Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, July 22, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Even though recent reports of an increase in COVID-19 cases have alarmed many, top health experts point to overwhelming evidence that vaccines are doing exactly what they are supposed to: dramatically reducing severe illness and death.
Still, the highly infectious delta variant now accounts for an estimated 83% of new coronavirus cases in the United States — a “dramatic increase” from early July.
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.
Reactions mixed to WSU Cougars football coach Nick Rolovich decision to decline COVID-19 vaccine
Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich has supporters and critics after he declined to say Wednesday which exemptions to Washington State’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement — whether religious, medical or personal — applied in his decision not to get the vaccine.
WSU’s second-year football coach declined further comment in that statement, which explained why he will not attend Tuesday’s Pac-12 football media day. The event is requiring participants to be vaccinated.
“It’s a very unfortunate decision short of an important medical reason, which I cannot imagine what that would be,” said Doug Call, chair-elect of the WSU Faculty Senate.
While the Pac-12 Conference as a whole does not have a vaccination policy, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff told ESPN on Thursday the conference is considering rules to force teams to forfeit games this fall if they can’t field a full squad due to COVID-19.
Should vaccinated people start wearing masks again?
As the delta variant spreads among the unvaccinated, many fully vaccinated people are also beginning to worry. Is it time to mask up again?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, most experts agree that masks remain a wise precaution in certain settings for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated. How often you use a mask will depend on your personal health tolerance and risk, the infection and vaccination rates in your community, and who you’re spending time with.
The bottom line is this: While being fully vaccinated protects against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19, no vaccine offers 100% protection. As long as large numbers of people remain unvaccinated and continue to spread coronavirus, vaccinated people will be exposed to the delta variant, and a small percentage of them will develop so-called breakthrough infections.
Here are answers to common questions about how you can protect yourself and lower your risk for a breakthrough infection.
What to know about COVID restrictions for traveling between the U.S. and Canada
The United States on Wednesday extended its pandemic restrictions on nonessential travel at the U.S.-Canada land border for at least a month. The announcement comes shortly after Canada shared plans to reopen the border to fully vaccinated Americans in August.
Here’s what the current restrictions mean for travel between the U.S. and Canada.
Juneau imposing COVID-19 restrictions amid rising cases
JUNEAU, Alaska — Officials in Juneau on Thursday announced restrictions aimed at curbing rising COVID-19 cases in Alaska’s capital city, including limiting capacity at gyms and indoor service at bars to 50%.
Under the measures, set to take effect Friday, indoor gatherings will be limited to 50 people with masks required, unless a COVID-19 mitigation plan has been approved by emergency operations leaders or everyone is fully vaccinated, according to the city’s announcement.
Personal service businesses are to require appointments and have no waiting areas, and officials are recommending restaurants reduce capacity to ensure distance between dining parties, according to the statement.
This comes with the city poised to welcome the first large cruise ship of the season on Friday.
The delta variant and kids: Parents’ questions on school, masks answered
For a brief moment, it felt like we parents had made it. School was wrapping up. People, including kids 12 and older, were getting vaccinated. Mask mandates were easing.
But now we’re facing the delta variant — a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus. States with large outbreaks are seeing rising case numbers among children as well as adults. As it reaches into our communities, how does this strain affect children, and how can we help them safely navigate their days?
We spoke with infectious-disease specialists about how to handle this widespread variant. Here are their answers to our questions.
Merkel says German COVID rise worrying, urges vaccination
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that new coronavirus infections in Germany are once again rising at a worrying pace. She appealed to reluctant citizens to get vaccinated and urged compatriots more enthusiastic about the jabs to help persuade others.
Germany’s infection rate remains low compared with some other European countries but it has been rising steadily since it bottomed out on July 6. The current rise is being fueled by the more contagious delta variant, which is now dominant.
The figures are rising with “worrying momentum,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin. “We have exponential growth.”
State health officials report 2,572 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,572 new coronavirus cases and 3 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 466,099 cases and 6,066 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. Wednesday.
In addition, 26,351 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 57 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 115,189 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,676 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,050,096 doses and 51.9% 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 10,169 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 rebuffs WHO’s terms for further COVID-19 origins study
China cannot accept the World Health Organization’s plan for the second phase of a study into the origins of COVID-19, a senior Chinese health official said Thursday.
Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of the National Health Commission, said he was “rather taken aback” that the plan includes further investigation of the theory that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab.
He dismissed the lab leak idea as a rumor that runs counter to common sense and science.
“It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan,” he said at a news conference called to address the COVID-19 origins issue.
The search for where the virus came from has become a diplomatic issue that has fueled China’s deteriorating relations with the U.S. and many American allies.
Italy to require COVID-19 ‘pass’ for many activities
With daily COVID-19 cases sharply rising again, Italy will soon require people to have passes reflecting their health status to access gyms, museums, movie theaters, the inside of restaurants and other venues.
Premier Mario Draghi’s government approved a decree Thursday ordering the use of the so-called “green” passes starting on Aug. 6. To be eligible for a pass, individuals must prove they have received at least one vaccine dose in the last nine months, recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months or tested negative in the previous 48 hours.
The passes will be needed to dine at tables inside restaurants or cafes, to attend sports events, town fairs and conferences, and to enter casinos, bingo parlors and pools, among other activities, officials said.
The certification is needed to “to keep economic activity open″ and will allow people to enjoy entertainment ”with the assurance they won’t be next to contagious people,” Draghi said.
Vaccinations rise in some states with soaring infections
Vaccinations are beginning to rise in some states where COVID-19 cases are soaring, White House officials said Thursday, as hospitals are running out of space because of the delta variant, which is “spreading with incredible efficiency.”
Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said several states with the highest proportions of new infections have seen residents get vaccinated at higher rates than the nation as a whole. Officials cited Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada as examples.
“The fourth surge is real, and the numbers are quite frightening at the moment,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on a New Orleans radio show. “There’s no doubt that we are going in the wrong direction, and we’re going there in a hurry.”
Louisiana reported 2,843 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, a day after reporting 5,388 — the third-highest level since the pandemic began and hospitalizations are up steeply.
In Missouri, Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital Springfield, noted that half of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients are ages 21 to 59 and just 2% of that group is vaccinated.
“Younger, relatively healthy and unvaccinated. If this describes you, please consider vaccination,” he tweeted.
The surge that began in the southwest part of the state, where some counties have vaccination rates in the teens, has started to spread to the .
“I don’t want to keep putting my life on the line just because people don’t want to get vaccinated or listen to what health care professionals are recommending,” lamented Pascaline Muhindura, a registered nurse who has worked on the COVID-19 unity at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City for more than a year.
“A lot of them don’t even believe in COVID-19 to begin with. It is incredibly frustrating. You are helping someone that doesn’t even believe that the illness that they have is real,” Muhindura said.
What is a COVID-19 vaccine ‘breakthrough’ case?
What is a COVID-19 vaccine “breakthrough” case?
It’s when a fully vaccinated person gets infected with the coronavirus. A small number of such cases are expected and health officials say they’re not a cause for alarm.
COVID-19 vaccines work by teaching the body to recognize the virus. So if you’re exposed to it after vaccination, your immune system should be ready to spring into action and fight it.
In studies, the two-dose COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna were around 95% effective at preventing illness, while the one-shot Johnson & Johnson shot was 72% effective, though direct comparisons are difficult. So while the vaccines are very good at protecting us from the virus, it’s still possible to get infected with mild or no symptoms, or even to get sick.
YouTube pulls video of Vancouver Public Schools board meeting for spreading misinformation about COVID-19
Video of last week’s Vancouver, Washington Public Schools board meeting was pulled by YouTube for violating its community standards by spreading misinformation about COVID-19.
The recording, originally posted to the VPS Board of Directors’ YouTube page, was removed by YouTube on July 17 — four days after the July 13 school board meeting was dominated by more than an hour of public comment featuring 18 speakers.
Seventeen of the 18 spoke in-person, and many comments were about masks in schools, COVID-19 and critical race theory. Among the misinformation shared were claims that masks were ineffective. Profanity by audience members also was used at the meeting.
In its message to VPS, YouTube stated: “YouTube does not allow content that spread medical misinformation that contradicts the World Health Organization (WHO) or local health authorities’ medical information about COVID-19, including methods to prevent, treat or diagnose COVID-19 and means of transmission of COVID-19.”
Eric Clapton refuses to play at venues requiring proof of COVID vaccination for audience
Eric Clapton announced Wednesday that he won’t perform at venues that require proof of coronavirus vaccination for people to attend, becoming one of the first major artists to rebuke a safety precaution being used for the return of live music.
The musician, a vocal critic of the British government’s response to the pandemic, responded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement this week that vaccine passports would be required to enter nightclubs and venues. Clapton said he was “honor-bound” to push back against the public health measures.
“I wish to say that I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present,” Clapton said in a statement. “Unless there is provision made for all people to attend, I reserve the right to cancel the show.”
The message was shared along with a link to “Stand and Deliver,” his anti-lockdown collaboration with Van Morrison. The song asks, “Do you want to be a free man / Or do you want to be a slave?”
Clapton’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
CDC advisers to discuss additional coronavirus doses for vulnerable patients
A federal advisory panel will discuss the need for additional coronavirus shots for patients with fragile immune systems at a meeting Thursday, amid growing concerns about waning immunity in vulnerable populations.
Members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which makes vaccine recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are expected to discuss an additional dose for immunocompromised patients.
These patients include U.S. adults who are organ transplant recipients, people on cancer treatments, and people living with rheumatologic conditions, HIV and leukemia. They are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus and might more frequently spread the virus to others, experts say.
But the panel can’t recommend additional shots or change clinical guidance until the Food and Drug Administration either gives full approval of the currently available vaccines, or amends its emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
For South Sudan mothers, COVID-19 shook a fragile foundation
In South Sudan, lives are built and teeter on the edge of uncertainty. A peace deal to end the civil war lags far behind schedule. Violence erupts between ethnic groups. Corruption is widespread. Hunger haunts more than half the population of 12 million people. And even the land itself doesn’t guarantee solid footing, as climate change sparks flooding in swaths of the country.
Yet many women say it’s the pain of the pandemic they feel most — a slow-moving disaster, in contrast to the sudden trauma of war and its fallout of famine — as they try to hold families together in one of the world’s most difficult places to raise children.
With COVID-19 came the shrinking of humanitarian aid, a lifeline for many South Sudanese, as faraway donors turned attention and funding toward their own citizens. Closed borders cut off imports, the oil sector on which the economy largely relies was hit by a crash in global prices and lockdowns wiped out the informal, untaxed labor relied on for their daily meal.
US jobless claims rise to 419,000 from a pandemic low
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week from the lowest point of the pandemic, even as the job market appears to be rebounding on the strength of a reopened economy.
The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims increased last week to 419,000, the most in two months, from 368,000 the previous week. The number of first-time applications, which generally tracks layoffs, has fallen steadily since topping 900,000 in early January.
Economists characterized last week’s increase as most likely a blip as Americans are shopping, traveling and eating out more as the pandemic has waned, boosting the economy and forcing businesses to scramble for more workers.
Companies have posted the highest number of available jobs in the two decades that the data has been tracked though businesses say they often can’t find enough employees at the wages they’re willing to pay.
At the same time, analysts are becoming concerned about the potential economic consequences of a tick-up in confirmed viral infections as the highly contagious delta variant spreads, especially among the unvaccinated. The seven-day rolling U.S. average for daily new cases accelerated over the past two weeks to more than 37,000 as of Tuesday, from fewer than 13,700, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Tokyo new virus cases near 2,000 a day before Olympics open
Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, one day before the Olympics begin, as worries grow of a worsening of infections during the Games.
Thursday’s 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on Jan. 15.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, placed Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have sharply increased since then.
American tourists are back in Europe, but so are COVID restrictions
European summer vacations are back for Americans, but they’re far from carefree.
Weeks after popular destinations like Greece, France and Spain reopened to U.S. travelers, they are putting new restrictions into place amid a rise in coronavirus cases. In some cases, those measures will limit the venues where unvaccinated visitors can go.
In Greece, which was early to welcome tourists back in May, officials said last week that public indoor spaces would only be accessible to fully vaccinated people through at least Aug. 31.
French President Emmanuel Macron said unvaccinated people who want to dine indoors, go to shopping malls or cinemas, or take planes or trains, would need to show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test or infection and recovery. He said the steps were an effort to “put restrictions on the unvaccinated rather than on everyone.”
Man with coronavirus disguises as wife on Indonesian flight
An Indonesian man with coronavirus boarded a domestic flight disguised as his wife, wearing a niqab covering his face and carrying fake IDs and a negative PCR test result.
But the cover didn’t last long. Police say a flight attendant aboard a Citilink plane traveling from Jakarta to Ternate in North Maluku province on Sunday noticed the man change the clothes in the lavatory.
Police took the man for a COVID-19 test, which came back positive.
Indonesia is in the grip of the worse coronavirus surge in Asia with 33,772 new confirmed cases and 1,383 deaths in the last 24 hours. The total number of reported cases is 2.9 million with 77,583 fatalities.
Death rates soar in Southeast Asia as virus wave spreads
Indonesia has converted nearly its entire oxygen production to medical use just to meet the demand from COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe. Overflowing hospitals in Malaysia had to resort to treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar’s largest city, graveyard workers have been laboring day and night to keep up with the grim demand for new cremations and burials.
In the last two weeks the three Southeast Asian nations have now all surpassed India’s peak per capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave, fueled by the virulent delta variant, tightens its grip on the region.
The deaths have followed record numbers of new cases being reported in countries across the region which have left health care systems struggling to cope and governments scrambling to implement new restrictions to try to slow the spread.
So far, however, Malaysia’s national lockdown measures have not brought down the daily rate of infections. The country of some 32 million saw daily cases rise above 10,000 on July 13 for the first time and they have stayed there since.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
What's with the Olympic athletes who are getting COVID-19 even though they say they're vaccinated? Rare "breakthrough" cases are causing alarm, but top health experts point to overwhelming evidence that the shots are doing exactly what they are supposed to.
U.S. coronavirus cases have nearly tripled in the past two weeks as misinformation spreads.
White House officials are eyeing a new push on masking up.
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