Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, July 23, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Although the summer COVID-19 surge has been concerning to many, White House officials say it’s getting the attention of vaccine-hesitant Americans, referencing rising vaccination rates in some states.
Meanwhile, many fully vaccinated people are beginning to worry about the delta variant and wondering if they should start masking back up. Here’s what experts recommend.
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.
Vietnam locks down capital Hanoi for 15 days as cases rise
HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi starting Saturday as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.
The lockdown order, issued late Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public. Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open.
Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases. On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours.
Nearly 5,000 of them are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has also extended its lockdown until Aug. 1.
In the latest wave of COVID-19 since April, Vietnam has recorded over 83,000 infections and 335 deaths.
DOJ says no probe into state-run nursing homes in New York
ALBANY, N.Y. — The Justice Department has decided not to open a civil rights investigation into government-run nursing homes in New York over their COVID-19 response, according to a letter sent Friday to several Republican members of Congress.
Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the department’s civil rights division requested data last August from four states — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan — about the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in public nursing homes.
The request came amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19.
In a letter sent to several Republicans who had demanded an investigation, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Gaeta said civil rights division lawyers had reviewed the data sent by New York, along with additional information.
Tennessee resumes most vaccine outreach to children paused after GOP backlash
The state of Tennessee announced Friday that it will resume nearly all forms of coronavirus vaccine outreach for children and teenagers after advocacy was halted this month because of pressure from Republican lawmakers upset at the health department’s efforts to vaccinate minors.
Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said at a news conference that the state will jump-start efforts to promote vaccination for adolescents as early as next week, including by offering the shots at events on school property.
“We put a pause on many things, and then we have resumed all of those,” Piercey told reporters, adding that outreach was paused so that the messaging would be directed at parents, not children.
The health department said it would continue to prohibit social media posts promoting the vaccine that are specifically aimed at children.
Piercey also announced that health officials will provide a vaccine shot to minors without their parents’ permission in what she described as “fringed and nuanced” circumstances.
Brazil reopens amid looming threat from delta variant
With the number of coronavirus deaths starting to recede in Brazil, a renewed sense of optimism has led state governors to roll back restrictions, soccer fans are starting to return to stadiums, and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro has said the city’s famous New Year’s party is back on.
But one question looms over these early signs of recovery: What will happen as the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads through the mostly unvaccinated country, which already has the world’s second-highest death toll with 547,000 fatalities?
The variant is boosting cases and deaths globally after a period of decline, and the World Health Organization anticipates it will become dominant within months. The race is on to vaccinate as many Brazilians as possible.
Countries that succeeded in doing so, like the U.K., have seen infections soar in recent weeks — but without a corresponding rise in serious illnesses or deaths.
Experts are concerned that it is unlikely Brazil can do the same in time.
“It will be explosive,” said Gonzalo Vecina, a professor of public health at the University of Sao Paulo. “There will be a new wave. We are opening too much.”
Health officials confirm 1,363 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health reported 1,363 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 466,235 cases and 6,078 deaths, meaning that 1.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
In addition, 26,358 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — seven new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 115,416 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,677 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,072,337 doses and 52.1% 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 9,610 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.
King County’s top health official recommends masks in public indoor spaces — regardless of vaccination status
King County’s top public health official is recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks again in public indoor settings.
The guidance on Friday comes as the county is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations related to the disease, driven by the emergence of the delta variant as the dominant variant of concern.
Another factor driving up cases and leading to the indoor masking recommendation is the changing habits of people who stopped masking when a public indoor masking mandate was lifted on June 29, and people started gathering indoors and resumed traveling, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer at Public Health – Seattle & King County.
People are now doing more activities while taking fewer precautions, he said during a Friday press briefing.
“For this reason, universal masking in public indoor spaces provides a more reliable way to ensure everyone is safe as we monitor the increasing disease trends,” he said.
The county’s seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents has increased to 41 from 19 on June 29, according to Duchin. There has been 141 new cases reported daily in the past week. This follows nearly two months of decreasing case counts and hospitalizations, which have bumped up from 1 per 100,000 residents on July 7 to 2 per 100,000 as of July 17.
Germany toughens rules for travel from Spain, Netherlands
Germany is listing Spain and the Netherlands as “high-incidence areas,” meaning that most people arriving from those countries who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to go into quarantine from next week.
The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that the change will take effect on Tuesday.
People arriving from “high-incidence areas” can avoid quarantine if they can prove that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Others can cut short the 10-day quarantine by testing negative after five days.
Read the story here.
Some Florida hospitals have more COVID patients than ever
A month ago, the number of COVID-19 patients admitted at two University of Florida hospitals in Jacksonville was down to 14. Now more than 140 people are hospitalized with the virus, a tenfold increase over five weeks — and the highest number of COVID patients this system has seen since the start of the pandemic.
Debra Wells, 65, was among those admitted to one of the hospitals earlier this month when what she thought was a cold grew worse and worse until she could not breathe. “I said, ‘Lord, I feel like I’m dying,’” she recalled.
Like most of the patients that hospital officials say they are admitting in Jacksonville and other fast-filling medical facilities in pockets around the country, Wells was unvaccinated. She had worried, she said, that the shots were not safe.
“I was misinformed,” Wells said this week, after a five-day hospital stay. “I wasn’t ready, and I was scared.”
Mexico to bury archaeological find because of virus costs
The costs of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic have forced Mexican archaeologists to re-bury a unusual find that combined colonial and pre-Hispanic features.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History had announced in 2019 that it found a flood control tunnel on the outskirts of Mexico City that had Spanish construction techniques but carved Aztec symbols embedded in it.
The institute had planned to make an exhibit of the strange tunnel, which was apparently built in the early 1600s. It replaced an earlier Aztec flood-control system built in the 1400s to protect Mexico City, then an island surrounded by shallow lakes, against periodic floods. After the Spanish conquered the Aztec capital in 1521, they unwisely destroyed parts of the pre-Hispanic system.
But the institute said Thursday that archaeologists would simply cover the finds with dirt again, in hopes that someday it would have enough money to build a display for it.
Why travel nightmares may scrub your August vacation plans
If you’re planning a vacation during the traditional summer high season, you could be in for a nightmare.
Thousands of passengers have come face-to-face with troubles as they took to the skies after a year or more of staying close to home. For a whole host of reasons, August could be even worse.
Capacity constraints at some airlines, labor shortages all across the hospitality industry mixed with surging demand and unprecedented weather conditions are weighing on summer holiday plans.
Add to that the coronavirus delta variant and its disastrous spread across the globe and Americans are in for a frustrating time.
Governors pin hopes on full vaccine approval as cases climb
As U.S. regulators weigh giving the final stamp of approval for certain COVID-19 vaccines, governors in states hard hit by the pandemic hope the move will help persuade the many holdouts in their states to finally get the shot.
The governors of Arkansas and Ohio — where cases and hospitalizations are climbing — have appealed publicly in recent days for full approval, saying it would help combat vaccine hesitancy and could also clear the way for more businesses to require their employees to be inoculated.
It’s a topic that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has confronted as he holds town halls throughout Arkansas, which leads the nation in new cases per capita but has one of the lowest vaccination rates. Only about 35% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
AP-NORC poll: Most unvaccinated Americans don’t want shots
Most Americans who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 say they are unlikely to get the shots and doubt they would work against the aggressive delta variant despite evidence they do, according to a new poll that underscores the challenges facing public health officials amid soaring infections in some states.
Among American adults who have not yet received a vaccine, 35% say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just 3% say they definitely will get the shots, though another 16% say they probably will.
What’s more, 64% of unvaccinated Americans have little to no confidence the shots are effective against variants — including the delta variant that officials say is responsible for 83% of new cases in the U.S. — despite evidence that they offer strong protection. In contrast, 86% of those who have already been vaccinated have at least some confidence that the vaccines will work.
That means “that there will be more preventable cases, more preventable hospitalizations and more preventable deaths,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
“We always knew some proportion of the population would be difficult to persuade no matter what the data showed, (and) a lot of people are beyond persuasion,” said Adalja. He echoed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky in calling the current surge “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” because nearly all hospital admissions and deaths have been among those who weren’t immunized.
Talk radio host with COVID regrets vaccine hesitancy
A conservative talk radio host from Tennessee who had been a vaccine skeptic until he was hospitalized from COVID-19 now says his listeners should get vaccinated.
Phil Valentine’s brother, Mark Valentine, spoke at length on WWTN-FM in Nashville on Thursday about his brother’s condition, saying he is in a critical care unit on supplemental oxygen. Phil Valentine has had an afternoon talk radio show on the station for years.
“First of all, he’s regretful that he wasn’t a more vocal advocate of the vaccination,” Mark Valentine said of his brother. “For those listening, I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, ‘Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories.’”
After Phil Valentine tested positive for COVID-19 but prior to his hospitalization, he told his listeners to consider, “If I get this COVID thing, do I have a chance of dying from it?” If so, he advised them to get vaccinated. He said he made the decision not to get vaccinated because he thought he probably wouldn’t die.
Phil Valentine also said that he was “taking vitamin D like crazy” and had found a doctor who agreed to prescribe ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasites in animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against taking ivermectin for COVID-19, advising that it is not an anti-viral drug and can be dangerous.
Bangkok closes public spaces as virus surges in Thailand
Thailand’s already locked down capital shut parks and the few remaining public places available to residents Friday, as the country registered a new high of coronavirus infections.
The near-total restriction on movements in the capital came as the prime minister demanded officials find ways to get the sick into hospitals after people with COVID-19 were found dead on the streets of Bangkok.
The Health Ministry reported 14,575 new cases and 114 deaths around the country, bringing deaths since the pandemic began last year to 3,811. Nearly all of the deaths happened since April following a number of spreading events and public holidays.
France starts supply bridge to help Tunisia cope with virus
France has established a “maritime bridge” to provide COVID-19 vaccines and medical oxygen to Tunisia, which is in the midst of one of Africa’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
In the past five days, France has flown 1.1 million vaccine doses to the North African country and the French navy shipped three huge containers of badly needed oxygen on Thursday.
Of the vaccines, 800,000 doses came from French stocks, but Paris is also using the COVAX mechanism, the U.N.-backed program to provide shots to poorer countries, Lemoyne said.
The sea shipments are expected to continue until mid-August, bringing in equipment, masks and other needed material to help Tunisia which has reported more deaths per capita in the pandemic than any African country and among the highest daily death rates per capita in the world in recent weeks.
In venue fit for head of state, Japan PM seeks Pfizer doses
Japan’s prime minister met with Pfizer’s CEO in an unusually high-profile setting Friday to make sure the drugmaker would deliver the COVID-19 vaccine as promised by this fall as the nation faces supply concerns and a growing outbreak.
Pfizer Inc. CEO Albert Bourla, who is in Tokyo to attend Friday’s opening ceremony of the Olympics, was greeted by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the Akasaka Palace state guest house, usually used to welcome heads of state.
During their nearly one-hour breakfast meeting, Suga and Burla discussed a stable shipment of the vaccine, and Suga stressed that vaccines are the “trump card” in restoring social and economic activities, officials said.
Japan has signed with Pfizer to receive 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by June, and additional 70 million between July and September.
Study: Chinese COVID shot may offer elderly poor protection
A new study suggests that a Sinopharm vaccine offers poor protection from COVID-19 among the elderly, raising questions for dozens of countries that have given the Chinese company’s shots to their most vulnerable populations.
A survey of blood samples taken from 450 people in Hungary at least two weeks after their second Sinopharm dose found that 90% under 50 years old developed protective antibodies. But the percentage declined with age, and 50% of those over 80 had none.
The study by two Hungarian researchers was posted online this week but not yet reviewed by other scientists. Three outside experts said they had no problems with the methodology of the study of the vaccine developed by Sinopharm’s Beijing Institute of Biological Products.
European agency is 1st to clear Moderna jab for children
The European Medicines Agency has recommended authorizing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorized for people under 18.
In a decision on Friday, the EU drug regulator said research in more than 3,700 children aged 12 to 17 showed that the Moderna vaccine — already given the OK for adults across Europe — produced a comparable antibody response.
Until now, the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has been the only option for children as young as 12 in North America and Europe.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to extend the use of the Moderna vaccine to the same age group.
With global vaccine supplies still tight, much of the world still is struggling to immunize adults, and agencies including the World Health Organization have urged rich countries to donate their doses to the developing world — where fewer than 2% of people have been vaccinated — rather than moving on to inoculate their less vulnerable populations.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Should vaccinated people mask up again as COVID-19's delta variant spreads? There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but these are the key factors to consider. One of them involves knowing what's happening near you, which you can check on these graphics tracking infections by county.
There's also a non-COVID reason you might want a mask: summer colds, which are hitting with a vengeance.
At least 100 U.S. athletes are unvaccinated as the Tokyo Olympics begin today, the event's medical chief says.
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