Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, July 29, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic uptick, Washington will follow current federal guidance for the use of facial coverings, but won’t impose new masking requirements, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know about the new mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health said in a new report Wednesday that more than 94% of Washington’s recent COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations were among people not fully vaccinated, renewing the push for widespread immunizations.
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.
Navigating the pandemic
- How to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in Washington state
- Should you still wear a mask after mandates lift? How to tackle that choice
- How to navigate the COVID pandemic in the Seattle area: resources on masks, tests, vaccines and more
Biden’s vaccine rule draws both cheers and resistance from federal workers
President Joe Biden’s plan to require federal workers to get vaccinated or face regular testing and other restrictions has splintered groups representing large numbers of employees, raising questions about compliance as the White House attempts to arrest the spread of the coronavirus delta variant.
Some sectors of the federal workforce, including groups as disparate as law enforcement officers and postal workers, raised concerns about the requirement, sending an early signal of looming problems. The directive is expected to apply to some 4 million federal workers.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents more than 26,000 federal officers, has blasted the idea, saying that it believes requiring vaccinations represents an infringement on civil rights.
“There will be a lot of pushback. It’s going to be an avalanche,” President Larry Cosme said, warning that many of the group’s members at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security would be opposed.
Japan to widen virus emergency after record spike amid Games
TOKYO — Japan is set to expand the coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo to neighboring areas and the western city of Osaka on Friday in the wake of record-breaking surge in infections while the capital hosts the Olympics.
A government panel approved the plan putting Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba, as well as Osaka, under the state of emergency from Monday until Aug. 31. The measures already in place in Tokyo and the southern island of Okinawa will be extended until the end of August.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is scheduled to officially announce the measures later Friday. Five other areas, including Hokkaido, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, will be placed under less-stringent emergency restrictions.
Tokyo has reported a record rise in cases for three days in a row, including 3,865 on Thursday. The cases have doubled since last week, and officials have warned they may hit 4,500 a day within two weeks.
Kentucky state officials refuse to enforce virus mask rule
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear defended his mask requirement for state workers Thursday, brushing off criticism by state GOP officials who announced that they would not enforce the mandate in their offices.
“Listen, I care more about my people than my popularity. I got the backbone to do what’s right for them and I wish other people did too,” a clearly irritated Democratic governor told reporters. “At some point you got to do the right thing for your people and not try to score political points.”
Beshear said he isn’t able to take disciplinary action against workers in the Department of Agriculture, the office of the state treasurer, the Legislative Research Commission or the state auditor’s office who don’t wear masks, but he warned that they “face a much higher likelihood that they get COVID and they get really sick” if they don’t.
Beshear issued the order for state workers and visitors to any state building Wednesday, prompted by a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases accelerated by the highly contagious delta variant. The state’s test positivity rate — which had dipped below 2% on July 1 — was 8.29% on Wednesday.
National parks are so crowded that Congress is getting involved
A post-pandemic boom in national park tourism has left lawmakers wondering how to preserve nature and the visitor experience amid increased traffic, crowds and waiting times.
“Yosemite is one of the most spectacular places in the world, but I can guarantee the people in that traffic jam weren’t enjoying it,” said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, while presenting a photo of a mountain road backup on Wednesday to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee on National Parks.
National park tourism has grown steadily for decades, particularly accelerating in the 2010s. After a brief pandemic lull, visitors have returned to seek fresh air and are smashing monthly attendance records at parks such as Yellowstone and Zion. In June alone, over 31 million people visited a National Park Service site.
The crowding has led to multihour waits for popular trails, increased litter, wildlife disruption and defacement of American Indian artifacts, Kristen Brengel, senior vice president at the National Parks Conservation Association, told the subcommittee.
US doctors lose patience as they confront vaccine hesitancy
A year ago, U.S. health professionals felt helpless. The coronavirus had been identified but was poorly understood. Thousands were dying daily and the tools available — ventilators, experimental therapies, testing kits — were limited and often ineffective. The president was dismissive of masks and social distancing.
Today, even though the death rate has plummeted, those same professionals feel worse. The virus, while mutating, has been mapped; tests and highly effective vaccines are readily available, and the White House is on message. But, propelled by the delta variant, infection rates are increasing in 90% of the U.S.
The pandemic, these professionals say, is entering a dark new phase.
Nearly half the nation rejects vaccines, goes maskless and sees virus restrictions as an assault on liberty. As cases rise again, scientists and doctors are grappling with the exasperating realization that the country has the means to tame this virus, but large parts of the population reject them.
Thailand sets up hospital at airport; Cambodia closes border
Health authorities in Thailand raced to set up a large field hospital in a cargo building at one of Bangkok’s airports on Thursday as the country reported record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Thailand reported 17,669 new cases and 165 deaths on Thursday, its highest number since the pandemic began in early 2020. More than 90% of the county's recorded total of 561,030 cases and 4,562 deaths have been reported during the surge that began in early April.
The quick spread of the delta variant also led neighboring Cambodia to seal its border with Thailand on Thursday and order a lockdown and movement restrictions in eight provinces.
State health officials confirm 886 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 886 new coronavirus cases and 19 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 472,362 cases and 6,119 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. Wednesday.
In addition, 26,708 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 74 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 116,760 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,679 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,119,504 doses and 52.4% 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 9,386 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.
Thursday’s death count includes prior deaths for Washington residents that occurred out of state, the DOH said. The DOH is also processing a backlog of negative lab results that were delayed due to system issues.
Tucker Carlson falsely claims Anthony Fauci ‘created’ COVID-19
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged vaccinated people to resume wearing masks under certain circumstances amid low vaccination rates and rising cases from the delta variant, Fox News host Tucker Carlson placed blame on Anthony Fauci for the changing mask guidelines.
In doing so, Carlson on Wednesday night falsely claimed that the nation’s top infectious-disease expert had caused the coronavirus.
“Here’s the man who helped to create COVID in the first place,” Carlson said.
The host doubled down on the baseless claim minutes later when he cited a handful of “breakthrough” cases of vaccinated people still getting infected by the virus.
“They have been telling us for six months that this vaccine is perfect, but clearly, in some cases, it doesn’t always work,” Carlson said. “And that’s not our theory, by the way. Take it from the guy who created COVID.”
Brazil begins mass vaccine study in poor Rio neighborhood
Brazilian health authorities on Thursday began the mass immunization of Rio de Janeiro’s Mare neighborhood in a novel bid to control COVID-19 in a poor community while studying vaccine effectiveness and the prevalence of worrisome variants.
The bayside Mare complex is home to some 130,000 people, and the study is Brazil’s first to target a low-income area. The Brazilian researchers leading the effort aren’t aware of another elsewhere in the world that has specifically focused on slums.
“This is important for Mare and for Brazil as a whole. Here in Rio de Janeiro, more than 1.5 million people live in favelas. Research is usually done in hospitals and health units,” Dr. Valcler Rangel, Fiocruz’s adviser for institutional relations, told reporters.
Before one station opened its doors in the early morning, already 100 people were lined up outside.
Florida virus cases soar, hospitals near last summer’s peak
Hospital admissions of coronavirus patients continue to soar in Florida with at least two areas in the state surpassing the previous peaks of last summer’s surge, prompting calls by local officials for the governor to declare an emergency.
A large hospital system in Jacksonville said its hospitals were at maximum capacity, its emergency centers also at a critical point as the state grappled with the new and more infectious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
In Brevard County, two hospitals began setting up treatment tents at its emergency departments. And at a Fort Lauderdale park, a long line of cars snaked around a testing site, recalling the first weeks of the pandemic last year.
Florida hospitals reported more than 8,900 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Florida Hospital Association said the state peaked at 10,179 cases last July.
The patient number on Thursday was five times higher than a month ago, and it quickly climbed from a little less than 5,500 in just one week.
COVID-19 could lead to cognitive decline, especially in older adults, new research suggests
A professor of neurology at UT Health San Antonio led a study attempting to determine whether and when cognitive problems might persist among COVID-19 patients.
Gabriel de Erausquin’s team assessed patients three to six months after they were infected with the coronavirus, measuring factors such as: Could patients recall names and phone numbers? Could they retrieve the right word at the right time?
He was most struck by three findings: One, the frequency with which people who had been exposed to the coronavirus had subsequent problems with memory. About 60% had cognitive impairment, and for 1 in 3, the symptoms were severe.
Second, his findings indicate that the severity of a COVID-19 patient’s illness does not predict cognitive problems. “What puts you at risk of having the cognitive problems is just having been infected, regardless of how badly ill you were,” he said. “You may have had very mild COVID, but if you were infected and you are older, you are at risk of having these issues.”
And, third, losing the ability to smell, which has been commonly reported among COVID-19 patients, is correlated with cognitive troubles. “They track together quite well,” de Erausquin said. “The more severe your lack of smell, the more severe your cognitive impairment.” (The olfactory nerves, which control your ability to smell, are the only ones directly connected to the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain. Nerves for the other senses go through the thalamus, which relays their signals to the cerebral cortex.)
De Erausquin added that it is too soon to know whether coronavirus-induced cognitive changes will be permanent.
De Erausquin's research was among that presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Denver this week suggesting that coronavirus infections might lead to lasting cognitive impairment, especially among older people.
Biden pushes federal workers — hard — to get vaccinated
The nation’s millions of federal workers will be required to verify they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else face mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and other new rules, the Biden administration announced Thursday.
The newly strict guidelines are aimed at boosting sluggish vaccination rates among the huge numbers of Americans who draw federal paychecks and to set an example for private employers around the country.
The administration is encouraging businesses to follow its lead on incentivizing vaccinations by imposing burdens on the unvaccinated. Rather than mandating that federal workers receive vaccines, the plan will make life more difficult for those who are unvaccinated to encourage them to comply.
Aid group vaccinates migrants as France expands virus pass
Doctors Without Borders has set up a tent this summer in northeast Paris to vaccinate migrants, homeless people and others without access to state or private health insurance. Aid groups are carrying out similar actions in other countries, too.
A line of about 30 people had already started to form when the tents opened Thursday, most of them migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan African countries. Many of them arrived only recently in France.
Since President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement on July 12 that a “health pass” would be needed in restaurants, trains and many other places around France, the vaccination rate at the Doctors Without Borders tent site has risen from about 25 people to 120 people a day.
Denied ticket over COVID, Guinean Olympian clings to dream
Fatoumata Yarie Camara is used to being thrown to the ground and getting up again, getting back into the fight. She’s dedicated her life to wrestling, a sport that breeds tenacity. On the mat, she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, the only athlete from Guinea to do so. Off the mat, she has battled the beliefs of her culture and family that women don’t belong in sports.
Three days before the rescheduled opening ceremony, her dream of standing alongside the world’s best athletes crashed when the West African country withdrew from the Olympics entirely, saying they wanted to keep Guinea’s athletes safe from COVID-19.
At home, the 25-year-old clutched her medals in her hands — from regional competitions, the African Games, and her Olympic qualifying event — and cried. It was the one time Camara felt she couldn’t get back up and fight.
Home schooling exploded among Black, Asian and Latino students. But it wasn’t just the pandemic.
When school buildings were shuttered last year, Torlecia Bates had not given much thought to home schooling her two school-aged children. Like a lot of parents, Bates, who lives outside of Richmond, Va., viewed remote schooling as a temporary inconvenience, and had plans of sending them back as soon as schools reopened.
Then something in her shifted.
Following the murder of George Floyd, Bates, who is Black, worried about the safety of her family. And she began to question whether the school her children attended was equipped to talk about racism with young students. Bates, who has a master’s degree in theology and is now a manager in the banking industry, did not learn about systemic racism until she was in college. Would her children have to wait that long, too, to understand the roots of injustice?
For Bates’s children, 10-year-old Kayden, 8-year-old Kaylee and 3-year-old Kayson, these lessons could not be more critical: The children are descendants of Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman whose six children were fathered by Thomas Jefferson, and they live not far from Monticello, the former president’s plantation.
“Dealing with everything that we’re dealing with — with the social climate, with the political climate, I could not see putting my kids back in school. I just could not,” Bates said.
So last summer she did something she had scarcely considered before: She decided to take her two older children out of school and teach them herself, all while caring for their younger sister.
As the new school year approaches, millions of parents are eager to deliver their children back to teachers and put remote schooling — which wrought anger, frustration and financial turmoil for parents who needed to return to work — behind them. But for other parents, particularly parents of color, the pandemic and last summer’s national reckoning over race prompted them to pull their children from traditional schools entirely, moves that is helping to fuel an explosion in popularity of home schooling.
CDC mask guidance met with hostility by leading Republicans
One of the Republican Party’s most prominent rising stars is mocking new government recommendations calling for more widespread use of masks to blunt a coronavirus surge.
“Did you not get the CDC’s memo?” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis joked Wednesday before an almost entirely unmasked audience of activists and lawmakers crammed into an indoor hotel ballroom in Salt Lake City. “I don’t see you guys complying.”
From Texas to South Dakota, Republican leaders responded with hostility and defiance to updated masking guidance from public health officials, who advise that even fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors if they live in areas with high rates of virus transmission. The backlash reopened the culture war over pandemic restrictions just as efforts to persuade unvaccinated Americans to get shots appeared to be making headway.
But the resistance has real implications for a country desperate to emerge from the pandemic. Beyond vaccinations, there are few tools other than mask-wearing and social distancing to contain the spread of the delta variant, which studies have shown to be far more contagious than the original strain.
Biden to allow eviction moratorium to expire Saturday
The Biden administration will allow a nationwide ban on evictions to expire Saturday, arguing that its hands are tied after the Supreme Court signaled it could only be extended until the end of the month.
The moratorium was put in place put in place last September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
Once fading, mask sales starting to rebound
Masks, which had started to disappear from store shelves, may be front and center again.
A spot check of businesses and other data sources are showing that mask sales have been rising due to worries about the delta variant and the CDC's new guidance that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors where are surging.
Sales of masks rose 24% for the week ended Tuesday, compared to the prior week, reversing weekly declines since May, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index. San Francisco-based grocery delivery company Instacart said mask sales via its online platform have increased since the Fourth of July weekend, reversing a decline that had begun in April. And Google reports that searches for the term “masks” doubled since the CDC announcement.
COVID-19 rates a worry as 1 million head for Iowa State Fair
With coronavirus cases rising throughout Iowa and around the nation, health experts are becoming increasingly worried about next month’s Iowa State Fair, which will bring more than 1 million people to Des Moines from around the state, including many from counties with low vaccination rates and increasing prevalence of the disease.
Iowa’s biggest annual event comes at a time when giant summer events will draw crowds throughout the nation, including in states that are experiencing more virus infections due to low vaccination rates and growth of the delta variant. They range from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota to the Minnesota State Fair, which typically draws more than 2 million people.
In Iowa, officials have encouraged people to get vaccinated, but the state’s Republican-majority legislature and governor have blocked local governments from imposing vaccination or mask requirements, so there will be no limits on who can attend the fair when the event begins its 11-day run on Aug. 12.
Officials in Tokyo alarmed as virus cases hit record highs
Japanese officials sounded the alarm Thursday as Tokyo reported record-breaking coronavirus cases for the third-straight day with the Olympics well underway.
Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the numbers a week ago.
“We have never experienced the expansion of the infections of this magnitude,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters. He said the new cases were soaring not only in the Tokyo area but across the country.
Japan has kept its cases and deaths lower than many other countries, but its seven-day rolling average is growing and now stands at 28 per 100,000 people nationwide and 88 per 100,000 in Tokyo, according to the Health Ministry. This compares to 18.5 in the United States, 48 in Britain and 2.8 in India, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
China steps up checks after new virus cases
Roadblocks were set up to check drivers and a disease-control official called Thursday for increased testing of workers at Chinese ports after a rash of coronavirus cases traced to a major airport rattled authorities who thought they had the disease under control.
The 171 new cases of the more contagious delta variant in the eastern city of Nanjing and surrounding Jiangsu province traced to Nanjing Lukou International Airport have spread to at least 10 cities.
Nanjing, a city of 9.3 million people northwest of Shanghai, has ordered tens of thousands to stay home and is carrying out mass testing while experts look for the source of the virus.
The earliest cases were among employees and people who passed through Nanjing’s airport, which serves 30 million passengers a year.
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