While the delta variant of the coronavirus got off to a slower start in Washington compared to other states, it’s recently bullied its way to the front of the variant pack here, coinciding with what some public health officials are calling a “fifth wave” of COVID-19 infections.

Health officials on Friday released more research on the impact of the delta variant, announcing that vaccinated people who got so-called breakthrough infections carried about the same amount of the coronavirus as those who did not get the shots.

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
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Who are the unvaccinated in America?

Pete Sims, 82, who said he definitely will not get a COVID-19 vaccine in Houston, Texas, on Friday, July 30, 2021. “It has to do with my civil rights. The United States government’s main job is to protect me from foreign and domestic enemies. Not my health. I’m in charge of my health,” Sims said. (Brandon Thibodeaux/The New York Times)

As coronavirus cases rise across the United States, the fight against the pandemic is focused on an estimated 93 million people who are eligible for shots but have chosen not to get them. These are the Americans who are most vulnerable to serious illness from the highly contagious delta variant and most likely to carry the virus, spreading it further.

It turns out, though, that this is not a single set of Americans, but in many ways two.

In one group are those who say they are adamant in their refusal of the coronavirus vaccines; they include a mix of people but tend to be disproportionately white, rural, evangelical Christian and politically conservative, surveys show.

In the other are those who say they are open to getting a shot but have been putting it off or want to wait and see before making a decision; they are a broad range of people but tend to be a more diverse and urban group, including many younger people, Black and Latino Americans, and Democrats.

Read the story here.

—Julie Bosman, Jan Hoffman, Tim Arango and Margot Sanger-Katz, The New York Times
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Demand for shots is up in less-vaccinated states as US surpasses 35 million known COVID cases

Vaccinations are rising in U.S. states where lagging demand left entire regions vulnerable to a delta-driven surge of coronavirus cases. The shift offers a sign of hope, even as the country’s known cases since the start of the pandemic surpassed 35 million Saturday.

For the third consecutive week, states with the highest number of coronavirus cases also had the highest vaccination rates, Karine Jean-Pierre, deputy White House press secretary, said Friday.

In Mississippi, where 44% of adults have been fully vaccinated, the seven-day average of people receiving a first dose was 5,203 on Tuesday, more than triple the average from July 1, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The same pattern is in play for other less-vaccinated states where infections are surging. From July 1 to July 28, Louisiana almost quadrupled its seven-day average of administered first doses. And in Missouri, where the delta variant spurred an outbreak in early July, the number of first doses administered daily almost doubled over a month.

Read the story here.

—Eduardo Medina, The New York Times

After 670 Days, the Blue Jays finally returned to Canada

TORONTO — When the coronavirus sent the world into lockdown in the spring of 2020, the area surrounding Rogers Centre in the heart of downtown Toronto became something of a desolate wasteland. The familiar sounds of the walk-up crowd on game day and scalpers shouting at the top of their lungs were replaced by socially distanced outdoor yoga groups, residents taking their daily walks with their pets, and the occasional tennis enthusiast working on their forehead against the brick wall adjacent to the stadium entrance.

If a tumbleweed had rolled through, no one would have noticed.

For 161 regular season and playoff games across two seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays left their nest and played without a true home after the Canadian government rejected the team’s request to play in Toronto during the pandemic, citing concerns over cross-border travel to and from the United States.

While every other MLB team remained in its home city, welcoming fans back into its stadiums at the start of this season, the only Canadian team in the majors stayed on the road, playing supposed home games first at the tiny TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, and then at Sahlen Field, a retrofitted Class AAA ballpark in Buffalo, New York. In mid-July, the Jays finally received approval to return to Canada.

Read the story here.

—Alex Wong, The New York Times

US memorials to victims of COVID-19 pandemic taking shape

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) — Ohio has planted a memorial grove of native trees to remember people who died of COVID-19, and governors and state lawmakers nationwide are considering their own ways to mark the toll of the virus.

Temporary memorials have sprung up across the U.S. — 250,000 white flags at RFK stadium in the nation’s capital, a garden of hand-sculpted flowers in Florida, strings of origami cranes in Los Angeles.

The process of creating more lasting remembrances that honor the over 600,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus, though, is fraught compared to past memorial drives because of the politics.

Read the story here.

—Julie Carr Smyth, The Associated Press
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Will COVID-19 end the French greeting kiss forever?

Twice a year, Louise al-Hakkak would sit on her front porch in Burgundy, waiting for her sister Flora and dreading the moment of “la bise.” In this Franco-Iraqi family, only Flora enjoyed France’s traditional two-kiss greeting on the cheeks. For al-Hakkak and her father, “It was more a chore than anything else.”

But times have changed.

“COVID made us stop doing the bise,” said al-Hakkak, 23. “It’s a lot easier now. I don’t need to ask myself tons of questions about whether I should do it or not.”

In France, the bise is a long-standing tradition for greeting loved ones, or even strangers, that was upended by the coronavirus. Throughout the pandemic, French authorities have urged people to avoid physical contact to prevent the virus from spreading.

But now, with more than half of the French population at least partly vaccinated and most lockdown restrictions lifted, many are split over whether to go back to the way greetings used to be and questioning whether the bise was all that great to begin with.

Read the story here.

—Gaëlle Fournier, The New York Times

Vaccinated people are ready for normalcy – and angry at the unvaccinated getting in their way

A return to their carefree, pre-pandemic visits appeared within reach, tantalizing Stacey Graves and her boyfriend with promises of coffee in the cafe and sunshine on the patio.

After getting her second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Graves felt ready to brave the long bus ride to the rehabilitation facility where he lives. They could meet only masked and outdoors for 45 minutes, per the hospital’s policy. But as infections plunged in the spring, the rules seemed destined to loosen.

A feeling of perilous instability now pervades the couple’s time together. As the hyper-contagious delta variant threatens her modicum of comfort, Graves is reevaluating whether the trips are safe. And she misses the simplicity of their restriction-less visits.

“I don’t have that now. And I don’t know when I’m going to,” said Graves, 64. “And I’m very angry.”

Specifically, she’s furious at those eligible to get vaccinated who refuse, citing misinformation or a desire to make a political statement. Graves, who lives in New York City, said she’s more understanding of those who worry the vaccines were rushed to market or people of color whose communities have been historically mistreated by medical professionals. But Graves said she worries about getting long-term symptoms if she contracts a rare breakthrough infection of COVID-19.

An unwelcome resurgence of the coronavirus has caused a groundswell of impatience, frustration and even rage from Americans who got their shots months ago toward those whose resistance won’t budge. States are reimplementing mask requirements, corporations are delaying their returns to the office and support is building for more coercive ways to tamp down the virus’s spread, including vaccine mandates.

Read the story here.

—By Marisa Iati, The Washington Post

When will the summer coronavirus surge peak? It will get worse before it gets better, experts predict.

The newly resurgent coronavirus could spark 140,000 to 300,000 cases a day in the United States come August, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant and the widespread resumption of normal activities, disease trackers predict.

The nation is already reporting more than 70,000 cases a day, according to The Washington Post’s rolling seven-day average – an increase of nearly 60,000 in the daily average in less than six weeks. Cases, measured as that rolling average, have risen to levels not seen in February.

Justin Lessler, a University of North Carolina epidemiology professor who assisted in coordinating pandemic forecasts through the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, said he was “quite concerned. . . . It worries me that we may have been too optimistic” in projecting lower caseloads into the fall.

The seven-day average of cases nationwide has risen by about 60% in the past week alone. Daily hospitalizations rose by roughly 40% and deaths rose almost 30%, now averaging more than 300 each day.

“It is getting worse, and at least as of right now, it is not really slowing down in the U.S.,” said David W. Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

If there is a silver lining, it is this: Experts do not expect hospitalizations and deaths to rise to the levels they were in the winter. “The people who are getting sick are younger and healthier,” Dowdy said.

Read the story here.

—By Ben Guarino and Dan Diamond, The Washington Post
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Smokey Robinson gratefully resumes touring after battling COVID-19: ‘It was touch and go,’ says Motown legend

Motown vocal legend Smokey Robinson gratefully returned to the concert stage last weekend after having spent nearly two weeks hospitalized in December with COVID-19.

“I was in the hospital for 11 days before Christmas and it wiped me out. It was touch and go,” the longtime Los Angeles resident told the Union-Tribune. He spoke by phone Friday to preview his Aug. 21 concert at the San Diego Symphony’s new Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.

The famed singer-songwriter, who turned 81 on Feb. 19, is a 2002 National Medal of the Arts recipient and 1987 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. His July 24 Washington concert at Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights, near Seattle, was his first performance in front of a live audience since early 2020.

“I was really worried about it because I’m a COVID survivor,” Robinson said, speaking by phone from his Los Angeles home.

He had not previously disclosed that he had contracted the deadly virus.

Read the story here.

—By George Varga The San Diego Union-Tribune

Downtown Seattle office vacancies still high as virus variant clouds real estate outlook

After a year of remote life that emptied much of downtown Seattle, the summer appeared to bring signs of a return. Vaccine rates picked up, Pike Place Market filled with tourists and tech behemoths made plans for at least some of their employees to return to their cubicles.

Not so fast. 

As the delta variant of the coronavirus surges and public health officials again recommend wearing masks, question marks are back in the forecast for Seattle’s acres of office space.

Google and Apple, both with a presence in South Lake Union, delayed their planned returns to the office until October. For now, Amazon, the city’s largest private employer, has indicated plans to return to the office in September

The latest uncertainty once again upends plans to return to pre-pandemic office work, just as commercial real estate bellwethers indicated downtown’s office market was beginning to rebound — or at least escape the worst of last year’s freefall.

Still, commercial real estate brokers say they expect an eventual return to the office, even if a month or two later than expected.

Read the story here.

—By Heidi Groover, Seattle Times business reporter

Bring in the kids: Estonian city targets youths for jabs

TARTU, Estonia (AP) — With her father in tow, 13-year-old Gloria Raudjarv marched through a vaccination center inside a sports hall in Estonia’s second-largest city and up to a nurse for her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, around half of Tartu’s teenagers from 12 to 17 have already received their first vaccine shot, and local health officials are working to reach 70% by the time school resumes on Sept. 1.

“I really want to go to school already, we have been distance learning for so long,” she said, gripping her vaccination certificate.

Two months after the European Medicines Agency recommended that the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech be expanded to children 12 to 15, large disparities in the access to vaccination are being seen for youths across Europe. Last week, the EU drug regulator also cleared the vaccine made by Moderna for the same age group.

While countries like Estonia, Denmark and France are actively encouraging families to vaccinate their children before the new school year begins, others such as Sweden and the United Kingdom have yet to begin mass vaccinations for those under 18.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has said that children are not a priority for vaccination given the extremely limited global supplies and the fact that they face a significantly lower risk of severe disease and death. It has urged rich countries to stop vaccinating children and donate their doses to the developing world instead.

But as the highly transmissible delta variant creates new infections even as vaccination rates rise among adults in Europe, there are fears that young people will now accelerate the spread of the virus.

Read the story here.

—By MARIS HELLRAND, The Associated Press
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Obstetrician groups recommend COVID vaccine during pregnancy

Two leading obstetricians’ groups on Friday recommended COVID-19 shots for all pregnant women, citing concerns over rising cases and low vaccination rates.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said vaccinations in tens of thousands of pregnant women over the past several months have shown the shots are safe and effective during pregnancy.

COVID-19 during pregnancy increases risks for severe complications and can also increase chances for preterm birth. U.S. government data show only about 16% of pregnant women have received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The two groups had previously said pregnant people shouldn’t be excluded from vaccination but stopped short of endorsing the shots.

The president of the OB-GYN group, Dr. Martin Tucker, said in a statement that doctors should enthusiastically recommend the shots to their patients.

Dr. Emily Miller, obstetrics chief at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, said she hopes the new recommendation “will help pregnant people feel more confident in their decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.”

Miller is a member of the maternal-fetal medicine group’s COVID-19 task force.

Pregnant women weren’t included in studies that led to emergency authorization of the vaccines. Experts including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not discouraged vaccination during pregnancy and have said available safety information is reassuring.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

—By The Associated Press

West African health officials race to vaccinate amid spikes

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A resurgence of coronavirus cases in West Africa is hitting the region hard, inundating cemeteries where funeral numbers are rising and hospitals where beds are becoming scarce.

Those visible shifts are also pushing a reluctant population to seek out the vaccines in larger numbers at a time when shipments of doses are arriving from multiple sources after nearly grinding to a halt in recent months.

Thousands of new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the region in the past few weeks amid low vaccination rates and the spread of the delta variant, with some countries seeing their highest numbers since the pandemic began.

Residents who were previously wary of getting shots as conspiracy theories spread online are now lining up by the thousands from Liberia to Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“At the beginning, there were people who gave false information, but when people noticed an increase of contaminations and deaths, people understood that only vaccination can save them,” said Bamba Fall, mayor of the Medina municipality in Senegal’s capital, Dakar.

Read the story here.

—By CARLEY PETESCH, The Associated Press

Mask guidance divides parents heading into new school year

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — With U.S. health officials recommending that children mask up in school this fall, parents and policy makers across the nation have been plunged anew into a debate over whether face coverings should be optional or a mandate.

The delta variant of the coronavirus now threatens to upend normal instruction for a third consecutive school year. Some states have indicated they will probably heed the federal government’s guidance and require masks. Others will leave the decision up to parents.

The controversy is unfolding at a time when many Americans are at their wits’ end with pandemic restrictions and others fear their children will be put at risk by those who don’t take the virus seriously enough. In a handful of Republican-led states, lawmakers made it illegal for schools to require masks.

In Connecticut, anti-mask rallies have happened outside Gov. Ned Lamont’s official residence in Hartford, and lawn signs and bumper stickers call on him to “unmask our kids.” The Democrat has said that he’s likely to follow the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC on Tuesday recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status. The agency cited the risk of spread of the highly contagious delta variant, even among vaccinated people.

Read the story here.

—By PAT EATON-ROBB, The Associated Press
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Language schools, a link to home for Asian American families, struggled during the pandemic

To hear Liam Li tell it, getting his children to learn Chinese was hard.

“My eldest daughter was in a local Chinese school for eight years,” Li joked. “She didn’t remember a thing!”

A little harsh? Perhaps. But Li, like many immigrant parents in Seattle, is eager for his children to stay connected to their heritage language and culture from the other side of theworld.

For families like the Lis, Seattle’s language schools are a vital tether, teaching Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other languages to a diverse community of children of immigrants and first-time learners. But when COVID-19 closed traditional schools last year, their doors shut too.

Switching to online classes carried additional challenges for language schools that sustain not only linguistic skills, but culture and identity for students. Some aren’t sure when they’ll be able to return to normal.

Read the story here.

—By Daniel Wu, Seattle Times staff reporter

Tenants prepare for unknown as eviction moratorium ends

BOSTON (AP) — Tenants saddled with months of back rent are facing the end of the federal eviction moratorium Saturday, a move that could lead to millions being forced from their homes just as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading.

The Biden administration announced Thursday it would allow the nationwide ban to expire, saying it wanted to extend it due to rising infections but its hands were tied after the U.S. Supreme Court signaled in June that it wouldn’t be extended beyond the end of July without congressional action.

House lawmakers on Friday attempted, but failed, to pass a bill to extend the moratorium even for a few months. Some Democratic lawmakers had wanted it extended until the end of the year.

“August is going to be a rough month because a lot of people will be displaced from their homes,” said Jeffrey Hearne, director of litigation Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. “It will be at numbers we haven’t seen before. There are a lot of people who are protected by the … moratorium.”

The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, is credited with keeping 2 million people in their homes over the past year as the pandemic battered the economy, according to the Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. Eviction moratoriums will remain in place in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, California and Washington, D.C., until they expire later this year.

In Washington state, when the coronavirus hit in spring 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee halted most evictions. Today, a “bridge” policy limits financial evictions but allows some others. In Seattle, a city moratorium remains in place through the end of September.

Elsewhere, the end of the federal moratorium means evictions could begin Monday, leading to a years’ worth of evictions over several weeks and ushering in the worst housing crisis since the Great Recession.

Read the story here.

—By MICHAEL CASEY, The Associated Press

Most Washington state community colleges will require students to get COVID vaccines this fall

Three months after many of their four-year higher education counterparts announced COVID-19 vaccination requirements for the fall, most Washington state community and technical colleges are swiftly putting vaccine mandates in place. 

More than 25 of the state’s 34 community and technical colleges will require vaccines come September, state officials said.

In a proclamation issued July 1, Gov. Jay Inslee encouraged institutions of higher education to have a “fully vaccinated population” in order to offer in-person classes and gatherings. Colleges that don’t institute mandates will have to follow a lengthy set of health and safety rules.

Although the proclamation identifies schools with vaccine mandates as “fully vaccinated,” students, faculty and staff may still opt out by claiming a medical, religious or philosophical reason for not getting the vaccine. 

Washington has 34 community and technical colleges, which served about 180,000 students during the winter quarter of 2020-21. About 70% of students who were enrolled in the winter quarter attended schools that now mandate vaccines.

Read the story here.

—By Jenn Smith
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This COVID sequel is maddening. Time to flip the script and up the pressure on the unvaccinated.

Here we go again.

Masks are supposed to go back on. Some businesses are being forced to close. Hospitals, at least in some parts of the state, have begun to warn about jammed emergency rooms.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Reza Kaleel, a hospital executive in the Tri-Cities — right now the state’s hottest COVID hot spot. A delta variant outbreak there has caused a disheartening “fifth wave,” filling the local ICU this past week to the point that patients had to be medevaced out of town.

“The hardest thing for us to see, as health professionals, is that this is entirely preventable,” Kaleel said.

Read the story here.

—By Danny Westneat