Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While Washington’s new coronavirus infections may be starting to level off day by day, hospitalizations related to the virus have almost doubled, affecting nearly all age groups, a state health officer said Wednesday.
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt differently throughout King County, with communities on the South End showing the highest rate of positive tests while wealthier, whiter areas generally show lower positive test rates.
Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Fauci back on Capitol Hill as virus surge drives new fears
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci returns to Capitol Hill on Friday to testify before a special House panel investigating the coronavirus pandemic. His testimony comes at a time when early progress on combating the virus seems to have been lost and uncertainty clouds the nation’s path forward.
The government’s top infectious disease expert is testifying alongside Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Admiral Brett Giroir, a Health and Human Services official and physician serving as the “testing czar.”
The panel, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, is divided about how to reopen schools and businesses, mirroring divisions among Americans.
Philadelphia trash piles up as pandemic stymies its removal
What would Ben Franklin think?
The Founding Father who launched one of America’s first street-sweeping programs in Philadelphia in the late 1750s would see and smell piles of fly-infested, rotting household waste, bottles and cans as the city that he called home struggles to overcome a surge in garbage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s just the smell of rot,” said James Gitto, president of the West Passyunk neighborhood association in South Philadelphia. Gitto said the situation devolved through July into “a total mess” and he hired a private recycling company to haul away his bottles and cans.
For the City of Brotherly Love, another unfortunate nickname has been “Filthadelphia.” Poverty and litter often go hand in hand, and in the nation’s poorest big city, the sanitation department has been short-handed and overworked. The city’s 311 complaint line received more than 9,700 calls about trash and recycling in July, compared with 1,873 in February.
Faced with social distancing restrictions, residents are staying home and generating more trash than ever before — about a 30% increase in residential trash collections, said Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams.
With fans safe at home, Mariners’ COVID-19-delayed opener to feature fake people, fake noise & tradition
This day was supposed to happen March 26 in front of a full crowd at T-Mobile Park. Instead, it will take place July 31 in front of thousands of cardboard cutouts.
The home opener of the baseball season has always been a de facto civic holiday in Seattle — the one assured sellout, the pageantry of a new season, nouveau fans and posers mingling with hard-core seamheads amid the backdrop of bunting and hope.
There will be no mingling Friday night when the Mariners finally take the field to open their 2020 home season against the Oakland A’s, a mere 127 days behind schedule.
In fact, there will be no fans, standard operating procedure in this pandemic-ravaged, socially distant season.
But that doesn’t mean the venerable ballpark will be bereft of noise, sights and rituals — including the usual elaborate ceremony before the game.
It’s just that this year, the preparation involved fake people, fake noise and creative attempts to stage a game that will be memorable in its own way.
Expedia revenue down 82% as COVID-19 hammers travel
Expedia Group’s whopping 82% decline in revenue in the second quarter has laid bare the devastation the coronavirus has wreaked on the travel sector. Shares dipped as much as 4.8% in post-market trading.
The Seattle-based online travel giant reported total gross bookings of $2.71 billion for the three-month period ended June 30, a decline of 90% from the same period a year earlier. Revenue fell to $566 million — the lowest it’s been in about a decade — and missed Wall Street’s already reduced expectations of $680 million for the quarter. The adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was $436 million, missing average analyst estimates of a $288 million loss.
“The second quarter of 2020 represented likely the worst quarter the travel industry has seen in modern history and Expedia was of course not spared,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern said in a statement. He also said that after hitting a low point in April, the company saw gross bookings improve slightly in May and June as cancellations abated.
Dunkin’ to close 800 US stores as pandemic hurts sales
CANTON, Mass. — Dunkin’ Brands Inc. expects to close up to 800 underperforming U.S. stores this year as it tries to shore up its portfolio in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The company had previously announced the closure of 450 stores within Speedway gas stations. But the company said Thursday it’s targeting an additional 350 stores, most of which are unprofitable. Closing the restaurants would allow their franchisees to reinvest in newer stores in higher-traffic areas, Dunkin’ Chief Financial Officer Katherine Jaspon said during a conference call with investors.
Jaspon said the 800 stores represent 8% of Dunkin’s U.S. footprint but just 2% of its sales.
International franchisees are also assessing their stores and could close 350 low-volume stores abroad by the end of this year, Jaspon added.
Trump urges people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump issued a national call to action Thursday, exhorting people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma to help others fight the disease caused by the coronavirus and boost the nation’s supply.
“If you’ve had the virus, if you donate, it would be a terrific thing,” Trump said on a visit to the American Red Cross headquarters. “We really need donations of the plasma. To those that have had the virus, you’ve gotten through this. And I guess that means you have something very special there.”
People who recover from a coronavirus infection typically have virus-blocking antibodies circulating in their blood in the weeks after they recover. Those antibodies can be harvested in plasma donations and transfused to the next people who get sick, helping boost their immune systems. Developing treatments for a new virus is an uncertain and time-consuming process.
Blood plasma from people who have successfully recovered from coronavirus infection has been widely used in the United States, even though researchers are still gathering evidence to definitively show it works. About 50,000 people have been transfused with the treatment, called convalescent plasma, under an expanded access program sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration.
State confirms 818 new COVID-19 cases and 9 new deaths; positive test rate holds at 5.7%
State health officials reported 818 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and nine new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 55,803 cases and 1,564 deaths, meaning that 2.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
So far, 973,654 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 15,025 diagnoses and 649 deaths in King County, accounting for a little less than half of the state’s COVID-19 death toll.
Groups unite to urge US to extend food aid to schoolchildren
NEW YORK — A high-profile coalition of educators, activists and philanthropists — including the American Federation of Teachers, the NAACP and the charity World Central Kitchen — is urging Congress to extend and expand emergency provisions that allow school districts nationwide to feed millions of children during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are urging you to rapidly pass legislation to address the nation’s hunger crisis,” the group writes in a letter. “This is a national humanitarian crisis that requires immediate action and innovation across several fronts.”
The July 6 letter is addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. It was given to The Associated Press on Thursday in an attempt to apply pressure on lawmakers for action on the HEROES Act.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, told the AP she and the signatories are hoping for immediate help and a long-term, structural rethinking of food in America.
“In a terrible pandemic with terrible unemployment, with terrible food insecurity, why are we not doing more?” she asked. “It really is re-imagining our public assets, our public institutions, to be a real safety net for people.”
A COVID patient goes home after rare double-lung transplant
The last thing that Mayra Ramirez remembers from the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago is calling her family to say she had COVID, was about to be put on a ventilator and needed her mother to make medical decisions for her.
Ramirez, 28, did not wake up for more than six weeks. And then she learned that on June 5, she had become the first COVID patient in the United States to receive a double-lung transplant.
On Wednesday, she went home from the hospital.
Ramirez is one of a small but growing number of patients whose lungs have been destroyed by the coronavirus and whose only hope of survival is a lung transplant.
“I’m pretty sure that if I had been at another center, they would have just ended care and let me die,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
UK scientists immunize hundreds with coronavirus vaccine
Scientists at Imperial College London say they are immunizing hundreds of people with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an early trial after seeing no worrying safety problems in a small number vaccinated so far.
Dr. Robin Shattock, a professor at the college, told The Associated Press that he and colleagues had just finished a very slow and arduous process of testing the vaccine at a low dose in the initial participants and would now expand the trial to about 300 people, including some over age 75.
“It’s well tolerated. There aren’t any side effects,” he said, adding it was still very early in the study. Shattock, who is leading the vaccine research at Imperial, said he hopes to have enough safety data to start inoculating several thousand people in October.
The Imperial vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code based on the virus. Once injected into a muscle, the body’s own cells are instructed to make copies of a spiky protein on the coronavirus. That should in turn trigger an immune response so the body can fight off any future COVID-19 infection.
Western Washington U. moves most classes online, encourages students to stay home
Citing the alarming rise in the number of COVID-19 cases regionally and nationally, Western Washington University has become the latest state university to announce it will move most of its classes online this fall.
In an announcement Thursday, President Sabah Randhawa encouraged students to stay at home and take all their classes remotely.
The university’s residences will open, but only for a limited number of students. Only about 8% to 10% of classes will be offered in-person.
Tuition will remain the same, Randhawa said, but the university is setting aside a portion of fall tuition proceeds to reduce the cost for students with financial need, and the university will also let students pay month-by-month, instead of paying the full cost at the start of the quarter.
Last week, Washington State University announced it would teach most classes remotely.
Its campuses won’t close, but WSU is also encouraging students to stay at home and pursue their degrees from there.
University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce has said she will announce the UW’s plans by Aug. 7, but that perhaps as few as 10% of fall quarter classes would be taught in-person.
UW students have already been told they have the option to take all of their fall classes online if they choose to do so.
Wisconsin governor orders masks statewide amid virus surge
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday issued a statewide mask mandate amid a spike in coronavirus cases, setting up a conflict with Republican legislative leaders who oppose such a requirement and successfully sued to kill the governor’s “safer at home” order.
Evers, a Democrat, declared a new public health emergency and ordered the wearing of masks for everyone age 5 and up starting on Saturday for all enclosed spaces except a person’s home. The new order also applies to outdoor bars and restaurants, except when people are eating or drinking.
Anyone who violates the order would be subject to a $200 fine. It is scheduled to run until Sept. 28.
“This virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said in a statement, citing the recent rise in cases across the state. “We’ve said all along that we’re going to let science and public health experts be our guide in responding to this pandemic, and we know that masks and face coverings will save lives.”
The conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court in May tossed out an order from Evers’ health secretary closing most nonessential businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain 74, dies of COVID
Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of a major pizza chain who went on to become an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, has died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 74.
A post on Cain’s Twitter account Thursday announced the death. Cain had been in an Atlanta hospital after becoming ill with the virus.
It’s not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June. Cain had been co-chair of Black Voices for Trump.
“We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” read an article posted on the Twitter account.
White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany tweeted on Thursday that Cain “embodied the American Dream and represented the very best of the American spirit.”
2nd U.S. virus surge hits plateau, but few experts celebrate
While deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are mounting rapidly, public health experts are seeing a flicker of good news: The second surge of confirmed cases appears to be leveling off.
Scientists aren’t celebrating by any means, warning that the trend is driven by four big, hard-hit states — Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — and that cases are rising in at least half of all the states, with the outbreak’s center of gravity seemingly shifting from the Sun Belt toward the Midwest.
The future? “I think it’s very difficult to predict,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious-disease expert.
The virus has claimed over 150,000 lives in the U.S., by far the highest death toll in the world, plus more than a half-million others around the globe.
The latest surge in cases became evident in June, weeks after states began reopening after a deadly explosion of cases in and around New York City in the early spring. Daily case counts rose to 70,000 or more earlier this month. Deaths, too, began to climb sharply, after a lag of a few weeks.
Some researchers believe that the recent leveling off is the result of more people embracing social distancing and other precautions.
“I think a lot of it is people wearing masks because they’re scared,” said Ira Longini, a University of Florida biostatistician who has been tracking the coronavirus.
But Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health, said the trend could also be due to natural dynamics of the virus that scientists to do not yet understand.
Florida couple jailed for refusing to quarantine
Two residents of the Florida Keys have been jailed for failing to quarantine after testing positive for the new coronavirus.
Jose Interian, 24, and Yohana Gonzalez, 26, are facing charges of violating isolation rules for a quarantine and violating emergency management disaster preparedness rules, according to jail records. They were arrested Wednesday in Key West.
The Miami Herald reports Interian and Gonzalez had been ordered by the health department to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, but neighbors said they were ignoring the order.
Someone videotaped the couple and gave it to Key West police, according to Greg Veliz, Key West’s city manager.
“There were complaints from the neighborhood of them continuing to be outside, going about normal life functions,” Veliz said.
There were no court records in an online docket for the Monroe County court system, so it was not clear whether Interian or Gonzalez had an attorney who could comment.
The Florida Keys island chain was closed to nonresidents for two months in the spring to keep outsiders from spreading the new coronavirus. It reopened to visitors in June.
Can the coronavirus spread through the air?
Can the coronavirus spread through the air?
The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.
Recent COVID-19 outbreaks in crowded indoor settings — restaurants, nightclubs and choir practices — suggest the virus can hang around in the air long enough to potentially infect others if social distancing measures are not strictly enforced.
Experts say the lack of ventilation in these situations is thought to have contributed to spread, and might have allowed the virus to linger in the air longer than normal.
In a report published in May, researchers found that talking produced respiratory droplets that could remain in the air in a closed environment for about eight to 14 minutes.
The WHO says those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator. Medical authorities recommend the use of protective masks and other equipment when doing such procedures.
Scientists maintain it’s far less risky to be outside than indoors because virus droplets disperse in the fresh air, reducing the chances of COVID-19 transmission.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are teaming up in the action thriller “Project Power,” one of the new Netflix releases in August.
What kind of delivery food has been hottest in Seattle this year? A new survey is revealing interesting trends.
And the winner of the Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen Challenge’s Champions Round is … a home chef who turned popcorn into silk and added a summery kick. Behold that creation and see the recipes from this round.
Shut-down attractions — and region's blood supply — get an infusion of new life
Blood donations plunged at the start of the pandemic. Then, out of desperation came a stroke of genius: Bloodworks Northwest decided to hold pop-up blood drives in the very places its donors are missing.
The latest pop-up was yesterday at the Museum of Flight, above, and more pop-ups are coming to a winery, the Seattle Repertory Theatre and McCaw Hall, where an opera singer will serenade donors.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
New infections in Washington may be leveling off, but hospitalizations are rising for almost all age groups, health officials say. They also warned of an increasing number of scams related to COVID-19.
The U.S. death toll, by far the highest in the world, has surpassed 150,000 people as the response has splintered. Only a nationwide lockdown could completely contain the virus now, some experts say. Misinformation is also spreading like wildfire, and health experts worry it's dangerously undermining efforts to slow the virus.
Nearly half of the state’s 1.1 million students could be learning online this fall, after Snohomish County officials yesterday joined the growing calls to keep school buildings closed. In King County, researchers have laid out what it should take to reopen them. And scientists estimated that school closures in the spring saved tens of thousands of lives.
The U.S. today is expected to report a dizzying economic plunge that may be more than triple the worst drop we've ever seen. Making matters worse, the $600 federal jobless benefit runs out tomorrow unless Congress acts, and those talks are looking all kinds of messy. More than 1.4 million Americans applied for benefits just last week.
Congress is rattled by an anti-mask lawmaker's positive test after he participated in hearings this week. Rep. Louie Gohmert, contradicting medical consensus, says he blames his diagnosis on wearing a mask. Now the House has a new mask mandate, the attorney general is off to get tested, and lawmakers are buzzing about whether it's too risky to conduct the nation's business in person.
What cooler weather may bring: We're getting a real-time window, and it's not pretty. Deep in the Southern Hemisphere's winter, a virus resurgence is dwarfing the first outbreak. Meanwhile, in the summery part of the world, a virus cluster at a French seaside resort is becoming a textbook case of the virus pitting generations against each other. And after 99 days of success, the virus has returned to haunt Vietnam.
If you're going back to work, will you have to sign a COVID waiver? As workplace requirements stir outrage, lawyers are talking about what is and isn't legal.
And if you're going to Alaska, you'll have to show a negative COVID-19 test. But not many people are these days, at least from Seattle; our Coronavirus Economy chart shows passenger traffic at Sea-Tac Airport is slipping again.
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