Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, July 18, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

While the national emergency of the coronavirus pandemic is fading, officials remain concerned by the reversing trendlines and what they consider needless illness and death due to vaccine hesitancy.

Meanwhile, cases are expected to continue to rise in coming weeks and some politicians continue to wage campaigns of vaccine misinformation, sowing doubts about safety and effectiveness.

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.


(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Lawsuits challenge Washington, D.C., law allowing kids to get vaccines without parental permission

Two lawsuits filed in District of Columbia federal court this month challenged a city law passed last year that allows minors to be vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge, saying the legislation violates religious liberty.

The litigation comes as health officials across the country debate how much information minors should be given about vaccines, with at least one state seeking to limit teenagers’ access to shots that would protect them from the coronavirus and other illnesses.

In October, the District passed the Minor Consent to Vaccinations Amendments Act, which allows children as young as 11 to get vaccines without their parents’ knowledge if a doctor determines that they are capable of informed consent.

The law was passed before coronavirus vaccines became available and was meant to allow teenagers to get shots such as the HPV vaccine, which protects against a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer, and the meningitis vaccine, which is recommended for teens.

Jessie Hill, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who has written on children’s legal rights to make some medical decisions for themselves, said that if the D.C. cases make it to court, they might pose novel questions on whether parents can impose their religious beliefs on children who disagree.

“This is a whole uncharted territory — does the parent have a religious right essentially to override the child’s religious beliefs?” she said.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post
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For some women giving birth in the pandemic, the trauma led to personal growth

Corie Hess gave birth to her second child during the pandemic. Like many pandemic mothers, Hess’s experience was tinged with isolation and anguish.

“My baby was born six weeks too soon, and he couldn’t breathe on his own,” said Hess, 37, of Muncie, Ind. Evan, her tiny infant, spent nearly two weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit. “The whole experience was somewhat terrifying and traumatic,” Hess said.

Hess isn’t alone.

In one study, Sharon Dekel, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, and her colleagues found that women who gave birth during the pandemic were more likely to experience birth trauma.

For the study, the researchers compared the pandemic birth experiences of 1,161 women to 640 non-pandemic births. Women who gave birth during the pandemic reported higher levels of acute stress, which were related to mother-baby bonding difficulties, as well as breastfeeding problems.

Another study, published in November, found that 42% of women who gave birth between March and May of last year reported mild symptoms of postpartum trauma, while 29% experienced moderate symptoms. But over a year after the pandemic began, it is becoming clear that the trauma many mothers suffered doesn’t always leave a permanent scar.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

How to stay safe as COVID-19 cases from the delta variant are on the rise

The United States is in an unprecedented juncture of the pandemic where just under half the population is fully vaccinated, health and safety restrictions are looser than they’ve been in 18 months, and cases of new coronavirus infections are once again on the rise after months of decline.

“The pandemic is not over, and delta changes the calculus,” Joel Wertheim, an associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego, told The Washington Post on Saturday.

As the delta variant spreads, the messaging from public health experts and officials is unequivocal: Vaccines are the best protection against severe illness and hospitalization. More than 97% of new hospitalizations from the delta variant are from people who are unvaccinated, making what Rochelle Walensky, who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calls “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Health experts said even though the delta variant is more infectious than the original variant that first took hold in the United States last year, there are precautions that can help both vaccinated and unvaccinated people limit their risk.

Here’s what to know.

—The Washington Post

The pandemic has a new epicenter: Indonesia

Indonesia has become the new epicenter of the pandemic, surpassing India and Brazil to become the country with the world’s highest count of new infections.

The surge is part of a wave across Southeast Asia, where vaccination rates are low but countries had, until recently, contained the virus relatively well​.

In Indonesia, cases and deaths have skyrocketed in the past month as the highly contagious delta variant sweeps through densely populated Java island, as well as Bali. In some regions, the coronavirus has pushed the medical system past its limits, although hospitals are taking emergency steps to expand capacity.

On Thursday, Indonesian authorities reported nearly 57,000 new cases, the highest daily total yet — seven times as many as a month earlier. On Friday, they reported a record 1,205 deaths, bringing the country’s official toll from the pandemic to more than 71,000.

But some health experts say those figures vastly understate the spread in Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous nation, because testing has been limited.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times
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Trudeau announces possible border reopening, but residents of border towns aren’t hopeful

Restrictions for Americans traveling to Canada may loosen by mid-August.

But some residents of border towns remain skeptical of the timeline announced Thursday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

After 16 months of closure, Trudeau said Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans for nonessential travel and could allow fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September — if Canada’s current vaccine rate holds.

Trudeau originally said the border would not reopen until Canada’s vaccine rate improved, having had large disparities between the number of people with one dose and those fully vaccinated. Currently, nearly 80% of those eligible in Canada have received one dose while almost 50% are fully vaccinated.

Canada began easing restrictions earlier this month by allowing fully vaccinated Canadians or permanent legal residents to return to Canada without quarantine. Those traveling still had to receive a negative COVID-19 test before crossing the border and another when they got back.

Read the full story here.

—The Spokesman-Review

Vietnam puts southern region in lockdown as surge grows

A delivery man rides a scooter on a quiet street in Vung Tau, Vietnam, Sunday, July 18, 2021. Vietnam has put its entire southern region in a two-week lockdown starting midnight Sunday, as confirmed daily COVID-19 cases exceeded 3,000 for the third day in a row. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

Vietnam put its entire southern region in a two-week lockdown starting midnight Sunday, as confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeded 3,000 for the third day in a row.

The lockdown order includes the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City metropolis, the country’s financial and economic hub with over 35 million people — nearly a third of Vietnam’s population.

Officials say they have to act as the number of infections reached nearly 50,000 since the outbreak reemerged at the end of April after several months of no cases being recorded. Most of the 225 COVID-19 dead — 190 of them — have occurred since April.

“The situation is getting serious with a high rate of transmission, especially with the dangerous delta variant. We have to put the health and safety of the people as top priority,” Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh was quoted as saying in announcing the restrictions.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Nightclubs elated, but doubts cloud England’s ‘Freedom Day’

The Piano Works club in Farringdon, London, Friday, July 16, 2021, ahead of the reopening of nightclubs, as part of the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. Thousands of young people plan to dance the night away at “Freedom Day” parties as the clock strikes midnight Monday, when almost all coronavirus restrictions in England are due to be scrapped. Nightclubs can open fully and are not required to use vaccine passports. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Sparkling wine, confetti, a midnight countdown: It’s not New Year’s Eve, but it might as well be for England’s clubbers. After 17 months of empty dance floors, the country’s nightclubs are reopening with a bang.

From London to Liverpool, thousands of young people plan to dance the night away at “Freedom Day” parties the moment it becomes Monday, which is when almost all coronavirus restrictions in England are due to be scrapped. Face masks will no longer be legally required, and with social distancing rules shelved, there will be no more limits on people attending theater performances or big events.

Nightclubs, which have been shuttered since March 2020, can finally reopen with no occupancy restrictions or mask and testing requirements. Many of the reopening parties planned for the occasion sold out days ahead.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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Olympic guests get view of Tokyo — from the bus

The Tokyo Tower is seen through a bus window ahead of the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics on Thursday, July 15, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

As the bus rumbles along a Tokyo thruway, passengers steal a fleeting glance at the Olympic rings floating on a barge in the bay. Colorful shop signs that dot the Kabukicho entertainment district pass by in a blur. The Tokyo Tower glows, if only briefly.

The pandemic-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics are days away from starting and thousands of athletes, officials and media are descending on a Tokyo under a state of emergency because of surging COVID-19 cases. For many of the visitors under strict protective protocols, the only way to get a glimpse of this unique capital city is from a vehicle, whisking the sporting guests from athlete village or hotel to venue.

AP photographer Jae C. Hong spent hours riding Olympic buses, trying to get a feel for Tokyo as the Games in a bubble ramp up.

See the full photo gallery here.

—The Associated Press

In U-turn, UK’s Johnson to quarantine after COVID-19 contact

In this Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020 file photo, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, left, leave Downing Street to attend a cabinet meeting in London.  Johnson has been contacted by the country’s test-and-trace system as a contact of a confirmed coronavirus case. The prime minister’s office says that unlike most people, he won’t have to self-isolate. But Johnson’s office says the prime minister will instead take a daily coronavirus test as part of a pilot project. The same applies to Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, who also was contacted. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spend 10 days self-isolating after contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, his office said Sunday — reversing an earlier announcement that he would not have to quarantine.

Johnson’s 10 Downing St. office said Sunday that the prime minister and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak were both alerted overnight by England’s test-and-trace phone app. He had a meeting on Friday with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Javid, who has been fully vaccinated, says he is experiencing mild symptoms.

People who are notified through the app are supposed to self-isolate, though it is not a legal requirement. Contacts of positive cases usually are advised to self-isolate for 10 days.

But Johnson’s office initially said the prime minister and Sunak would instead take a daily coronavirus test as part of an alternative system being piloted in some workplaces, including government offices. That plan was reversed less than three hours later after an outcry over apparent special treatment for politicians.

Britain is experiencing rising coronavirus cases, and an associated “pingdemic” of hundreds of thousands of people being told to quarantine because they have been near someone who tested positive.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Tunisia puts military on vaccination duty as cases soar

A soldier helps and elderly man to enter the vaccination center in Kesra, 80 miles south of Tunis, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. As part of the efforts from the Tunisian government to try to stop the increasing number of infections in the country, the militaries were deployed to some cities and rural areas hardly affected by COVID-19 or with a very low rate of vaccination, to vaccinate people. (AP Photo/Saber Zidi)

Soldiers hold rifles to guard the health center in the traditional Tunisian village of Kesra, while inside, military medics use other weapons to combat COVID-19: vaccines.

Tunisia is facing its worst coronavirus surge since the pandemic began, further stressing the North African country’s already crowded hospitals and health system. That has forced some regions to go back into lockdown and prompted waves of donations of vaccines or medical aid from China, France, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria.

Tunisia’s government decided to deploy the armed forces to vaccinate people in the regions with the worst infection rates and in areas with particularly low vaccination rates.

Over the past month, confirmed cases in Tunisia have reached their highest daily numbers of the pandemic, but the nationwide vaccination rate remains low, according to data from John’s Hopkins University. Tunisia has reported Africa’s highest per-capita pandemic death toll and is currently recording one of the world’s highest daily per-capita infection rates, the data indicate.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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In undervaccinated swaths of Arkansas, COVID-19 upends life all over again

When the boat factory in this leafy Ozark Mountains city offered free coronavirus vaccinations this spring, Susan Johnson, 62, a receptionist there, declined the offer, figuring she was protected as long as she never left her house without a mask.

This month, she was a patient on 2 West, an overflow ward that is now largely devoted to treating COVID-19 at Baxter Regional Medical Center, the largest hospital in north-central Arkansas.

While much of the nation tiptoes toward normalcy, the coronavirus is again swamping hospitals in places like Mountain Home, a city of fewer than 13,000 people not far from the Missouri border. A principal reason, health officials say, is the emergence of the new, far more contagious delta variant, which now accounts for more than half of new infections in the United States.

The variant has highlighted a new divide in America, between communities with high vaccination rates, where it causes hardly a ripple, and those like Mountain Home that are undervaccinated, where it threatens to upend life all over again. Part of the country is breathing a sigh of relief; part is holding its breath.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

First positive COVID tests for athletes in Olympic Village

People gather for a rally in Tokyo’s Shinjuku shopping district Sunday, July 18, 2021, to protest against the Olympics starting from July 23. They held signs that said No Olympics.(AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

Two athletes living in the Olympic Village have tested positive for COVID-19, the first to do so with the Tokyo Games opening on Friday.

Organizers on Sunday also said another athlete had tested positive but this person was not residing in the Olympic Village. This athlete was also identified as “non-Japanese.”

Also on Sunday, the first International Olympic Committee member was reported as positive. He recorded a positive test on Saturday upon entering a Tokyo airport.

IOC President Thomas Bach said last week there was “zero” risk of athletes in the village passing on the virus to Japanese or other residents of the village.

Organizers say since July 1, 55 people linked to the Olympics have reported positive tests. This figure does not include athletes or others who may have arrived for training camps but are not yet under the “jurisdiction” of the organizing committee.

The Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay will house 11,000 Olympic athletes and thousands of support staff.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Vaccine inequity: Inside the cutthroat race to secure doses

In this Monday, March 15, 2021 file photo, a health worker applies a dose of the Sinovac vaccine from her vehicle, in the Kalunga Vao de Almas community, a rural area on the outskirts of Cavalcante, Goias state, Brazil. Less than 1% of the world’s poorest citizens have received a dose, and experts say it could be 2023 until vaccines are widely available everywhere. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

No one disputes that the world is unfair. But no one expected a vaccine gap between the global rich and poor that was this bad, this far into the pandemic.

Inequity is everywhere: Inoculations go begging in the United States while Haiti, a short plane ride away, received its first delivery July 15 after months of promises — 500,000 doses for a population over 11 million. Canada has procured more than 10 doses for every resident; Sierra Leone’s vaccination rate just cracked 1% on June 20.

It’s like a famine in which “the richest guys grab the baker,” said Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union’s envoy for vaccine acquisition.

In fact, European and American officials deeply involved in bankrolling and distributing the vaccines against coronavirus have told The Associated Press there was no thought of how to handle the situation globally. Instead, they jostled for their own domestic use.

But there are more specific reasons why vaccines have and have not reached the haves and have-nots.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press