Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, July 30, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 U.S. public health officials continue to roll out updated masking guidance, Republican leaders are responding with hostility and defiance, fueling the culture war over pandemic restrictions — just as efforts to persuade unvaccinated Americans to get shots appeared to be making headway.
Meanwhile, the Olympic Games are marching on and sparking a record-breaking surge in infections in Tokyo, prompting Japanese officials to prepare to expand the virus state of emergency to neighboring areas and the western city of Osaka.
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.
Seattle-area employers rethink the rules on masking, vaccines as pandemic takes a new turn
With the highly contagious delta variant sending coronavirus cases soaring, many Seattle-area employers are rethinking everything from when to bring workers back to the office to whether masks or even vaccines should be mandated for employees.
At organizations ranging from Amazon and Starbucks, to Ethan Stowell Restaurants and Rachel’s Ginger Beer, to the governments of King County and Seattle, decision makers have been reviewing pandemic rules and strategies after reports of rising case counts and new indoor mask-wearing recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Those local enterprises join a growing number of companies nationally, among them Uber, Walmart, Publix, and the New York Times, that are bringing back masking, delaying a return to the office or requiring employee vaccinations.
The shifts reflect recognition by health experts and businesses alike of the seriousness of the delta variant, which can be transmitted easily by vaccinated individuals.
With COVID-19 numbers rising again, these 57 Seattle bars and restaurants now require proof of vaccination for entry
With the highly infectious COVID-19 delta variant spreading through Washington state, at least 57 Seattle bars and restaurants as of Friday afternoon are now requiring customers to prove they have been vaccinated as a requirement to eat or dine on premises.
The self-imposed mandate is headlined by many big names on Capitol Hill including The Unicorn, Linda’s Tavern, Rumba and Canon, and it comes as the state faces a fifth wave of infection. At least a dozen bars temporary shut down last week after their employees had tested positive for COVID-19 or came into contact with an infected person. That led many bar owners to announce over social media that proof of vaccination will now be required to dine or drink on their premises.
The bar industry can’t afford to shut down again because of the pandemic, and everyone needs to do their part, said Linda Derschang, who owns Linda’s Tavern and Oddfellows Cafe + Bar on Capitol Hill and King’s Hardware in Ballard.
Because establishments are making their own rules as relates to proof of vaccination, the self-imposed restrictions vary.
Pentagon grappling with new vaccine orders; timing uncertain
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is vowing he “won’t let grass grow under our feet” as the department begins to implement the new vaccine and testing directives. But Pentagon officials on Friday were scrambling to figure out how to enact and enforce the changes across the vast military population and determine which National Guard and Reserve troops would be affected by the orders.
The Pentagon now has two separate missions involving President Joe Biden’s announcement Thursday aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccines in the federal workforce. The Defense Department must develop plans to make the vaccine mandatory for the military, and set up new requirements for federal workers who will have to either attest to a COVID-19 vaccination or face frequent testing and travel restrictions.
Austin said the department will move expeditiously, but added that he can’t predict how long it will take. He said he plans to consult with medical professionals as well as the military service leaders.
Any plan to make the vaccine mandatory will require a waiver signed by Biden, because the Food and Drug Administration has not yet given the vaccine final, formal approval.
Six cruise passengers test positive for COVID-19 despite vaccine requirement, testing
Four vaccinated adults and two unvaccinated minors tested positive for the coronavirus during routine end-of-trip screening Thursday on Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure of the Seas.
All six passengers were quarantined right away, and their travel companions and close contacts tested negative. The passengers left the ship Friday with their travel groups in Freeport, Bahamas, and they were sent home on private flights, with transportation provided directly to their homes, according to the cruise line. USA Today’s Morgan Hines, who was on the ship, was the first to report the news.
The two minors, both asymptomatic, were in the same travel party, but not with any of the adults who tested positive. The four vaccinated adults were not traveling together. Three were asymptomatic and one had mild symptoms, Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Lyan Sierra-Caro said.
King County hospitals should require employees to get COVID vaccine, health officials say
Local health officials are now recommending hospitals and long-term care facilities in King County require COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
The recommendation, released Friday by Public Health – Seattle & King County, comes as the delta variant surges through the state, coinciding with what some public health officials are calling a “fifth wave” of virus infections. In King County, about 68.5% of eligible residents had received at least one vaccine dose as of Friday.
“No patient should have to worry about getting COVID-19 from a health care provider,” King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said in a statement . “Protection against COVID-19 reduces the risk of severe illness and protects the safety of patients, health care workers, families and our community.”
The guidance has been endorsed by a wide range of medical, health care and public heath professional societies and organizations that have agreed COVID-19 vaccinations should be a “condition of employment” for all health care workers, according to the county’s public health department.
State health officials confirm 722 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 722 new coronavirus cases and 3 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 473,076 cases and 6,122 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. Thursday.
In addition, 26,771 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 63 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 116,769 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,679 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,145,617 doses and 52.6% 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 9,466 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.
Case data from July 29 to July 30 is incomplete, the DOH said on Friday, and should be "interpreted with caution."
Evictions are about to restart as tenants wait on billions in unspent rental aid
Thousands of Americans facing eviction when the moratorium expires have been shortchanged by a yawning disconnect between two well-meaning policies lawmakers passed in response to the pandemic.
One, a federal ban on some evictions, is set to expire Saturday. Another, a $46.5 billion emergency fund aimed at getting rent to tenants at risk of eviction, has been painfully slow to get off the ground, with some states and counties unable to spend even a dollar of the money they were provided months earlier.
That has magnified criticism of the sluggish Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which some advocates say was flawed from the get-go because it relies on state and local governments across the country to create and administer their own programs. While some states quickly set up programs, others struggled to locate people in need or else received so many applications that the onslaught overwhelmed staff and software systems, causing months-long delays.
South Dakota’s Noem doesn’t plan to ratchet up vaccine push
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says she has no plans to ratchet up her messaging to urge people to get a COVID-19 vaccine, even as Republican leaders across the country try to persuade vaccine skeptics to roll up their sleeves and take the shots in response to a new, more contagious variant that has sent caseloads soaring in some areas.
The Republican governor told The Associated Press this week she believes her messaging has reached “a saturation level where people start to tune you out.”
South Dakota’s Department of Health is trying a targeted approach to reach groups where vaccine uptake has been low. But it has been months since the governor used her position to encourage the vaccine, even with infections rising again in the state after a steep decline in the spring and early summer.
Noem’s rise as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential ticket has been mostly fueled by her hands-off approach to the pandemic.
Florida governor bars schools from requiring masks
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis barred school districts Friday from forcing students to wear masks when classes resume next month even as the state’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to skyrocket toward levels not seen since before vaccines became widely available.
The Republican governor said parents should decide whether their child should be masked, saying he has seen no studies that show mask-wearing lowers the chance of outbreaks in schools.
DeSantis is seeking re-election next year and has been positioning himself nationally for a possible 2024 presidential bid.
The state’s confirmed coronavirus cases have grown nearly tenfold over the last month as the more contagious delta variant spreads. Florida is responsible for about 20% of the new cases reported nationwide over the last three weeks, even though it makes up 6.5% of the population.
Masks required in Oregon schools and state agency buildings
It has been a month since Oregon lifted statewide coronavirus-related restrictions, but this week Gov. Kate Brown has announced the reimplementation of mask requirements in schools and state agency buildings.
The return of some mask mandates in Oregon follows a surge in COVID-19 cases — due to the highly transmissible delta variant — and updated masking guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The latest mandate occurred Friday, when Gov. Brown announced new mask guidance for Executive Branch state agencies. The new guidance requires all state employees, visitors or customers — regardless of vaccination status — in any indoor state agency space to wear face coverings. The mandate is effective immediately.
Economy recovers pandemic losses, but faces new test
The U.S. economy climbed out of its pandemic-induced hole in the spring as vaccinations and federal aid fueled a surge in consumer spending at restaurants, resorts and retail stores.
The revival brought gross domestic product back to its prepandemic level in the second quarter, adjusted for inflation — a remarkable achievement, exactly a year after the economy’s worst quarterly contraction on record. But the rise of the delta variant of the coronavirus could threaten those gains just as the federal aid programs that helped bolster the recovery are coming to an end.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, grew 1.6% in the second quarter of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday, up from 1.5% in the first three months of the year. On an annualized basis, second-quarter growth was 6.5%.
Robust investment in the quarter signaled that businesses were betting on continued growth. But the recovery is far from complete and the United States has nearly 7 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic.
CDC finds three-fourths of people in Massachusetts COVID-19 outbreak were vaccinated
A sobering scientific analysis published Friday of an explosive Massachusetts COVID-19 outbreak fueled by the delta variant found that three-quarters of the people who became infected were fully vaccinated. The report, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one key piece of a growing body of evidence that bolsters the hypothesis that vaccinated people can spread the more transmissible variant and may be a factor in the summer surge of infections.
The data, detailed in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, provided key evidence that convinced agency scientists to reverse recommendations on mask-wearing and advise that vaccinated individuals wear masks in indoor public settings in some circumstances.
Critically, the study found that vaccinated individuals carried as much virus in their noses as unvaccinated individuals, and that vaccinated people could spread the virus to each other. The CDC was criticized this week for changing its mask guidance without publicizing the data it relied on. The report released Friday contains that data.
Broadway to require vaccinations, masks for audience members
COVID-19 vaccinations and masks will be required for all Broadway audience members when theaters reopen in the coming weeks, theater operators announced Friday.
Audience members will have to wear face coverings and show proof they are fully vaccinated when they enter the theaters, the Broadway League said in a news release.
There will be exceptions to the vaccine rule for children under 12, who are not yet eligible for any of the approved shots, and for people with a medical condition or religious belief that prevents vaccination, the theater operators said. Those individuals will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
“As vaccination has proven the most effective way to stay healthy and reduce transmission, I’m pleased that the theatre owners have decided to implement these collective safeguards at all our Broadway houses,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said.
Vaccinations will also be required for all performers, crew members and theater employees, the league said.
Cyprus to start COVID-19 vaccination of children 12 and over
Cyprus will start the voluntary COVID-19 vaccination of children over age 12 next week using mRNA shots produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, authorities said Friday.
The consent of parents and guardians is a prerequisite for all children’s vaccinations in Cyprus. Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela urged young people to get the shot, saying the median age of those infected in the last 14 days is 28.
Authorities in nearby Greece also opened vaccination appointments for minors aged 12 and older, seeking to dampen a surge in infections driven by the delta variant. Nearly 49% of Greece’s population and 56.% of the adult population have so far been fully vaccinated.
Walmart mandates masks for all workers in some areas
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and private employer, is reversing its mask policy and will require all its workers including vaccinated one in areas with high infection rates to wear masks.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company says it is also encouraging customers to wear masks in those stores in areas with high infection rates and will be adding back signs at the entrances. It will also bring back so-called health ambassadors who will be positioned at the entrances and hand out masks.
The company is also doubling the incentive for workers in stores, clubs, transportation, distribution center and fulfillment centers to get the vaccine for $150.
The moves come three days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.
Pandemic weighs down German beer sales again in 1st half
German beer sales in this year’s first half were 2.7% lower than a year earlier, dragged lower by closures of bars and restaurants that stretched through winter and into spring, official data showed Friday.
Domestic sales dropped 4.9% compared with the first half of 2020 to 3.3 billion liters (872 million gallons). There were steep drops of 27% and 19.1% respectively in January and February — compared with the last months before the coronavirus pandemic hit Germany — but gains after that. Sales were up 12.4% on the year in March and 11.2% in June.
German beer sales have been declining for years as a result of health concerns and other factors, but the pandemic caused an unusually sharp drop. The statistics office has said that sales inside Germany dropped 5.5% last year.
Texas Gov. Abbott issues executive order prohibiting cities from requiring masks, vaccines
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, on Thursday signed an executive order prohibiting cities and other government entities in the state from enacting vaccine requirements or mask mandates to protect against the coronavirus, even as the virus’s more contagious delta variant drives another surge in COVID-19 cases in Texas.
Abbott’s order applies to any government entities receiving state funds, including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities and government officials. He also declared that there be “no COVID-19-related operating limits for any business or other establishment” in the state in order to “ensure the ability of Texans to preserve livelihoods while protecting lives.”
The order, Abbott said in a statement, was to “provide clarity and uniformity” in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The governor claimed that Texans had “mastered the safe practices” that help prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19.
CDC team: ‘War has changed’ as delta variant dangers emerge
New evidence showing the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be more dangerous than other versions has prompted U.S. health officials to consider changing advice on how the nation fights the coronavirus, internal documents show.
Recommending masks for everyone and requiring vaccines for doctors and other health care providers are among measures the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering, according to internal documents obtained by the Washington Post.
The documents appear to be talking points for CDC staff to use in explaining the dangers of the delta variant and “breakthrough″ infections that can occur after vaccination. Noted under communications: “Acknowledge the war has changed”
In recommending that vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in virus hot spots, the CDC this week said that new evidence shows that breakthrough infections may be as transmissible as those in unvaccinated people.
The documents note that the delta variant, first detected in India, causes infections that are more contagious than the common cold, flu, smallpox and Ebola virus, and is as infectious as highly contagious chickenpox.
The ‘fifth wave’ of COVID-19 is here. What you should know about the delta variant and masking
The delta variant of the coronavirus got off to a slower start in Washington compared to other states, but it has recently bullied its way to the front of the variant pack here.
The emergence of delta coincides with what some public health officials are calling a “fifth wave” of COVID-19 infections that is tearing through the state’s unvaccinated population.
The state Department of Health’s (DOH) latest sequencing and variants report has delta making up 57.5% of cases that have been genotyped. A big increase from the previous report that had delta at 27.5%. Gov. Jay Inslee and state health officials said Wednesday disease modeling shows delta likely now accounts for more than 90% of new cases.
Another report from DOH released Wednesday makes clear the pandemic is far from finished. Between February and June, Washingtonians 12 and older who are unvaccinated made up 97% of COVID-19 cases, 96% of hospitalizations and 94% of deaths..
Now, the numbers and wellness of many are going in the wrong direction. This week’s FAQ Friday answers questions about the delta variant and the masking recommendations and mandates that have returned in response to increasing cases.
Most Read Local Stories
- Big gap between Pfizer, Moderna vaccines seen for preventing COVID hospitalizations
- Wondering why society went off-kilter during the pandemic? It was all predicted in this book
- 2 killed in crash on I-90 after car hydroplaned, officials say
- One killed in North Seattle shooting
- Video shows helicopter rescue of missing hiker in Olympic National Park