Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, July 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Although President Joe Biden has been celebrating dramatic progress against the coronavirus, conservatives are increasingly attacking the White House’s virus message, mischaracterizing its vaccination campaign and, more and more, vowing to skip the shots altogether.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits has reached its lowest level since the pandemic struck last year, further evidence that the U.S. economy and job market are rebounding from the pandemic recession.
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. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.
Biden grappling with ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’
WASHINGTON — Two weeks after celebrating America’s near “independence” from the coronavirus, President Joe Biden is confronting the worrying reality of rising cases and deaths — and the limitations of his ability to combat the persistent vaccine hesitance responsible for the summer backslide.
Cases of COVID-19 have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people. While the rates are still sharply down from their January highs, officials are concerned by the reversing trendlines and what they consider needless illness and death. And cases are expected to continue to rise in coming weeks.
While the national emergency may have faded, officials say the outbreak is now a more localized crisis in communities where not enough people have rolled up their sleeves.
“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden said Friday, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rising numbers are being driven by large pockets of infection amon
Some Seattle restaurant owners are frustrated by how federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund money was distributed
Many restaurant owners in the Seattle area say they’re frustrated with the unequal distribution of funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The $28.6 billion fund, which was part of the $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief package passed in March, didn’t cover the roughly $75 billion in aid that 370,000 restaurants around the country applied for.
Only around 105,000 restaurants nationally received the grants, which were intended to make up the difference in restaurants’ revenues between 2019 and the pandemic-blighted year of 2020.
In the Seattle area, some businesses received millions from the fund, while others were denied completely. Notably, despite the SBA saying in the spring that it would prioritize funding for businesses owned by women, veterans, and economically or socially disadvantaged individuals — defined as “those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity” — the three Seattle-based restaurant chains that were awarded the maximum amount possible ($10 million) are all owned by white men.
After declines, Oregon again sees rise in COVID-19 cases
PORTLAND, Ore. — As the highly transmissible delta variant sweeps across the nation — fueling an increase in COVID-19 cases — Oregon is no exception.
For at least 11 consecutive weeks COVID-19 cases had been decreasing in Oregon, until last week. Health experts point to the highly contagious delta variant, first detected in India, as a factor as state and federal officials continue to warn about a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
“Cases are increasing and this is certainly due to the increasing percentage of the delta variant in Oregon. This has been seen in communities across the world,” Tim Heider, a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority, said Friday. “If you are fully vaccinated, you are well protected from COVID, including the delta variant. If you are not vaccinated, make a plan to do so, and take precautions like wearing a mask indoors and in outdoor crowded places until you are vaccinated.”
Last week the the Oregon Health Authority reported 1,318 new COVID-19 cases — an 11% increase from the previous week. Hospitalizations rose from 66 to 104.
Delta variant takes hold in U.S. as coronavirus cases rise nearly 70%.
WASHINGTON — Federal health officials sounded an alarm Friday about a surge in U.S. coronavirus infections fueled by the twin threats posed by the highly transmissible delta variant and a stagnation in efforts to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.
During a White House briefing, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the seven-day average of coronavirus infections soared nearly 70% in just one week, to about 26,300 cases a day. The seven-day average for hospitalizations has increased, too, climbing about 36% from the previous seven-day period, she said.
“There is a clear message that is coming through: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky said. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well.”
Data and maps illustrated the hastening pace of cases — and the disproportionate burden borne by some states. Florida emerged as a national hot spot, accounting for 1 in 5 cases in the past week. Four states were responsible for more than 40% of cases in the past week, health officials said. And 10% of counties have moved into “high transmission risk.”
Fired Tennessee vaccine leader rebuts claims point-by-point
Days after she was fired under pressure from Republican legislators, Tennessee’s former vaccinations director has issued a point-by-point rebuttal to a letter recommending her removal and to other claims by state officials about the program she ran that offers shots for children.
The July 9 letter from the state’s chief medical officer said Michelle Fiscus should be removed due to complaints about her leadership approach and her handling of a letter explaining vaccination rights of minors for COVID-19 shots, an effort that had GOP lawmakers fuming.
Fiscus has accused Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey of terminating her “to appease a handful of outraged and uninformed legislators.”
State health officials report 763 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 763 new coronavirus cases and 15 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 460,067 cases and 6,042 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. Thursday.
In addition, 26,071 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 12 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 114,215 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,678 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,004,001 doses and 62.6% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 10,162 vaccine shots per day.
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. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
FDA expects kids under 12 to start getting vaccinated in midwinter
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to give emergency authorization by midwinter for children under 12 to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, an agency official said on Thursday.
COVID-19 vaccines are available for people ages 12 and up on an emergency-use basis. The FDA is also hoping to give all three vaccine makers their full approval in an effort to help ease the concerns of those who are unsure if they want to get their shots because of the “emergency” label.
In March, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech began trials for their COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11. The results are expected to be made public in the fall and sent to the FDA. Since July 8, more than 4 million kids have been diagnosed with COVID-19, making up 14.2% of all cases.
Smithsonian announces an end to timed passes and capacity restrictions at most facilities
Beginning Tuesday, the Smithsonian Institution will no longer require visitors to reserve timed-entry passes at any of its D.C.-area museums, with the exception of the National Museum of African American History and Culture — which used a ticket system before COVID-19 — and the National Zoo.
At the same time, the Smithsonian facilities that have already reopened in the organization’s phased reopening plan also will begin admitting visitors at full capacity. Vaccinated guests and those under the age of 2 are not required to wear masks; all others must still wear face coverings.
The two most recent museums to reopen — the National Museum of African Art and the Freer Gallery of Art — will have no timed-entry passes or capacity restrictions as of opening day, July 16.
‘Pandemic of the unvaccinated’ burdens busy US hospitals
The COVID-19 comeback across the U.S. is putting pressure on hospitals at a time when some of them are busy just trying to catch up on surgeries and other procedures that were put on hold during the pandemic.
With the highly contagious delta variant spreading rapidly, cases in the U.S. are up around 70% over the last week, hospital admissions have climbed about 36% and deaths rose by 26%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
Some hospitals are reporting record or near-record patient volumes. But even for those that aren’t, this round of the pandemic is proving tougher in some ways, hospital and health officials said. Many hospitals are busy dealing with a backlog of cancer screenings, operations and other procedures that were put off earlier. Staff members are worn out, and finding traveling nurses to boost their ranks can be tough.
“I really think of it as a war and how long can you stay on the front line,” said Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “And how many times do you want to go back for another tour of duty. Eventually you just don’t want to do it.”
Officials advise wearing masks in Vegas as COVID cases rise
Masks are back in Las Vegas, after regional health officials on Friday cited a rising number of coronavirus cases and advised everyone — vaccinated or not — to wear facial coverings in crowded indoor places.
The recommendation from the Southern Nevada Health District isn’t a requirement. But it affects casinos, concerts and clubs where business has boomed since restrictions were lifted and the state fully returned pandemic control measures to counties about seven weeks ago.
The mask recommendation in Las Vegas came after Nevada health officials on Thursday reported 938 new cases of COVID-19 statewide — the biggest one-day coronavirus case jump since February — and 15 new deaths.
CDC data shows that more than 97% of people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 have not received a vaccine, said Culinary Union official Geoconda Argüello-Kline. Statewide, about 46.3% are fully vaccinated.
South King County mechanic wins $1 million prize in Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery
The final winner of Washington state’s vaccine lottery has been announced. The “Shot of a Lifetime” $1 million prize winner, Kameron M., a 23 year-old motorcycle mechanic from South King County, joined Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference Friday.
Kameron M. said he had not been aware of the lottery and any of its prizes until he was told he had won this week. He said he intends to continue working and to put the money toward investments and his home. The first step, he said, is to find a financial advisor.
Inslee has claimed that the lottery slowed the decline in vaccinations statewide, though it’s not clear how effective lotteries have been nationwide.
Fully vaccinated Americans may enter Canada as of mid-August
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel and should be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.
Trudeau noted Canada leads G20 countries in vaccination rates with approximately 80% of eligible Canadians vaccinated with their first dose and over 50% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated. He said case numbers and severe illness continue to decline across the country as vaccination rates continue to increase.
In the early days of the pandemic, the U.S. and Canadian governments closed the more than 5,500-mile border to nonessential traffic.
Canada began easing its restrictions earlier this month, allowing fully vaccinated Canadians or permanent legal residents with negative test results to return to Canada without quarantining.
With virus cases rising, mask mandate back on in Los Angeles
Los Angeles County will again require masks be worn indoors in the nation’s largest county, even by those vaccinated against the coronavirus, while the University of California system also said Thursday that students, faculty and staff must be inoculated against the disease to return to campuses.
The announcements come amid a sharp increase in virus cases, many of them the highly transmissible delta variant that has proliferated since California fully reopened its economy on June 15 and did away with capacity limits and social distancing. The vast majority of new cases are among unvaccinated people.
The rapid and sustained increase in cases in Los Angeles County requires restoring an indoor mask mandate, said Dr. Muntu Davis, public health officer for the county’s 10 million people. The public health order will go into effect just before midnight Saturday.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Davis said during a virtual news conference.
Plenty at stake for NBC as COVID Olympics opening looms
The Olympics arrive dripping in bad vibes, amid a COVID-19 state of emergency in Japan with the majority of Japanese citizens unvaccinated against the virus and wishing the Olympics weren’t taking place there.
Most events will occur in near-empty venues and a recent survey suggested there’s not a great deal of public interest leading into the games. COVID restrictions will also mean fewer reporters will be there to cover the events, eliminating some avenues of attention, said John Affleck, professor of sports journalism and society at Penn State University.
But NBC Universal is hoping that a COVID-weary United States will embrace the Games and be abuzz about the performances of Simone Biles, Gabby Thomas, Kevin Durant or some unexpected star.
The year-delayed Tokyo Olympics officially opens a telecast of the opening ceremony on July 23.
Pacific Rim leaders agree to step up COVID vaccine sharing
Leaders of Asian Pacific nations agreed on Friday to step up COVID-19 vaccination sharing efforts as China said it has pledged $3 billion in international aid to support virus response efforts in developing countries.
The virtual retreat for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders included U.S. President Joe Biden, Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin, gathering at a moment when the delta variant is spurring a spike in infections around the globe.
“There were two things that came through very strongly from the leaders. One was that this pandemic has a while to run and that there is significant work by all of us to be done, and it needs to look beyond our domestic borders,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who hosted the informal retreat. “The second strong theme was agreement and acceptance … that this will not be the last pandemic we experience and that preparedness is critical.”
Hospital fire deepens Iraq’s COVID crisis
No beds, medicines running low and hospital wards prone to fire — Iraq’s doctors say they are losing the battle against the coronavirus. And they say that was true even before a devastating blaze killed scores of people in a COVID-19 isolation unit this week.
Infections in Iraq have surged to record highs in a third wave spurred by the more aggressive delta variant, and long-neglected hospitals suffering the effects of decades of war are overwhelmed with severely ill patients, many of them this time young people.
Widespread distrust of Iraq’s crumbling health care system only intensified after Monday’s blaze at the Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the southern city of Nasiriyah, the country’s second catastrophic fire at a coronavirus ward in less than three months.
Ohio university to require coronavirus vaccinations despite law
Cleveland State University said Thursday it will continue to require that students living on campus be vaccinated against the coronavirus despite a new law prohibiting public schools and colleges in Ohio from mandating the vaccine.
The school, the only public university in the state with such a requirement, said the mandate will continue since the fall term begins Aug. 21 and the law doesn’t take effect until October.
The bill signed into law Wednesday by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and aimed at the coronavirus vaccine bans public schools and colleges from requiring individuals to receive vaccines not granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Freedom or folly? UK’s end to mandatory masks sows confusion
For many, it’s common courtesy or a sensible precaution. For others, it’s an imposition, a daily irritation.
The face mask — a highly charged source of debate, confusion and anger around the world during the coronavirus pandemic — is now dividing people as the crisis eases.
Britain is bracing for acrimony on Monday, when the government lifts a legal requirement to wear face coverings in most indoor settings, including shops, trains, buses and subways. Donning a mask in many places will stop being an order and become a request.
Already, people are split over how to respond.
“I’m glad,” said London café owner Hatice Kucuk. “I don’t think they really help much.”
But Lucy Heath, a filmmaker, said she would prefer to see masks remain mandatory on the subway and in supermarkets.
“I just think vulnerable people will feel that they don’t want to venture out,” she said.
Eiffel Tower reopens; COVID passes required as of next week
he Eiffel Tower is reopening Friday for the first time in nine months even though the French government introduced new virus rules this week aimed at taming the fast-spreading delta variant.
The “Iron Lady” of Paris was ordered shut in October as France battled its second virus surge of the pandemic. The tower remained shut for renovations even after most of France’s major tourist draws reopened last month.
Its reopening comes four days after President Emmanuel Macron announced new measures aimed at warding off a fourth surge, including mandatory COVID-19 passes to enter restaurants and venues such as the Eiffel Tower.
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