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 It is no longer being updated.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

Most people in the United States are still highly susceptible to catching the new coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. As the virus silently spreads, scientists are scrambling to study its prevalence, broadcast the latest guidance, develop a vaccine and invent new ways to test people for antibodies.

In Washington state, most registered voters said in a new poll that they wear masks regularly and believe reopening should be at least paused for the time being.

Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Tuesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Live updates:

‘Just got to suck it up:’ Masks mandatory in Australian city

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — There were few bare faces among rush-hour commuters in Australia’s second-largest city on Thursday morning as Melbourne residents were largely complying with a new law making face coverings compulsory. 

Melbourne and neighboring semi-rural Mitchell Shire are coronavirus hot spots that have been in lockdown for two weeks. Wearing a mask or face covering in public became mandatory for Melbourne’s 5 million residents from 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.

Melbourne residents are becoming increasing concerned by the pandemic while most parts of Australia have virtually no new cases and have relaxed restrictions. Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, posted a 24-hour record 484 new cases on Wednesday. A state record five deaths was announced on Thursday.

—Associated Press
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Bennie Aranas of Kirkland, a Navy veteran and natural leader, dies of COVID-19

When Bennie Aranas was being treated for COVID-19, video calls from his hospital bed were filled with more than 100 friends and family members.

“At the end of the day, family needs to come together. You’re there for one another,” said Aranas’ oldest son, Byron, describing a family of 40-plus nieces and nephews. “And he truly was a family guy. Family first.”

When Aranas tested positive for the new coronavirus at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, doctors asked his family if they’d like him to participate in their early clinical trials for remdesivir, the first drug shown to be effective against COVID-19.

Byron Aranas, 47, said he didn’t know if his father had been given the drug or a placebo during that trial, but in the first week, his condition started improving. 

Then, on the 11th day, his condition worsened. By the 12th day — April 25 — he was gone.

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama

California buys more masks, but some workers still lack

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California will spend $315 million more to buy hundreds of millions of protective masks as the coronavirus continues to ravage the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday. 

A new contract with Chinese manufacturer BYD will provide the state 120 million tight-fighting N95 respirator masks and 300 million looser-fitting surgical masks. California’s initial $1 billion deal with the company was signed in April. 

The state will soon launch a competitive bidding process to try to get even more protective masks at lower prices and is encouraging manufacturers within the state to make equipment, Newsom said.

“We decided to think outside the box, we did something big and bold,” he said during a news conference at a Sacramento warehouse where masks and other protective equipment are stored.

—Associated Press

Utah sees virus surge — but not in county with mask order

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is among the many U.S. states battling a surge in coronavirus cases, but officials said Wednesday the Salt Lake City area is bucking the trend after the county issued a mandate a month ago for people to wear masks.

There’s no statewide mask order in Republican-led Utah, and face coverings remain contentious, as seen at a recent public meeting that was abruptly ended when dozens of people without masks packed the room.

After GOP Gov. Gary Herbert allowed Democratic leaders in Salt Lake County to impose their own mask rule, the county’s share of cases in the state steadily declined despite its denser population.

The number of new cases reported daily in Salt Lake County is nearly down to levels seen in June. However, case numbers in the state as a whole have doubled in the same time frame. 

—Associated Press
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Seattle, Bellevue, other King County schools announce intentions to go online-only come fall

The boom, boom, boom pattern of announcements from school officials this week sounded eerily similar to the one from five months ago, when districts extended building closures and decided to improvise schooling through a mix of online coursework and assignments on paper.

On Wednesday, several of King County’s largest school districts, including Seattle, said they intend to hold school remotely this fall. In other words, back to school will be back to screens. 

In the spring and now, district leaders’ announcements were light on details. The difference: Decisions last school year were made in the thick of a pandemic. Since then, leaders have had months to prepare for the possibility that buildings couldn’t reopen safely. 

But many district leaders offered little insight this week into how they plan to improve the way they deliver online classes, particularly for students who were left out in the spring, such as those who receive special-education services and those who are learning English. This lack of detail comes at a time when many education leaders of color across Washington are raising serious concerns about inequity in schools generally, but particularly during school closures.

As of late Wednesday, the districts that had announced an online-only start to the school year included Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Northshore and Seattle.

Read the full story here.

—Dahlia Bazzaz, Hannah Furfaro and Paige Cornwell

Kitsap County officials urge community to take action to slow spread of virus

As coronavirus cases surge in Kitsap County, in addition to other parts of the state, local health officials are urging residents to take united action to fight the outbreak.

“We need everyone’s help to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent additional hospitalizations and deaths in our county,” Susan Turner, Kitsap Public Health District health officer, said in a Wednesday statement. “Most community members and businesses are taking the threat of this illness seriously and we are grateful for their commitment. We have a long road ahead and we must work together to protect the health of all Kitsap residents."

The county has reported more than 180 new COVID-19 cases in the past month, reaching the highest levels its seen since the start of the pandemic, the statement said.

Hospitalizations are on the rise, multiple long-term care facilities are reporting new outbreaks and many recent cases have been linked to social gatherings, Kitsap County health officials said. Many of those who have tested positive, the statement said, have exhibited mild symptoms and didn't know they could infect others.

Health officials said they hope Kitsap County residents will diligently avoid crowds, social distance, wash their hands frequently, wear face coverings and get tested as soon as they start feel symptoms, the statement said.

—Elise Takahama

State health officials report number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is 'higher now than it has ever been'

Health officials warned Washingtonians in a blog post Tuesday that nearly the entire state is "on the path to runaway transmission rates of COVID-19," though some counties, like Yakima, provide bits of hope.

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is "higher now than it has ever been," and hospitalization rates are rising throughout the state, the Washington State Department of Health post said.

Data also shows the increase in the number of young adults testing positive is leading to an increase in the number of children and teens who are contracting the virus and "threatening to spread broadly into younger and older age groups," the post said.

Health officials did end on a positive note, however, by reminding Washingtonians that changing behavior can make a difference, referring to Yakima County's "sharp turnaround" in positive cases now that about 95% of people are wearing face coverings in public.

"You know what to do," the post said. "Each of us needs to make a conscious shift in the way we live our lives so that we can send our kids back to school in the fall and continue to reopen our businesses."

—Elise Takahama
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Preventing COVID-19 meltdowns: Love Lab therapists tap technology to help couples battling relationship stress amid pandemic

Relationship therapist Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman doesn’t mince words when discussing strains the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on couples nationwide.

She tells of one husband-and-wife client duo and how the pandemic has “driven them crazy” when he comes home weekends from his high-stress, front-line medical worker job he took in another state to better make ends meet. They’ll quickly argue over something as minimal as controlling the television remote control, drink some wine and then watch the situation deteriorate.

Gottman and her husband, Dr. John Gottman, founders of The Gottman Institute and its Seattle-based Love Lab for relationship assessments, have accelerated plans to introduce an online version of their services for patients and therapists.

Their 3-year-old startup, Affective Software, is expected to complete final testing of personal computer and smartphone applications this fall in an effort to “democratize” what they say is low-cost therapy for millions of couples at risk for domestic violence, alcoholism and financial anxiety as the pandemic continues.

Read the full story here.

—Geoff Baker

In rosy briefing, Trump ignores thorns in nation’s side

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump painted a wishful view Wednesday of the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, in which existing treatments can almost cure patients flooding hospitals, all schools will safely reopen this fall, and the country’s soaring cases are confined to a handful of states.

But the rosy assessment he issued at a White House news briefing — alone at the lectern without any top public health experts — was undermined by the alarming reality that on Wednesday, almost every metric showed just how badly America is losing its fight against the virus.

The number of daily deaths on Wednesday surpassed 1,100, the first time that mark had been reached since May 29. And total deaths in the United States since the start of the pandemic increased to more than 140,000.

Trump’s optimistic outlook Wednesday contrasted with his reluctant acknowledgment on Tuesday that America’s situation “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”

—The Washington Post

Illinois reports July’s highest one-day total of virus cases

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — As parts of the nation struggle with a worse coronavirus outbreak than during its high points last spring in other states, Illinois, where officials continue to congratulate residents for keeping the new virus in check, announced Wednesday an increasing number of newly confirmed infections

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his state public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike, made public pleas to wear masks when outside the home and continue physical distancing and conscientious hygiene to stem the spread of the highly contagious and potentially deadly coronavirus.

The state on Wednesday reported July’s highest one-day total at nearly 1,600 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, prompting a warning from the Democratic governor. 

States including Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas have seen some July surges that surpassed what any of the hardest-hit states saw in April. Meanwhile, Illinois, which many believe was slower and more deliberate in re-opening its economy and reducing restrictions on social interaction, had kept numbers of new cases steady.

—Associated Press
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Oregon expands coronavirus mask order to children and allows fewer people in indoor venues

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she is expanding the state’s current COVID-19 mask order to also apply to children as young as 5 and that she is decreasing the allowed capacity of indoor venues from 250 people to 100.

The governor said these new mandates, which go into effect Friday, are necessary to help slow the increasing spread of coronavirus. On Tuesday, the total number of confirmed and presumptive virus cases in the state topped 15,000.

“When we see the numbers rise, we must respond,” Brown said.

Currently, anyone who is 12 years or older must wear masks inside public spaces and in outdoor areas where they can not stay six feet away from others. The mandate will now apply to anyone 5 years or older.

“These younger children can be infected by COVID-19. These younger children live with families,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, epidemiologist for the Oregon State Health Authority.

In conjunction with the mask expansion, Oregon’s Department of Education announced that students will be required to wear face coverings during in-person instruction if they return to the classroom in the fall. The department will distribute 5 million face coverings to school districts for students and employees to wear to help with the new requirement.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Seattle will offer restaurants free street closure permits

To give businesses, shoppers and diners more room outside, the City of Seattle will soon waive permit costs for restaurants and retail stores that want to close streets near their establishments. 

“We must all fight the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in our region," Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. "As we are seeing increasing cases from social gatherings and indoor dining, we can create additional opportunities for our restaurants and businesses to safely operate outdoors."

For qualifying businesses, the city will waive usual permit costs, but businesses will still have to cover other expenses like barricades and temporary no-parking signs. Those applying to close a portion of the street will have to “demonstrate support from neighboring businesses and residents of proposed street closures,” the mayor’s office said in a news release. 

It’s the latest effort to keep people outside as the city returns to shopping and dining. Last month, Seattle announced it would waive sidewalk permit fees to make it easier for restaurants to seat people outdoors.

So far, the Seattle Department of Transportation has received 92 applications for sidewalk cafés and curb space permits, the city said. The city has yet to release more details about which businesses will be eligible for the new street closure fee waivers. Businesses can start applying July 29.

—Heidi Groover

State confirms 672 new COVID-19 cases and three new deaths; weekly positive test rate drops to 5.3%

State health officials confirmed 672 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths in Washington on Wednesday.

The update brings the state’s totals to 49,247 cases and 1,468 deaths, meaning about 3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

So far, 855,152 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH, with about 5.8% of those coming back positive. Over the week ending July 16, about 5.3% of tests in Washington have been positive.

In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed 13,627 diagnoses and 638 deaths, accounting for 43.5% of the state’s COVID-19 death toll.

—Brendan Kiley
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White House scrambles on nursing homes as COVID-19 surges

Fearing another grim wave of nursing home deaths as COVID-19 cases rebound, President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his administration will provide $5 billion to help facilities counter the virus.

The move follows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s recent unveiling of a family caregiver plan that aims to greatly expand and subsidize alternatives to institutional care for frail older adults. Both men are competing for seniors’ votes against a backdrop of eroding political support for Trump among older Americans.

“I want to send a message of support and hope to every senior citizen,” Trump said at the White House. “The light is starting to shine and we will get there very quickly.”

The $5 billion announced Wednesday is part of a package, including efforts to facilitate ongoing testing of nursing home staff, providing states a weekly list of facilities with increased COVID-19 cases, and offering additional training and support for the homes.

Advocates and industry have been pressing the administration and Congress for weeks to provide more financial assistance and support for nursing homes. An earlier White House recommendation to test all residents and staff has had mixed results. Nursing homes already have received $4.9 billion from pandemic relief funds approved by Congress.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Can you get coronavirus twice? Doctors are unsure even as anecdotal reports mount

When Sophie Cunningham, a guard for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, returned to training last week after a bout with COVID-19, she made an announcement that startled fans. She said she believed she had been infected twice — once in March and then again in June or July.

“They said you can only get it once, but I’ve had it twice,” she told reporters Thursday. “Hopefully, I’m done with it.”

As the United States marks its sixth month since the arrival of the virus, Cunningham’s story is among a growing number of reports of people getting COVID-19, recovering and then falling sick again — assertions, that if proved, could complicate efforts to make a long-lasting vaccine, or to achieve herd immunity where most of the population has become immune to the virus.

Doctors emphasize there is no evidence of widespread vulnerability to reinfection and that it is difficult to know what to make of these cases in the absence of detailed lab work, or medical studies documenting reinfections. Some people could be suffering from a reemergence of the same illness from virus that had been lurking somewhere in their body, or they could have been hit with a different virus with similar symptoms. Their positive COVID-19 tests could have been false positives — a not-insignificant possibility given accuracy issues with some tests — or picked up dead remnants of virus, as authorities believe happened in hundreds of people who tested positive after recovering in South Korea.

“You can’t extrapolate those anecdotal, first-person observations to the entire population and make sweeping conclusions about how the virus works,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University.

There is still not enough evidence, or sufficient time since the virus first struck to draw firm conclusions about how people develop immunity to COVID-19, how long it might last — or what might make it less robust in some individuals than in others.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

AP-NORC poll: Very few Americans back full school reopening

Virtual instruction. Mandated masks. Physical distancing. The start of school will look very different this year because of the coronavirus — and that’s OK with the vast majority of Americans.

Only about 1 in 10 Americans think daycare centers, preschools or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. Most think mask requirements and other safety measures are necessary to restart in-person instruction, and roughly 3 in 10 say that teaching kids in classrooms shouldn’t happen at all.

The findings are a sharp contrast to the picture that President Donald Trump paints as he pressures schools to reopen. The Republican president claims to have wide support for a full reopening, arguing that Democrats oppose it for political reasons.

Few schools, however, plan to return to business as usual.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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Virus antibodies fade fast but not necessarily protection

New research suggests that antibodies the immune system makes to fight the new coronavirus may only last a few months in people with mild illness, but that doesn’t mean protection also is gone or that it won’t be possible to develop an effective vaccine.

“Infection with this coronavirus does not necessarily generate lifetime immunity,” but antibodies are only part of the story, said Dr. Buddy Creech, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. He had no role in the work, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The immune system remembers how to make fresh antibodies if needed and other parts of it also can mount an attack, he said.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Self-tests are comparable to clinical ones in identifying COVID, UW study finds

Self-collected swabs that only go partway up the nostril are almost as good as swabs administered by health care workers in identifying serious cases of the novel coronavirus, a new study from the University of Washington found.

Among people with "meaningful" viral loads, the home swabs detected 95% of the cases that were detected by clinical tests, the study found. The home swabs, which patients can use to test themselves, are less invasive than the nasopharyngeal swabs typically used by health care workers testing for the virus, which go much deeper in the nostril.

In total, the home tests identified 80% of the cases detected by clinical tests.

“It matters less if swabs don’t detect the cases with very little virus, because they’re not likely to be very symptomatic and less likely to infect others,” said Dr. Helen Chu, a UW professor of medicine and the study's senior author.

There are several advantages in accurate home testing for the virus: Patients don't have to go out if they're not feeling well, which reduces the chances of the disease spreading and also preserves protective equipment used by health care workers to conduct tests.

"This approach is safe and scalable in the pandemic setting, permitting widespread testing of symptomatic participants early in illness and the potential for prompt self-isolation and contract tracing," the study's authors wrote in JAMA Network Open, published by the American Medical Association.

The study involved 185 participants who were tested with self-administered tests, clinician-collected tests or both.

—David Gutman

Virus slams Bolivia as hospitals say: ‘There is no space’

Police in Bolivia’s major cities have recovered the bodies of hundreds of suspected victims of the coronavirus from homes, vehicles and, in some instances, the streets. Hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients and short of staff, keeping their gates closed and hanging out signs that say: “There is no space.”

And the Bolivian government says the peak of the outbreak is not expected until August.

Desperation is growing in one of Latin America’s poorest countries, which seems overwhelmed by the virus even as it endures political turmoil stemming from a flawed election and the ouster of President Evo Morales last year. A plan to hold elections in September, seen as a key to stabilizing its democracy, is increasingly in doubt as the pandemic worsens.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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UW Huskies’ men’s basketball game in China canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Washington’s men’s basketball game vs. Tulane in China has been canceled, the Pac-12 announced Wednesday.

The Pac-12 China Game was scheduled to be played Nov. 14 at the Baoshan Sports Center in Shanghai, which hosted Arizona State and Colorado in the 2019 game.

The decision to cancel the 2020 Pac-12 China Game is hardly surprising considering the coronavirus’ impact on sports.

Two weeks ago, the Pac-12 canceled nonconference games in football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

Read the full story here.

—Percy Allen

Aid from top donors drops even as need soars

A new snapshot of the frantic global response to the coronavirus pandemic shows some of the world’s largest government donors of humanitarian aid are buckling under the strain: Funding commitments, for the virus and otherwise, have dropped by a third from the same period last year.

The analysis by the U.K.-based Development Initiatives, obtained in advance by The Associated Press, offers a rare real-time look at the notoriously difficult to track world of aid.

At a time when billions of people are struggling with the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse — on top of long-running disasters like famine, drought or unrest — more, not less, money is urgently needed. New virus protection equipment must be bought for almost everything, from maternity wards in African villages to women’s shelters in Syrian refugee camps.

“We have not seen substantial funding for COVID, yet the situation is going to get worse,” Rosalind Crowther, South Sudan country director for the aid group CARE, told the AP in May, saying “some donors have backtracked on earlier commitments.” The group runs two dozen health centers, more than 40 feeding centers and a safe house in one of the world’s most fragile countries after civil war.

Venezuelan workers wearing protective face masks and suits unload boxes of humanitarian aid as medical supplies and specialists from China arrive in La Guaira. A new snapshot of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic shows some of the world’s largest government donors of humanitarian assistance are buckling under the strain and overall aid commitments have dropped by a third from the same period last year. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, file)
Venezuelan workers wearing protective face masks and suits unload boxes of humanitarian aid as medical supplies and specialists from China arrive in La Guaira. A new snapshot of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic shows some of the world’s largest government donors of humanitarian assistance are buckling under the strain and overall aid commitments have dropped by a third from the same period last year. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, file)

During the first five months of this year, overall aid commitments from the largest government donors were $16.9 billion, down from $23.9 billion in the same period last year, according to the new analysis, which drew on data from the United States, the United Kingdom, European Union institutions, Germany, France, Canada and others.

Many of these donors — notably the U.K., whose aid commitments have dropped by nearly 50% from last year, according to the analysis — are struggling as their economies contract.

Read the story here.

—Cara Anna, The Associated Press

D.C. mayor to order mandatory masks as infections rise again

With coronavirus cases rising in Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday she will issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside homes — an unprecedented step in the nation’s capital.

Bowser said the order would include “enforcement language” detailing possible fines for violations.

After saying they had successfully blunted the infection curve in the city earlier this summer, health officials say the infection numbers have slowly crept upward, reaching triple digits on Wednesday for the first time in weeks.

Limited exceptions to the order, according to material distributed by Bowser’s office, include children under age 3, people “actively eating or drinking” and people “vigorously exercising outdoors” while not close to anyone else.

“In most cases, if you’re outside your home. you should have a mask on,” Bowser said.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser says she’ll issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside the home. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser says she’ll issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside the home. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Health Department director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt says her office is particularly concerned with data that show most new infections aren’t coming from people in quarantine or on the contact trace list of an infected person. That, she said, indicates a high level of community spread. Nesbit also said the percentage of people hospitalized who are under age 40 has nearly doubled in the month of July.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Bellevue School District will be online this fall

Bellevue School District will hold classes online in the fall, after similar announcements from other Seattle-area districts such as Kent and Northshore.

In an email sent to staff members on Wednesday, Bellevue superintendent Ivan Duran said he made the call after meeting with county health officials.

Last week, a report from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling warned against reopening schools in King County unless transmission rates decrease.

Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, King County health officer, called the report "sobering."

Seattle Public Schools haven't made an announcement regarding its plans, but the district is facing pressure to start the school year remotely from its teachers union.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

Gov. Inslee quotes 'Mean Girls' to try to make masks happen

Gov. Jay Inslee's effort to use catchphrases from the 2004 teen comedy "Mean Girls" to make masks popular is meeting mixed reviews from the Twitterverse.

On Wednesday, Inslee posted a picture of himself behind a pink mask on Twitter with the words: "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen. Make masks happen. #OnWednesdaysWeWearPink"

The lines about "fetch" and wearing pink on Wednesday are uttered by Regina George, the super popular mean girl leader of the Plastics clique in Tina Fey's movie about social acceptance.

In the movie, George informs newcomer Cady Heron about the group's color dress code and tells her insecure friend, Gretchen Wieners, that it's pointless to keep using "fetch" as a synonym for "cool."

"Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen!" George says unkindly.

The idea for using the Mean Girls pink line came from U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., who is leading the effort on Capitol Hill.

She told ABC News, “We want to make it fun to wear one. It’s about helping your community, helping your neighbor.”

Some Twitter users liked the campaign:

"Not gonna lie, made me giggle," said one person.

"I mean you already had my vote. But hot damn quoting Mean Girls now you have it even more!" said another.

But those who were unimpressed with either the photo shopping or the message were out as well: "Just stop," said Beth from Bellingham.

"Hey Mr. Dad-Boomer, the sentiment is well appreciated, but the reference-joke is embarrassing," said Dizzy Hughes of Seattle.

Marc Treyens In the Year 2020 replied, "Masks don't pay the rent or prevent eviction. Get creative with it or get out."

—Christine Clarridge

World virus cases top 15M; U.S. labs buckle amid testing surge

Laboratories across the U.S. are buckling under a surge of coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that experts say are actually undercutting the pandemic response.

With the U.S. tally of infections at 3.9 million Wednesday and new cases surging, the bottlenecks are creating problems for workers kept off the job while awaiting results, nursing homes struggling to keep the virus out and for the labs themselves, dealing with a crushing workload.

Some labs are taking weeks to return COVID-19 results, exacerbating fears that asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus if they don’t isolate while they wait.

“There’s been this obsession with how many tests are we doing per day” said Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The question is how many tests are being done with results coming back within a day, where the individual tested is promptly isolated and their contacts are promptly warned.”

Frieden and other public health experts have called on states to publicly report testing turnaround times, calling it an essential metric to measure progress against the virus.

The testing lags in the U.S. come as the number of people confirmed to be infected globally passed a staggering 15 million on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

A health care worker takes information from a person at a COVID-19 testing center on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Pleasanton, Calif. (AP Photo / Ben Margot)
A health care worker takes information from a person at a COVID-19 testing center on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Pleasanton, Calif. (AP Photo / Ben Margot)

The U.S. leads the world in cases as well as deaths, which stand at more than 142,000 nationwide. New York, once by far the U.S. leader in infections, has been surpassed by California, though that is partly due to robust testing in a state with more than twice the population of New York.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Migrant kids held in U.S. hotels by caretakers with unclear credentials then expelled

The Trump administration is detaining immigrant children as young as 1 in hotels, sometimes for weeks, before deporting them to their home countries under policies that have effectively shut down the nation’s asylum system during the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

At least 2,000 unaccompanied children have been expelled since March, when the Trump administration announced it would broadly refuse entry to people seeking protection in the U.S.

The administration has cited the threat of the coronavirus in saying it doesn’t have the resources to allow migrants to stay.

MVM Inc, a private contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is taking children to three Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in Arizona and at the Texas-Mexico border, where they are typically detained for several days, the records show. The hotels have been used nearly 200 times, while more than 10,000 beds for children sit empty at government shelters.

The Trump administration is detaining immigrant children as young as 1 in hotels before deporting them to their home countries. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show a private contractor hired by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is taking children to three Hampton Inns in Arizona and Texas under restrictive border policies implemented during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Matt York)
The Trump administration is detaining immigrant children as young as 1 in hotels before deporting them to their home countries. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show a private contractor hired by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is taking children to three Hampton Inns in Arizona and Texas under restrictive border policies implemented during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Federal anti-trafficking laws and a two-decade-old court settlement that governs the treatment of migrant children require that most kids be sent to the shelters for eventual placement with family sponsors. But President Donald Trump’s administration is immediately expelling people seeking asylum in the U.S., relying on a public health declaration to set aside those rules.

Lawyers and advocates say housing unaccompanied migrant children in hotels exposes them to the risk of trauma as they’re detained in places not designed to hold them and cared for by contractors with unclear credentials. They are challenging the use of hotels as detention spaces under the Flores court settlement.

Before March, Central American children who crossed into the U.S. alone were generally sent to facilities overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS facilities have bedrooms and schooling, and children are given access to lawyers and generally placed with family sponsors. The facilities also are licensed by the states where they’re located. Federal anti-trafficking law requires the government to promptly refer most children to HHS.

Read the story here.

—Nomaan Merchant, The Associated Press

Missouri governor clarifies comments on school kids getting virus

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is clarifying comments he made saying that children returning to school will come down with the coronavirus but will “get over it.”

The Republican governor made the comments that drew criticism from several Democrats as well as the head of a state teachers’ union during an interview on “The Marc Cox Morning Show” on 97.1 FM in St. Louis.

“They’re at the lowest risk possible,” Parson said of children. “And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctor’s offices. They’re going to go home, and they’re going to get over it.”

In the KMOX interview, Parson said the point he was trying to make was, “We need to do everything we can to make it safe when they go back to school, and that we are ready when the day comes and somebody comes in and they test positive."

Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Parson’s likely opponent in the November general election, said on Twitter that the governor showed “stunning ignorance” about how COVID-19 affects children.

Parson sought to clarify his comments in a subsequent radio interview, saying he “didn’t do a good job of explaining” his point, but added that anyone implying that he doesn’t care about children is a “sick individual.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Outbreak at Iowa pork plant was larger than state reported

The first confirmed coronavirus outbreak at an Iowa meatpacking plant was far more severe than previously known, with more than twice as many workers becoming infected than the state Department of Public Health told the public, newly released records show.

The department announced at a May 5 news conference that 221 employees at the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction had tested positive for COVID-19.

But days earlier, Tyson officials told Iowa workplace safety regulators during an inspection that 522 plant employees had been infected to their knowledge, documents obtained through the open records law show.

The Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, where one of the first coronavirus outbreaks was more severe than previously known, with over twice as many workers becoming infected than publicly confirmed. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, file)
The Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, where one of the first coronavirus outbreaks was more severe than previously known, with over twice as many workers becoming infected than publicly confirmed. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, file)

The discrepancy adds to mounting questions that the state health department faces about its handling of public information during the pandemic.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds took a pro-industry approach to managing outbreaks in Iowa, the top pork-producing state, and worked with executives to continue production even as workers became infected.

Read the story here.

—Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press
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Australian official says sick not isolating

Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reported a record 484 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and health authorities warned that numbers could continue to rise.

With Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, in lockdown for two weeks, authorities had hoped the infection rate would begin to plateau.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said nine out of 10 people did not self-isolate between having symptoms and being tested. More than half did not self-isolate between when they were tested and when they got the results.

Australian deputy chief medical Officer Michael Kidd said the nation’s tally of 502 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday was its largest ever. The fact that Australia recorded only two new cases on June 9 demonstrated how quickly outbreaks can spread, he said.

People wearing face masks in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday. Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reported a record new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and health authorities warned that numbers could continue to rise. (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)
People wearing face masks in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday. Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reported a record new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and health authorities warned that numbers could continue to rise. (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)

Read the roundup of coronavirus news here.

—The Associated Press

‘Stay calm’: Walmart trains staff how to deal with the maskless

Walmart has some advice for employees with the unenviable task of reminding shoppers to wear masks: Stay calm, listen intently and show understanding. But if customers insist on walking in without one, get out of the way.

That’s the message from a short training video for Walmart’s new “Health Ambassador” role. The two-minute guide teaches employees how to deal with customers who are not wearing masks — an issue that has divided the nation as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.

Walmart is advising employees on how to deal with shoppers who aren’t wearing masks. (Bloomberg)
Walmart is advising employees on how to deal with shoppers who aren’t wearing masks. (Bloomberg)

The animated video explains to Health Ambassadors that not all customers can wear a mask due to age, health conditions or religious reasons.

“If a customer tells you they can’t for one of these reasons, listen and tell them you understand,” says the video. “And thank them for shopping at Walmart.”

Due to those exceptions, customers will see some people in stores not wearing a face covering, a Walmart spokesman said Tuesday when asked about the training video. “We believe our requirement will result in many more people wearing masks in our stores and clubs than before and that’s ultimately what we are aiming for,” he said.

But not everyone has a valid exception. When a customer who won’t wear a mask or provide a reason for not donning one tries to enter a store — portrayed in the video as a man with narrowed eyebrows and hands angrily on his hips — Health Ambassadors should simply allow the maskless customer inside and alert a member of management.

Read the story here.

—Bloomberg

California surpasses New York state in confirmed virus cases

California’s confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 409,000, surpassing New York for most in the nation.

John’s Hopkins University data showed Wednesday that California now has about 1,200 more cases than New York.

However, New York’s 72,302 deaths are by far the highest total in the country and nine times more than California’s tally, and its rate of confirmed infections of about 2,100 per 100,000 people is twice California’s rate.

California is the most populous U.S. state, at nearly 40 million people, while New York has about 19.5 million.

U.S. government data published Tuesday indicated that reported and confirmed coronavirus cases vastly underestimate the true number of infections, echoing results from a smaller study last month. The United States also has had consistent testing failures that experts say contribute to an undercount.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study says true COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than reported cases in most U.S. regions from late March to early May. It is based on COVID-19 antibody tests performed on routine blood samples in 16,000 people in 10 U.S. regions.

Read the story.

—The Associated Press
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Quarantine Corner: Things to do while keeping your distance

Bottled cocktails, sandwiches and salads from Baker’s are perfect beach food. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
Bottled cocktails, sandwiches and salads from Baker’s are perfect beach food. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

Hankering for a beach picnic? Neighborhood Eats went in search of takeout and found crave-worthy options in Seattle’s Sunset Hill neighborhood.

Books are the best diversions, especially these six new Paperback Picks.

Our top streaming choices are radioactive this week. Dive into the worlds of Marie Curie, Michael Jordan and more.

—Kris Higginson

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Dr. Keith Jerome, head of the virology division in UW Medicine’s Department of Laboratory Medicine, is next to a machine that detects whether blood samples have coronavirus antibodies. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Dr. Keith Jerome, head of the virology division in UW Medicine’s Department of Laboratory Medicine, is next to a machine that detects whether blood samples have coronavirus antibodies. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Where has the virus been, and how many people have had it? Nobody knows, but a new antibody study aims to get a clearer picture by scrutinizing Washingtonians’ blood. It stands to inform officials’ decisions on how we reopen. Nationally, new CDC data shows, infections are up to 13 times higher than reported — but that still leaves most Americans without antibodies, and highly susceptible to catching the virus. Scientists are astonished by its silent spread through people with no symptoms.

The U.S. government will pay Pfizer nearly $2 billion for 100 million doses of a vaccine the company is aiming to produce this year. The plan is to make it free for Americans if it's approved.

Residents of Washington and 30 other states must quarantine for 14 days when arriving in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, under new requirements issued as COVID-19 cases rise in dozens of states.

Push a button, get a blood sample: A Seattle company's relatively painless device, which can be used at home and mailed to a lab, landed a big boost. It could help keep people from a risky doctor's-office visit during the pandemic.

The Tasso OnDemand device uses a red push-button feature to draw blood from a person’s upper arm with minimal discomfort compared to a typical needle.  (Tasso Inc.)
The Tasso OnDemand device uses a red push-button feature to draw blood from a person’s upper arm with minimal discomfort compared to a typical needle. (Tasso Inc.)

The virus will probably "get worse before it gets better," President Donald Trump said yesterday in a sharp reversal as he encouraged people to wear masks.

How long should you isolate if you test positive? The CDC has revised its guidance downward.

The pandemic isn't sickening the home-sales market. Homes are flying off the market faster than sellers can list more, our Coronavirus Economy daily chart shows.

Washington state high schools won’t play football until spring. Officials yesterday also decided to turn the normal three seasons into four … but as the virus surges, nobody is using permanent ink on that decision. Here’s how it would work.

—Kris Higginson

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