The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States climbed to an all-time high of more than 50,000 per day on Thursday, with the infection curve rising in 40 out of 50 states. That includes Washington, which just saw its most coronavirus cases ever in a single day.
In response, Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday barred businesses from serving customers who don’t wear facial coverings. He also hit the pause button on his reopening plan and tightened restrictions on bars. Expect more measures early next week. Meanwhile, here’s what you can and can’t do in each county now.
And as Independence Day approaches, Washington health officials are urging residents to take precautions this holiday weekend, adding that it’s “not the time for extended family or friends, neighborhood birthday parties, retirements or Fourth of July barbecues.”
Throughout Friday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Thursday can be found here, and all our COVID-19 coverage can be found here.
Oregon's COVID-19 cases on the rise after early success
Oregon has one of the nation's lowest rates of COVID-19 infection, but cases spiked suddenly in June, hitting triple digits per day.
Coastal Lincoln County, around Newport, went from 10 cases to 124 virtually overnight. Earlier in the pandemic, coastal towns in both Washington and Oregon told tourists to stay away, and have since gradually reopened.
Thursday there were 375 confirmed and presumptive cases. Rural counties are seeing the most cases per capita, including inland areas like Umatilla County, overlooking the Columbia River. Union County, in the Blue Mountains, reported 235 cases connected to a church.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kate Brown tweeted a photo and commentary showing her at an outdoor table with three state police, wearing masks.
Brown's meeting and comments were sparked by an incident Thursday, reported by The Oregonian, that four state police showed up in a Corvallis coffee shop maskless, in defiance of the governor's orders. The OSP placed one trooper on administrative leave pending internal investigation, the Oregonian reported.
Oregon has suffered a relatively low 209 deaths and 9,635 cases statewide, based on the latest Oregon Health Authority figures Friday. But there were 344 new cases the previous day.
Updates are here from The Associated Press.
Alabama officials say COVID-contest parties not verified
Alabama health officials now say they can't verify reports that students deliberately tried to catch coronavirus at parties -- and they warned residents not to try.
The disturbing tale made headlines this week when a Tuscaloosa city councilor told news reporters there that she heard of students wagering over who would become infected.
The situation resembles what happened in Walla Walla County in early May, when a local community health director said young adults were deliberately trying to catch COVID-19 at parties, thinking that would help them develop immunity sooner. Her description spread from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin to news outlets across the country, until she "retracted" her statement a few days later.
Tuscaloosa's fire chief said Tuesday the department did confirm that some students went to parties despite knowing they were infected.
Alabama's coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing, and reached a high of 1,174 just on Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
Read an update by The Associated Press here.
State confirms 627 new COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths
Washington reported 627 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and 10 more deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 34,778 cases and 1,352 deaths, meaning about 3.9% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
The latest count also puts Washington at an average of about 513 cases per day for the past 14 days, the state's highest 14-day average since the pandemic began.
So far, 599,975 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.8% have come back positive since testing began. In the past week, 4.8% of tests in Washington have come back positive, according to the state's risk assessment dashboard.
In King County, Washington's most populous, DOH has confirmed 10,684 diagnoses and 618 deaths, accounting for nearly 46% of the state's death toll.
At 6%, King County's all-time positive test rate is higher than the statewide average, but the county's positive test rate for the past week is 3.5%, which is lower than the state's rate for the same period.
Surge in state COVID-19 cases driven by eastern Washington
SPOKANE — While the new coronavirus at first pounded the greater Seattle area, the state’s epicenter has now moved east across the Cascade Range thanks to exploding case loads in June. Washington is seeing rising cases of COVID-19, driven in large part by increasing numbers in Yakima, Benton, Franklin and Spokane counties, the largest communities in Eastern Washington.
It’s no coincidence that Gov. Jay Inslee has visited Yakima, Spokane and the Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco in the past two weeks to urge citizens to take greater precautions.
The numbers are stark. In the past week, more than 40% of the state’s 2,957 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus occurred within those three metro areas, which make up less than 15% of the state’s population, according to the state Department of Health.
Yakima County, with 250,000 residents, has nearly as many cases as the neighboring state of Oregon, which has more than 4 million residents.
Second wave of virus closures wallops California restaurants
LOS ANGELES — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday shuttered indoor dining for at least three weeks across much of the nation’s most populated state, warning that infections were rapidly climbing.
The sudden reversal, less than two weeks after the state allowed restaurants to operate with limited capacity, left restaurant owners who had stocked up for a busy Fourth of July weekend stunned and in a financial fix.
The coronavirus crisis has left millions unemployed, but few businesses have been hit as hard as California’s estimated 90,000 restaurants. Industry experts predict that as many as one-third of them will never reopen, while others are trying to navigate a maze of new sanitation rules and physical-distancing guidelines that have gutted seating charts and boosted in-house costs.
California had been successfully managing the virus, and through May, Newsom moved quickly to reopen much of the economy. But troubling signs emerged in mid-June and have only worsened. Confirmed cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed, and Newsom took action this week to try to reverse the trend.
Russian Orthodox Church defrocks coronavirus-denying monk
MOSCOW — The Russian Orthodox Church on Friday defrocked a coronavirus-denying monk who has defied Kremlin lockdown orders and taken control of a monastery.
A church panel in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg ruled to defrock 65-year-old Father Sergiy, who has attracted nationwide attention by urging believers to disobey church leadership and ignore church closures during the pandemic.
The monk didn’t show up at the session and dismissed the verdict, urging his backers to come to defend the Sredneuralsk women’s monastery where he has holed up since last month.
California enters July 4 weekend with many beaches closed
LOS ANGELES — California headed into the Fourth of July weekend Friday under classic sunny summer skies and new health orders that temporarily put many popular beaches off-limits and canceled fireworks shows in an effort to prevent runaway coronavirus infections.
A few surfers were in the water off Los Angeles’ famed Venice Beach and a few dozen people strolled the boardwalk or shoreline, but the normal Independence Day throngs were missing from the long expanse of sparkling sand.
“This is going to be a different summer and this is going to be a different July Fourth celebration for all of us,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned this week as the dramatic reversal of California’s early success against COVID-19 became increasingly apparent.
Singer Prince Royce gets a wake-up call with COVID-19
NEW YORK — Bachata singer Prince Royce says he got a wake-up call with a COVID-19 diagnosis and now he wants to try and wake others too.
Royce revealed that he is recovering from the disease in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.
Royce, 31, said he decided to speak up out of a growing frustration with seeing people going out and gathering without masks — even while cases are spiking in several states. And, like many, he is worried that more people will get infected over the Fourth of July weekend.
Royce doesn’t know how he got COVID-19, but he admits that, after spending three months in quarantine, the reopening of bars and restaurants gave him a false sense of security.
“I was home this whole time, and I went out to some restaurants because things opened, and I thought, ‘Well, Florida hasn’t been so bad, and New York is the one with the problem.’ I fell for that and I think many people can fall for that and will fall for that,” he said. “And that’s what made me think, I need to come out and tell my story. Because it’s upsetting me. It’s so frustrating to me to see people at supermarkets without a mask. It’s so frustrating to me to see that people are being irresponsible and not protecting others.”
French government ministers investigated over virus crisis
PARIS — A special French court ordered an investigation Friday of three current or former government ministers over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.
COVID-19 patients, doctors, prison personnel, police officers and others in France filed an unprecedented 90 complaints in the Court of Justice of the Republic over recent months, notably over shortages of masks and other equipment as as the virus sped across Europe. The court usually only sees a few complaints a year.
The court, which deals with cases against top officials,said in a statement Friday that it threw out 44 of the 90 complaints, and is still studying 37 of them.
The nine it deemed worth investigating target former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who resigned hours before the court’s announcement, Health Minister Olivier Veran or the former health minister, Agnes Buzyn.
They are accused of “failing to fight a disaster,” and could face up to two years in prison and fines, if tried and convicted.
A second Metro bus driver, the ‘godfather of North Base,’ dies of COVID-19
Mike Winkler, 71, has become the second known King County Metro Transit worker to lose his life to COVID-19.
Mr. Winkler, who drove buses for 32 years, had a sheepish grin and chuckle. Known as "the godfather of North Base" or "the grandfather of North Base," he would show up at 3:45 a.m. to provide coffee and snacks for co-workers. He was preparing to retire this year.
His death follows the loss of Metro driver Samina Hameed, 59, in April, Community Transit driver Scott Ryan, 41, in March, and Washington State Ferries dock employee Esther Bryant-Kyles, 64, in March.
Metro has gradually added safeguards that include face coverings, suspended fares, virus-blocking air filters, flexible leave for at-risk workers, and social-distancing rules that limit buses to 12 or 18 riders, depending on length.
More coronavirus infections confirmed at UW; outbreak hints at how hard it may be to open colleges this fall
This week’s outbreak at several University of Washington fraternities has hinted at just how hard it’s going to be to keep COVID-19 from spreading when college students return to campus this fall — especially since those students are eager to be around other young people after months of lockdowns and living at home.
As of noon Friday, 117 students living in 15 fraternity houses this summer have reported testing positive for the virus. The county health department has confirmed 89 of those cases, along with an additional four students who visited fraternities but didn’t live in them. The numbers are likely to tick upward, since about 1,000 have been tested, including other students who visited the fraternities but didn’t live there.
Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Public Health-Seattle & King County, called the outbreak “very concerning” and said he is worried young adults will spread the disease to more vulnerable populations.
The UW’s outbreak underscored the risks of bringing students back to school if they don’t stick to the health department’s rules regarding physical distancing and mask-wearing.
Former UW, Seahawks defensive lineman Tyrone Rodgers tests positive for coronavirus
Former University of Washington and Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Tyrone Rodgers has tested positive for the new coronavirus, he confirmed to The Seattle Times in a text message on Friday.
Rodgers, 51, is at his home in California. He acknowledged in a text message that it’s “hard to breathe,” but said he’d prefer not to go to a hospital until it is absolutely necessary.
The rate of positive tests in California has jumped by 51% over the last two weeks, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times. The state has also broken daily records for the number of people hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus cases for 12 consecutive days. On Wednesday, California reported 5,355 people hospitalized because of COVID-19, including 1,676 in intensive care units.
Biden supporters are more worried about the health risks of in-person voting
Identifying likely voters is a challenge for pollsters in every election. This year, the coronavirus, mail voting and a surge in political engagement may make it even harder than usual.
For now, Joe Biden’s 9-point lead across the critical battleground states is so significant that it is essentially invulnerable to assumptions about turnout, according to New York Times/Siena College surveys of the states likeliest to decide the election. But Biden’s supporters are far more likely to be concerned about in-person voting during the pandemic, and his wide polling lead among registered voters could narrow if their concerns persist to the election.
Overall, one-quarter of registered voters in the battleground states said they would feel uncomfortable voting in person if the election were held during the week they were interviewed in June.
About 40% of Biden’s supporters said they would feel uncomfortable, compared with just 6% of President Donald Trump’s supporters. This political divide transcends demographics. A young Biden supporter in a rural area, for instance, would be likelier to feel uncomfortable voting than an old Trump supporter in a city, even though the health risk is probably quite low for the Biden voter and potentially quite significant for the Trump supporter.
Laid-off Boeing workers to get extra federal help that doubles what most unemployed get
Though labor unions have lost much of their leverage against giant corporations, they still retain political clout in Congress. This week, the Boeing unions clinched a big victory in their scramble to add protections for the thousands of their members being laid off.
The upshot: Boeing workers will be eligible for benefits for nearly twice as long as most other recently laid-off workers, under a program meant to protect workers hurt by foreign competition, not by virus-driven industry downturns.
Because of a union push, laid-off Boeing employees were this week ruled eligible for additional federally funded assistance under a program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that offers extended unemployment benefits for up to two years while workers are enrolled in retraining courses.
Coronavirus Economy daily chart: Nation’s new business starts are on a roll, but in Washington – not so much
New business starts — as indicated by applications for tax IDs, averaged over four weeks — are up strongly in the nation as a whole, rising 28.9% from the year-ago level. Even on a week-to-week basis, there was a big jump — from nearly 88,000 to almost 103,000.
That surge may be explained by the enthusiastic reopening of business in some states during June (and the jury is still out on how those new businesses will fare with the ratcheting down of those openings as new COVID-19 cases multiplied).
In Washington state, which has moved more slowly to reopen its economy, new business applications climbed modestly from 1,420 to 1,490, week over week. The four-week average was behind last year’s pace, after a couple weeks where the average slightly exceeded the year-ago level.
Pence postponed Arizona trip after Secret Service agents showed signs of virus
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence postponed a planned trip this week to Arizona after Secret Service agents set to travel with him tested positive for the coronavirus or showed symptoms, two administration officials said Thursday.
Pence had been scheduled to visit Arizona on Tuesday, but multiple factors related to the spread of the virus foiled those plans, according to a person familiar with Pence’s travel.
July Fourth weekend will test Americans’ discipline
The U.S. headed into the Fourth of July weekend with many parades and fireworks displays canceled, beaches and bars closed, and health authorities warning that this will be a crucial test of Americans’ self-control that could determine the trajectory of the surging coronavirus outbreak.
With confirmed cases climbing in 40 states, governors have ordered the wearing of masks in public, and families were urged to celebrate their independence at home. Even then, they were told to keep their backyard cookouts small.
Health experts fear that a weekend of crowded pool parties, picnics and parades will fuel the surge.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
"This is not the time" for Fourth of July barbecues, officials in Washington state and across the nation warn. As coronavirus cases rise in 40 of the 50 states, they're urging special precautions if you gather. The surge has been blamed in part on Americans not following safety advice as lockdowns lifted. One particular cause for concern: Hospitals are getting overwhelmed.
Plenty of fireworks are exploding around President Donald Trump's not-socially-distant show at Mount Rushmore today. Tensions are erupting over coronavirus risks, fire dangers and the memorial itself. His D.C. celebration tomorrow will feature one of the largest fireworks displays ever. As many as 300,000 face masks will be given away — but no one will be required to wear them. A mask-averse Trump says he did try one on, though, and liked that he "looked like the Lone Ranger."
The COVID-19 outbreak on UW’s Greek Row has public health officials worried about what might happen this fall when colleges open, full of students who are starved for socializing. Here's how Washington colleges are planning for this.
Don't be "an idiot like me," a California man who went to a party warned his friends on Facebook after testing positive for COVID-19. He died the next day. In New York, coronavirus detectives couldn’t get partygoers to answer the phone, so they issued subpoenas. And in a true head-smacker, college students in Alabama organized "COVID-19 parties" as a contest to see who would get the virus first, officials said.
As coronavirus surges, sports leagues are planning their returns. Is this all worth it? "To say it’s problematic is an understatement," columnist Larry Stone writes. Many MLS teams are delaying travel, but the Sounders fly to Orlando today to kick off the season.
Many people have been delaying medical appointments amid the pandemic. But that can hurt your health. Professionals recommend keeping these five kinds of appointments.
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