Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, July 20, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 the summer progresses, travelers are continuing to pass through U.S. airports at high rates. On Sunday, airports saw more people than at any time since the start of the pandemic, suggesting the desire to travel remains strong in the face of discouraging coronavirus news.
Health officials are reporting virus infections are once again rising, particularly in areas with low rates of vaccination. Of particular concern are states with low vaccination rates, like Arkansas, Missouri and Nevada, which are battling outbreaks as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.
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.
WHO leader says virus risk inevitable at Tokyo Olympics
TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympics should not be judged by the tally of COVID-19 cases that arise because eliminating risk is impossible, the head of the World Health Organization told sports officials Wednesday as events began in Japan.
How infections are handled is what matters most, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a speech to an International Olympic Committee meeting.
“The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible and onward transmission is interrupted,” he said.
The number of Games-linked COVID-19 cases in Japan this month was 79 on Wednesday, with more international athletes testing positive at home and unable to travel.
Tokyo’s drinkers drown frustrations over virus limits, Games
TOKYO — On the eve of the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, the government’s attempts to curb a coronavirus surge by targeting drinkers is drowning in liquor, frustration and indifference.
Japan has asked the city’s restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m., if not entirely, to keep people from socializing in close contact with strangers and spreading the virus, but the state of emergency hasn’t deterred many. Instead, drinkers moved outdoors, and many bars in Tokyo’s famed nightlife districts are bustling with defiant customers.
“Nobody is convinced when (the government) victimizes people who are drinking alcohol without showing decent scientific evidence, even while going ahead with the Olympics,” said Mio Maruyama, a 28-year-old real estate industry worker who was chatting with her colleagues on the street in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.
She says she’s interested in watching the Games, especially new sports like skateboarding and Japan’s Rui Hachimura, an NBA star, “but when I think of how politicians are playing around with this, I’m not quite rooting for this event from my heart.”
Conservative media offers mixed messages on COVID-19 vaccine
NEW YORK — When Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk talks to patients about the COVID-19 vaccine, she tries to feel out where they get their information from.
“Sometimes I feel like the education I have to provide depends on what news channel that they watch,” the doctor in Durham, North Carolina, said.
The mixed messaging can come from the same media outlet — and even the same source. On Fox News Channel on Monday, host Sean Hannity looked straight into the camera to deliver a clear message: “It absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations.”
Yet Hannity followed up his statement by interviewing a woman protesting her college’s requirement that students be vaccinated, a segment appealing to people skeptical of the immunization push. His prime-time colleagues, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, opened their own programs by questioning vaccination efforts.
Skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccination is a common theme in media appealing to conservatives, despite assurances from doctors and scientists that the vaccine is safe and effective. Some medical experts worry that conflicting takes and outright distrust of the vaccine shown by influential media personalities contribute to a failure to meet inoculation goals aimed at arresting the pandemic.
One dose of J&J vaccine is much less effective against delta variant, new study says
The coronavirus vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson is much less effective against the delta and lambda variants than against the original virus, according to a new study posted online Tuesday.
The findings add to evidence that the 13 million people inoculated with the J&J vaccine may need to receive a second dose — ideally of one of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, the authors said.
But the conclusions are at odds with those from smaller studies published by Johnson & Johnson earlier this month suggesting that a single dose of the vaccine is effective against the variant even eight months after inoculation.
The new study has not yet been peer reviewed nor published in a scientific journal, and relied on laboratory experiments. But it is consistent with observations that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine — which has a similar architecture to the J&J vaccine — shows only about 33% efficacy against symptomatic disease caused by the delta variant.
COVID-19 derails Texas Democrats lobbying in Washington
Texas lawmakers who hightailed it to the nation’s capital in a faceoff over voting rights said Tuesday that they’re pressing on with their mission to get Democrats in Washington, D.C., to bolster their cause, even as COVID-19 spreads through their ranks.
Six of the more than 50 Texas state representatives who decamped to Washington last week have since tested positive for the coronavirus, along with two Washington staffers associated with the group.
The Texas Democrats said they remain optimistic about their cause, even after their Monday night town hall on MSNBC was scaled back because of the positive test results.
Asked about the prospects of a meeting between President Joe Biden and the Texas delegation now that several members have become infected, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was unlikely.
Schools confront more polarization with mask rules for fall
Students in Wichita, Kansas, public schools can ditch the masks when classes begin. Detroit public schools will probably require them unless everyone in a room is vaccinated. In Pittsburgh, masks will likely be required regardless of vaccination status. And in some states, schools cannot mandate face coverings under any circumstances.
With COVID-19 cases soaring nationwide, school districts across the U.S. are yet again confronting the realities of a polarized country and the lingering pandemic as they navigate mask requirements, vaccine rules and social distancing requirements for the fast-approaching new school year.
The spread of the delta variant and the deep political divisions -- in some conservative states, lawmakers have banned districts from requiring masks -- have complicated decisions in districts from coast to coast.
State health officials report 743 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 743 new coronavirus cases and 13 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 462,577 cases and 6,056 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. Monday. 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, 26,265 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 69 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 114,683 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.
Alaska health officials seek to boost plateauing COVID-19 vaccine rates as virus cases climb
Alaska health officials are seeking to boost plateauing vaccination numbers as COVID-19 cases climb in the state.
The week of July 4 marked a month of week-over-week increases in infections in Alaska, according to the health department. State health officials say vaccines are the best defense against the spread of COVID-19.
Recently, about 325 residents have been getting vaccinated each day, state officials say, compared with as many as 10,000 early in the vaccination campaign. The latest figures from the health department show that about 52% of Alaska residents 12 or older are fully vaccinated.
Those who were fully vaccinated but still got COVID-19 represent 0.2% of the roughly 300,000 Alaskans who were fully vaccinated as of June 30.
White House, Pelosi staff members test positive for coronavirus
The White House confirmed Tuesday that a fully vaccinated staffer had tested positive for the coronavirus, shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office confirmed one of her staff had tested positive.
The Pelosi staffer had contact with Texas lawmakers who are in Washington to prevent passage of a voting bill. Six members of that delegation have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.
Nearly 60 Democrats from the Texas legislature came to Washington hoping to persuade Congress to pass federal legislation that would supersede efforts from Republicans in Texas to eliminate popular voting options. The lawmakers quickly secured meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and other Washington politicians during their first week on Capitol Hill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the staffer tested positive Monday and has had mild symptoms.
Fauci, Paul clash on virus origins, trade charges of lying
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, angrily confronted Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday in testimony on Capitol Hill, rejecting Paul’s insinuation that the U.S. helped fund research at a Chinese lab that could have sparked the COVID-19 outbreak.
Paul suggested that Fauci had lied before Congress when in May he denied that the National Institutes of Health funded so-called “gain of function” research — the practice of enhancing a virus in a lab to study its potential impact in the real world — at a Wuhan virology lab. U.S. intelligence agencies are currently exploring theories that an accidental leak from that lab could have led to the global pandemic.
“I have not lied before Congress. I have never lied. Certainly not before Congress. Case closed,” Fauci told Paul before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, saying a study the senator mentioned referenced a different sort of virus entirely from the one responsible for the coronavirus outbreak.
“Senator Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly,” Fauci said. “And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you’re talking about.”
Have you struggled to find work during the pandemic?
Recessions often dampen hiring — but the pandemic has meant long-term joblessness for an unusually large number of Washingtonians. That’s especially true among certain industries, such as hospitality, and groups, including older workers, Black workers and workers with a high school education or less.
If you’re a worker who has experienced six months or more of unemployment due to the pandemic, The Seattle Times would like to hear about your experiences with the job market. We’d also like to hear from employers, recruiters and others with perspective on the issue.
What obstacles have kept you from finding work? Did your old job permanently disappear? Did you move to find work or train for a new job?
Fill out the form below to be in touch with us. We look forward to hearing from you.
McConnell urges Americans: ‘Get vaccinated’ or risk shutdown
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell implored unvaccinated Americans Tuesday to take the COVID-19 shot, issuing a stark and grave warning of a repeat of last year’s shutdowns if people refuse to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
McConnell urged Americans to ignore the “demonstrably bad advice” coming from pundits and others against the vaccines. As caseloads skyrocket, he noted that nearly all the new virus hospitalizations in the U.S. are among people who have not been vaccinated.
McConnell has been one of the most outspoken members of his party in urging vaccinations to stop the virus spread and has expressed dismay at those who choose to go unvaccinated. As a survivor of childhood polio, McConnell has spoken publicly of the relief that eventually came with the development of vaccines.
Virus slams Cuba as it races to roll out its new vaccines
The COVID-19 pandemic is slamming Cuba like never before, even as the country races to roll out its homegrown vaccines — the only locally developed shots being widely used in Latin America.
The island had seen far fewer infections that most other Latin American nations over the first year or so of the disease, imposing strict quarantines, isolating the infected and shutting down its tourism industry despite devastating economic consequences.
But new cases have been soaring in recent weeks, with an average of about 6,000 a day being reported in the country of 11 million people. The first three weeks of July have accounted for about 100,000 of the nearly 300,000 infections recorded altogether in Cuba since the first case arrived some 16 months ago.
Anxiety over that spread was one of the factors that fed into the wave of street protests that broke out across the country on July 11.
Virus surge a ‘raging forest fire’ in Arkansas
Public health researchers on Tuesday called the rapid rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Arkansas a “raging forest fire,” and the state’s top health official warned that he expects significant outbreaks in schools.
The model by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health projected a daily average of 1,039 new cases over the next week. The model also predicted an average increase of 169 new cases per day in children under the age of 17.
Arkansas leads the country in new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University researchers. The state also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with only 35% of the population fully vaccinated.
“COVID is no longer smoldering. It has broken out into a raging forest fire that will grow in size and strength,” according to the UAMS forecast. “We cannot stand still. We must act to reduce the consequences of this new surge to the extent possible.”
Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s health secretary, said he was concerned about the possibility of a “surge on top of this surge” when school begins this fall. Laws enacted this year prevent schools from mandating face masks or from requiring students and teachers to be vaccinated.
Nordstrom pivots as shopper habits change during pandemic
Casual, athleisure, denim are in, Nordstom is finding as it scrambles to keep pace with customers' demand for new post-pandemic clothes during its anniversary sale
Like many of its peers, venerable department store chain Nordstrom is having a tough time keeping pace with customer demand for new clothes because of supply issues.
That will be an even bigger challenge heading into the full swing of its anniversary sale, a tradition since the 1960s. Last year, customers stayed away because there was no reason to buy dressy clothes during a pandemic.
But Nordstrom is framing this year’s event as an opportunity for shoppers to reinvent themselves as they come out of their homes.
Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom stores and great-grandson of company founder John W. Nordstrom, recently spoke with The Associated Press at its Manhattan store to share some thoughts about changing shopper habits, shipping delays and why the Seattle-based Nordstrom plans to pack up masks soon.
"We’ve been selling a lot of masks the last year and a half," he said. "We’re not selling a whole lot right now, which is a good thing. And so I think maybe we’ll pack those masks away, and hopefully we’ll never have to bring them out again."
80% of eligible King County residents have received at least 1 vaccine shot, agency says
As of Tuesday, 80% of people aged 12 years and older had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Public Health - Seattle & King County.
The public health agency said that more than 2.9 million doses had been administered to King County residents as of Sunday.
Bangladesh lifts lockdown to celebrate, exasperating experts
Tens of millions of Bangladeshis were shopping and traveling this week during a controversial eight-day pause in the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown that the government is allowing for the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha. The suspension has been panned by health experts who warn it could exacerbate an ongoing surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, which was first detected in neighboring India.
“Already there is a scarcity of beds, ICUs, while our health care providers are exhausted,” said said Be-Nazir Ahmed, a public health expert and former chief of the government’s Health Directorate. “So if the situation worsens and more patients come to hospitals, it will be near impossible to deal with the crisis.”
With the spread of the virus rampant, most everything in Bangladesh was ordered shut on July 1, from markets to mass transportation. Soldiers and border guards patrolled the streets and thousands were arrested and sent to jail for violating the lockdown.
Even with the new restrictions, virus deaths still hovered around 200 each day and daily infections were still around 11,000, both thought to be undercounts. On Sunday, 225 deaths and 11,758 infections were reported.
‘United Pingdom:’ Firms in England fret over staff shortages
Businesses in England warned that a “pingdemic” of people receiving notifications on their phones telling them to self-isolate because of contact with coronavirus cases threatens to lead to widespread staff shortages and mayhem across the economy just as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Though many businesses, notably nightclubs, have cheered Monday’s lifting of all remaining lockdown restrictions on social contact, they are increasingly grappling with staff shortages as the National Health Service’s test and trace app informs people to self-isolate for coming into close proximity with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Supermarket chain Iceland and pub owner Greene King are two firms that have had to close certain sites as a result of the self-isolation requirements.
There are also warnings of shortages of goods in supermarkets, cuts in production at factories and potential transport chaos, as illustrated by Saturday’s closure of the Metropolitan Line on the London Underground, due to key staff being pinged.
Mike Lynch, general secretary of The Rail, Maritime and Transport union warned that so-called “Freedom day” could “very easily collapse into chaos day.”
Imprisoned Myanmar politician dies from COVID-19
The spokesperson for ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party died Tuesday after being infected with the coronavirus in prison, his lawyer said.
Nyan Win had been a member of the National League for Democracy’s Central Executive Committee as well as a confidante of Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi and top members of her party and government, including Nyan Win, were arrested when the military seized power in February. The military-installed government has since arrested thousands of mostly young people who protested its takeover.
The death of Nyan Win, 79, came as Myanmar is reeling from soaring numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths that are badly straining the country’s medical infrastructure, already weakened when many state medical workers went on strike to protest the army’s seizure of power.
Dutch court convicts men of torching virus testing center
A Dutch court convicted a young man and a teenager of arson Tuesday for torching a coronavirus testing site during violent protests in January that followed the introduction of a nationwide curfew to curb COVID-19 cases.
The court sentenced the 21-year-old man to a year in prison, with half the term suspended, and sentenced the 16-year-old boy to 180 days of youth detention, with 131 days suspended. The teen also was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
The court said the pair broke into the compound of the test location in a fishing village near the harbor of Urk on Jan. 23 and the teenager set fire to a garbage container using a burning face mask.
The two then piled more material onto the fire along with a flammable disinfectant. The test location was destroyed in the ensuing blaze.
India’s pandemic death toll could be in the millions
India’s excess deaths during the pandemic could be a staggering 10 times the official COVID-19 toll, likely making it modern India’s worst human tragedy, according to the most comprehensive research yet on the ravages of the virus in the South Asian country.
Most experts believe India’s official toll of more than 414,000 dead is a vast undercount, but the government has dismissed those concerns as exaggerated and misleading.
The report released Tuesday estimated excess deaths — the gap between those recorded and those that would have been expected — to be 3 million to 4.7 million between January 2020 and June 2021. It said an accurate figure may “prove elusive” but the true death toll “is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count.”
“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since Partition and independence,” the report said.
South Korean gov’t apologizes over virus-stricken destroyer
South Korea’s prime minister on Tuesday apologized for “failing to carefully take care of the health” of hundreds of sailors who contracted the coronavirus on a navy ship taking part in an anti-piracy mission off East Africa.
The outbreak aboard the destroyer Munmu the Great is the largest cluster South Korea’s military has seen. A total of 247 of the ship’s 301 crew have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, and the entire crew returned to South Korea aboard military planes on Tuesday evening.
None of the crew had been vaccinated because they left South Korea in early February, before the start of the country’s vaccination campaign.
Iran’s daily new coronavirus infections hit another high
Iran on Tuesday broke another record in the country’s daily new coronavirus cases, even as Tehran and its surroundings went into lockdown, a week-long measure imposed amid another surge in the pandemic.
The country’s health ministry announced 27,444 new cases and 250 deaths over the past day, bringing the overall death toll to 87,624 from among more than 3.5 million confirmed cases in the pandemic.
On Monday, Tehran Province Gov. Anoushiravan Bandpay announced a code red, saying all hospitals in the province have reached their full capacity.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
If you're vaccinated, you can go to Canada next month. Officials there are ditching their quarantine requirement, but the U.S. isn't easing restrictions for Canadians (yet). Speaking of travel, the first Alaska cruise in a very long time set off from Seattle yesterday, and more will soon follow — with varying rules about who can board and how the experience will go.
Even vaccinated kids should wear masks at school, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended yesterday, going further than the CDC. Vaccines are effective against COVID-19's surging delta variant, so why are experts recommending that everyone wear masks indoors? Los Angeles' experience offers some answers.
Amazon is ending COVID-19 testing at its warehouses.
Twitter has suspended U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for what she posted about the virus.
The Storm’s Katie Lou Samuelson will miss the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19, even though she's vaccinated. Former Bothell High basketball star Zach LaVine's trip is in jeopardy because of COVID-19, too. Infections at the Tokyo Olympics continue rising.
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