Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, July 25 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to cripple Americans whose families have experienced layoffs in the past several months, and a new poll shows nearly half of those families believe those jobs are lost forever. But negotiations over a new COVID-19 rescue bill were still in flux Friday after the White House floated cutting an unemployment benefits boost to as little as $100.
In King County, the top health official warned residents Friday that the current seven-day average of new coronavirus cases has reached the highest it’s been since the beginning of April, and urged community members to start making “long-term fundamental changes.”
Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Sinclair TV stations delay airing interview with ‘Plandemic’ researcher amid backlash
After facing intense scrutiny for planning to air a baseless conspiracy theory that infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci helped to create the coronavirus, conservative TV broadcaster Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Saturday that it will delay the segment to edit the context of the claims.
Sinclair, which has 191 stations across the country, received backlash this week after “America This Week” host Eric Bolling interviewed Judy Mikovits, a former medical researcher featured in the debunked “Plandemic” conspiracy online film.
In the Sinclair interview, Mikovits claimed that Fauci “manufactured” the coronavirus and shipped it to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated. A chyron during the segment reads, “DID DR. FAUCI CREATE COVID-19?”
Mikovits and her lawyer Larry Klayman dropped other unfounded allegations during the show, including President Donald Trump soft-pedaling relations with China because he has evidence of the country’s involvement with the inception of the virus.
The show was released online earlier this week before it was to be aired on local news channels. The segment was first reported by Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog. As of Saturday afternoon, the show was pulled from Sinclair websites.
Your trusty maps app can help you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic
If your town is partly closed or you’re wary of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, it might feel as if your phone’s map app is just sitting there gathering digital dust. But even if you’re not tapping Apple’s Maps or Google Maps to explore an exotic vacation spot or to belt out turn-by-turn directions on a long road trip this summer, your interactive travel aid can be useful. Here are a few things you can do.
Find what’s open or closed
Major U.S. cities have been in varying stages of closure for months, and it may be hard to remember which businesses are open. While a local government’s website should have general guidelines posted, both the iOS Maps app from Apple and Google Maps (for Android and iOS) have been updating their map labels and listings pages for specific businesses to note adjusted hours, any curbside pickup service and temporary closures.
But what if you find outdated details? In Apple’s Maps app, tap the name of the business on the map and, when its information page opens, scroll down and tap Report an Issue; you can report other cartographic issues by tapping the encircled “i” in the top-right corner of the map itself. In Google Maps, select a business and scroll down on its information page to the “Suggest an edit” option.
Many dining establishments have struggled during the pandemic, as some have stayed open with reduced service while others have been forced to close. Apple’s Maps app often notes temporary or permanent closures and operating hours on its Yelp-assisted restaurant listings pages. As part of its COVID-19 updates, Google now adds a line on a restaurant’s info page that lists the status of dine-in, takeout and delivery service.
Like Google Maps, Apple’s Maps includes the restaurant’s phone number and website for details straight from the source. Use this contact information to confirm current delivery and takeout services — along with any outdoor-dining options.
Find a COVID-19 testing site
State and local health departments manage testing, but if you have coronavirus symptoms or your medical provider advises you to get tested, find a facility. Apple and Google now include the locations of COVID-19 testing sites in their maps apps using data gleaned from government agencies, public-health departments and health care institutions.
Farmworker death draws state scrutiny in Okanogan County, where COVID-19 cases are spiking
After a Mexican orchard worker died earlier this month from COVID 19 complications, the state Department of Labor & Industries is demanding changes in the farm labor camps of a major eastern Washington fruit grower that employed the man in Okanogan County.
The “order and notice of restraint” results from several site visits in an investigation of a Gebbers Farms’ labor camp where the worker, who died July 8, was lodged. The notice requires Gebbers to either remove bunk beds in this and other company labor camps, or comply with a state rule that requires camp workers to be in groups that live, travel and labor together.
“We take this very seriously. The choice is pretty simple. Stop using bunk beds or follow all the requirements,” said Tim Church, a Labor & Industries spokesman who added that the unusual action reflects the risks of the disease spreading to other workers.
Failure to comply with the order carries the risk of criminal penalties.
In a statement, the family-own company’s chief executive officer, Cass Gebbers, disputed the Labor department’s description of their COVID-19 protocols, which he said were reviewed by a consultant who also serves as a program officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The accusations … are simply false,” Gebbers said in the statement that declared workers already are properly separated into distinct groups that live and work together, although the company cannot dictate what happens during off-duty hours.
Read the full story here.
State confirms 1,025 new COVID-19 cases; deaths drop by 1, to 1,494, and positive test rate holds at 5.7%
State health officials reported 1,025 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Friday night, but the number of deaths dropped by one, from 1,495 to 1,494, when the state removed one death from its official tally.
State Department of Health spokesman Frank Ameduri was checking with state epidemiologists about the reason for the lower number, but said that “over time,” some causes of death are found to be unrelated to COVID-19.
The update brings the state’s totals to 51,849 cases and 1,494 deaths, meaning that 2.9% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Friday.
So far, 903.674 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.7% have come back positive.
In King County, the state most populous, state health officials have confirmed 14,249 diagnoses and 644 deaths in King County, accounting for a little less than half of the state’s COVID-19 death toll.
Expanded statewide face covering order goes into effect Saturday
Washington's statewide face covering order expands Saturday to require face coverings in any indoor setting outside of people's residence and not just in public buildings.
The order expands the outdoor requirement to nonpublic settings when people can't maintain at least 6 feet of distance from nonhousehold members, including common areas in apartment buildings, condos, Greek houses and assisted living facilities.
"The current orders about face coverings are intended to increase the use of face coverings and emphasize their critical importance to our overall strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19," the state Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement released Saturday.
As many as 30 to 50% of infections occur before people have symptoms, according to DOH.
"You could be infected and not know it, but a cloth face covering greatly reduces the distance respiratory droplets travel, and that protects everyone."
The department asked people to keep staying home even if it's hard and said hanging out and socializing in close proximity to others "is one of the worst things we can do right now."
NY coronavirus hospitalizations continue to drop, says Cuomo
The tallies for people hospitalized in New York with the coronavirus are continuing to drop to the lowest levels since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
There were at least 646 people hospitalized in the state on Friday, a new low since March 18 and down slightly from the previous day, the Democratic governor said in a statement. The number of reported deaths in the state rose by one, to 10.
Daily statewide statistics show New York with more than 750 newly confirmed cases, representing only about 1% of all tests performed. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
New York, once a pandemic hot spot, has so far avoided a surge in new cases like those plaguing other states in the South and West. But Cuomo has repeatedly warned New Yorkers could be at risk if they abandon social distancing, face coverings and other practices adopted to stop the spread of the virus.
Head of worst-hit Italy region investigated over COVID supplies
The governor of Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit region in the pandemic, acknowledged Saturday that he is being investigated by Milan prosecutors over a lucrative contract to obtain protective medical gowns from his brother-in-law’s company.
The contract for 75,000 gowns reportedly was awarded without public bidding in April, when the coronavirus outbreak was devastating Italy, Italian news reports said.
Gov. Attilio Fontana said in a Facebook post about the probe that he represents the region “responsibly” and was confident about the correctness of Lombardy’s actions.
The governor insisted that the region never paid for the gowns, which were reportedly eventually donated to Lombardy.
Fontana’s wife has a minor stake in the company, according to Italian media.
France's infection rate rises and other COVID-19 updates from around the world
France’s coronavirus infection rate crept higher Saturday and Spain cracked down on nightlife but German authorities were confident enough to send a cruise ship out to sea with 1,200 passengers for a weekend test of how the cruise industry can begin to resume.
French health authorities said the closely watched “R” gauge is now up to 1.3, suggesting that infected people are contaminating 1.3 other people on average. That means the virus still has enough victims to keep on going instead of petering out.
France’s daily new infections are also rising — up to 1,130 on Friday.
“We have thus erased much of the progress that we’d achieved in the first weeks of lockdown-easing,” health authorities said, adding that the French appear to be letting down their guard during their summer vacations and those testing positive are making less of an effort to self-isolate.
In Spain, Catalonia became the latest region to crack down on nightlife, trying to tamp down on new infection clusters.
India, which has the world’s third-highest infections behind the United States and Brazil, reported its death toll rose by 740 to 30,601. It saw a surge of more than 49,000 new cases, raising its total to over 1.2 million.
South Africa, Africa’s hardest-hit country, reported more than 13,000 new cases, raising its total to over 408,000.
A troubling pandemic thought: Are THESE the good old days?
What if these are the good old days?
Depressing as that might seem after the coronavirus pandemic has claimed well over 630,000 lives worldwide, cost tens of millions their jobs and inflicted untold misery across the planet, it’s entirely possible — increasingly likely, some say — that things will get worse before they get better.
Americans in particular have been optimists by nature for the better part of four centuries. But even here, a bleak dystopian vision is emerging in some corners. It’s not pretty.
It imagines a not-too-distant future where we’ll all look back with nostalgia at 2020 as a time when most of us had plenty of food and wine, could get many of the goods and services we needed, and could work from home at jobs that still paid us.
“This could be as good as it gets, so let’s take pleasure in what we have now,” Katherine Tallman, the CEO of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, an indie cinema in Brookline, Massachusetts, told a recent Zoom roundtable.
The pandemic continues to buffet the planet economically, dashing hopes that the worst of the joblessness might be behind us.
For 18 consecutive weeks now, more than a million Americans have sought unemployment benefits. New infections have been surging in states like Florida and California that power the economy, threatening people’s health and livelihoods for the foreseeable future.
That’s bad. But in online forums and on social media, futurists see the potential for worse. Much worse. Their musings aren’t for the faint of heart.
28 of Puyallup nursing home's 31 patients test positive for coronavirus
A skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in Puyallup is in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak, with 61 confirmed cases. All 61 cases are still positive, company spokesperson Timothy Killian said.
Life Care Center of South Hill has reported the death of at least one client from COVID-19 as of July 21, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported. The death occurred three weeks ago.
Killian said 28 patients and 33 staff members have tested positive as of Friday at the center on 7th Street Southeast. The test results were received in the past week.
Of 31 patients, only three have not been infected with the coronavirus.
Killian said Life Care staff at the South Hill facility have worked at only the one building since early March.
Pittsburgh’s early virus success fizzles in crowded bars, eateries
By his estimation, Stephen Santa took Pennsylvania’s coronavirus lockdown seriously: He pretty much went only to grocery stores and picked up takeout once a week to help Pittsburgh’s restaurants.
Whatever Santa and everyone else in Pittsburgh did, it seemed to work: The city racked up a fraction of the coronavirus cases during the spring shutdown, while the other side of Pennsylvania flared up into a hot spot.
With a state-mandated masking order in place, Pittsburgh’s gyms, salons, bars and restaurants got permission to reopen in early June, ahead of many parts of Pennsylvania, as part of the so-called “green” phase in Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-step stoplight-colored reopening plan.
Santa promptly went to a nearby Italian restaurant for a meal in its outdoor courtyard with a couple relatives.
When they got there, around 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, it was practically empty. When they left, it was packed inside: every table full, no masks and nobody keeping 3 feet (1 meter) apart, never mind 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
“I think partly a lot of people saw the word ‘green’ and it meant ‘go’ and ‘we’re going back how things were,'” Santa said.
Barely three weeks later, officials in Allegheny County — home to Pittsburgh and 1.2 million residents — raised the alarm over a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The culprit? Primarily, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who told contact tracers that they had been visiting bars and restaurants or working in them, county officials said.
US agency vows steps to address COVID-19 inequalities
If Black, Hispanic and Native Americans are hospitalized and killed by the coronavirus at far higher rates than others, shouldn’t the government count them as high risk for serious illness?
That seemingly simple question has been mulled by federal health officials for months. And so far the answer is no.
But federal public health officials have released a new strategy that vows to improve data collection and take steps to address stark inequalities in how the disease is affecting Americans.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress that the disproportionately high impact on certain minority groups is not driven by genetics. Rather, it’s social conditions that make people of color more likely to be exposed to the virus and — if they catch it — more likely to get seriously ill.
“To just name racial and ethnic groups without contextualizing what contributes to the risk has the potential to be stigmatizing and victimizing,” said the CDC’s Leandris Liburd, who two months ago was named chief health equity officer in the agency’s coronavirus response.
Outside experts agreed that there’s a lot of potential downside to labeling certain racial and ethnic groups as high risk.
“You have to be very careful that you don’t do it in such a way that you’re defining a whole class of people as ‘COVID carriers.’” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro says he tested negative for coronavirus
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Saturday that he has tested negative for the new coronavirus, based on a fourth test since he said July 7 that he had the virus.
“Good morning everyone,” Bolsonaro wrote on Facebook after reporting that the test was “negative.”
The 65-year-old leader didn’t say when he did the new test. On Wednesday, he had tested positive for the third time.
Bolsonaro also posted a photo of himself with a box of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, although it has not been proven effective against the virus.
Now that Bolsonaro is clear of the virus, he is expected to return to mingling in crowds as he used to do before his diagnosis. He had spent many weekends since the beginning of the pandemic in close proximity to supporters, sometimes without wearing a mask.
On Thursday, he was photographed without a mask while talking to some sweepers in the garden of the presidential residence.
Should Washington’s restaurants be left to self-police if employees test positive for coronavirus?
Last Saturday, the parking lot of the usually bustling Grillbird Teriyaki sat vacant. The only hint of life was the sound of DJ Khaled pulsating throughout the empty restaurant to entertain two bored workers who were sanitizing “every inch” of the kitchen. Their boss Matt Parker was propped on a two-step stool, wiping windows.
Patrons got the explanation by the door: “On Wednesday, July 8, a staff member at Grillbird tested positive for COVID-19. This individual was not customer-facing and was immediately sent home to recover. Our entire staff will receive testing over the next couple days. As a result of this positive test, we will be closing our doors temporarily so that we can wait for the results and disinfect/clean the restaurant.”
Four miles northwest, another West Seattle restaurant, Duke’s Seafood, also shuttered on July 8, but not by choice. Unlike Grillbird, the seafood restaurant by Alki Beach had encouraged employees not to get tested and to come to work even though one server was already sick from the virus, according to a staff memo shared with The Seattle Times. Two workers interviewed said they feared an outbreak would occur because management was so lax. A week later, a health inspector shut down Duke’s after seven employees tested positive for COVID-19.
The differences in how both restaurants handled their coronavirus cases exemplify a burgeoning issue. Across the board, there’s no consistency in how cafes, wine bars and eateries are dealing with cases of infected employees or coronavirus safety issues because, restaurateurs say, there’s been very little direction from the state, and often, murky instructions from county health departments. Yet, as evidenced again on Thursday, when Gov. Jay Inslee’s new phase restrictions included an order to limit indoor dining to “members of the same household,” the state continues to put the onus on restaurants to figure out how to enforce these ever-evolving coronavirus operations policies.
For instance, in Washington state, restaurant employees are not required to get tested for coronavirus. And if a worker tests positive, the restaurant can make its own decision on whether to close.
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