Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, July 24, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Driven by the emergence of the coronavirus delta variant as the dominant variant of concern, King County’s top public health official is recommending everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks again in public indoor settings.
As the summer progresses, thousands of passengers are coming face-to-face with travel headaches as they take to the skies after a year or more of staying close to home. For a whole host of reasons, August could be even worse, airline analysts say.
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.
They were once luxury venues. Now they are grim COVID-19 camps.
The Cambodian government, racing to contain a raging coronavirus outbreak, has set up a system of forced quarantine centers that patients say are run more like makeshift prisons than hospitals. No one is allowed to leave until they test negative — and most people are stuck for at least 10 days.
Cambodia was a COVID-19 success story until a few months ago. From 500 cases and no deaths in late February, there were 72,104 cases and 1,254 deaths by Saturday — with nearly 900 new cases per day and almost 70% of the fatalities coming in the preceding month.
The sprawling quarantine centers are the product of an overwhelmed and underfunded health care system, a jolt of recent COVID-19 deaths and an authoritarian streak that often turns to a robust security apparatus in times of trouble. The Cambodian government has gone from nonchalance to closures to crackdowns.
In April, a law was passed that threatened 20 years in prison for anyone judged to have intentionally spread the virus. During a recent curfew period, security forces patrolled darkened neighborhoods with bamboo canes.
St. Louis and L.A. now require masks indoors; will other cities follow suit?
Friday became the latest major U.S. city to revive its mask mandate, joining Los Angeles in requiring face coverings indoors.
The mandate takes effect Monday and will apply to everyone, even vaccinated people, in indoor public places and on public transportation. It comes a little more than two months after the city lifted the rules, which had been in place since last summer.
In King County, Washington, the top health official recommended mask-wearing indoors.
Officials said the move was designed to combat the spread of the hyper-transmissible delta variant of the virus, which has caused infections to spike around the country in recent weeks and threatens to upend progress against the pandemic. The situation is particularly dire in Missouri, where vaccinations have lagged and the case rate among the unvaccinated is now as high as it was near the state’s peak of infections in January.
Unvaccinated snow leopard at San Diego Zoo catches COVID-19
An unvaccinated snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has contracted COVID-19.
Caretakers noticed that Ramil, a 9-year-old male snow leopard, had a cough and runny nose on Thursday. Later, two separate tests of his stool confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement Friday.
Ramil is not showing additional symptoms, the zoo said, but because he shares an enclosure with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards, the staff assumes they have been exposed. As a result, the animals were quarantined and their exhibit was closed.
It’s unclear how Ramil got infected.
French protesters reject virus passes, vaccine mandate
Some 160,000 people, including far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement, protested Saturday across the country against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
Similar protests were held in neighboring Italy.
Police fired water cannons and tear gas on rowdy protesters in Paris, although most gatherings were orderly.
Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the virus bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it on Friday, as virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising. The French government wants to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable people and hospitals, and avoid any new lockdown.
Most French adults are fully vaccinated and multiple polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures. But not everyone.
The most influential spreader of coronavirus misinformation online
The article that appeared online Feb. 9 began with a seemingly innocuous question about the legal definition of vaccines. Then over its next 3,400 words, it declared coronavirus vaccines were “a medical fraud” and said the injections did not prevent infections, provide immunity or stop transmission of the disease.
Instead, the article claimed, the shots “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch.”
Its assertions were easily disprovable. No matter. Over the next few hours, the article was translated from English into Spanish and Polish. It appeared on dozens of blogs and was picked up by anti-vaccination activists, who repeated the false claims online. The article also made its way to Facebook, where it reached 400,000 people, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool.
They waited, they worried, they stalled. Then they got the shot.
They acknowledged that they could have showed up months ago. Many were satisfied that they were finally doing the right thing. A few grumbled that they had little choice.
On a single day this past week, more than a half-million people across the United States trickled into high school gymnasiums, pharmacies and buses converted into mobile clinics. Then they pushed up their sleeves and got their coronavirus vaccines.
These are the Americans who are being vaccinated at this moment in the pandemic: the reluctant, the anxious, the procrastinating.
First large cruise ship arrives in Juneau after 21-month absence, bringing tourists and cautious optimism
Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and a six-foot-tall salmon mascot greeted tourists Friday as the first large, passenger-carrying cruise ship of 2021 arrived in the state’s biggest cruise ship port.
Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas carried only about 630 passengers — a quarter of its capacity — because of COVID-19 concerns, but tourism workers in Juneau said they believe the ship’s arrival is a sign of hope for their industry, and tourists aboard the ship said they feel safe.
Unvaccinated US swimmer sparks debate as Olympics start
A debate is brewing between former gold medalist Maya DiRado and some American swimmers over U.S. medal threat Michael Andrew’s decision not to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus as he prepares to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
DiRado sparked the discourse this week with a lengthy thread on Twitter in which she wrote that she’s “disappointed” in Andrew’s decision to compete unvaccinated and his reasoning behind it.
States scale back virus reporting just as cases surge
Several states scaled back their reporting of COVID-19 statistics this month just as cases across the country started to skyrocket, depriving the public of real-time information on outbreaks, cases, hospitalizations and deaths in their communities.
The shift to weekly instead of daily reporting in Florida, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota marked a notable shift during a pandemic in which coronavirus dashboards have become a staple for Americans closely tracking case counts and trends to navigate a crisis that has killed more than 600,000 people in the U.S.
UK’s summer getaway takes off but nothing like pre-COVID
With all British schools now closed for the summer, airports and airlines were looking a tad more normal on Saturday, although the number of families heading off for warmer climes remains way down from before the coronavirus pandemic.
This weekend traditionally marks the great summer getaway from Britain, with airports jam-packed with excitable children and their anxious parents heading off mostly to the popular beach resorts of southern Europe, from Portugal’s Algarve coast in the west to the sun-soaked island nation of Cyprus to the east.
Cantwell sponsors tax break package to bolster local media
Sen. Maria Cantwell and two others unveiled legislation Thursday to support local news organizations battered by the pandemic. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 37,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or taken pay cuts, as advertising revenue plummeted.
The bill, called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021, would create new tax credits for subscribers to local news publications and small businesses that buy advertising in local newspapers, radio and television stations. Another tax credit would subsidize local media outlets’ hiring and retention of journalists.
Tanzania receives 1st batch of COVID-19 vaccines
Tanzania on Saturday received its first batch of 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government.
Tanzania had been among the few countries in Africa yet to receive vaccines or start inoculating its population, mainly because its former leader had claimed prayer had defeated COVID-19 in the country.
Groups worry about tapping COVID relief for infrastructure
Organizations representing long-term care facilities on Friday urged lawmakers working on a bipartisan infrastructure plan to avoid dipping into COVID-relief funds to help pay for the roughly $600 billion in new spending sought for the public works buildout.
The request comes as lawmakers are struggling to finish up negotiations over the package amid stubborn disagreements over how to pay for the new spending. Lawmakers and staff are expected to work through the weekend, sorting through the flurry of tensions over funds for water resources, public transit and other details in what they hope are the final stages of their work.
Tokyo Olympics begin with muted ceremony and empty stadium
Belated and beleaguered, the virus-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics finally opened Friday night with cascading fireworks and made-for-TV choreography that unfolded in a near-empty stadium, a colorful but strangely subdued ceremony that set a striking tone to match a unique pandemic Games.
As their opening played out, devoid of the usual crowd energy, the Olympics convened amid simmering anger and disbelief in much of the host country, but with hopes from organizers that the excitement of the sports to follow would offset the widespread opposition.
Biden officials now expect vulnerable people to need coronavirus booster shots
Biden administration health officials increasingly think that vulnerable populations will need booster shots even as research continues into how long the coronavirus vaccines remain effective.
Senior officials now say they expect that people who are 65 and older or who have compromised immune systems will most likely need a third shot from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, two vaccines based on the same technology that have been used to inoculate the vast majority of Americans thus far. That is a sharp shift from just a few weeks ago, when the administration said it thought there was not enough evidence to back boosters yet.
Delta coronavirus variant now dominant in Washington. New study questions J&J vaccine efficacy against strain
The highly contagious delta variant is now the most dominant strain in Washington.
The delta variant lagged in Washington as it surged across the nation. That has changed in recent weeks, as it now accounts for the largest share of coronavirus cases in the state.
According to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) latest sequencing and variants report, delta makes up 57.5% of cases that have been genotyped, a jump from the previous report that pegged delta at 27.5%.
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