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 It is no longer being updated.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

“In both eastern and western Washington cases are increasing fastest among 20-29 year olds and are also growing in both younger and older age groups around them,” the report, released Friday, says. “There is no progress to zero; the level of daily new cases is substantially higher than the state’s previous peak in March.”

Also Friday, the state Department of Health (DOH) confirmed 754 new COVID-19 cases in Washington, 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 DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

Live updates:

85 babies test positive for coronavirus in Texas

A health official on the Texas Gulf Coast said 85 infants have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Corpus Christi Nueces County Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez said Friday that the 85 infants are each younger than 1, but offered no other details, including how the children are suspected to have become infected.

Texas health officials reported more than 10,000 new cases for a fifth consecutive day Saturday and said 130 more people have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, bringing the number of reported cases to 317,730 and the number of deaths to 3,865.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Appeals court overrules in-person Texas GOP convention

A federal appeals court has overruled a judge’s ruling that allowed the Texas Republican Party to hold its convention in-person, marking a big win for Houston in an ongoing battle with the GOP.

In an order issued Saturday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Friday’s ruling that would have permitted the Republican Party of Texas to host an in-person convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Judge Lynn Hughes, of the Southern District of Texas, had ordered Friday that the city of Houston violated the GOP’s constitutional rights by canceling the event.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, had directed operators of the George R. Brown Convention Center earlier this month to cancel the Texas GOP’s contract to hold an in-person convention this weekend at the center. The mayor said he believed the three-day event could not be held safely with the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, running rampant in Houston and much of Texas.

The party sued, alleging breach of contract, but it lost an appeal at the Texas Supreme Court on Monday.

The ruling Saturday came as Texas reported more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the fifth consecutive day.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

13 more cases in China’s far west outbreak

China on Sunday reported 13 more confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the northwestern city of Urumqi, raising the total in the country’s most recent local outbreak to at least 30.

An additional three cases were brought into the country from overseas, increasing China’s total number of confirmed infections to 83,660 with 4,634 reported deaths.

Despite the Urumqi outbreak, China has just 251 people remaining in treatment for COVID-19, according to the National Health Commission.

An additional 151 people were being monitored in isolation for showing signs of having the virus or for testing positive without showing symptoms. At least 23 of those asymptomatic cases were in Urumqi, although China does not include them in confirmed cases.

Full story here.

—The Associated Press

State health officials confirm 959 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths

State health officials on Saturday confirmed 959 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Friday, including 10 new deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 46,026 cases and 1,444 deaths, meaning about 3.1% 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. Friday.

So far, 791,786 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.8% have come back positive.

The state has confirmed 12,953 diagnoses and 637 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for about 44.1% of the state's death toll. 

—Scott Hanson

NFL tells teams training camps will open on time

The NFL has informed teams their training camps will open on time.

League executive Troy Vincent sent a memo to general managers and head coaches on Saturday informing them rookies can report by Tuesday, quarterbacks and injured players by Thursday and all other players can arrive by July 28.

Rookies for Houston and Kansas City are set to report Monday.

The league and the NFL Players Association are still discussing testing for the coronavirus and other health and safety protocols. Union leadership expressed several concerns in a 90-minute conference call with reporters Friday.

The full story here.

—The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman prayed ‘Please don’t take me’ during COVID-19 fight

Freddie Freeman doesn’t know if he has time to be ready for the Atlanta Braves’ opener.

Following a scary journey in his battle with COVID-19, Freeman is grateful to even have a chance.

On Saturday, the four-time All-Star revealed he had a high temperature of 104.5 degrees early in his battle with the disease and prayed for his life.

“I said a little prayer that night,” Freeman said in a video conference call. “I’ve never been that hot before. My body was really, really hot. … I said ‘Please don’t take me’ because I wasn’t ready.”

Freeman said the fever was down to 101 the following morning and broke two days later. He said Saturday was his ninth consecutive day without symptoms, which also included body aches, chills and a temporary loss of his senses of taste and smell. He said two other members of his household, his wife and aunt, are recovering after positive tests.

The full story here.

—The Associated Press

PGA Tour player Denny McCarthy finally tests negative, won't have to stay isolated

Denny McCarthy had a 76 in the third round of the Memorial and still found reason to smile Saturday.

The PGA Tour player finally returned a negative test for the coronavirus.

That means he can have lunch in the clubhouse with the rest of the players, instead of being relegated to his own private spot near the bag room. And he’ll have company in the final round, instead of playing by himself.

McCarthy, Dylan Frittelli and Harris English were among those at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, who already have tested positive for the coronavirus, went through self-isolation and no longer have symptoms or are believed to be contagious.

The Tour said its medical advisers learned that in such cases, positive test results can continue for several weeks because of what amounts to a dead virus that tests still detect. Players who meet that criteria can play, but to be extra safe, the Tour is keeping them away from everyone else.

Now that McCarthy tested negative, he’s a regular again.

The full story here.

—The Associated Press

Police shut down Barcelona beaches amid coronavirus spike

Police in Barcelona closed down access to a large area of the city’s beaches on Saturday after too many sunbathers ignored authorities' request to stay at home amid a new wave of surging coronavirus infections.

Barcelona and other areas of Spain's northeastern Catalonia region have experienced the largest outbreaks in the country since the European country ended a strict three-month nationwide lockdown that succeeded in reining in a savage outbreak that has claimed over 28,400 lives.

Catalan health authorities on Saturday reported over 1,200 new daily cases.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Older children can spread the coronavirus just as much as adults, study finds

In the heated debate over reopening schools, one burning question has been whether and how efficiently children can spread the coronavirus to others.

A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than age 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10-19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.

The findings suggest that as schools reopen, communities will see clusters of infection take root that include children of all ages, several experts cautioned.

“I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won’t get infected or don’t get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they’re almost like a bubbled population,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Trump administration seeks to block money for testing, tracing, CDC in upcoming virus relief bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration is trying to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, people involved in the talks said Saturday.

The administration is also trying to block billions of dollars that GOP senators want to allocate for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and billions more for the Pentagon and State Department to address the pandemic at home and abroad, the people said.

The administration's posture has angered some GOP senators, the officials said, and some lawmakers are trying to ensure the money stays in the bill. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal confidential deliberations, cautioned that the talks were fluid and the numbers were in flux.

The negotiations center on a bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is preparing to unveil this coming week as part of the negotiations with Democrats on what will likely be the last major coronavirus relief bill before the November election.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

The border town of Blaine, Washington was on the rise. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

BLAINE, Wash. — Over the past couple of years, Mike Hill poured more than $3.5 million into renovating his Chevron gas station and opening a Starbucks next door. People from British Columbia were crossing the border in droves to buy cheap gas and milk in Blaine. It seemed like a slam-dunk investment.

Len Saunders, a U.S. immigration attorney, remembers talking to Hill about the plan when he was trying to convince Starbucks to open in town.

“They said to him, what if the border closes down?” Saunders recalled. The idea seemed so preposterous to those who lived in Blaine that “everyone laughed.”

Then the coronavirus arrived. Now almost no one comes to Blaine anymore.

When the border between the United States and Canada closed to nonessential travel March 21, the southbound traffic into Blaine — the busiest crossing between Washington and British Columbia — slowed to a trickle. In June, just 12,600 people entered the United States from British Columbia, down from 479,600 during the same month last year.

The economic impact on Blaine, a city of about 5,000, has been crippling. Beaches are now largely empty save for the rocks left by the receding tide. More than a dozen gas stations that once bustled with people heading elsewhere are quiet. The stores that handled mail-order goods for Canadians looking to avoid taxes are piled high with packages that their purchasers cannot pick up.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

As Trump talks less about coronavirus, states look inward for answers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has taken an increasingly hands-off approach to the coronavirus crisis in recent days even as COVID-19 cases and deaths have surged to record highs in a huge slice of the country, including areas where he has enjoyed strong support.

Meanwhile, governors and big city mayors in much of the United States are sending a blunt message to their constituents: Don’t expect a federal cavalry to save the day.

Throughout the crisis, the president has been quick to convey certitude, with threats to state and local officials who did not heed his warnings. But as the pandemic has continued to ravage the nation, his actions have largely been muted.

Large districts in Los Angeles, Houston and suburban Washington are among those to defy Trump's demand that schools fully reopen this fall. They announced this past week that the escalating virus cases will cause them to delay opening their buildings for in-person learning. Others districts, including New York City and Chicago, have laid out initial plans for a combination of in-person and online learning.

At the same time, governors and mayors have largely stopped pleading for more federal government help. Instead, they are making it clear that it will be on the shoulders of communities to stem the accelerating spread of the virus.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Q&A: What is herd immunity? And how do we get there on COVID-19?

Add to the pandemic lexicon another once-obscure term that’s come into common usage: “herd immunity.”

Along with “flatten the curve,” “social distancing” and “super spreader,” it’s a phrase that prior to COVID-19 was casually uttered mainly by epidemiologists and public health officials. But while the meanings of those other terms are now clear to many, herd immunity is a concept that is more complex, more nuanced and often misunderstood, scientists say.

For example: With no end to the pandemic in sight, some public figures are arguing that nearly all restrictions and required precautions should be lifted so enough people become sick to achieve herd immunity.

But epidemiologists and other public health experts say that’s a really lousy idea.

“It’ll kill millions of people,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Millions of people will die.”

So, what exactly is herd immunity? Is it a good thing? And, if it is, what’s the best way to achieve it?

Read the full story here.

—The Chicago Tribune

Russia is trying to beat the West to a COVID-19 vaccine

A top Russian official said his country could roll out a vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as September, while denying accusations that hackers working for the country's intelligence agency tried to steal sensitive data from rival researchers in the U.K., U.S. and Canada.

"Russia may be one of the first to produce a vaccine against the backdrop of the billions that are being invested in the U.S. and all the pharma companies working on it," said Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the government-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is financing one of the country's efforts to devise a vaccine. "It's a little bit of a shocking story."

President Vladimir Putin has made finding a vaccine a top priority. Russia has recorded more than 750,000 COVID-19 cases, making it the fourth most-affected country in the world.

In Russia's race to be the first to find a vaccine against COVID-19, it's taking an approach that would be shunned in other countries, claiming it will know in just three months of trials whether its leading candidate works. If Russia proclaims success in the hunt for a vaccine before other candidates, it could create a world of dueling vaccines and geopolitical battles over who gets supplies.

Read the full story here.


Coronavirus patients swamp emergency rooms in some U.S. states

A fast-rising rising tide of new coronavirus cases is flooding emergency rooms in parts of the United States, with some patients moved into hallways and nurses working extra shifts to keep up with the surge.

Patients struggling to breathe are being placed on ventilators in emergency wards since intensive care units are full, officials say, and the near-constant care they require is overtaxing workers who also are treating more typical ER cases like chest pains, infections, and fractures.

In Texas, Dr. Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine said the current situation is worse than after Hurricane Harvey, which swamped Houston with floodwaters in 2017. The state reported a new daily record for virus deaths Friday and more than 10,000 confirmed cases for the fourth consecutive day.

“I’ve never seen anything like this COVID surge,” said Haddock, who has worked in emergency rooms since 2007. “We’re doing our best, but we’re not an ICU.”

Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, she said, and the least sick people are lying in beds in halls to make room for most seriously ill.

Around Seattle, which was the nation's first hot spot for the virus that causes COVID-19, a new wave of patients is showing up at emergency departments, said nurse Mike Hastings.

“What’s really frustrating from my side of it is when a patient comes into the emergency department, and is not really having symptoms of COVID, but they feel like they need that testing,” said Hastings, who works at an area hospital and is president of the Emergency Nurses Association. “Sometimes we’re not able to test them because we don’t have enough test supplies, so we’re only testing a certain set of patients."

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Beyond Anchorage, most of Alaska declines to mandate COVID-19 masks

Alaska’s largest city has mandated residents to wear masks in public to reduce the spread of coronavirus, but most of the 49th state’s cities and boroughs are declining to follow suit.

According to a survey by the Daily News, among the state’s largest cities, only Anchorage, Cordova, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Seward, Unalaska and Valdez mandate masks in all public indoor spaces, including stores and restaurants. Most of those mandates allow masks to be removed for activities such as eating and receiving a haircut, when wearing a mask may not be practical.

Among boroughs, only the Northwest Arctic Borough is requiring masks. The Lake and Peninsula Borough has mandated masks at its 70 lodges and hotels, but not in general.

Some smaller communities, such as Gustavus in Southeast Alaska and Emmonak in Southwest Alaska, have ordered mask-wearing in public, but towns and villages without mask orders appear to outnumber those with them.

Officials in communities without mandates said they felt mandated mask-wearing wasn’t needed, would be difficult to enforce, wasn’t legal or lacked sufficient support from the public.

All of the contacted cities and boroughs said they are encouraging residents to voluntarily wear masks, and several said many local businesses — particularly grocery stores and large chains, such as Walmart — are requiring them.

Local officials in several cities without mask mandates said they are following the lead of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The governor has repeatedly said he opposes a statewide mandate and has talked at length about his opposition.

Read the full story here.

—Anchorage Daily News

'We really need help': Coronavirus overwhelms rural Oregon

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Heather Griggs presses a phone to her ear in a makeshift office in the small brick courthouse that once served as a jail in rural Pendleton, a place best known for its annual rodeo.

Her assured tone masks her exhaustion when she tells the person on the other end that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. It’s a call she has made thousands of times since March, but lately there has been a heightened sense of urgency.

The coronavirus has torn through the small Oregon community where farmers grow crops such as potatoes, onions and grains. In Umatilla County, where Pendleton is located, the rate of people testing positive for COVID-19 is about 16%. That’s a measure of how widespread the disease is in the community, and the World Health Organization recommends it stay below 5%. 

In the county with a population of 77,000, the virus has infected more than a thousand people and killed nine, overwhelming its limited resources and employees.

“I’m tired,” said Griggs, who’s working as a contact tracer.

The pandemic sweeping through major U.S. cities is now wreaking havoc on rural communities, with some recording the nation’s most new confirmed cases per capita in the past two weeks. The virus is infecting thousands of often impoverished rural residents every day, swamping struggling health care systems and piling responsibility on government workers who often perform multiple jobs they never signed up for.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

With no end in sight, Congress confronts new coronavirus crisis rescue

WASHINGTON (AP) — It stands as the biggest economic rescue in U.S. history, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill swiftly approved by Congress in the spring. And it's painfully clear now, as the pandemic worsens, it was only the start.

With COVID-19 cases hitting alarming new highs and the death roll rising, the pandemic's devastating cycle is happening all over again, leaving Congress little choice but to engineer another costly rescue. Businesses are shutting down, schools cannot fully reopen and jobs are disappearing, all while federal emergency aid expires. Without a successful federal plan to control the outbreak, Congress heads back to work with no endgame to the crisis in sight.

“It’s not going to magically disappear,” said a somber Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., during a visit to a hospital in his home state to thank front-line workers.

Lawmakers return Monday to Washington to try to pull the country back from the looming COVID-19 cliff. While the White House prefers to outsource much of the decision-making on virus testing and prevention to the states, the absence of a federal intervention has forced the House and Senate to try to draft another assistance package.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Small business owners confront the absence of many Amazon workers for the rest of the year

For many small businesses built on a clientele of Amazon workers in South Lake Union and the Denny Regrade, their absence for the remainder of the year could be an existential threat. 

It’s as if the neighborhoods surrounding one of America’s densest urban corporate headquarters have been sucked back a decade in a matter of months, to a time before some 50,000 well-paid Amazon employees streamed in each day, grabbing morning coffee or hitting the gym for a before-work sweat, swarming the streets in search of lunch and gathering over happy hour drinks. 

Sales have plunged, but for most, the rent is still due.

Amazon has allowed its corporate employees to work from home since early March, though some choose to work in its offices or have roles that require it. The number coming in each day varies, a spokesperson said. 

The company’s extension of the work-from-home policy this week to Jan. 8 upends the already tenuous coronavirus survival strategies that nearby small businesses have cobbled together with a mix of loans, grants and some rent relief (including from Amazon itself) and drastically revamped operations.

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Romano

Catch up on the past 24 hours

COVID-19 is on a path to 'runaway growth' in Washington, state health officials warned Friday afternoon. Coronavirus 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," according to a new report.

When should you wear a mask? Let's debunk some myths. Plus, new studies offer some clarity on which drugs help or hurt if you have COVID-19.

The 'pace of loss' in Seattle is accelerating: First with gentrification and lately with the pandemic, keeping up with vanishing Seattle is like taking photos while going over a waterfall, columnist Danny Westneat writes. A local website is keeping track of the losses and showcasing local businesses that are surviving — for now.

No to drive-in concerts, yes to drive-in movies: That's how our in-car entertainment options shake out under Gov. Jay Inslee's recently announced 10-person limit on gatherings for counties in Phase 3 of Washington's reopening plan (King County is in Phase 2, where the limit is five people).

There are ways to maintain human connection even while staying physically apart. Our features staffers share some ideas that are working for them.

Science, not politics, should guide school reopening, former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday, unveiling his plan for how he'd do it if elected president this November.

Cruise lines downsize: Seattle-based Holland America Line has sold four cruise ships and will sail only two ships from Seattle when cruising resumes, down from three last year. Carnival is shedding nine vessels, some headed for the scrap yard.

—Seattle Times staff

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