Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, July 2, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As COVID restrictions eased across the state this week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a slate of events scheduled for later this summer aimed at bringing workers, visitors and small businesses back to downtown.
Meanwhile, the fast-moving delta variant continues to spread, prompting the Biden administration to announce the formation of “surge response” teams that will deploy additional expertise and supplies to hot spots.
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.
‘Beautiful day’: Mariners welcome full crowds back to T-Mobile Park
While fans and vendors have been able to attend games since the beginning of the season, Friday night’s game between the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers was the first since the state of Washington’s June 30 reopening date, as T-Mobile Park played host to an announced crowd of more than 25,000 fans.
For vendors like Edgar Batiste, who owns Seattle Sausage 3, full capacity crowds mean more stability for his business. While he doesn’t know if the fans will stream back to pre-pandemic levels immediately, he’s excited to see familiar and unfamiliar faces return to the ballpark.
“Without the fans, I’m not in business,” he said. “The more fans that get shots, the better it will be for us.”
Lines of fans — less than six feet apart — waiting for the Home Plate Gate to open were serenaded by a band playing a jazz version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Bunting, usually reserved for opening day, hung from the banisters.
U.S. jobs jump by most in 10 months as economy gains steam
The pace of U.S. hiring accelerated in June, with payrolls gaining the most in 10 months, suggesting firms are having greater success recruiting workers to keep pace with the economy’s reopening.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 850,000 last month, bolstered by strong job gains in leisure and hospitality, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The unemployment rate edged up to 5.9% because more people voluntarily left their jobs and the number of job seekers rose.
The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a 720,000 rise in June payrolls.
“Things are picking up,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at the job-search company Indeed. “While labor supply may not be as responsive as some employers might like, they are adding jobs at an increasing rate.”
Missouri hospital CEO: Vaccine opponents should ‘Shut up’
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — One Missouri hospital official is telling anyone making disparaging remarks about the COVID-19 vaccine to “Shut up” as state officials ask for federal help dealing with a surge in cases that has some counties urging new precautions.
Deep vaccine resistance has allowed the delta variant, first identified India, to take hold in the state, straining hospitals, particularly in the Springfield area.
“If you are making wildly disparaging comments about the vaccine, and have no public health expertise, you may be responsible for someone’s death. Shut up,” tweeted Steve Edwards, who is the CEO of CoxHealth in Springfield.
CoxHealth and the city’s other hospital, Mercy Springfield, were treating 168 COVID-19 patients Friday, up from 31 on May 24, before the surge began, said Aaron Schekorra, a spokesman for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. He said that 36 of them were on ventilators.
Experts question if WHO should lead pandemic origins probe
As the World Health Organization draws up plans for the next phase of its probe of how the coronavirus pandemic started, an increasing number of scientists say the U.N. agency it isn’t up to the task and shouldn’t be the one to investigate.
Numerous experts, some with strong ties to WHO, say that political tensions between the U.S. and China make it impossible for an investigation by the agency to find credible answers.
They say what’s needed is a broad, independent analysis closer to what happened in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The first part of a joint WHO-China study of how COVID-19 started concluded in March that the virus probably jumped to humans from animals and that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” The next phase might try to examine the first human cases in more detail or pinpoint the animals responsible — possibly bats, perhaps by way of some intermediate creature.
Earlier this month, WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said that the agency was working out the final details of the next phase of its probe and that because WHO works “by persuasion,” it lacks the power to compel China to cooperate.
State health officials confirm 423 new coronavirus cases, 1 new death
The Washington state Department of Health reported 423 new coronavirus cases and one new death on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 452,483 cases and 5,939 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. Thursday.
According to the DOH, deaths were not updated on Friday due to data processing issues. The state should have an updated death total by Tuesday.
In addition, 25,538 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — four new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 112,712 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,657 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,846,649 doses and 61.3% 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 14,531 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.
Thai virus surge prompts concern over ICUs, vaccine supply
Health authorities in Thailand reported 6,087 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, setting a record for a second straight day, as concerns mounted over shortages of treatment facilities and vaccine supplies.
Officials also reported 61 deaths on Friday, bringing the total to 2,141.
Around 90% of Thailand’s 270,921 reported coronavirus cases and 95% of the deaths have been recorded during a surge that began in early April. There were 992 deaths in June, more than 15 times Thailand’s total for all of 2020.
The number of patients in ICUs and on ventilators has risen nationwide over the past two weeks.
Germany recommends combination of AstraZeneca, mRNA shots
Germany is recommending that all people who get a first shot of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine switch to a different type of vaccine for their second shot. The aim is to increase the speed and effectiveness of vaccinations as the more contagious delta variant spreads.
Health Minister Jens Spahn conferred with his colleagues from Germany’s 16 states on Friday, the day after the country’s standing committee on vaccination issued a draft recommendation. In a statement, the committee said that “according to current study results,” the immune response from a mixture of AstraZeneca with an mRNA vaccine was “significantly superior” to that from two doses of AstraZeneca.
It recommended that the second dose with an mRNA vaccine — Germany uses those made by BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna — be administered four weeks or more after the first AstraZeneca shot. That is much shorter than the nine to 12 weeks the committee recommends between two doses of AstraZeneca.
Africa’s COVID-19 envoy blasts EU, COVAX over vaccine crisis
The African Union special envoy tasked with leading efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the continent is blasting Europe as Africa struggles amid a crushing third surge of infections, saying Thursday that “not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa.”
Strive Masiyiwa also took aim at the global effort meant to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, accusing COVAX of withholding crucial information including that key donors hadn’t met funding pledges. He didn’t name which donors.
“The situation could be very different had we known back in December that ‘Listen, this help is not coming, do for yourselves,’” Masiyiwa told reporters, adding that “many countries were just sitting back saying, ‘the vaccines are coming.’ … We as Africans are disappointed.”
The criticism revealed African leaders’ sheer exasperation at the world’s dramatic vaccine divide, with Masiyiwa describing vaccinated, unmasked Europeans attending football matches while just 1% of Africans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The continent has the lowest vaccine coverage in the world.
Is Biden declaring ‘independence from the virus’ too soon?
President Joe Biden’s plan to celebrate “independence from the virus” on the Fourth of July is running into an unpleasant reality: Less than half the country is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the highly contagious delta variant is threatening new outbreaks.
The president and his advisers, eager to claim credit for the virus’s retreat in the United States, are talking about a “summer of joy and freedom.”
But public health experts fear that scenes of cross-country celebrations — including a White House party with a liberation theme — will send the wrong message when wide swaths of the population remain vulnerable and true independence from the worst public health crisis in a century may be a long way off.
“We’re still in the middle of this marathon,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. Despite progress, it remains too early to “unfurl the ‘mission accomplished’ banner,” he said.
Johnson & Johnson says its COVID vaccine is effective against delta variant
The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine provides effective protection against the delta variant, according to a small study, offering hope to many developing economies facing a summer surge of the highly contagious strand.
Blood samples obtained from eight inoculated people who participated in a laboratory study showed that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot generated a strong immune response against the delta variant, the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company said. (The results have not been peer reviewed.) Earlier clinical trials had shown the vaccine offered 66% protection against symptomatic infection.
“We believe that our vaccine offers durable protection against COVID-19 and elicits neutralizing activity against the Delta variant,” Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, said in a news release. “This adds to the robust body of clinical data supporting our single-shot vaccine’s ability to protect against multiple variants of concern.”
Liberty: Lots of travelers expected on freer Fourth of July
Americans enjoying newfound liberty are expected to travel and gather for cookouts, fireworks, concerts and beach outings over the Fourth of July weekend in numbers not seen since pre-pandemic days.
Yet lingering restrictions, worker shortages and significant numbers of unvaccinated people mean some may not be as free as they would like to be.
And there are fears that the mixing of large numbers of vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans at a time when the highly contagious delta variant is spreading rapidly could undo some of the progress made against the scourge.
Nashville is expecting as many as 400,000 people to stream into the city for its July Fourth celebration. In Southern California, Huntington Beach is planning one of the biggest celebrations on the West Coast, a three-day festival that could bring in a half-million people.
At the same time, airlines have been struggling to get enough crew members to fly their planes. Pools and beaches have been hit with a shortage of lifeguards. And restaurants and bars in tourist destinations have had to scale back hours because of a lack of help.
Pagliacci Pizza is offering free slices today to celebrate reopening
Pagilacci Pizza is offering free slices of pizza from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday to celebrate reopening after "15 long months" of pandemic lockdowns.
"With so many people in King County fully vaccinated we’re excited that we can now open our dining rooms at full capacity. To celebrate and say thank you for your support throughout the pandemic, we’re giving away free slices on July 2!" the pizza business said in a blog post.
All stores, excluding those on the University of Washington campus, Valley (no slice bar), and Juanita (under construction), will participate.
Slice offerings will be Cheese, Pepperoni, AGOG Primo, and PSR Combo, and there is a limit of two slices per person, Pagliacci Pizza said; while the giveaway is going on, Pagliacci won’t be taking slice orders by phone, app or web.
Restaurant pandemic-grant program ends in a cloud of errors and confusion
A $28.6 billion federal relief fund for restaurants and other food businesses closed on Wednesday after running out of money, having fulfilled fewer than a third of the grant requests it received.
The Small Business Administration, which runs the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, told unsuccessful applicants in an email that it was unable to fund all qualified applications because of “overwhelming demand.”
More than 370,000 business owners applied for more than $75 billion in funding, nearly three times what the program had available. Around 105,000 businesses were approved for grants, which averaged just over $272,000.
Vatican seeks all-out effort to combat vaccine hesitancy
The Vatican’s bioethics academy and the World Medical Association on Friday called for an all-out effort to combat vaccine hesitancy and correct the “myths and disinformation” that are slowing the fight against the coronavirus.
In a joint statement, the groups said some vaccine reluctance in poorer countries is rooted in historical inequalities and suspicions of Western pharmaceutical companies. But they said “a more pernicious form” of hesitancy is being driven by fake news, myths and disinformation about vaccine safety, including among religious groups and some in the medical community.
They demanded that “all relevant stakeholders exhaust all efforts to … confront vaccine hesitancy by sending a clear message about the safety and necessity of vaccines and counteracting vaccine myths and disinformation.”
The statement also repeated calls from the Vatican and the medical establishment for vaccine equity, to make sure the poorest nations have the same access to shots as wealthier ones.
Registered sex workers in Germany drop sharply in pandemic
The number of people registered as sex workers with German authorities declined sharply last year as coronavirus restrictions shut brothels for months, official data showed Thursday.
Legislation in 2002 legalized and regulated prostitution in Germany, giving sex workers social benefits, and they are now obliged to register. But brothels have been closed for much of the time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 as part of wider lockdowns.
At the end of last year, 24,940 prostitutes were officially registered with authorities, the Federal Statistical Office said. That was down from some 40,400 a year earlier — a 38% drop.
Australia further curbs new arrivals due to risks of variant
Australia plans to halve commercial passenger arrivals due to virus risks as parts of the country emerged from lockdowns Friday.
Australia will reduce its cap on arrivals from 6,000 passengers a week to 3,000 by July 14 to reduce pressure on hotel quarantine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after a meeting with state and territory leaders.
Australia already has some of the world’s tightest border restrictions aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of the country. The new restrictions add to obstacles faced by 34,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents stranded overseas and registered with the government as wanting to come home.
The government will charter more airliners to repatriate Australians, but the reduced limit on commercial passenger arrivals could continue until next year.
Driven by delta variant, COVID-19 surges across Africa
Driven by the delta variant, a new wave of COVID-19 is sweeping across the African continent where new cases, hospital admissions, and deaths are increasing.
“The speed and scale of Africa’s third wave is like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa. “The rampant spread of more contagious variants pushes the threat to Africa up to a whole new level.”
The delta variant, reported in 16 African countries, has become dominant in South Africa, which accounts for more than half of Africa’s new cases. It was detected in 97% of samples sequenced in Uganda and in 79% of samples sequenced in Congo, said WHO.
Less than 2% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people have received even one dose of a vaccine.
No lockdown plans in Russia as virus deaths hit new record
Russian authorities reported a record-breaking 679 new coronavirus deaths on Friday, a fourth day in a row with the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.
No plans for a lockdown are being discussed, however, the Kremlin insisted though Russia has struggled to cope with a surge in infections and deaths in recent weeks that comes amid slow vaccination rates.
Daily new infections have more than doubled over the past month, soaring from around 9,000 in early June to over 20,000 this week. On Friday, Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 23,218 new contagions. Moscow, its outlying region and St. Petersburg account for nearly half of all new cases.
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