Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, July 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

A study published earlier this month details findings that 23% of people who had COVID-19 infections between March 2020 and March 2021 reported lingering symptoms up to 12 weeks after.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is looking to reorganize the federal health department to create an independent division that would be tasked with leading the country’s pandemic response.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, Washington state and the world. Click here to see the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

Chris Froome out of Tour de France with COVID-19

Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome pulled out of cycling’s biggest race on Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19.

Froome said in a video message he will take a few days off and refocus on competing at the Spanish Vuelta next month.

Froome, who rides for the Israel–Premier Tech team, said he was sad not to reach Paris after achieving his best result since a career-changing crash in 2019 with a third-place finish in the Alpe d’Huez stage last week.

“I’m really disappointed not to be able to roll into Paris and finish off this Tour de France,” Froome said. “It’s been an extremely special race for us as a team and for me personally as well. I’ve really been finding my legs again.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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China COVID cases elevated as officials warn about rising risks

China’s COVID-19 cases continued to hover around a two-month high, leaving residents of previously hard-hit areas fearful of more lockdowns and health authorities warning about the challenges ahead.  

The country reported 826 cases for Wednesday, compared with 935 Tuesday, which was the highest daily tally since May 21. While most of the outbreak is hitting beyond major cities, some neighborhoods in Shenzhen implemented new lockdowns and infections in Shanghai continue to spread — spooking residents who endured previous isolation efforts.

China’s health officials said infections and deaths tied to the new BA.4. and BA.5. subvariants were likely to increase in the days to come given their fast transmission among the elderly, which already led to a rise in critical cases.

Read the story here.

—Peter Vercoe, Bloomberg

‘I’m over it’: Many in LA shrug off COVID wave despite super-infectious subvariants

There was a time during the pandemic when the scene at Westfield Valencia Town Center in Santa Clarita would have evoked gasps and much scolding.

As summertime temperatures flirted with 100 degrees this week, families and teenagers crowded into the indoor mall, soothed by its air conditioning. But there was nary a mask in sight, even though coronavirus infections are skyrocketing because of the ultra-infectious omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

Amid the carefree atmosphere, few seemed concerned.

“People are just exasperated and over it,” said Hailey Jimenez, 21, who was working at a jewelry kiosk, unmasked. “I know I’m over it.

“I haven’t really been paying attention too much to the numbers and all that, because I feel like it’s just happening every couple of months: down, up, up, down, down.”

Currently, the numbers are undoubtedly going up.

The number of coronavirus-positive patients hospitalized in L.A. County as of Wednesday was 1,328 — up 44% from two weeks ago. But the majority of those patients — about 60%, according to public health officials — were hospitalized for other medical issues while testing positive for the disease.

Earlier in the pandemic, this kind of surge might have elicited widespread fear and anxiety in Los Angeles County, which has been more cautious with virus restrictions than most of the country.

But this time around, many are shrugging their shoulders.

Read the story here.

—Hailey Branson-Potts, Rebecca Schneid and Heidi Pérez-Moreno, Los Angeles Times

EXPLAINER: What’s known about Biden catching COVID-19?

President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, is experiencing mild symptoms and has begun taking Paxlovid, an antiviral pill treatment.

Biden is reporting a runny nose, fatigue and an occasional dry cough, according to a memo from Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s doctor. Biden felt tired Wednesday evening and didn’t sleep well, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said at a press briefing. Biden tweeted Thursday: “Folks, I’m doing great. Thanks for your concern.”

The president is fully vaccinated and twice boosted. Biden got two doses of the Pfizer vaccine shortly before taking office, a first booster shot in September and an additional dose March 30.

Biden is taking Paxlovid, which was authorized in the U.S. late last year. In older people and other high-risk patients, the drug was shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. The pills work best if taken within five days of the start of symptoms.

It’s unclear where Biden got it and which variant Biden has contracted, though a sample has been sent for genetic sequencing to determine the variant.

Read the story here.

—Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press
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Deep in a COVID wave, Europe counts cases and carries on

Customers in the Rome bookstore paid no attention to the circular stickers on the floor instructing them to stamp out COVID by maintaining “a distance of at least 1 meter.”

“These are things from the past,” said Silvia Giuliano, 45, who wore no mask as she browsed paperbacks. She described the red signs, with their crossed-out, spiky coronavirus spheres, as artifacts “like bricks of the Berlin Wall.”

All across Europe, faded stickers, signs and billboards stand as ghostly remnants of past struggles against COVID. But while the vestiges of the pandemic’s deadliest days are everywhere, so is the virus.

A common refrain heard throughout Europe is that everyone has COVID as the BA.5 omicron subvariant fuels an explosion of cases across the continent. And Europeans have clearly concluded they have to live with the virus.

Seats bearing faded blue social-distancing signs urging Paris Metro riders to keep this spot free are almost always taken. Droves of unmasked Germans pass by tattered signs in stores and restaurants reading “Maskenpflicht,” or mask requirement. In a construction materials store north of Madrid, the cashier walks the aisles without a mask before sitting behind a window of Plexiglas. On a recent day in Caffè Sicilia in Noto, Sicily, the feet of three different people stood in a single “Keep Safe Distance” circle as they clamored over cannoli.

And many people are traveling again, both within Europe and from outside its borders, bringing much-needed tourist money to nations desperate to bolster their economies.

Said Andrea Crisanti, a professor of microbiology who served as a top consultant to Italian leaders during the coronavirus emergency, "This is the way it is.”

Read the story here.

—Jason Howrowitz, The New York Times

Citing lack of proof, Japan health experts hold off on accepting COVID pill Xocova

Shionogi & Co.’s experimental COVID-19 treatment Xocova failed to win the backing of health experts in Japan who said there wasn’t enough data to show the medicine’s efficacy.

The panel members didn’t recommend that Japan’s health ministry authorize emergency use of the therapy as there was a need to continue discussion on it, Hiroshi Kiyota, chairman of the expert committee said in a briefing Wednesday. The health ministry relies on the panel’s decision to give the approval.

Japan so far has two pills to fight coronavirus and Shionogi’s therapy was seeking to be the third option. Approval for Shionogi’s medicine was keenly watched as it is easier to take than the two currently available drugs from U.S. drugmakers. A course of Shionogi treatment consists of seven pills over five days — significantly fewer than Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck & Co.’s Lagevrio, which require between 30 pills and 40 pills over the same time period.

The panel decided that it will continue discussion on Xocova and await submission of Phase 3 trial data which is expected in November, according to a representative from Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices Agency, Japan’s drug regulator.

Read the full story here.

—Kanoko Matsuyama and Grace Huang, Bloomberg

Americans filing jobless claims at highest level in 8 months

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week rose to the highest level in more than eight months in what may be a sign that the labor market is weakening.

Applications for jobless aid for the week ending July 16 rose by 7,000 to 251,000, up from the previous week’s 244,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That’s the most since Nov. 13, 2021 when 265,000 Americans applied for benefits.

Analysts surveyed by the data firm FactSet expected the number to come in at 242,000.

First-time applications generally reflect layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which smooths out some of the week-to-week volatility, rose by 4,500 from the previous week, to 240,500.

The total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits for the week ending July 9 rose by 51,000 from the previous week, to 1,384,000. That figure has been near 50-year lows for months.

Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that employers added 372,000 jobs in June, a surprisingly robust gain and similar to the pace of the previous two months. Economists had expected job growth to slow sharply last month given the broader signs of economic weakness.

Read the story here.

—Matt Ott, The Associated Press
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Biden tests positive for COVID-19, has ‘very mild symptoms’

President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, underscoring the persistence of the highly contagious virus as new variants challenge the nation’s efforts to resume normalcy after two and a half years of pandemic disruptions.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden was experiencing “mild symptoms” and has begun taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug designed to reduce the severity of the disease.

She said Biden “will isolate at the White House and will continue to carry out all of his duties fully during that time. He has been in contact with members of the White House staff by phone this morning, and will participate in his planned meetings at the White House this morning via phone and Zoom from the residence.”

Biden, 79, is fully vaccinated, after getting two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shortly before taking office, a first booster shot in September and an additional dose March 30.

Read the story here.

—Chris Megerian and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Tokyo hits pandemic record on rise of new COVID subvariants

Tokyo reported its highest number of COVID cases for the entire pandemic on Thursday, driven by the spread of more infectious variants just as Japan started reopening to tourists.

The city recorded 31,878 new daily infections, eclipsing the previous record of 21,562 cases set on Feb. 2. The numbers show a COVID resurgence has taken hold in the Japanese capital before the summer holidays, when travel and activity levels typically soar.

The rising case counts are forcing political and health care leaders to reconsider what steps, if any, are needed to contain the outbreak. The same conundrum is facing countries across the globe, as the arrival of more infectious omicron subvariants has led to higher infection rates even as testing in most areas is on the decline. 

Many countries that focused on eliminating the virus early in the pandemic are finding it difficult to reimpose strict mitigation measures in response to rising rates after they began trying to live with COVID over the past year.

Read the story here.

—Grace Huang and Kaori Kohyama, Bloomberg