Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, July 19, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 Tokyo, which is hosting the pandemic-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics, officials are trying to keep a tight lock on visitors with strict protocols. At least two athletes in the Olympic Village have already tested positive for COVID-19, and other cases connected to the Tokyo Games were also confirmed Sunday. The games had been postponed for a year because of the pandemic, and are scheduled to begin on Friday.
U.S. health officials say the best defense against the delta variant is a COVID-19 vaccine. Rochelle Walensky, who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is calling the current surge “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
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 live updates from previous days, plus all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.
The coronavirus beta variant: What scientists know
England lifted nearly all of its pandemic restrictions Monday, which some Britons have hailed as “freedom day.” The British government, however, made a notable exception: People traveling to England from France must continue to quarantine upon their arrival, even if they are fully vaccinated.
The rule, announced Friday, was spurred by concerns about the presence of the beta variant of the coronavirus in France and is intended as a precautionary measure, officials said.
“While vaccines are helping us turn the tables against this virus, we need to continue to proceed cautiously,” Dr. Jenny Harries, CEO of the U.K. Health Security Agency, said in a statement. “That means maintaining our defenses against new variants and protecting our hard-won progress through the exceptional vaccination rollout.”
Summer travelers crowd U.S. airports despite coronavirus concerns
More travelers passed through U.S. airports Sunday than at any time since the start of the pandemic, federal data show, suggesting that the desire to get away this summer remains strong in the face of discouraging coronavirus news.
About 2.2 million people passed through security checkpoints at airports in the United States, nearly three times as many as the same day a year ago, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration. That was still half a million short of the same day in 2019, before the pandemic, and about 300,000 short of July 21, 2019, which was also a late-July Sunday.
The number of travelers continues to grow even though reported coronavirus infections are rising, particularly in areas with low rates of vaccination.
R. Carter Langston, a spokesperson for the TSA, said that the number of travelers screened was hovering just below 2019 levels, even though business and international travel have not recovered ground lost during the pandemic.
Amazon to end COVID-19 testing program in its facilities
Amazon will start phasing out on-site COVID-19 tests at its warehouses by the end of the month, a company spokesperson confirmed Monday.
The Information tech news website first reported that Amazon planned to end its coronavirus testing program, which during the brunt of the pandemic last fall aimed to process 50,000 tests from 650 facilities per day.
Amazon decided to end its testing program because of “the progress we have made and improvements in public health conditions we are observing across the country,” spokesperson Kim Lafleur said in an email.
“The health and safety of our employees remains our top priority,” Lafleur added. “Aligning with updated guidance from the CDC and other public health officials, we are excited about taking the next steps on our path back to normal operations.”
Biden: ‘Killing people’ remark was call for big tech to act
President Joe Biden tempered his assessment that social media giants are “killing people” by hosting misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines on their platforms, saying Monday that he hoped they would not take it “personally” and instead would act to save lives.
While companies like Facebook defend their practices and say they’re helping people around the world access verified information about the shots, the White House says they haven’t done enough to stop misinformation that has helped slow the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. to a trickle. It comes as the U.S. sees a rise in virus cases and deaths among those who haven’t gotten a shot, in what officials call an emerging “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Speaking at the White House, Biden insisted he meant “precisely what I said” when he said Friday of the tech giants that “they’re killing people.” But he said the point of his rhetoric was to ramp up pressure on the companies to take action.
“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I’m saying ‘Facebook is killing people,’ that they would do something about the misinformation,” Biden said.
Review praised Tennessee vaccine director’s leadership before firing
Before a top Tennessee health official recommended firing the state’s former vaccine director over claims that include shortcomings in her leadership, her supervisor had praised her “strong leadership” as recently as last month while her program faced “very intense scrutiny and performance expectations,” according to a state job performance evaluation circulated publicly on her behalf.
The interim performance review sheds additional light on the circumstances leading up to the July 12 termination of Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who has spent the last week speaking nationally in rebuttal to a firing she argues was political appeasement for Republican lawmakers who were fuming over the department’s COVID-19 vaccine outreach efforts for eligible minors.
In a July 9 letter, Tennessee’s chief medical officer, Tim Jones, 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, which helped prompt the backlash from lawmakers. The Department of Health released her personnel file, including the firing recommendation letter, in response to public records requests from news outlets.
Tennessee officials didn’t include her performance reviews, which are exempted under state public records law, but Fiscus’ husband Brad released them in rebuttal. Several years’ worth of them show her performance was deemed “outstanding,” including for October 2019 through September 2020.
Arkansas virus hospitalizations go up by 106 over weekend
The number of people hospitalized due to the coronavirus jumped by 106 over the weekend in Arkansas, which is leading the nation in new virus cases per capita.
The Department of Health said Monday that the state’s virus hospitalizations increased to 787. Of those, 291 patients are in intensive care and 124 patients are on ventilators.
The state’s virus cases increased over the past three days by 2,552 to 365,132 total since the pandemic began. The state reported 15 new deaths. The department recently stopped reporting daily COVID-19 numbers on weekends, releasing the figures on Monday instead.
After slow start, Canada passes U.S. in COVID-19 vaccinations
Canada has fully vaccinated 48.8% of its population against COVID-19, overtaking the U.S. rate for the first time after a delayed start caused by procurement troubles and distribution bottlenecks.
In the U.S., where vaccinations are plateauing in some regions, 48.6% of the population is fully inoculated.
Of those old enough to get the vaccine in Canada, 55% have now received two doses, according to calculations by CTV News based on provincial and federal government data. Health authorities have approved the Pfizer Inc. shot for children 12 years and older.
Rapid progress in the vaccine campaign — Canada had fully vaccinated about 3% of its population by the middle of May — is opening the way for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to relax travel restrictions on the eve of a likely election campaign.
State health officials report 480 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 480 new coronavirus cases and one new death on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 461,847 cases and 6,043 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 26,196 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 125 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 114,637 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,675 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,032,919 doses and 51.8% 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 10,859 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.
China reports its first death of a human from rare Monkey B virus
A man in China has died after contracting a rare infectious disease from primates, known as the Monkey B virus, Chinese health officials revealed in a report Saturday. The victim, a 53-year-old veterinarian based in Beijing, was the first documented human case of the virus in China.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the man worked in a research institute that specialized in nonhuman primate breeding and dissected two dead monkeys in March. He experienced nausea, vomiting and fever a month later, and died May 27. His blood and saliva samples were sent to the center in April, where researchers found evidence of the Monkey B virus. Two of his close contacts, a male doctor and a female nurse, tested negative for the virus, officials said.
The Monkey B virus, or herpes B virus, is prevalent among macaque monkeys, but extremely rare — and often deadly — when it spreads to humans where it has an 80 percent fatality rate.
Both herpes B and the novel coronavirus are “the consequence of species jumps,” said Nikolaus Osterrieder, dean of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences in Hong Kong. “But the important difference is that in the case from herpes B, it’s a dead end. It’s not jumping from one human to another human,” he added. “SARS-CoV-2, on the other hand, acquired the ability to spread to a new host.”
Storm’s Katie Lou Samuelson to miss Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19
Katie Lou Samuelson’s dreams of making history at the Summer Olympics came to a halt this weekend.
The Storm forward, who was placed in COVID-19 health and safety protocols on Saturday, was officially scratched Monday morning from the Team USA’s first-ever 3×3 women’s basketball team and will not compete in Tokyo.
Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young will replace Samuelson and join a U.S. team that includes former Washington Huskies star Kelsey Plum, Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray and Chicago Sky center Stefanie Dolson.
In an Instagram post, Samuelson said she was heartbroken about testing positive for the coronavirus particularly because she is part of the 99% of WNBA players who are fully vaccinated.
“I am devastated to share that after getting sick with COVID-19, I will not be able to go and compete in Tokyo,” Samuelson said. “Competing in the Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and I hope someday soon, I can come back to realize that dream.
Canada to let vaccinated US citizens enter country on Aug. 9
Canada announced Monday it will begin letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens into Canada on Aug. 9, and those from the rest of the world on Sept. 7.
Officials said the 14-day quarantine requirement will be waived as of Aug. 9 for eligible travelers who are currently residing in the United States and have received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada.
The U.S. has not yet indicated any plan to change current restrictions at the land border. Canadians are able to fly into the United States with a negative COVID-19 test but not by land.
Japan girds for a surreal Olympics, and questions are plenty
After a yearlong delay and months of hand-wringing that rippled across a pandemic-inflected world, a Summer Games unlike any other is at hand. It’s an Olympics, sure, but also, in a very real way, something quite different.
No foreign fans. No local attendance in Tokyo-area venues. A reluctant populace navigating a surge of virus cases amid a still-limited vaccination campaign. Athletes and their entourages confined to a quasi-bubble, under threat of deportation. Government minders and monitoring apps trying — in theory, at least — to track visitors’ every move. Alcohol curtailed or banned. Cultural exchanges, the kind that power the on-the-ground energy of most Games, completely absent.
And running like an electric current through it all: the inescapable knowledge of the suffering and sense of displacement that COVID-19 has ushered in, both here and around the world.
All signs point to an utterly surreal and atomized Games, one that will divide Japan into two worlds during the month of Olympics and Paralympics competition.
What’s next for newspapers as COVID news cycle fades
The Press & Journal, a weekly paper covering Middletown, a small town near Pennsylvania’s capital, folded in July 2020 because its ad revenue collapsed in the pandemic. Its publishers, Joe and Louise Sukle, decided there was no future for the paper, even after getting a $146,000 emergency small-business loan from the government and donations from the community while seeing its site traffic zoom up.
The town has lost a local news source that covered council meetings, school board meetings, the police and important projects in the area like a new train station.
“The thing that really pains us is there’s a vacuum now,” Joe Sukle said. “The people who suffer that is the public.”
The coronavirus pandemic, a high-stakes U.S. election and a racial reckoning expanded news audiences for many newspapers and TV news channels, making 2020 a blockbuster news year. But it was terrible for the newspaper industry’s finances — and also for the public that relies on original reporting to keep it informed about local governments and communities. The overall contraction of the industry — now more than a decade old — is likely to continue in 2021.
UK opts not to vaccinate most under-18s against COVID-19
The British government decided Monday not to inoculate most children and teenagers against COVID-19 until more data on the available vaccines becomes available.
Children as young as 12 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down Syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as those who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed, will be eligible for vaccination, the government said.
The decision to hold off giving shots to most people under age 18 was based on the recommendation of an expert advisory panel which said the health benefits of universal vaccination don’t outweigh the risks for most young people, who typically suffer only mild symptoms of the virus.
The move puts the U.K. at odds with the U.S., France and several other European countries, which have decided to vaccinate adolescents as young as 12.
Wary and Weary, Los Angeles Largely Accepts Restored COVID Mask Mandate
As the sun began to burn through the morning marine layer, patrons of the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California, were still adjusting to the new normal, which was pretty much the old normal — an order from Los Angeles County to wear masks indoors in businesses and public places.
Most customers dutifully took their masks on and off at the entrance of shops, where signs were posted to remind them of the policy and where, in some cases, complimentary masks were offered. Out-of-state tourists found themselves wearing masks for the first time in months, sometimes annoyed but largely compliant.
“Some people think it’s a punishment,” said Lisa Liu, 38, who said she was fully vaccinated. “But for me it’s a mask — it’s not a big deal.”
It was not what people expected when the previous mandate was lifted a month ago, but for the most part people in Los Angeles seemed to react with resigned acceptance, sometimes even weary approval, figuring that rising COVID-19 rates made the policy tolerable, if not welcome.
Anger as French protesters compare vaccines to Nazi horrors
A French Holocaust survivor has denounced anti-vaccination protesters comparing themselves to Jews who were persecuted by Nazi Germany during World War II. French officials and anti-racism groups joined the 94-year-old in expressing indignation.
As more than 100,000 people marched around France against government vaccine rules on Saturday, some demonstrators wore yellow stars recalling the ones the Nazis forced Jews to wear. Other demonstrators carried signs evoking the Auschwitz death camp or South Africa’s apartheid regime, claiming the French government was unfairly mistreating them with its anti-pandemic measures.
Historian and former Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld also took aim at the analogy, stressing Monday that “the yellow star was a symbol of death that excluded Jews from society and marked them for extermination, while vaccines, on the other hand, save lives.” To equate the two, he told The Associated Press, is an “odious” comparison that serves to trivialize the yellow star.
Virus surge fears, UK leader’s quarantine, mar ‘Freedom Day’
Corks popped, beats boomed out and giddy revelers rushed onto dancefloors when England’s nightclubs reopened Monday as the country lifted most remaining coronavirus restrictions after more than a year of lockdowns, mask mandates and other pandemic-related curbs on freedom.
For clubbers and nightclub owners, the moment lived up to its media-given moniker, “Freedom Day.” But the big step out of lockdown was met with nervousness by many Britons and concern from scientists, who say the U.K. is entering uncharted waters by opening up when confirmed cases are not falling but soaring.
But while entertainment businesses and ravers are jubilant, many others are deeply worried about scrapping restrictions at a time when COVID-19 cases are on a rapid upswing because of the highly infectious delta variant first identified in India.
Cases topped 50,000 per day last week for the first time since January and in a reminder of how volatile the situation is, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his treasury chief were spending “Freedom Day” in quarantine after contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
COVID-19 outbreak reported at medical center in Vancouver, Washington
An outbreak of COVID-19 traced to a patient floor at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center has sickened at least 10 patients and four employees in the last few days, according to hospital and public health officials.
The hospital has isolated the floor and started testing the remaining patients for COVID-19, officials said Sunday. All of the patients were in the hospital for other medical reasons when they contracted COVID-19, according to Clark County Public Health.
Of the 14 total cases, only five are fully vaccinated. Only the unvaccinated patients are showing symptoms of the disease, the Columbian reported.
Stocks sink, yields tumble as virus fears circle the world
Stocks are falling sharply Monday as worries sweep from Wall Street to Sydney that the worsening pandemic in hotspots around the world will derail what’s been a strong economic recovery.
The S&P 500 was 1.9% lower in morning trading, after setting a record high just a week earlier. In another sign of worry, the yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped close to its lowest level in five months. It sank below 1.20% as investors scrambled for safer places to put their money.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 769 points, or 2.2%, at 33,918, as of 10:17 a.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq composite was 1.7% lower.
Airlines, hotels and stocks of other companies that would get hurt the most by potential COVID-19 restrictions were taking some of the heaviest losses, similar to the early days of the pandemic in February and March 2020.
The drop also circled the world, with several European markets down nearly 3%, on worries new, more infectious variants of the virus are dragging particularly hard on economies where vaccination rates are low.
Iran imposes weeklong lockdown of Tehran as virus surges
Iran on Monday imposed a week-long lockdown on the capital, Tehran, and the surrounding region as the country struggles with another surge in the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported.
The lockdown — the nation’s fifth so far — will begin on Tuesday and last until next Monday. All bazars, market places and public offices will close, as well as movie theaters, gyms and restaurants in both Tehran province and the neighboring province of Alborz.
Iran reported 25,441 new cases on Monday and 213 deaths over the past day, bringing the overall death toll to 87,374 from among more than 3.5 million confirmed cases in the pandemic.
During an earlier surge in cases, in April, Iran reported the highest daily number of cases, 25,582. At the time, its daily death tolls surged to around 400, below the grim record of 486 reached last November.
Australia deports commentator Hopkins for quarantine boast
Far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins was deported from Australia on Monday after she boasted on social media that she planned to breach the country’s quarantine rules.
Hopkins traveled to Australia to appear in reality television program "Big Brother VIP" and was in a 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine in Sydney before filming was to start.
In a since-deleted Instagram video from her hotel room, she said that she planned to frighten staff who brought meals to her door by confronting them naked and without a mask.
People in quarantine are not allowed to open their hotel room doors until 30 seconds after their meals have been delivered and must wear masks while their doors are open.
Hopkins was often retweeted by Trump and gained notoriety for her anti-Muslim and anti-immigration comments and for describing pandemic lockdowns as the “greatest hoax in human history.”
Hopkins left on a commercial flight from Sydney’s airport early Monday and her contract with the show was cancelled.
Number of infected Texas lawmakers who fled state rises to 5
Two more Texas lawmakers who left their state to hobble efforts to pass new voting restrictions have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising to five the number of infected people in the delegation.
More than 50 Texas lawmakers traveled to Washington on Monday aboard a private charter flight. A caucus official has said all had been vaccinated.
The Democrats fled the state to deny the Republican-controlled Legislature the necessary quorum to pass the voting laws.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Linda and Mike Casey thought they were doing everything right. They isolated themselves, wore masks and got their vaccines quickly. What they didn’t realize was that Mike’s impaired immune system didn’t respond to the shots. The Tacoma doctor died on June 2, becoming one of nearly 1,000 Washingtonians killed by COVID-19 since early March. The families that have lost loved ones to the virus are left to deal with grief and, in some cases when the victims weren't vaccinated, remorse.
How vaccinated and unvaccinated people can stay safe: Surging COVID-19 variants are changing the calculus, but health experts say precautions can help limit the risks. Here's their thinking on masks, gatherings, unvaccinated kids and more.
The U.S. surgeon general is backing the return of masks in some places, like Vegas (where they're now recommended for everyone again) and LA (where the sheriff is refusing to enforce the resurrected mandate).
In this summer of new freedoms, "the world needs a reality check," disease experts say. You don't have to look hard to find plenty of those.
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