Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, July 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As COVID-19 cases soar throughout the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Sunday that the United States is going in the “wrong direction” and is in an “unnecessary predicament” fueled by unvaccinated Americans and the delta variant.
The recent rise in cases has prompted new guidance locally. Health officers from eight Western Washington counties are now recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces.
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 previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.
‘I don’t mean to cause any heartache’: WSU’s Nick Rolovich takes on vaccine questions at Pac-12 media day
HOLLYWOOD — Right on cue, at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday, Nick Rolovich’s image appeared on the large flat screen parked at the front of the second-floor ballroom where Pac-12 football coaches and players gathered for the conference’s media day.
For more than 10 minutes of his 25-minute virtual availability, Washington State’s second-year coach discussed the prospects of his football team this fall, the Cougars’ efforts in the weight room this summer and the recent ACL injury to Renard Bell, which will keep Rolovich’s top returning receiver on the sideline this season.
But not until Rolovich was 12 minutes into a long-winded opening statement did he address the vessel-sized elephant in the W Hollywood Hotel ballroom.
“The reasons for my individual choice will remain private,” Rolovich said. “However, I want to make it clear I respect, I support all the work being done by the state of Washington, who as a state has one of the highest percentages of vaccinations in the country. … As I go forward, I plan on adhering to all policies that are implemented for the unvaccinated at the state, local, campus, conference level.
“I’m not against vaccinations. I wholeheartedly support those who choose to be vaccinated, including our players, staff, coaches.”
Later on, the coach offered another response regarding the commotion and national attention that have come as a result of his decision not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
9 Seattle bars shut down temporarily over the weekend due to COVID-19
At least nine Seattle bars closed over the weekend either because a worker had tested positive for COVID-19 or came into contact with an infected person.
The Unicorn on Capitol Hill and Jupiter bar in Belltown each had two vaccinated workers who tested positive for COVID-19, and they immediately closed their doors, each bar’s management team said Tuesday. Owners at both bars say they plan to reopen Friday since the test results for the rest of their staff came back negative. They also plan to invoke new measures to try to keep their patrons safe.
The temporary closures come as King County has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks due to the emergence of the highly infectious delta variant, which led Public Health-Seattle & King County last Friday to recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks again in public indoor settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended on Tuesday that people in parts of the U.S. with surging COVID-19 infection numbers should resume wearing masks indoors.
Unicorn bar owner Adam Heimstadt said he didn’t think local health officials went far enough with just a mask suggestion.
“It’s just a big bummer,” Heimstadt said. “We all want to get out of this pandemic.”
Man charged with sending threatening emails to Dr. Fauci
GREENBELT, Md. — A man has been arrested and charged in federal court with sending emails that threatened to harm and kill Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, and their families, federal prosecutors in Maryland announced Tuesday.
A criminal complaint filed Monday charges Thomas Patrick Connally Jr., 56, with threats against a federal official and interstate communication containing a threat to harm.
Beginning in December and up to last week, Connally used a Switzerland-based encrypted email service to send a series of emails to Collins and Fauci, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.
Fauci is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of NIH in Bethesda, Maryland. He was appointed to his post in 1984, but his visibility has increased amid the coronavirus pandemic. He has been a vocal supporter of vaccines and other preventive measures against COVID-19 and has been lauded for his leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
One email threatened that Fauci and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire.”
Europeans increasingly frustrated as White House maintains Trump-era COVID travel restrictions
European lawmakers and business groups voiced mounting criticism of the Biden administration on Tuesday, after the White House said its restrictions on international travel would remain in place for the time being.
Whereas vaccinated U.S. tourists have been allowed to return to much of Europe for weeks, most Europeans continue to be unable to travel to the United States under a ban that was first imposed by President Donald Trump in March 2020.
The White House said Monday that the continuation of existing travel restrictions was due to concerns over the highly transmissible delta variant. A number of European nations, including Spain, Britain and France, have recently seen a rise in cases linked to that variant.
But the delta variant has long been in the United States, already accounting for the majority of new known cases and as vaccinated American tourists take their summer holidays in Europe, its becoming increasingly difficult to defend the U.S. stance.
State health officials confirm 1,030 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,030 new coronavirus cases and 8 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 470,333 cases and 6,097 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. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 26,566 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 68 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 116,313 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,678 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,105,754 doses and 52.3% 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 9,292 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.
Employers have legal right to mandate COVID shots
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The state of California. New York City. Hospitals and nursing homes. Colleges and universities. Employers are putting COVID-19 vaccine requirements into place and it’s getting attention. But what happens if workers refuse?
Private companies and government agencies can require their employees to get vaccinated as a condition of working there. Individuals retain the right to refuse, but they have no ironclad right to legal protection.
“Those who have a disability or a sincerely held religious belief may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under civil rights laws, so long as providing that accommodation does not constitute an undue hardship for the employer,” said Sharon Perley Masling, an employment lawyer who leads the COVID-19 task force at Morgan Lewis.
Employees who don’t meet such criteria “may need to go on leave or seek different opportunities,” she added.
Mexico homicides remained at high levels despite pandemic
The most authoritative count of homicides in Mexico was published Tuesday and it shows killings remain essentially unchanged at 36,579 in 2020.
Even though the coronavirus pandemic reduced many activities in Mexico in 2020, the number of killings was essentially equal to the 36,661 that occurred in 2019. Mexico’s nation-wide murder rate in 2020 remained unchanged at 29 per 100,000 inhabitants. By comparison, the U.S. homicide rate in 2019 was 5.8 per 100,000.
Experts say much of the violence is fueled by a series of turf battles being fought across the nation between the Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels, often allied with or acting through local gangs throughout many of Mexico’s 32 states.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, 2 others sue Pelosi over mask fines
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and two other lawmakers are suing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House sergeant-at-arms over fines they received for violating rules on wearing a mask.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Washington’s U.S. District Court on behalf of Greene, Kentucky U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie and South Carolina U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman. Last week, the House Ethics Committee rejected appeals filed by all three representatives over the $500 fines they received after refusing to wear masks on the House floor as mandated by Pelosi as a precaution during the coronavirus pandemic.
During a news conference to publicize their legal action, Greene characterized the mask policy as “segregation” and “discrimination” against people who both refused to wear the face coverings but also declined to be vaccinated.
The suit comes as many conservatives have made the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wearing of masks a part of the culture war, even as new variants of the virus are fueling higher hospitalization and death rates.
Biden says White House exploring vaccine mandate for federal employees
President Joe Biden said that the federal government was considering making vaccines mandatory for its workforce — which would be a significant escalation in the push to expand vaccine coverage as the coronavirus surge from the delta variant sends shock waves through the country.
The news comes as the exponential growth of cases in many areas around the country concerns public health officials and other authorities. Vaccination rates have been waning for weeks, despite its wide availability and the swelling number of caseloads across the country.
There are more than 4 million federal employees, a figure that includes civilian workers, members of the military, and members of the U.S. Postal Service, according to recent estimates, making the government the country’s largest employer. When including the vast ranks of federal contractors and grant workers, that number tops 10 million. But it was not immediately clear who exactly the discussions about vaccine requirements would apply to.
As L.A. ponders vaccine mandates, infections in the LAPD spike sharply
LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the civilian Police Commission on Tuesday that the department had 33 personnel test positive for the coronavirus in the last week, a sharp uptick compared to recent weeks.
There were 81 LAPD employees at home recovering from the virus as of Tuesday, one LAPD employee hospitalized in “very critical condition” from COVID-19 and nine LAPD personnel who have died, Moore said. He also also said three spouses of LAPD personnel also had died from the disease.
Moore’s comments come amid escalating discussions at the city level on whether to mandate vaccinations among city employees, which would include police officers and civilian police employees.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced that state employees would be required to be vaccinated or submit to regular testing. Some localities have said they would be mandating vaccines, as well.
Vaccinations among LAPD personnel stalled out months ago, with nearly half the department remaining unvaccinated.
Passenger on Seattle-bound Alaska cruise tests positive for COVID-19
A fully vaccinated passenger on an Alaska cruise tested positive for COVID-19 and received “private air transportation” home, according to Celebrity Cruises.
A passenger on Sunday reported cold-like symptoms to the ship’s medical personnel and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, the cruise line said in a statement Tuesday. The person was isolated in the ship’s medical facility for monitoring. The company said it did contact tracing and tested the person’s close contacts, who were all negative for the virus.
Cruise line spokesperson Susan Lomax said the ship was in Skagway on Tuesday and would be at sea before returning to Seattle on Friday.
Thailand sends COVID-19 patients to hometowns by train
Authorities in Thailand began transporting some people who tested positive for the coronavirus from Bangkok to their hometowns on Tuesday for isolation and treatment to alleviate the burden on the capital’s overwhelmed medical system.
A train carrying more than 100 patients and medical workers in full protective gear left the city for the northeast. It will drop patients off in seven provinces, where they will be met by health officers and taken to hospitals.
Medical authorities in Bangkok said Monday that all ICU beds for COVID-19 patients at public hospitals were full and that some of the sick were being treated in emergency rooms. Officials said they have asked army medics to help out at civilian hospitals.
“These are patients from Bangkok who haven’t received treatment in hospitals. We want to bring them to doctors in their hometowns. And the traveling process is controlled all through the journey,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who was on hand to watch the operation.
Bhutan fully vaccinates 90% of eligible adults within a week
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90% of its eligible adult population within just seven days, its health ministry said Tuesday.
The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on July 20 in a mass drive that has been hailed by UNICEF as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.”
In April, Bhutan grabbed headlines when its government said it had inoculated around the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose in under two weeks after India donated 550,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine.
CDC reverses course on indoor masks in some parts of US
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
Citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
The new guidance follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that have been especially bad in the South. The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. But “breakthrough” infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people. When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
But with the delta variant, the level of virus in infected vaccinated people is “indistinguishable” from the level of virus in the noses and throats of unvaccinated people, Walensky said.
The data emerged over the last couple of days from 100 samples. It is unpublished, and the CDC has not released it. But “it is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act,” Walensky said.
Iran hits new COVID infection record for 2nd straight day
Iran recorded over 34,900 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, setting the nation’s single-day record for cases as vaccinations lag, public complacency deepens and the country’s outbreak spirals further out of control.
The previous record of 31,814 infections had been set only a day earlier, providing a sense of how quickly Iran’s latest surge, fueled by the contagious delta variant, is mounting.
The alarming spread of the variant prompted new anti-virus restrictions last week but the lockdown looked very little like a lockdown at all. Iranian authorities have avoided imposing heavy-handed rules on a population that can little afford to bear them. The country is reeling from: tough U.S. sanctions, a heat wave, the worst blackouts in recent memory, ongoing water shortages and now hospitals overwhelmed with breathless COVID patients too numerous to handle.
‘A tipping point’: Government officials, health groups move to require coronavirus vaccines for workers
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs one of the nation’s largest health systems, announced Monday it would mandate coronavirus vaccines for its front-line workers, becoming the first federal agency to do so and signaling what some experts said could be a national pivot to such requirements.
Faced with the explosive growth of a new virus variant, the state of California and the city of New York gave workers a choice: Get vaccinated or provide proof of a negative test every week. And an array of hospitals from coast to coast, including the prestigious Mayo Clinic, declared they would require staff to get vaccinated, following a joint plea from the nation’s major medical groups.
Health care leaders say the moves represent an escalation of the nation’s fight against the coronavirus – the first concerted effort to mandate that tens of millions of Americans get vaccinated. The VA’s mandate applies to more than 100,000 front-line workers, New York City’s applies to about 45,000 city employees and contractors, and California’s applies to more than 2.2 million state employees and health workers.
EU trumpets vaccine success but warns of variant impact
The European Union has achieved a major goal of providing at least one coronavirus shot to 70% of adults across the 27-nation bloc but member countries must step up their vaccination rates to combat fast-spreading variants of the disease, the EU’s chief executive warned Tuesday.
The EU — home to around 450 million people — was widely criticized for the slow pace of its vaccine rollout early this year. Its executive branch, the European Commission, was tasked with sealing vaccine contracts for member countries and it is desperate to show it now has things under control.
But Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned against complacency given the well-established presence in Europe of other variants.
“The delta variant is very dangerous. I therefore call on everyone — who has the opportunity — to be vaccinated. For their own health and to protect others,” von der Leyen said. European medical authorities insist that full vaccination is, so far, the best protection against such variants.
Tokyo reports record virus cases days after Olympics begin
Japan’s capital, Tokyo, reported its highest number of new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, days after the Olympics began. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged people to avoid non-essential outings, but said there was no need to consider a suspension of the Games.
Tokyo reported 2,848 new COVID-19 cases, exceeding its earlier record of 2,520 daily cases on Jan. 7. That brings its total to more than 200,000 since the pandemic began last year.
Tokyo is under its fourth coronavirus state of emergency, which is to continue through the Olympics until just before the Paralympics start in late August.
Experts have warned that the more contagious delta variant could cause a surge during the Olympics, which started Friday.
Russia OKs testing combination of Sputnik, AstraZeneca shots
Russia’s health officials have given a go-ahead to testing a combination of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot and the single-dose version of the domestically developed Sputnik V vaccine, according to the country’s registry of approved clinical trials.
The small study, which was scheduled to start July 26 and end in March next year, will enroll 150 volunteers and look at the mixed regimen’s safety and capability to trigger immune response, records show. It will be conducted in five medical facilities in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Both shots use a similar technology, employing a harmless virus to deliver genetic material from the spike protein of COVID-19 into the body, which then prompts an immune response.
UK spares key workers quarantine as staff shortages bite
The British government said Tuesday it will ease coronavirus quarantine rules for thousands more essential workers — including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors — in an attempt to end staff shortages that are hobbling parts of the economy.
About 26 million Britons have downloaded a health service phone app that tells them to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. With the U.K. recently recording tens of thousands of new virus cases a day, the system has caused disruptive employee absences for restaurants and other businesses and led to gaps on some supermarket shelves.
Starting Aug. 16, anyone who has been fully vaccinated in Britain will be able to take daily coronavirus tests rather than self-isolating. But many businesses are pushing for the change to happen sooner.
Last week, the government said food and transport workers, border staff, police and firefighters could opt for the daily tests. Now it has expanded that system to more jobs, including refuse collectors, prison staff, veterinarians, tax collectors and defense workers.
The government said 2,000 sites would be set up to meet the increased demand for tests.
Cambodia seizes virus-contaminated meat imported from India
Cambodian authorities have stopped five large containers of water buffalo meat imported from India after determining the shipment was tainted with the coronavirus, officials said Tuesday.
The Health Ministry said the virus was detected in three of the five shipping containers of frozen meat being brought in by a private company.
Meanwhile, Cambodia is struggling with its own surge in cases after low numbers early on. The Health Ministry reported 685 new cases on Tuesday and another 19 deaths.
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