Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, July 31 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
A second surge of COVID-19 cases in the United States seems to be leveling off, but deaths are rising rapidly, scientists say. The country hit another grim milestone this week of 150,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
Talks continue on a COVID-19 relief bill, which will affect people unemployed due to the pandemic who currently receive $600-a-week federal aid. By Friday afternoon, the White House and its GOP allies appeared to be retreating from their opposition to a supplemental unemployment benefit that has propped up the economy and family budgets.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Outage in state's coronavirus data reporting system
New numbers on Washington's most recent coronavirus cases and deaths will be delayed on Friday due to an outage with the state's reporting system, according to an afternoon statement from the Department of Health (DOH).
"The outage caused interruptions in several functions, which means the data we report will be preliminary," the statement said. Typically, DOH releases data such as cases, deaths and tests as of 11:59 p.m. the previous day; Friday's release will include only data through 7 p.m. Thursday.
Health officials also said they anticipate the count of negative tests will be behind for the next couple of days, which will affect the state's ability to accurately report recent tests and the percent of tests that have been positive. Graphics on the state's data dashboard will also be affected for a "short time," the statement said.
"It will take us at least a few days to catch up, and there is a team working hard to address the outage and its repercussions," the statement said. "Our hope is to be back to normal by early next week."
DOH hadn't updated their coronavirus numbers by 10 p.m. Friday.
Airlines ask Sea-Tac to cut fees, blaming some of its budget problem on pandemic bailouts for airport’s shops and restaurants
Seven airlines that together carry more than 80% of the passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have requested the airport slash the fees they pay, citing their own “dramatic shortfall” in revenue because of the drastic downturn in travel during the pandemic.
In a July 27 letter to airport director Lance Lyttle, the airlines said it was unfair they are paying to keep the airport solvent while the Port of Seattle, which oversees Sea-Tac, doles out millions in rent concessions to struggling restaurants and shops filling the terminal.
The request drew criticism from airport labor, small business leaders, and even some at the Port of Seattle, which oversees the airport.
Blaming much of the airport’s anticipated $251 million budget shortfall on a rent relief package the commission created for airport concessionaires, the airlines pitched a plan to pay only enough in fees to cover the airport’s operating expenses and debt obligations for the next two years, according the letter.
It’s not clear how much that reduction would be, or how the proposal — if enacted — could affect ongoing construction at the airport, some of which has been paused due to budgetary pressures from the pandemic.
Mariners: Cuts to scouting department, including VP of scouting Tom Allison, due in part to lost revenue during COVID-19 pandemic, analytics push
The reverberations of the Mariners’ purge of their scouting staff on Thursday continued to be felt a day later throughout Major League Baseball.
The first piece of bad news came at 3:31 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, when an opposing scout from a National League team sent a text saying he’d heard that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto “gutted” the team’s amateur and pro scouting staffs.
An MLB source “sort of” confirmed the text, saying that there would be some scouts and front office staff members whose contracts would not be renewed for 2021, including Tom Allison, the Mariners’ vice president of scouting. Allison had been with the Mariners since 2012 and was promoted to oversee all aspects of the organization’s scouting five years ago. He worked with Dipoto in Arizona as the director of scouting and was responsible for drafts that produced Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.
Allison confirmed the news via text a few hours later.
By the end of the day and into Friday, text messages started to accumulate, with three different scouts from opposing teams using the word “bloodbath” to describe the layoffs.
But given the financial situation of the organization and other franchises during the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortened season without fans in attendance, there was always going to be some changes.
Case numbers continue to trend upward in many Washington counties, per DOH
Washington still hasn't seen a turnaround in its rise in COVID-19 cases, and case numbers continue to trend upward in many counties, according to the state Department of Health's (DOH) latest situation report.
The report states transmission continued to increase overall in eastern and western Washington as of early July. In Pierce County, cases hit a new peak since the state's last report, and Okanogan County now has the most cases per capita in Washington.
Deaths continue to rise in Eastern Washington, and have been increasing in Western Washington for the past two weeks.
Cases in King County, however, have "remained flat near its historical peak," the statement said, and Yakima County's rates have continued to decline since early June. Benton, Franklin, Spokane and Grant counties have seen decreases or plateaus in their daily case counts, which "hopefully reflects improved adherence to masking and physical distancing guidelines," DOH said.
"It’s difficult to tell whether these numbers reflect true decreases, or if delays in testing are impacting numbers," the statement said.
In Eastern Washington, about 14.6% of people getting tested for COVID-19 are testing positive, which is over three times as high as in Western Washington, which is at 4.2%.
“While we see daily case counts decreasing in some jurisdictions, we need to see these trends statewide,” said state Secretary of Health John Wiesman in the statement. “Transmission reduction efforts are still insufficient to limit the continued growth of COVID-19. This is why fewer, shorter, and safer interactions are crucial."
Trump, GOP soften on opposition to $600 jobless benefit
WASHINGTON — The White House and its GOP allies appear to be retreating from their opposition to a $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit that has propped up the economy and family budgets but is expiring Friday.
President Donald Trump is eager to extend the benefit, undercutting his GOP allies on Capitol Hill who have spent considerable effort devising an alternative that could unite Republicans.
The unemployment insurance is a principal element as talks continue on a COVID-19 relief bill, which is expected to grow considerably from a $1 trillion-plus GOP draft released this week. Top Democrats announced a meeting with administration representatives for Saturday morning after Thursday night talks at the Capitol failed to produce a breakthrough.
The two sides took their case to the media Friday morning, with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows speaking to reporters on short notice at the exact moment House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared at her weekly news conference.
Puerto Rico extends anti-coronavirus measures for 2 weeks
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor announced Friday that she would extend for two more weeks measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
That means bars, gyms, marinas and movie theaters across the U.S. territory will stay shuttered until at least Aug. 15. Beaches remain closed on Sundays, and are open the rest of the week only to people doing exercise, including surfers, swimmers and runners.
Face masks continue to be mandatory, and those who refuse to wear one will be arrested, Gov. Wanda Vázquez said.
A curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. will remain in place, and no parties or gatherings will be allowed in short-term rental facilities.
King County health department launches new antibody study to understand local COVID-19 infections
The King County public health department announced Friday it's launching a new antibody study that will analyze volunteers' blood, in hopes of answering questions about local COVID-19 infections.
About 5,000 randomly selected King County households will receive postcards in early August asking them to volunteer in the study, according to a statement from Public Health - Seattle & King County. In order to participate, volunteers will have to donate a few drops of blood from their finger, which scientists will use to determine if they carry COVID-19 antibodies.
This test — an antibody test — is different from a test that tells someone if they're currently infected with COVID-19, the statement said. Only about 800 households will be selected, it said, so not everyone who receives a postcard may end up participating.
Participants will also answer confidential questions that will help researchers understand the spread and severity of the virus.
“We don’t know the full extent of people infected with COVID-19 locally because many have mild symptoms or none at all,” said county health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin in the statement. “This study is designed to give us a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission spread, which will inform our response efforts to slow the spread of disease in our community.”
Click here for more information about how the antibody test will work.
Inslee clarifies coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, breweries, taverns and summer camps
Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday provided several clarifications in the state's guidance for restaurants, taverns, breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as an additional explanation on overnight summer camp restrictions.
In a memo earlier this week, Inslee confirmed establishments must stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. — though his Friday statement clarified that the requirement would only be in place until counties hit Phase 4 of the state's four-phase reopening plan.
He also added Friday that indoor service at taverns, breweries, wineries and distilleries is prohibited until Phase 4 — unless "certain food service" is provided. For example, if those establishments offer a "reasonable number of menu items" like sandwiches, salads, soup, pizza, hamburgers or fries, indoor service is permitted.
If restaurants offer indoor dining in the first, second and third phases, they must restrict tables to members of the same household, the statement said.
Inslee also released additional guidance related to overnight summer camps. In the second and third phase, overnight summer camps must make sure campers only stay in the same cabin if they live in the same household. According to the statement, campers must also eat all meals outside or in their "household cabin," and all organized activities must take place outdoors.
In Phase 4, summer camps can resume regular operation with individual campers, the statement said.
Seattle to open another free coronavirus testing location to reach more BIPOC
The city of Seattle is opening a third free COVID-19 testing site, this one at Rainier Beach High School, with plans for a fourth somewhere in Southwest Seattle.
The site opens Aug. 7. Unlike the city’s drive-thru coronavirus testing sites at former emissions testing facilities in North Seattle and Sodo, it will accept walk-ups.
The aim of the two new locations is to reach more of the city’s Black and Indigenous people and other people of color, many of whom call the South End home, Mayor Jenny Durkan said during a news conference Friday.
“Sadly, for our communities of color, and particularly for Black and Latinx communities, this crisis has disproportionally hit them,” she said.
The Rainier Beach site will be able to perform about 800 tests a day, with the Seattle Fire Department collecting the specimens, as they do at the city’s other sites.
Geraldine Gormley, who had a ‘spirit of risk taking,’ dies of COVID-19
Geraldine Gormley’s numerous adventures left behind a trail of memories and lifelong friends.
Strong-willed, well dressed and outgoing, Gormley blazed a path from her hometown of Portland to Alaska and Germany before she landed in Edmonds.
Along the way, sometimes with a gin and tonic or good German white wine in hand, she raised three daughters and forged enduring friendships, and set an example for her children and grandchildren of the importance of taking risks and being attentive and compassionate to others.
Gormley, who lived at Edmonds Landing retirement and assisted living facility, died April 11 of COVID-19. Sunday would have been her 97th birthday.
California officials report first virus death of a child
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California health officials reported the state’s first coronavirus death of a child on Friday, saying the victim was a teenager who had other health conditions.
The death occurred in the Central Valley but officials at the state Department of Public Health released no other details, citing privacy rules. The Central Valley is the state’s major agricultural region and recently has become one of California’s hot spots for the virus.
It’s extremely rare for children to die of the coronavirus. As of mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 228 children had died of the disease in the U.S., less than 0.2% of the nation’s deaths.
Trump visiting Florida during a pandemic, hurricane threat
TAMPA — President Donald Trump is taking a Friday swing through Florida, a state critical to his reelection prospects and bracketed by two storms — one now bringing daily records on COVID-19 deaths and the other swirling just to the south in the form of Hurricane Isaias.
Trump delivered a campaign speech with Florida sheriffs that continued his ongoing effort to pin a surge in crime in some of the nation’s largest cities on their Democratic mayors as he has threatened to send federal law enforcement to protect what he describes as besieged communities.
Speaking soon after a federal appeals court threw out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing because of potential juror bias, Trump attacked Democratic rival Joe Biden for his shifting position on capital punishment.
Students return to quieter campuses amid virus surges in some states
The first wave of college students returning to their dorms at North Carolina State University aren’t finding the typical mobs of students and parents.
What they found Friday were strict safety protocols and some heightened anxiety amid a global pandemic where virus infections are growing in dozens of states.
The university staggered the return of its students over 10 days and welcomed the first 900 students to campus, where they were greeted Friday by socially distant volunteers donning masks and face shields.
The rite of passage was a well-organized, but low-key affair, as boxes were unloaded, luggage was wheeled and beds were hauled.
“It’s just odd not seeing anybody. You expect it to be hustle and bustle and all that around, but there was nothing. It was pretty empty,” said Dominick DePaola, an incoming freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Across the country, students are jumping through additional hoops by getting tests, navigating travel quarantines, and abiding by strict rules. But they appear to be ready to accept the risk and move on.
Read the story here.
The latest guidance and research on reopening schools amid COVID-19
As coronavirus infections here have shot up, so has uncertainty about the virus’s trajectory in the fall and winter — and fears that opening school buildings will intensify the pandemic.
After a new public health report suggested schools can’t open until transmission drops significantly, King County districts told parents to gear up for a school year that starts online. As of this week, more than half of Washington’s students are expected to begin the school year remotely.
But what does the latest research tell us about the effectiveness of school closures? And what do federal and local officials say?
The jury is still out on key questions, such as how well children spread the virus, and whether closures contain spread.
Georgia camp with COVID-19 outbreak didn’t require masks
A Georgia overnight camp hit by a coronavirus outbreak took many precautions, but didn’t make campers wear masks or have proper ventilation in buildings, according to a government report released Friday.
The camp followed disinfecting rules and required staff to wear masks, but campers didn’t have to wear face coverings.
Health officials said “relatively large” groups of kids slept in the same cabin where they regularly sang and cheered, likely leading to spread.
Nearly 600 people were at the overnight camp, which was not named in the report by Georgia health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Media outlets reported a large outbreak occurred at the time at a YMCA camp at Lake Burton in Rabun County, near the state’s northern border with North Carolina.
Campers ranged in age from 6 to 19, and many of the staffers were teenagers. Cabins had between 16 and 26 people. The report said this was “relatively large” but doesn’t clearly say if it was too many. Health investigators did fault the camp for not opening enough windows and doors to increase circulation in buildings.
The report said a teenage staff member developed chills on the evening of June 22 and left the camp the next day.
The camp began sending campers home two days later when the staffer got a positive test result for coronavirus. The camp notified state health officials and closed the camp on June 27.
What we know about children and COVID-19
Children typically are “superspreaders” of respiratory germs, which makes the fact that they don’t seem to be major transmitters of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 puzzling.
They’re relatively absent among hospitalized patients, which initially was thought to be because they’re less likely to become seriously ill once infected.
Later studies indicate that those of primary school age, at least, may be less likely to catch the virus in the first place. With schools and universities in the Northern Hemisphere considering reopening in August and September, scientists and public health authorities are trying to determine the role of young people in spreading the pathogen and how best to mitigate that threat.
To learn more about why younger kids are less susceptible to the virus, how sick kids get when they do get it and the answers to other commonly asked questions, read the story here.
1st dog that tested positive for COVID-19 dies in New York
A German shepherd in New York that had the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a dog in the U.S. has died.
Robert and Allison Mahoney of Staten Island told National Geographic that their 7-year-old shepherd, Buddy, developed breathing problems in mid-April after Robert had been sick with the coronavirus for several weeks. A veterinarian tested Buddy in May and found him positive for the virus.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in June that a German shepherd in New York state was the first dog in the country to test positive for COVID-19, but did not identify the owners.
Buddy’s health declined steadily after he developed breathing problems and thick nasal mucus in April. He was euthanized on July 11 after he started vomiting clotted blood, the Mahoneys told National Geographic.
It’s unknown if the coronavirus played a role in his death. Blood tests indicated Buddy likely had lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, veterinarians told the family.
Florida pair face charge of violating quarantine after testing positive
State officials said a Florida couple arrested Wednesday for violating a quarantine order learned they were infected with the virus on July 15 but went grocery shopping five days later.
Freire Interian and his wife, Yohana Gonzalez, 26, were required to self-isolate for at least 14 days and advised to wear face masks at the three-bedroom Key West house they share with others.
But the Florida Department of Health determined they were an "immediate danger of harm to others” when it was notified that the couple had gone to the grocery store on July 20 while possible still infected.
A day later, the agency issued a mandatory quarantine order against the couple.
Police said they received video footage Wednesday showing a possible violation of that order and asked a judge to issue arrest warrants. The charge: violating quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.
As a national debate swirls over masks and self-quarantines, communities are grappling over how aggressively they should enforce myriad rules meant to control the spread of the novel strain of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 460,000 in Florida and killed nearly 6,600 of its residents.
“It’s a national debate up until the health department tells you to quarantine, and then there’s no more debate,” Key West City Manager Greg Veliz said Thursday.
“If the law allows someone to be arrested for violating a quarantine order and they continue to thumb their nose at the law — yeah, they should be arrested,” Veliz said.
Veliz said the Florida couple was arrested Wednesday after police received a complaint and a video showing a possible violation of a quarantine order imposed by state public health officials against the couple.
Doctors try pressurized oxygen chambers in COVID fight
As a New York University medical researcher who works once a week in an emergency room, Dr. David Lee had the luxury of time to think like a scientist while also treating coronavirus patients whose lungs kept giving out. In every case, he saw the same thing: Their blood was starved of oxygen.
One day an idea hit him: Could hyperbaric oxygen therapy, best known for treating divers with "the bends," help stave off the need for ventilators and perhaps reduce deaths?
Physiologically it made sense to him, but he soon learned it was complicated. The therapy, which involves delivering 100% oxygen straight to patients inside a pressurized chamber, is often met with skepticism by the wider medical community because fringe supporters have long touted it as a virtual cure-all without scientific evidence.
Still, with medical teams worldwide having little success at saving lives despite throwing everything they had at COVID patients — testing old drugs, trying new ones — Lee believed doctors should be more open to exploring different treatments.
Twenty hyperbaric patients, predominantly men age 30 to 79, received up to five 90-minute treatments during the monthlong study. Lee's colleague, Dr. Scott Gorenstein, said almost all experienced relief of symptoms once sealed inside the clear tube, similar in shape to the old iron lungs once used to treat polio.
Some went from having unresponsive “deer-in-the-headlights” dazes to being alert and engaged, while others reported being able to sleep afterward for the first time in days. Eighteen of those patients recovered and were discharged within days or weeks.
UK puts reopening on hold as virus spread accelerates
Prime Minister Boris Johnson put some planned measures to ease the U.K.’s lockdown on hold Friday, just hours before they were due to take effect, saying the number of new coronavirus cases in the country is on the rise for the first time since May.
Johnson said at a news conference that statistics show the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community is likely increasing, with an estimated 4,900 new infections every day, up from 2,000 a day at the end of June.
“We just can’t afford to ignore this evidence,” he said.
“With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze (the) brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”
He called off plans to allow venues, including casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, to open from Saturday, Aug. 1. Wedding receptions were also put on hold, along with plans to allow limited numbers of fans back into sports stadiums and audiences into theaters.
Johnson said the measures will be reviewed after two weeks.
FAQ Friday: Answers to your most common coronavirus questions
How much does a COVID-19 test cost? What's it like to get tested? What about an antibody test — should you get one?
We're answering readers' questions about these and other coronavirus testing issues, with help from medical experts.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Millions of Americans lose the $600-a-week federal jobless benefit unless Congress acts today, and so far, last-ditch efforts are going nowhere (watch this story for updates). As Washington state’s economy lurches amid the recent surge in coronavirus cases, workers and employers are facing a possible tipping point.
There’s no end in sight to the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci is telling Congress this morning as he calls on Americans to double down on social distancing and mask-wearing. (This pulls us back to an absorbing read on how Fauci and five other health specialists deal with COVID-19 risks in their daily lives.)
Federal officials are pushing schools to reopen, but the jury is still out on key questions, such as the risks of coronavirus transmission in children. Let's cut through the noise, and catch up on the latest guidance and research on reopening schools.
Britain today slammed the doors on social life again for 4 million people as the virus surges. “One of the terrible things about this virus," the health secretary says, "is it thrives on the sort of social contact that makes life worth living.” And Muslims worldwide are marking the start of the traditional Eid al-Adha holiday in a difficult new landscape.
Mayra Ramirez, 28, woke up to learn both her lungs were gone, and she had new ones. The first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. to receive a double lung transplant, she went home from the hospital this week with a powerful sense of purpose.
Free drinks, store credit and more: The pandemic's coin shortage is rippling through everyday life. Bellevue-based Coinstar, which operates those grocery-store coin kiosks, felt the trend begin.
As coronavirus hammers travel, Seattle-based Expedia reported a whopping 82% drop in revenue. Antsy travelers are starting to lead Vrbo, its vacation-rental unit, on a wobbly climb back uphill.
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