Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, July 17, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 could be in for another round of coronavirus restrictions, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday, during a news conference where he announced a limit of 10 people at social gatherings in Washington counties that are further along in the reopening process.
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.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
State health officials warn COVID-19 is on a path to 'runaway growth' in Washington
OLYMPIA — In the latest statewide COVID-19 situation report released Friday afternoon by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), public health officials describe "an explosive situation" in Washington state, where 1,267 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Thursday, the state's highest single-day uptick.
Per the report, transmission has steadily increased or accelerated across Washington state since the start of July — "and will continue to do so unless concrete steps are taken to stop the spread." On July 14, Gov. Jay Inslee paused Washington's phased reopening plan through July 28.
The trends are not limited to early hot spots for the novel coronavirus, like King County, or locations with more recent flare-ups, like Yakima County.
While the reproductive number in Yakima County is lower than the rest of the state, positive signs from previous reports appear to be plateauing, the state DOH found, as the test positive rate remains high there.
The amount of daily new cases is higher than Washington's previous peak in March, the report stresses, with the demographics of the virus continuing to skew younger and with hospitalization on the rise — across the state and across age groups.
Hospitalization rates are just starting to rise in Western Washington, where the surge is led by 20-to-39-year-olds. Per the state, the recent growth in cases among 20-to-29-year-olds is spreading to all age groups, "including low but increasing rates among children and teens." (In Eastern Washington, hospitalization rates are up among all age groups, per the report.)
“In these trends, we are seeing the impact of our collective decisions,” said Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman in a news release. “If we want to send our kids to school in the fall and avoid new restrictions, we must all make a conscious shift in the way we live our lives.
"That means staying at home as much as possible, reducing how many people we see in person and continuing to wear face coverings and keep physical distance in public.”
State health officials confirm 754 new coronavirus cases
State health officials confirmed 754 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Friday, including seven new deaths, after reporting 1,267 new cases on Thursday — a single-day record for the state.
The update brings the state’s totals to 45,067 cases and 1,434 deaths, meaning about 3.2% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
So far, 767,657 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 12,766 diagnoses and 631 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for about 44.4% of the state's death toll.
Biden: Science, not politics, should decide school reopening
WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden on Friday unveiled a plan to reopen schools in the era of coronavirus, seeking to establish federal safety guidelines that he says will be based on science and not on political pressure for the country to arbitrarily put the pandemic behind it.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s proposal ultimately leaves final decisions up to state and local officials. His guidelines to resume classes comes as the White House argues that most parents are anxious to see schools resume in-person classes in the fall. President Donald Trump says the decision to possibly avoid doing so in some areas is more motivated by politics than by legitimate fears about the pandemic.
“They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” Trump said at a White House discussion on school plans last week. “No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”
Trump has also threatened to hold back federal funding if schools don’t bring their students back in the fall and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on new guidance for how to do so.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has advanced much the same argument as Biden, saying the decision to reopen schools should be driven by science — but arguing that doing so means bringing students back to classrooms.
New California rules mean most schools will start online, per governor
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With the first day of school just weeks away in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out sweeping new rules Friday that all but ensure most of the state’s K-12 schools serving 6.7 million students will not reopen classrooms when the academic year starts.
The rules also mandate that all staff and students above 2nd grade who do return to campuses wear masks in school as the coronavirus pandemic surges.
Newsom said all schools, public and private, in counties that are on a state monitoring list for rising coronavirus infections cannot hold in-person classes and will have to meet strict criteria for reopening. Currently, 32 of California’s 58 counties are on the watchlist, including the vast majority of the state’s population and its biggest cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and many others
“Students, teachers, staff and parents prefer in-class instruction. But only if we can do it safely,” Newsom said during a televised briefing. “The one thing we have the power to do to get our kids back into school? Wear a mask, physically distance, wash your hands.”
The governor’s strict new regulations mark a dramatic shift from his earlier position that it was up to local school districts and boards to decide when and how to reopen. His announcement came as many of the state’s 1,000 school districts are set to resume instruction in mid-August, with many still finalizing reopening plans.
New studies clarify what drugs help, hurt for COVID-19
Fresh studies give more information about what treatments do or don’t work for COVID-19, with high-quality methods that give reliable results.
British researchers on Friday published their research on the only drug shown to improve survival — a cheap steroid called dexamethasone. Two other studies found that the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine does not help people with only mild symptoms.
For months before studies like these, learning what helps or harms has been undermined by “desperation science” as doctors and patients tried therapies on their own or through a host of studies not strong enough to give clear answers.
“For the field to move forward and for patients’ outcomes to improve, there will need to be fewer small or inconclusive studies” and more like the British one, Drs. Anthony Fauci and H. Clifford Lane of the National Institutes of Health wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It’s now time to do more studies comparing treatments and testing combinations, said Dr. Peter Bach, a health policy expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Problems emerge as kids head back to classrooms for summer school
Detroit Public Schools invited students to in-person summer classes this week during the coronavirus pandemic and immediately faced demonstrations that wound up with some arrests of protesters and a lawsuit aiming to get the classes to shut down. The protesters said the district was using children as “guinea pigs.”
In Westwood, Mass., a summer school employee who didn’t feel well tested negative for COVID-19 and returned to her job working with students with disabilities — only to learn she really had the disease, WCBV reported. The Westwood Schools superintendent said in a statement that “her exposure to students was limited to a three-hour block” and noted that she was wearing personal protective equipment.
As school districts across the country struggle to make final plans about whether and how to open schools for the 2020-21 academic year, they are getting some real-time examples of what can happen when students return to school buildings.
Washington’s 10-person limit nixes drive-in concerts, but not drive-in movies
On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced tighter restrictions on social gatherings that effectively halted the burgeoning trend of drive-in concerts.
Starting Monday, a new 10-person limit on gatherings will be imposed on counties in the third phase of the governor’s Safe Start reopening plan. The five-person limit for counties in Phase 2 — including King, Pierce and Snohomish — remains in place.
When should you wear a mask? An expert debunks myths as coronavirus spreads
America’s mainstream medical establishments have given their endorsement: Universal masking is essential for the nation to find its way out of a crippling COVID-19 pandemic and get schools back in session and the economy restarted.
“The data is clearly there, that masking works,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday in a webcast with the Journal of the American Medical Association. “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think that in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control.”
A CDC study released Tuesday said that by early May, a survey estimated that about 76% of American adults who left home in the previous week had used a cloth face covering.
Another report by the CDC about two hairstylists at a salon in Missouri showcased masks’ remarkable effectiveness in preventing disease transmission.
The stylists fell ill with respiratory symptoms yet continued to work at the salon for several days, only to later test positive for the coronavirus.
The stylists served 139 clients while they were ill, typically spending 15 to 45 minutes with each of them. Yet not a single client was reported to have become sick, and none of those tested receive a positive test result. The reason? Scientists believe it was because both the hairstylists and their customers wore masks.
Here are four common myths about masks, debunked.
Chicago plan has kids in classrooms 2 days per week
Most Chicago children would return to the classroom two days a week and spend the other three days learning remotely once the school year begins under a tentative plan outlined Friday by officials from the nation’s third-largest school district.
Chicago Public Schools officials called the proposed hybrid approach a preliminary framework, though, and asked parents, students and staff to weigh in. A final decision about in-person instruction for fall classes won’t come until late August, with classes set to begin Sept. 8.
“We have to be ready for any possibility,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “COVID-19 has been unpredictable from the start and we have a responsibility to be prepared for what the public health indicators dictate, whether that means remote learning, in-person learning or something in between.”
The Chicago Teachers Union this week called on the district to stick with virtual instruction to start the fall.
Review into England’s coronavirus death total amid questions
The British government ordered an urgent review Friday into how daily coronavirus death figures in England are calculated amid claims the current method overestimates the tally.
The review was prompted by concerns over why England is still recording way more deaths than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Researchers looked at whether differing methods may account for the discrepancy.
On some days recently, England has seen more than 100 daily virus-related deaths as opposed to none in the other parts of the U.K. As a whole, the U.K. has recorded a coronavirus death toll of 45,119, the third-highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil.
Mayor: NYC poised to open zoos, play ball
New York City is on track to allow zoos to open at limited capacity and allow professional sports to begin without spectators starting next week under the next phase of its reopening plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.
While a formal approval from the state had yet to be announced, de Blasio said the city is set to begin a limited version of Phase 4 of the reopening process starting Monday.
That means botanical gardens and zoos can reopen at 33% capacity, production of movies and TV shows can proceed and professional sports like baseball can be played without fans in the stands, de Blasio said.
The rest of the state is already in Phase 4, which typically permits opening malls and certain arts and entertainment centers. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week that even if the city is approved to enter Phase 4, the state won’t allow “any additional indoor activity” in places like malls and museums because of coronavirus transmission risks.
Elbows? Masks? Presents? Let this divisive EU summit begin!
At the start of one of the most daunting and divisive summits in recent history, the atmosphere among the European Union leaders was downright giddy.
Blame the coronavirus pandemic. With all kinds of masks, social distancing rules, and new ways of greetings, some of the leaders reveled in the novelty of it all as they met in person for the first time since February.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, so often a study in gravity at such meetings, was all merriment when she saw Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov with his mask slipped. With her face drawn in fake shock and horror, she pointed at his exposed nose to show he had committed a serious COVID-19 faux pas.
Other leaders at the summit in Belgium were trying out various versions of the elbow bump, with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel almost turning it into an elbow duel. But there was no mistaking his good nature since he had “Moien!” — the Luxembourgish for “Good morning!” — printed on his mask.
The apparently carefree mingling and schmoozing disguised the reason they had all gathered in a cavernous Brussels meeting room instead of holding their summit by videoconference: The issues they are grappling with are so historic and divisive they need to look one another in the eye, and have face-to-face talks as they negotiate.
Since the pandemic hit Europe early this year, the EU has seen an unprecedented recession with the economy of the 27-nation EU contracting by 8.3% this year and lost 135,000 of its citizens to the disease.
Oregon hits new daily record for COVID-19 cases
With infection spreading through social gatherings, Oregon set yet another single-day record on Thursday with 437 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, the Oregon Health Authority reported.
The latest daily tally, the highest since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, raised the state’s case count to 13,509. Two more deaths were reported on Thursday as well, raising Oregon’s death toll from the disease to 249. The dead, both from Malheur County, were a 97-year-old man with underlying medical conditions and a 58-year-old woman whose health conditions are being confirmed.
States all over the country have seen surging case counts since they began easing limits on gatherings and business operations. Washington state also reported a single-day record Thursday, with 1,267 new cases.
Atlanta mayor says Trump broke city’s mask rule, ignored science
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sued the city of Atlanta over its face-mask requirement just after President Donald Trump arrived in the city without wearing a mask, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Friday.
In an interview on CBS “This Morning,” Bottoms questioned the timing of the lawsuit filed shortly after Trump’s Wednesday visit to the city, calling the litigation “really odd.”
“I pointed out that Donald Trump violated that order when he landed at our airport and did not wear a mask,” she said.
She said Kemp “is a Trump loyalist and he seems to work very hard to please the president of the United States, and that is often at the expense of the people in our state.”
Asked whether she thinks Trump encouraged Kemp to file the lawsuit, she said she couldn’t speak about whatever conversations they had.
But she added that Trump “was violating the rules of our city in just a blatant disregard for the science.”
India hits 1 million virus cases, nations battle flare-ups
A return of stringent coronavirus restrictions in Israel, another daily record of reported cases in Japan’s capital and outbreaks in remote areas such as China’s Xinjiang region underscored Friday the ongoing battle to quash COVID-19 flare-ups as the world’s latest hot spots pushed the confirmed global case tally toward 14 million.
India said the country’s total confirmed cases surpassed 1 million, the third-highest number behind the United States and Brazil, and its death toll reached more than 25,000. That followed Brazil’s announcement Thursday evening that its confirmed cases exceeded 2 million, including 76,000 deaths.
Governments are frantically trying to prevent and put down fresh outbreaks and keep their economies running as the pandemic accelerates in some parts of the world and threatens to come roaring back in others. Worldwide, confirmed cases numbered more than 13.8 million Friday and COVID-19 deaths totaled more than 590,000.
Israel on Friday reimposed sweeping restrictions to tackle a new surge in coronavirus cases in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “interim steps” to avoid another general lockdown.
Stores, malls, barber shops, beauty salons, beaches and tourist sites will also be closed on weekends. Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors or 20 outside.
New virus cases have soared in Israel since restrictions were lifted in late May. The country reported around 1,900 new cases on Thursday. At least 384 people have died since the outbreak began.
Catch up on the Past 24 Hours
We can't withstand a disaster every single day": The strain is showing as patients flood into hospitals across the Sun Belt — where medical workers are bracing for worse. In Texas, funeral homes are getting overwhelmed, too, and the morgue trucks keep arriving.
Claims for jobless benefits are surging along with the virus in Washington, signaling how fragile the economy is as residents face the possible end of the $600-a-week federal payment. On a more optimistic note, new businesses are starting at a faster clip than last year.
The fight over masks: Georgia's governor has sued Atlanta's mayor and city council to block them from enforcing a mask mandate, but they're not backing down. As more big retailers announce they're requiring face coverings, mask fashion is becoming quite the thing. Check out the photos.
Russian hackers are trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research through cyberattacks, the U.S and other Western nations say. They're blaming a group called Cozy Bear.
How a struggling company won $1.6 billion to make a coronavirus vaccine: The U.S. government is placing huge bets on experiments that could enable a return to some semblance of normal life. This is the story of "the U.S. darling of the moment" and its big boost from the Gates Foundation.
What’s there to do this summer weekend? Plenty, whether you’re staying in (againnnnn) or venturing out cautiously. Here are our top picks.
Picture a time-twisting dark comedy about living the same day over and over. No, we’re not talking about real life these days; the delightful “Palm Springs” is among new streaming movies.
How to maintain human connections at a social distance: Here are a few reality-tested ideas, from watching movies together/apart to bringing back good, old-fashioned phone calls.
Seattle is no R&B hotbed, but that may be about to change. A growing wave of bright young artists is poised to make a splash. Meet them and have a listen.
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