Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Washington health officials reported an additional 1,267 COVID-19 cases and six deaths as of Thursday, bringing the state’s totals to 44,313 cases and 1,427 deaths. So far, 753,174 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.9% have come back positive.
In King County, a new report suggests efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus in school buildings — such as screening students and staff, and requiring masks — won’t control the overall pace of transmission unless community activity is kept far below pre-pandemic levels.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
List of national retail chains requiring masks is growing
NEW YORK — Target, CVS Health and Publix Super Markets on Thursday joined the growing list of national chains that will require customers to wear face masks regardless of where cities or states stand on the issue.
Target’s mandatory face mask policy will go into effect Aug. 1, and all CVS stores will begin requiring them on Monday. Publix Super Markets Inc., based in Lakeland, Florida, said that its rule will kick in on Tuesday at all 1,200 stores.
More than 80% of Target’s 1,800 stores already require customers to wear masks due to local and state regulations. Target will hand out masks at entrances to those who need them.
The announcements come one day after the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, said that it would mandate face shields for all customers starting Monday. Starbucks, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Kroger Co. have also announced mandatory masks nationwide in recent days.
Retailers have hesitated to make masks mandatory nationwide out of fear of angering some customers over what, even in a pandemic, has become a political issue.
4 more workers, 1 patient at Western State Hospital have COVID-19
Officials at Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital are trying to get control of the latest coronavirus outbreak after four workers and one patient tested positive.
To date, 38 employees at Western State Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, while nine patients got the disease. One patient died.
The 800-bed Lakewood facility also recently had a bacteria outbreak in its water system, which meant no staff or patients could shower or wash their hands. The health department has since cleared that notification.
Last week, a hospital security guard became symptomatic and tested positive, CEO Dave Holt told staff in an email. It was the first employee to test positive since May 27.
Inslee announces 10-person limit on gatherings in some Washington counties as coronavirus cases rise
OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced a limit of 10 people at social gatherings in Washington counties that are further along in the reopening process as the state sees a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Inslee’s announcement came as Washington set a new record for confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, with state health officials Thursday reporting 1,267 new cases and six additional deaths. The tally clocked in at nearly twice the average number of cases per day in the past two weeks.
In a news conference, Inslee warned of more drastic actions if the state can’t tamp down outbreaks of the new coronavirus, which are simmering across Washington.
The state could soon reimpose restrictions on bars, restaurants and recreational activities, Inslee said. Officials could ultimately take even more drastic measures.
“We cannot rule out the potential of another stay-home order this year,” the governor said.
Georgia governor sues to end Atlanta’s mask mandate
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta to block the city from enforcing its mandate to wear a mask in public and other rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, in a suit filed in state court late Thursday in Atlanta, argue that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has overstepped her authority and must obey Kemp’s executive orders under state law.
“Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the lawsuit states.
Kemp on Wednesday clarified his executive orders to expressly block Atlanta and at least 14 other local governments across the state from requiring people to wear face coverings.
State sets one-day record with 1,267 new COVID-19 cases and reports 6 new deaths; positive test rate at 5.9%
State health officials confirmed 1,267 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night -- almost twice the average number of cases per day over the last two weeks -- and six new deaths. The positive test rate remained steady at 5.9%.
The update brings the state’s totals to 44,313 cases and 1,427 deaths, meaning about 3.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
So far, 753,174 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 12,558 diagnoses and 631 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll.
Texas readies morgue trucks in preparation for virus surge
Along the Texas coast outside Corpus Christi, Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales surveyed the sandy Gulf of Mexico beaches packed with swimmers and sunbathers, just the way they are every summer. Then she went back to her office to order another morgue truck.
Officials across Texas are rushing to mobilize overflow mortuary space as communities brace for a surge in coronavirus deaths following Fourth of July festivities. Already, July has had a succession of record-setting days in terms of new cases, deaths and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 as the pandemic takes hold in the state.
“Why won’t people see what’s happening?” Canales said of vacationers thronging the beaches. “It’s nothing but summer fun. They can’t see the stress and strain that our community is under. The danger isn’t real to them.”
On Wednesday, Texas continued to set records, with almost 11,000 new cases and 110 deaths. Fatalities so far total 3,432, contributing to a national tally of almost 137,000.
Read the full story here.
California salons say new closures threaten their survival
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — At the start of the year, Luis Lopez moved his barbershop to a bigger location with three more chairs and more than twice the rent. Then, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, he had to close, plunk down more cash for upgrades to health safety standards and wait for officials to allow salons to reopen.
Now, Lopez owes $10,000 in monthly rent for the coveted space in Southern California’s downtown Huntington Beach and says he can only keep paying it if he can cut hair at his Orange County Barbers Parlor. But Gov. Gavin Newsom said that isn’t allowed under new closures this week to curb soaring numbers of infections.
“With all due respect, I can’t close my doors. I just really can’t,” Lopez said. “I am going to have to shut my business if that is the case.
“People say work from home or do house calls, but people are still getting fined to do that, so what’s the difference?” he added. “If they come in and shut us down, then that’s what is going to have to happen.”
California breaks a record: 10,000 new cases in a day
California recorded its highest number of new cases Tuesday, exceeding 10,000 new cases in one day for the first time, according to The New York Times’ database.
New cases lag as an indication of the virus’ spread, and state officials noted that testing had expanded. On Tuesday, the state reported that 118,321 tests were conducted.
Still, the milestone was disheartening for Californians hoping that the surging case numbers might slow as many counties reinstated restrictions and the state ordered businesses to close.
Read the full story here.
Chinese executives get ‘pre-test’ injections in vaccine race
BEIJING — In the global race to make a coronavirus vaccine, a state-owned Chinese company is boasting that its employees, including top executives, received experimental shots even before the government approved testing in people.
“Giving a helping hand in forging the sword of victory,” reads an online post from SinoPharm with pictures of company leaders it says helped “pre-test” its vaccine.
Whether it’s viewed as heroic sacrifice or a violation of international ethical norms, the claim underscores the enormous stakes as China competes with U.S. and British companies to be the first with a vaccine to help end the pandemic — a feat that would be both a scientific and political triumph.
“Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the new Holy Grail,” said Lawrence Gostin, a global public health law expert at Georgetown University. “The political competition to be the first is no less consequential than the race for the moon between the United States and Russia.”
Animal print, beads or plain black, masks become about style
They can be colorful or come in basic black, make a political statement or just a funny one.
Masks made of cotton and other washable materials have become big sellers, and an emerging fashion item, as face coverings have been increasingly mandated around the world to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Sales are expected to get another boost after Britain and France announced this week that they will require masks in public indoor spaces. That could help France’s textile and luxury goods companies unload a surplus of masks that numbered 20 million in June.
In addition, at least 25 U.S. states are requiring masks in many indoor situations. Oregon on Wednesday even began requiring masks outdoors if people can’t stay 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
In a sign that masks are becoming a fashion trend, Vogue magazine recently listed 100 “aesthetically pleasing” selections. The fashion magazine’s recommendations include a mask with beaded accents from Susan Alexandra. The cost: $70. Masks made from vintage quilt tops, by Farewell Frances, go for $25.
After U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began wearing masks that matched her outfits, people watching her on news channels noticed they had a Donna Lewis label on them. The boutique in Alexandria, Virginia, became besieged by purchase orders and soon ran out of the labels customers wanted.
Some states allowing in-person nursing home visits — to relief of families
States across the country are beginning to roll back heart-wrenching policies instituted when the coronavirus pandemic began and allow in-person visits at nursing homes and assisted living centers, offering relief to frustrated families.
For the most part, visitors are required to stay outside and meet relatives in gardens or on patios where they stay at least 6 feet apart, supervised by a staff member. Appointments are scheduled in advance and masks are mandated. Only one or two visitors are permitted at a time.
Before these get-togethers, visitors get temperature checks and answer screening questions to assess their health. Hugs or other physical contact are not allowed. If residents or staff at a facility develop new cases of COVID-19, visitation is not permitted.
As of July 7, 26 states and the District of Columbia had given the go-ahead to nursing home visits under these circumstances, according to LeadingAge, an association of long-term care providers. Two weeks earlier, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services clarified federal guidance on reopening nursing homes to visitors.
Anguished families say loved ones are suffering too much, mentally and physically, after nearly four months in isolation but relaxing restrictions is not without risks.
Frail older adults in long-term care are exceptionally vulnerable to COVID-19. According to various estimates, 40% to 45% of COVID-related deaths have occurred in these facilities.
Brazil nears 2 million coronavirus cases, with 75,000 dead
A thousand deaths a day.
Since late May, three months after Brazil’s first reported case of the coronavirus, it has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths on average in a gruesome plateau that has yet to tilt downward.
The country hit at least 75,000 confirmed deaths Wednesday and is expected to report 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Thursday evening.
Even as cases wane somewhat in the biggest and hardest-hit Brazilian cities, the virus is peaking in new locations across the largest country in Latin America.
Experts blame denial of the virus’ deadly potential by President Jair Bolsonaro and lack of national coordination combined with scattershot responses by city and state governments, with some reopening earlier than health experts recommended.
An interim health minister untrained in the field is presiding over pandemic response. Bolsonaro himself is sick with COVID-19 after repeatedly flouting social distance recommendations and undermining local leaders’ restrictions on activity.
Starbucks customer who refused to wear mask demands half of barista’s $105,000 in donations
A customer who had a tiff with a Starbucks barista over face masks — which ended up earning the worker $105,000 in donations — says she wants half the money.
Amber Lynn Gilles had posted a photo of Lenin Gutierrez to social media, calling Gutierrez out for refusing to serve her at the San Diego coffee shop unless she wore a mask, McClatchy News previously reported.
Gilles’ post inspired supporters of Gutierrez to start a GoFundMe account to raise “tips” commending him for standing up to her. The page had raised $105,000 by Wednesday.
“It was discrimination and everybody is OK with it and enabling and rewarding that behavior,” Gilles said, according to KGTV. She says she’s owed half the money raised for Gutierrez.
Gilles said she’s unable to wear a mask, citing a 2015 pelvic exam for ovarian cysts and a handwritten note from an anonymous chiropractor, according to the station.
“One of them I get shortness of breath, dizziness and it messes with the heartbeat,” Gilles said, KGTV reported. “And I do have asthma as well, and I do get mask-acne. So there’s several things going on and not only that but it doesn’t even work.”
Russian cyberspies may be trying to steal vaccine research, says U.K., U.S. and Canada
LONDON — Security officials in the United States, Britain and Canada announced Thursday that hackers linked to Russia were actively trying to steal information from researchers working to produce coronavirus vaccines and anti-viral drugs.
Paul Chichester, director of operations at Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said the hackers had undertaken “despicable attacks against those doing vital work to combat the coronavirus pandemic.”
“We would urge organizations to familiarize themselves with the advice we have published to help defend their networks,” Chichester said in a statement.
In an advisory published Thursday, the NCSC said that a group named APT29 and also known by the names “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear,” had targeted British, American and Canadian vaccine research and development organizations.
The British government said it was 95% certain that APT29 were part of the Russian intelligence service.
More states and businesses make masks mandatory
They have emerged as an unlikely symbol of partisan divide and a source of bottomless derision for President Donald Trump.
But masks moved ever closer to becoming a new national reality in America’s pandemic-scarred life, with businesses, states and health experts preaching their promise as the country’s last line of defense against a fast-growing viral threat.
Even as the White House continued to resist pushing for a national mask mandate, evidence abounded that face coverings were becoming a de facto requirement — and not only in big cities where they have been in widespread use for months.
Alabama’s governor, who leads one of the country’s most conservative states, on Wednesday said people would be obligated to wear masks when leaving the house. The announcement, which came as Alabama recorded a new single-day novel coronavirus death record, means nearly half of all states have a mandate.
The world’s largest retailer and a staple of rural communities nationwide, Walmart issued the same requirement for shoppers in its stores. A powerful trade group quickly embraced the choice, raising the prospect that other major chains will soon follow.
“Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right,” said the National Retail Federation. “If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk.”
The moves came only hours after Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, declared that coronavirus outbreaks — raging across much of the country — could be “under control” within one or two months if the public adopts widespread mask use.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp forbids cities, counties from requiring masks as coronavirus surges in the state
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Wednesday night explicitly banning cities from enacting their own mask mandates, even as the state experiences a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and other Republican governors are turning to mask orders to try to quell the surge.
Kemp’s order voids existing mask mandates in more than a dozen cities or counties, while also extending other coronavirus social-distancing restrictions statewide.
The Republican governor had previously tried to ban cities and counties from passing any coronavirus restrictions that went further than Georgia’s guidelines. But many cities, including Atlanta, defied him by passing mask mandates anyway, arguing it was essential to flatten the curve. Kemp’s new order “strongly encourages” masks.
Local officials who had issued mask mandates as hospitals filled up were outraged Wednesday night as Kemp overrode their judgment. The order came on the same day Georgia recorded its second-highest number of coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, logging 3,871 cases and 37 deaths
“It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, Democrat, who was the first local official to issue a mask mandate, wrote on Twitter. “Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can. In #Savannah, we will continue to keep the faith and follow the science. Masks will continue to be available!”
Kemp order comes as other Republican governors have recently abandoned their previous opposition to mask mandates in the interest of public health.
‘Let’s stop this nonsense,’ Fauci says after Trump aides’ attacks
After several days spent weathering attacks from White House officials, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci hit back Wednesday, calling recent efforts to discredit him “bizarre” and a hindrance to the government’s ability to communicate information about the coronavirus pandemic.
“I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that,” Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic published Wednesday, speaking of recent attempts by President Donald Trump’s aides to undermine him. “I think they realize now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it’s only reflecting negatively on them.”
It was the latest salvo in a war that has broken out in the middle of a pandemic between Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, and the White House.
On Wednesday, Peter Navarro, Trump’s top trade adviser, published a brazen op-ed article in USA Today describing Fauci as “wrong about everything.” Over the weekend, another of Trump’s top advisers shared a mocking cartoon that portrayed Fauci as a leaky faucet. Other White House officials have targeted Fauci by distributing opposition-research-style documents to reporters that detail what they say are his mistakes.
All the while, White House officials — including the president and the press secretary — assert in the face of the evidence that there is no concerted effort to attack Fauci.
“It distracts from what I hope would be the common effort of getting this thing under control, rather than this back-and-forth distraction, which just doesn’t make any sense,” Fauci said. “We’ve got to almost reset this and say, ‘OK, let’s stop this nonsense.’ We’ve got to figure out, how can we get our control over this now, and, looking forward, how can we make sure that next month, we don’t have another example of California, Texas, Florida and Arizona?”
Barbados wants you to work from its beaches during the pandemic
This has been the year a virus shut down our globalized lives. In the first half of 2020, governments around the world imposed entry restrictions or strict quarantine procedures; flight traffic fell to its lowest level in decades. Many are confined not just to their countries, but to their homes, as offices were shut down along with travel.
But even as the pandemic continues to rage, the government of Barbados, a country in the eastern Caribbean, is sending a very different message: Come here, not just for a holiday, but for up to a year. Bring your laptop. Soak up the sun, the sea, the sand — and forget about the coronavirus.
“COVID-19 has placed a severe strain on people’s mental wellness,” Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley told The Washington Post. “The sunshine is powerful. The seawater is powerful. They’re both therapeutic in ways that are hard to explain. And we felt that, why not share it?”
Dubbed the “Barbados Welcome Stamp” and launching this week, the program will allow visitors to stay on the Caribbean island visa-free for up to one year. The aim is to attract remote workers, with a bill to be introduced in Parliament by the government that will remove the local income taxes that normally kick in after six months.
The program has unsurprisingly sparked global interest.
Quarantine Corner: Things to read, watch and reflect on while staying home
What do you miss from the time before the coronavirus, and what do you hope never comes back? Seattle Times staffers (currently scattered across the Puget Sound area in tiny, one-person bureaus) sketched answers that may hit close to home for you. One introvert writes that she used to think independence was everything, but the pandemic and a goofy little cat taught her otherwise.
Get lost in history with these four biographies of vastly different people.
Fans of live music, here's a jolt of jazz in the form of two swinging documentaries on Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis.
Do I have the coronavirus? Many who get tested must wait … and wait … and wait to find out
John Lederer came down with flu-like symptoms, so he and his wife got coronavirus tests in Edmonds. Ten days later, they finally learned the results.
Massive backlogs at overwhelmed commercial labs are hitting Washington patients, exacerbating the risk that the virus will spread — particularly in communities that have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
King County school buildings should not reopen this fall if virus transmission levels don't drop, according to a new report unveiled by health officials. Community-wide efforts to curb the virus “must improve significantly” to support opening school doors, the researchers wrote. The state's total number of cases has topped 43,000.
Many more businesses are requiring masks. Walmart waded into this divisive issue yesterday, and Kroger and Kohl's soon followed with their own mask rules. Nearly half of U.S. states now have a mask mandate. A loud exception is Georgia, whose governor has forbidden cities from requiring them. And a Starbucks customer is steaming after her refusal to wear a mask changed a barista's life in a "mind-blowing" way.
The small birthday lunch was the first time anyone but immediate family had set foot in Bill and Serona Schey's house for months. The Tacoma couple followed Pierce County’s guidelines, limiting their circle to just three other people. But everyone at the lunch got COVID-19. Small, clustered outbreaks like this are growing more common.
The outlook is so "alarming and dangerous" in California that the Rose Parade has been canceled six months ahead of time, and many more schools have barred reopenings. Around the world, countries are blasting "reckless" tourists" amid new clampdowns.
At least 20 more Seattle-area restaurants have closed permanently, and the list is certain to grow. But there are a few silver linings as restaurateurs make new plans.
Tens of thousands of Amazon corporate employees can work from home until 2021, the company said yesterday. Many other businesses may follow, extending the pain for merchants in downtown Seattle and Bellevue. (If you're logging on remotely, one tropical paradise hopes you'll work from its beaches.)
National parks may become the next battleground in reopening. Pressure is mounting to close major parks, pitting Americans' urge to escape against spiking virus cases in the parks' home states.
"Let’s stop this nonsense," Dr. Anthony Fauci urged, hitting back as clashes with the White House spilled further into public view yesterday. Fauci has become quite the symbol, with his own bobblehead and plush doll.
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