learning in most other cases. School buildings would be reserved for a narrow list of activities, including special-education services and support for remote learning.
‘Return to work’ COVID antibody testing comes with warning
Doctors say employers should not use COVID-19 antibody tests to decide whether employees are safe to return to work, yet such testing is being promoted by lab companies and hospitals to businesses through “back to work” programs.
The idea is tantalizing: If scientists knew a COVID-19 infection caused the body to produce antibodies that reliably protect against re-infection, determining who’s safe to return to work could be as simple as a well-designed blood test.
Yet the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health each say the evidence backing test accuracy and protectiveness from antibodies is not yet strong enough. Even the lab companies and hospitals admit they can’t offer “immunity certificates” to people who have the antibodies today.
“We don’t know what level of antibodies makes someone immune to COVID-19. All we can tell is that the person has been exposed,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, a Texas allergist and immunologist who is president of the American Medical Association. “We don’t necessarily know what that immune response means, in terms of someone’s ability to go back to work or to school.”
State confirms 547 new COVID-19 cases and 5 more deaths; positive test rate at 5.9%
State health officials confirmed 547 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Tuesday, and five new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 42,304 cases and 1,404 deaths, meaning about 3.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
So far, 718,234 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.9% have come back positive.
The state has confirmed 12,213 diagnoses and 624 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll.
Public Health warns of methanol in some hand sanitizers
Consumers should take extra precautions with their hand sanitizer, according to Public Health - Seattle & King County, which warned against products that may cause methanol poisoning.
The agency sent out a series of tweets, including a list of 11 manufacturers whose products should be avoided.
Another tweet noted the signs of methanol poisoning, including headache, blurred vision or blindness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of coordination and decreased alertness. Anyone experiencing symptoms should call Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Public Health also urged consumers to only choose a sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol; to avoid products that say “FDA approved,” since the are no sanitizers that are approved by the agency; and keep hand sanitizers out of the reach of children and supervise their use.
Pence urges school reopening in Louisiana amid virus surge
BATON ROUGE, La. — Vice President Mike Pence insisted Tuesday the country’s schools should reopen to in-person instruction for students, making the point in Louisiana as the state has reemerged as one of the nation’s hot spots for the coronavirus only months after signs pointed to a successful outbreak response.
Appearing at Louisiana State University, the Republican vice president described the nation as “in a much better position today to deal with the pandemic” even as virus cases surge across much of the country. He and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called for students at every level from elementary school through college to return to classrooms, with Pence calling that critical to reopening the country.
“It’s the right thing to do for our children. It’s also the right thing to do for families,” Pence said at Tiger Stadium, where he met with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, members of the congressional delegation and state higher education officials.
Montana care home refused free tests. Now, nearly all have COVID-19.
BILLINGS, Mont. — It was meant to be a last line of defense to protect the most vulnerable as the coronavirus spread across the United States: Montana officials offered free testing in May for staff and residents at assisted living and long-term care facilities.
But not all of them followed through, according to state data, including a facility in Billings, Montana’s largest city, that cares for people with dementia and other memory problems. The virus has infected almost every resident there and killed eight since July 6, accounting for almost a quarter of Montana’s 34 confirmed deaths. Thirty-six employees also have tested positive.
Early results are promising from coronavirus-vaccine testing in Seattle
A coronavirus vaccine being tested in Seattle triggered strong immune responses in 45 volunteers, according to preliminary results published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
After two doses of the vaccine, volunteers’ neutralizing antibody responses were higher than the average levels seen in the blood of people who had been infected with the novel coronavirus.
Volunteers were first injected in Seattle on March 16, marking the first human tests on any coronavirus vaccine. Since then, the field has exploded, with more than 20 experimental vaccines now in human trials and more than 100 in preclinical stages.
Dr. Lisa Jackson, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, is lead author of the new report.
“I think the results are encouraging,” she said.
The speed with which the trials have progressed is also impressive. “Processes that usually take years or even decades are now being accomplished in a matter of months,” Jackson said.
Discoveries from decades-long HIV research now repurposed in race for coronavirus vaccine
In 1984, scientists discovered the virus at the root of an alarming epidemic that was sickening otherwise healthy young men with aggressive cancers and rare, life-threatening pneumonias.
The discovery of HIV was a long-awaited moment, and Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler vowed that the scourge of AIDS would soon end. A vaccine would be ready for testing within two years, she proclaimed.
“Yet another terrible disease is about to yield to patience, persistence and outright genius,” Heckler said.
Thirty-six years later, there still is no HIV vaccine. But instead of a cautionary tale of scientific hubris, that still-continuing effort is leading to even greater confidence in the search for a coronavirus vaccine, from some of the same researchers who have spent their careers seeking a cure for AIDS.
Those decades of research into HIV have taught scientists an enormous amount about the immune system, honed vaccine technologies now being repurposed against the coronavirus and created a worldwide infrastructure of clinical trial networks that can be pivoted from HIV to the pathogen that causes the disease COVID-19.
Trump administration backs down on international students rule
Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the pandemic.
The decision was announced at the start of a hearing in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.”
A lawyer representing the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the judge’s characterization was correct.
The announcement brings relief to thousands of international students who had been at risk of being deported from the country, along with hundreds of universities that were scrambling to reassess their plans for the fall in light of the policy.
Canada, U.S. poised to extend border restrictions to Aug. 21
The U.S. and Canada are poised to extend their agreement to keep their shared border closed to nonessential travel to Aug. 21, but a final confirmation has not been given, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
The agreement would likely extend the closure by another 30 days. The official was not authorized to speak publicly ahead of an announcement this week, and spoke on condition of anonymity. The restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April, May and June.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that a decision on the border would be announced later this week.
“We’re going to continue to work hard to keep Canadians safe and to keep our economies flowing, and we will have more to say later,” Trudeau said.
Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said on Friday that an opening between the U.S. and Mexico “wouldn’t be prudent right now,” given that coronavirus cases in “the states of the southern United States, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, are on the rise.”
Most Canadians fear a reopening. The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world while Canada has flattened the epidemic curve.
Hawaii extends quarantine, citing mainland outbreaks
Hawaii’s governor said Monday he will wait another month to waive a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers who test negative for COVID-19, citing increasing virus cases in Hawaii, “uncontrolled” outbreaks in several U.S. mainland states and a shortage of testing supplies.
The testing plan, as announced last month, was scheduled to take effect Aug. 1. It's now postponed to Sept. 1.
Many in Hawaii’s business community had been looking forward to the testing program, as it would make it easier for tourists to visit and potentially boost the economy. The quarantine requirement has virtually shut down tourism to the state since it took effect in late March. Hotels have closed and the unemployment rate stands at 22.6%, the second highest in the nation.
Gov. David Ige said at a news conference he and the state’s mayors, whom he consulted, understood the gravity of the choices they were presented with. On the one hand, he said, Hawaii could have an uncontrolled surge of COVID-19 if it reopened. On the other, delaying the traveler testing program would risk further economic damage.
Hong Kong cracks down as city reels from virus
Hong Kong implemented its strictest suite of social distancing measures yet as the Asian financial hub looks set to be the first in the region where a new outbreak surpasses previous waves in severity.
Bars, gyms and beaches will be closed, public gatherings limited to four people, and fines will be doled out to those refusing to wear masks on public transportation as authorities try to slow a growing resurgence. Officials said they detected 40 local cases on Tuesday, bringing the total outbreak to 224 people in about a week.
The breadth of Hong Kong’s social distancing measures reflects the large proportion of cases of unknown origins, which grew to a record of 24 out of 40 local cases on Tuesday. Because officials cannot identify where the infections are centered, they can’t deploy less disruptive targeted measures like in South Korea and Japan, and have instead levied broad policies for the whole city.
France says ‘merci’ to virus heroes on poignant Bastille Day
Medics in white coats replaced uniformed soldiers as stars of France’s Bastille Day ceremonies Tuesday, as the usual grandiose military parade in Paris was recalibrated to honor medics who died fighting COVID-19, supermarket cashiers, postal workers and other heroes of the pandemic.
Yet for thousands of participants in a protest across town, the national homage wasn’t nearly enough to make up for missteps by French President Emmanuel Macron and his government before and during the coronavirus pandemic. Riot police sprayed tear gas and unruly demonstrators hurled smoke bombs as the largely peaceful demonstrators marched to Bastille plaza, where the French Revolution was born on July 14, 1789.
The contrasting scenes marked a Bastille Day unlike any other, overshadowed by fears of resurgent infections in a country where more than 30,000 people have already lost their lives to the coronavirus.
With tears in their eyes or smiles on their faces, medical workers stood silently as lengthy applause in their honor rang out over the Place de la Concorde in central Paris from Macron, the head of the World Health Organization and 2,000 other guests. A military choir sang the Marseillaise national anthem, and troops unfurled an enormous French tricolor flag across the plaza.
The battle against the virus was the main focus, as Macron sought to highlight France’s successes in combating its worst crisis since World War II. Mirage and Rafale fighter jets painted the sky with blue, white and red smoke, and were joined by helicopters that had transported COVID-19 patients in distress.
The guests included nurses, doctors, supermarket and nursing home workers, mask makers, lab technicians, undertakers and others who kept France going during its strict nationwide lockdown. Families of medical workers who died with the virus also had a place in the stands.
NIH gives Seattle's Benaroya Research Institute more than $5.8 million for COVID-19 research
The Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) at Virginia Mason has received more than $5.8 million from the National Institutes of Health to fund its research of the immune system response to COVID-19.
BRI is studying the severity of coronavirus infections and different immune responses to the virus. The work being funded by the grants includes:
- Examining the immune response in people hospitalized with COVID-19 to find markers that could predict a more severe infection, and in those recovering to get insights into an effective immune response;
- Looking at the site of infection in lung tissue to find ways to interrupt, slow or stop the infection;
- Studying an overactive, inflammatory immune response that occurs in some severe cases; and
- Studying two strains of the virus that are circulating in Seattle, learning how each may lead to different immune responses and disease severity.
A dozen other COVID-19 research efforts are happening at BRI, which is dedicated to studying the immune system and diseases that affect it.
“I am proud of BRI’s rapid response to researching COVID-19,” BRI President Dr. Jane Buckner said in a news release about the grant funding. “Our vision is for a healthy immune system for every individual. As part of that work, we lend our immunology expertise and tools to help uncover answers to the COVID-19 puzzle — why some people experience a more severe infection, to what underlying factors may dictate a worse infection.”
Global vaccine plan may allow rich countries to buy more
Politicians and public health leaders have publicly committed to equitably sharing any coronavirus vaccine that works, but the top global initiative to make that happen may allow rich countries to reinforce their own stockpiles while making fewer doses available for poor ones.
Activists warn that without stronger attempts to hold political, pharmaceutical and health leaders accountable, vaccines will be hoarded by rich countries in an unseemly race to inoculate their populations first. After the recent uproar over the United States purchasing a large amount of a new COVID-19 drug, some predict an even more disturbing scenario if a successful vaccine is developed.
Dozens of vaccines are being researched, and some countries — including Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. — already have ordered hundreds of millions of doses before the vaccines are even proven to work.
While no country can afford to buy doses of every potential vaccine candidate, many poor nations can’t afford to place such speculative bets at all.
The key initiative to help them is led by Gavi, a public-private partnership started by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that buys vaccines for about 60% of the world’s children.
White House signals openness to unemployment compromise as crucial deadline looms for 30 million Americans
Senior Trump administration officials have begun signaling their willingness to approve a narrow extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits helping tens of millions of jobless Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
In less than two weeks, the federal program that provides a $600-per-week increase to unemployment benefits will expire. Many economists warn the disappearance of this enormous federal stimulus, created in March, could hinder the economic recovery and deprive millions of Americans of a vital financial lifeline.
More than 30 million people are collecting what many recipients say is a crucial pillar of financial support right now.
“We’d basically have to choose between paying bills and eating,” Erin Walker, 48, who was furloughed from her job as a dining manager at a college campus near Summerville, S.C., at the end of April, said about the looming expiration of the benefits. “I honestly don’t know what I would do.”
For months, President Donald Trump and White House officials have argued the $600-per-week unemployment bonus provides a disincentive to work and should be scrapped so that more Americans return to work as part of the economic recovery. But with the benefits soon set to expire and the economy showing new signs of strain, Trump administration officials have begun opening the door to accepting a narrower version of what Congress previously approved.
UK, France move to extend rules on face coverings in public
Britain and France moved Tuesday to make face coverings compulsory in more places as both countries try to get their economies going while at the same time seeking to prevent further coronavirus outbreaks.
Following days of procrastination and mixed messages, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the wearing of face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24.
On the other side of the English Channel, amid signs of a slight virus resurgence in France, President Emmanuel Macron said he also wants to require masks inside all indoor public spaces by Aug. 1.
Britain and France previously took a more relaxed attitude to face coverings than many other European nations, recommending masks but not requiring them. Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece already require masks to be worn in enclosed spaces.
But with their economies reeling after months-long lockdowns, French and U.K. government leaders were anxious to try to persuade people to spend again — hopefully without spreading the virus. Weeks of indecision made way for new rules that came into view virtually overnight.
Pence heads to Louisiana amid renewed surge in virus cases
Vice President Mike Pence travels Tuesday to Louisiana, which has reemerged as one of the nation’s hot spots for the coronavirus only months after seeming to contain its outbreak.
The vice president was scheduled to meet with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and others to discuss Louisiana’s response to COVID-19 as well as college reopening plans and the future of university sports programs in the pandemic.
Pence’s visit comes as Louisiana’s confirmed virus cases, percentage of positive tests and COVID-19 patient hospitalization rates surge — worrying public health experts in a state that previously appeared successful in combating the virus outbreak.
“Louisiana has been on the radar, literally front and center, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force since the very beginning. We’ve never come off of that radar,” Edwards said. “I think that’s a big reason why the vice president chose to come to Baton Rouge and to Louisiana.”
In response to the surge, the Democratic governor enacted a statewide mask mandate for people 8 and older that took effect Monday. He also returned bars to takeout and delivery only. Restaurants, casinos, gyms, salons and other businesses remain open, with occupancy restrictions.
Louisiana has had nearly 80,000 confirmed cases since its first positive test in March.
Quarantine restrictions tightened around the world as new infections rise
An Australian state is toughening its punishments for anyone caught violating coronavirus quarantines, including jailing rule breakers for up to six months — a warning that follows rising virus cases worldwide and violations of restrictions that are now being further tightened.
The current set of fines for breaking a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for some visitors or lying about their whereabouts “appears not to be enough” in some cases, Queensland state Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.
With higher fines and a threat of six months’ imprisonment, “I hope that will demonstrate to the public just how serious we are about enforcing these measures,” Miles said.
The measure is one of many around the world being taken by leaders to quell the spread of the virus that occurred when restrictions were lifted.
Queensland shut its state borders to successfully contain the coronavirus outbreak, but reopened to all but residents of Victoria, Australia’s worst affected region, two weeks ago.
Disney officials announced that Hong Kong Disneyland Park is closing Wednesday following the announcement of new coronavirus restrictions by city leaders.
South Africa imposed tighter restrictions including a ban on alcohol sales, mandatory face masks in public places and an overnight curfew, as a surge in new infections pushed it into the 10 worst-affected countries with nearly 300,000 confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins tally.
Almost 30 new cases tied to July Fourth parties
About 30 new COVID-19 cases in Cowlitz County are connected to two separate Independence Day gatherings, and more cases related to those gatherings likely will emerge in the next few days, the county’s top health official reported Monday.
Dr. Steve Krager, county deputy health officer, said 20 reported cases are associated with one July Fourth party and 10 others are linked to a family get-together that weekend.
Cowlitz County Monday reported 13 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, bringing the county’s total to 286. The county recorded 28 cases Friday, its biggest one-day report since the pandemic began.
So far this month, Cowlitz County’s caseload has jumped 52 percent with 98 new cases. Infections among people 39 and younger increased in July, 60 percent of the total cases.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state yesterday reported a record daily high of 1,101 new cases. As the coronavirus re-invades our state and others that already beat it back once, experts say the resurgences share common causes: "Nobody likes being told what to do." California's governor did just that, shutting down much of society yesterday as the state's biggest school districts said they won't bring students back soon.
"Don’t tell me my kid has to wear a mask": Anger and fear are colliding as schools slam into the politics of reopening. The Trump administration has cited the American Academy of Pediatrics to make its case — but the pediatricians are pointing out they never called for the kind of reopening Trump wants. Here's what the AAP did say.
More than 5 million Americans lost their health insurance in just four months, according to a new analysis coming out today.
Business travel evaporated in a flash when the virus hit. When will it recover? That could take several years, say analysts who are describing what would have to happen for businesses to send workers out into the world again.
The coronavirus came to light in Wuhan, China, but how did it start? Why did it spread so fast? A disease detective says we can fight it better if we know, and he wants the answers to eight key questions.
Can your dog or cat catch COVID-19 from a human? Yes, says the CDC, but it's rare. Here are tips on keeping your pets safe.
Mary Daniel used to visit her husband at his assisted living facility for hours each evening, until March, when visitors suddenly weren't allowed. More than 100 days passed — then she hired on as a dishwasher to see him, and the tears started streaming.
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