The Puget Sound area and the nation celebrated a quiet Fourth of July holiday on Saturday — no Mariners baseball, no big party in Gas Works Park — as rising coronavirus cases in many states prompted local officials to urge people to stay home or, at the very least, to avoid large gatherings.

While cases have been accelerating recently in Washington state, Saturday’s numbers showed a significantly lower volume of new cases than were reported in the previous two days, 716 and 627, respectively. On Sunday, the state reported 651 new coronavirus cases and five additional deaths. The update brings the state’s totals to 35,898 cases and 1,359 deaths.

Elsewhere in the world, life in Britain took a turn toward normalcy with pubs, salons and other businesses reopening, while nations such as South Africa, India and Brazil struggled with spiking caseloads.

Throughout Sunday, 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 Saturday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Sunday afternoon.

Live updates:

State confirms 651 new coronavirus cases, and 5 additional deaths

Washington reported 651 new coronavirus cases on Sunday and five additional deaths. 

The update brings the state’s totals to 35,898 cases and 1,359 deaths, meaning about 3.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

It was a significant increase from the number of new cases reported Saturday, 469.

So far, 612,706 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.9% have come back positive since testing began.

Overall deaths are concentrated in King County, Washington's most populous county, where DOH has confirmed 10,941 diagnoses, 1,820 hospitalizations and 620 deaths. 

—Melissa Hellmann

Texas, Florida and Arizona officials say early reopenings fueled explosion of coronavirus cases

Officials in states with surging coronavirus cases issued dire warnings Sunday about the spread of infections, blaming outbreaks in their communities on early reopenings and saying the virus was rapidly outpacing containment efforts.

“We don’t have room to experiment, we don’t have room for incrementalism when we’re seeing these kinds of numbers,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat who is the top elected official in Harris County, Texas, which encompasses the sprawling Houston metro area. “Nor should we wait for all the hospital beds to fill and all these people to die before we take drastic action.”

The rolling seven-day average for daily new cases in the United States reached a record high for the 27th day in a row, climbing to 48,606 on Sunday, according to The Washington Post’s tracking. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations rose to their highest levels to date in Arizona and Nevada.

The country’s seven-day average of new deaths fell to 486, down from 562 a week prior, but health experts cautioned that the count of infections would soon drive the number back up.

New coronavirus cases in Florida on Sunday exceeded 10,000 in a day for the third time in the past week, after the state posted a record high of 11,458 the previous day. The new infections pushed the state’s total caseload past 200,000, a mark passed by two other states, New York and California.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Elegant but unproven, RNA experiments leap to the front in coronavirus vaccine race — will they work?

LONDON – In the global race to beat back the coronavirus pandemic, scientists in Britain, Germany, China and the United States are pushing to develop, and possibly manufacture, millions of doses of vaccine in a completely new way.

This promising – but unproven – new generation of vaccine technologies is based on deploying a tiny snip of genetic code called messenger RNA to trigger the immune system. It has never before been approved for use.

But almost overnight, these cutting-edge RNA vaccine efforts have leaped forward as top candidates to fight COVID-19. Some developers plan to have tens of millions of doses ready by the end of the year.

Elegant in theory, efficacious in the laboratory but untested in the real world, the possible RNA vaccines are especially attractive because they might be cheaper, easier and faster to manufacture on a massive scale – at least one team boasts it could partner with producers in developing countries to provide millions of vials for as little as $5 a pop.

More than 150 possible vaccines are now being developed by multinational pharmaceutical companies, academic groups and government laboratories around the world, many using traditional protocols used to make flu and other vaccines for decades.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Who Will Recover Faster From the Virus — Europe or the U.S.?

BRUSSELS — After the devastating financial crisis of 2008-09, the United States recovered much more quickly than Europe, which suffered a double-dip recession. This time, many economists say that Europe may have the edge.

The main reason America did well was the rapid response of the government and the flexible nature of the U.S. economy, quick both to fire workers but also to hire them again. Europe, with built-in social insurance, tries to keep workers from layoffs through subsidies to employers, making it harder to fire and more expensive to rehire.

But this is a different kind of collapse, a mandated shutdown in response to a pandemic, driving down both supply and demand simultaneously. And that difference creates the possibility that the European response, freezing the economy in place, might work better this time.

Read more about different rates of recovery from the pandemic and its economic implications here.

—Steven Erlanger, The New York Times

Virus, injuries, shortened season — all could put a crimp in Mariners’ youth movement

If there were a day that Major League Baseball, the Mariners and the chamber of commerce in Peoria, Arizona, could use to sell to fans as a reason to come spring training, Thursday, March 5 might have been it. A high of 84 degrees that felt warmer in the sun, a slight breeze to cool you down and just enough clouds to provide moments of heat reprieve.

On that near-perfect day as the Mariners lost 3-0 to the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium, the concept of this imperfect situation that baseball, and really, the world, is dealing with now following the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus seemed improbable.

Yes, the coronavirus was a known concern, but in the utopian and somewhat pollyannish world that is MLB spring training, the idea of a disease interrupting spring training, let alone shutting down the entire sports world, never seemed real.

Well, we know how that ended. Read the full interview with general manager Jerry Dipoto here.

—Ryan Divish

How one Seattle teacher kept his kindergartners engaged through the coronavirus closures

The camera flicks on, and here’s Mr. Gallagher again: Today, he’s dressed as Spiderman. Kevin Gallagher, or Mr. Gallagher as his Bryant Elementary kindergartners know him, is home filming a YouTube lesson.

In the days since school buildings shuttered, Gallagher has done what many considered to be nearly impossible: keep his young learners regularly engaged online, even now into the summer months, as they prepare to enter first grade.

In the great online learning experiment that’s unfurled here and across the nation, there’s concern our youngest children have been largely left out. Statewide surveys didn’t track whether that’s true, but the state’s education department is suggesting schools that reopen buildings begin with those in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade first. Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

How to inoculate yourself against rumors about coronavirus — or any subject

The plague of misinformation about the novel coronavirus — and pretty much any subject that garners public attention these days — can seem overwhelming. But it’s possible to inoculate yourself against being sucked in by falsehoods and attempts to manipulate you, says Mike Caulfield, an expert in digital literacy at Washington State University.

Caulfield has spent several years determining the simplest, most effective ways to teach students to spot bogus information and help shut down its spread. He’s boiled it down to a four-step process that takes less than a minute once you get the hang of it. Learn about the method, called SIFT, here.

—Sandi Doughton

COVID-19 meets Election 2020: the perfect storm for misinformation

When a mysterious virus began racing around the globe early this year, scientists at the University of Washington’s newly created Center for an Informed Public described it as the perfect storm for bogus information, both innocent and malicious.

So what’s the situation six months later, now that the coronavirus pandemic is playing out in tandem with a passionate push for racial justice and the opening volleys of the presidential race? The perfect superstorm?

Pretty much, says Kate Starbird, a co-founder of the center.  

“As time goes on, what we’re seeing is the convergence between COVID-19 and election 2020,” she said. And that means the flood of half-truths, distortions and flat-out lies the World Health Organization calls an “infodemic” is only going to intensify. “Things are becoming more politicized,” Starbird said.

Read the full story here.

—Sandi Doughton

In an ICU at a Yakima hospital, a nurse’s grim final duty with COVID-19 victims

Jennylyn Pace is a critical care nurse working through the COVID-19 pandemic in Yakima. She cares for gravely ill patients, some of whom remain hospitalized for weeks at a time, and tries hard to treat them with dignity in shifts that may run 16 hours. Many die, and she hates what must happen next.

She sprays their faces with disinfectant, and covers them with washcloths to decrease the risk that the virus — even after death — could spread to others. Only then, can she place them in a body bag.

“It feels so undignified and it’s just so hard,” Pace said in an interview with reporters at the end of June, to describe her marathon of COVID-19 work in a county that — even with some encouraging drops in new cases during the past week — continues to experience one of the highest infection rates of any in the western United States.

Read more about Yakima's response to the surge of COVID-19 cases here. Some healthcare workers are finding reason to be hopeful.

—Hal Bernton

Catch up on the last 24 hours

The perfect superstorm of misinformation rages at the height of the 2020 election and amid the COVID-19 pandemic — and it's dangerous. The flood of half-truths, distortions and flat-out lies the World Health Organization calls an "infodemic" is only going to intensify. A University of Washington center is studying the way misinformation spreads and the best methods to combat it. They expected to focus on the election — then came the pandemic.

It's important to inoculate yourself against the plague of misinformation about coronavirus to avoid manipulations that can affect medical decisions. To figure out how to spot bogus information, one expert came up with a four-step process called SIFT. It can take less than a minute.

As Yakima County continues to face a surge of coronavirus cases, hospital workers are cautiously optimistic because of signs that people there are adhering to social distancing guidelines — and they may be starting to have an effect. Cases at one hospital there had declined to 37 cases as of Tuesday. Still, healthcare workers say the routines of COVID-19 care are still emotionally draining, but have become disturbingly normal.

Our sewers can help us track the coronavirus — or at least, that's the bet a few researchers are taking in their hunt for sewer-system clues to the pandemic. Scientists say developing methods to test and track remnants of the virus in wastewater and sewer sludge could help build an early warning system for future outbreaks, help epidemiologists understand trends and lead to a better understanding of the virus’s reach in communities with less access to clinical testing.

In the great online learning experiment that unfurled during the state's coronavirus-driven school closures, there’s concern our youngest children have been largely left out. Seattle kindergarten teacher Kevin Gallagher has done what many considered to be nearly impossible: keep his young learners regularly engaged online, even now into the summer months, as they prepare to enter first grade.

—Joy Resmovits

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